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Juniper Products Company – Politics in Teams

CASE STUDY, ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR
IIM Kozhikode, 11 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Prof. Jatin Pandey, Asst. Professor and Arijit Goswami, PGP Student - Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode

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Juniper Products Company – Politics in Teams

Ashit Khanna (Ashit), the HR Manager of Juniper Products Company, was in his chamber worried on how to tackle the group led by Samiksha Sharma (Samiksha). As he had his coffee, he pondered on what had happened to the team which functioned well in the beginning but was no longer as effective. He wanted to know what went wrong and what he should do to rectify the situation.

Juniper Products Company

Founded in Bengaluru in 1986 by Suman Kaushik (SK), Juniper Software Company (JSC) was one of the largest Indian technology giants catering to outsourcing, technology consulting and information technology services (Annexure I). SK had started JSC upon being disgruntled by the mundane job at an Indian IT company, which he was working for, after having graduated from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Over the years, JSC consolidated its operations and acquired more clients and the company was renamed Juniper Products Company (Juniper). These value-based acquisitions enabled inorganic growth and brought in capabilities that would have been costly to build organically. The economic reforms of 1991 lent a huge opportunity to cater to increased number of companies worldwide. However, Juniper did not lose sight of its organizational values. The company always professed the importance of values, team dynamics and collaboration at work; as a matter of fact the company philosophy emphasized the need for working in cohesion with all stakeholders, thereby creating a positive work environment through its policies......

The ‘Mail World’ Project

Juniper received the project from Solar Pharma in February 2016. The project was offered to Juniper after its consulting division had pitched to Solar Pharma one of their salient products – ‘Mail World’; this product would integrate Solar Pharma’s marketing plan in order to attract customers as a part of its venture into the direct-to-customer (DTC) market. ‘Mail World’ was a tool in which Solar Pharma employees had to enter email ids of prospective customers, which would then send a preset email to the entire list of mail recipients............

‘Mail World’ Project Team

The project team had to have the best people on board. Accordingly, Samiksha, one of the youngest, ambitious technocrats was assigned the role of Project Manager. This project would be her litmus test, wherein the project’s success would reflect her success of being promoted, succeeding the veteran JP and thereby becoming the youngest director of Juniper’s Digital Solutions division. She was given a free hand to choose her operations team either from the bench or from other projects too. After a rigorous hunt, the requisite number of people were chosen with a noteworthy cumulative experience of the team (Exhibit I)........

The Initial Phase of the Team

Samiksha fixed the seven resources to her project and blocked them for about 10 months, with the possibility of an extension (if need be). Post the team formation and completion of other internal formalities, Prabhu and Samiksha had a meeting where the former mooted the idea of self-managed teams, wherein the team would require less directions from the latter and manage their affairs. Samiksha was up for it because for her at the end of day what mattered was client delivery and satisfaction. She then called for a team meeting and told them, “I give you full freedom to manage the project but I want results, I am not concerned how you get them.”..........

Appraisal System

Two weeks into the project going LIVE, Shamit asked Samiksha to give her inputs on the appraisal parameters for the team members. Samiksha shared her parameters which included but were not limited to the list of factors identified for various roles (Exhibit II).......

The factors listed carried a weightage of 75%; in addition, a component of contribution towards the group was introduced for all members, carrying a weightage of 25%. The final rating was to be given by Samiksha. For Samiksha, her appraisal was dependent only on the overall success of the project............

The First Visible Changes

The team’s performance wasn’t directly affected by the disclosure of the appraisal parameters. The team worked as diligently as ever and was as efficient in its deliverables as it had always been. But, there were some other noticeable changes affecting the team dynamics. Ashit often happened to walk past their cubicles after office hours, and found Shamit, Faizal, Mohua, Vijaya and James smoking together at the designated smoking area. While there was nothing wrong with their smoking habits, what seemed to change was the frequency – from once or twice in a day, it went up to around 5-6 times per day.........

Change in Team Dynamics

Ashit learned from Samiksha that in the regular weekly meetings, Swati was less engaged. Moreover, at times when she’d say something, someone other than Yasmeen intentionally or unintentionally interrupted her. When the group had to take updates regarding application testing activities, most of the people turned towards Vijaya for the same, who shared the updates of the testing activities along with their results with new test cases and closed or pending defects. Eventually, it was noticed that Vijaya spoke more of the activities of testing group, and Swati grew more silent during these discussions. The team members, primarily Shamit, Mohua and James turned to Vijaya for any ad-hoc testing and for asking anything concerning application testing............

Meeting between Samiksha and Ashit

Nine months into the project going LIVE, it was time for the appraisals. Ashit conducted a meeting with Samiksha to discuss the performance of the team. Samiksha’s feedback/inputs did not surprise Ashit much; it was all on expected lines (Exhibit III)........

On hearing the detailed feedback from Samiksha about each team member, Ashit said: “Don’t you find anything peculiar about this team? Don’t you think that some of them seem to have drifted away from the spirit of being a team?..............

Skip Level Meeting With Team Members

Ashit promptly called for a skip-level meeting with all the team members without Samiksha and Prabhu. This gave the team a chance to speak their hearts out, without any fear of having the Project Manager or Technology Lead around. Juniper has had this culture of conducting such meetings before appraisals. The meeting was done on one-to-one basis between Ashit and a team member.

Most of the team members seemed to agree upon the fact that Swati and Yasmeen were the weak links in the team. Their attitude towards both Swati and Yasmeen seemed to be rather negative. Ashit wondered when these developments started taking place and tried to recollect what some of the team members specifically said............

The Appraisal

Not much to Ashit’s surprise, Shamit and James got high ratings, while Mohua and Faizal received intermediate ratings. Swati along with Yasmeen got low ratings and both were pretty upset with the same. Samiksha said that she would have liked to rate Mohua high as well, but the bell-curve had to be maintained and therefore, someone’s gain had to be someone’s loss. Everyone could not be given high ratings, after all (Exhibit IV).........

The Dilemma

Ashit was concerned about how he must take up the case of Swati, who perhaps had been a victim of groupism in the team and must have suffered the brunt of being away from the power centers. He was considering all the team level factors, like limited promotion opportunities, role ambiguity and low trust among other factors, to analyse this situation..........

Assignment Questions

I. What do you think is wrong in Juniper?

II. When did the problem start?

III. .......

Exhibits

Exhibit I: ‘Mail World’ Project Team

Exhibit II: Appraisal System

Exhibit III: Performance Appraisal-Samiksha’s Feedback/Inputs

Exhibit IV: Appraisal Ratings of The ‘Mail World’ Project Team

Annexures

Annexure I: The Hierarchy in Juniper Products Company

Teaching Note Preview

Juniper Products Company – Politics in Teams

Synopsis

This case introduces the concept of organizational politics and what are the factors that promote political behaviors in organizations. The core issues of the case are the individual and team level factors that promote political behaviors in organizations. The case describes in detail how a project team, formed under a self-serving manager, initially performs well but how the team dynamics change over the course of time as groupism develops within the team. It further delves into the nuances of performance appraisal and the parameters for measuring success, which in turn breeds political behavior amongst employees. This office politics results in some of the team members getting disenchanted with the project assignments and thereby lag behind other team members.

Juniper Products Company, based out of Bengaluru, is an IT-enabled Services (ITes) provider for Solar Pharma Company based in the United States. The former bags a project from the latter, wherein the senior management is of the opinion that high performance in their deliverables may lead to repeat business from the client, as well as open up a new portfolio to acquire projects of similar nature from that industry vertical. A team that bonded so well in the initial phases, calling itself a ‘family’, frittered away into fragments as certain employees formed a group and targeted a few others in order to outshine.

The case throws light on how the team members displaying high political behavior justified their attitudes and actions, and how the manager, who’s ‘ideally’ expected to be poised and unbiased, legitimized them in the name of performance. The team dynamics have been overlooked, exposing the hollowness in the appraisal system, wherein some became victims of corporate political nexus. It results in a bad experience for some employees and increases chances of talent attrition. The HR manager is in a dilemma over how to manage the situation.

Pre-requisite Reading

Chapter on Power and Politics from Organizational Behavior (16th edition) by Robbins, Judge and Vohra.

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used for either of the following courses in MBA or Executive MBA programs:

• Organizational Behavior
• Human Resource Management
• Career Management
• Performance Management
• General Management

Assignment Questions

I. What do you think is wrong in Juniper?
II. When did the problem start?
III.....

Exhibits

Exhibit (TN)-I: Classroom Discussion Dashboard

Exhibit (TN)-II: The Schema of Factors that Influence Political Behavior at Work

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Abstract

This case introduces the concept of organizational politics and what are the factors that promote political behaviours in organizations. The core issues of the case are the individual and team level factors that promote political behaviours in organizations. The case describes in detail how a project team, formed under a self-serving manager, initially performs well but how the team dynamics change over the course of time as groupism develops within the team. It further delves into the nuances of performance appraisal and the parameters for measuring success, which in turn breeds political behavior amongst employees. This office politics results in some of the team members getting disenchanted with the project assignments and thereby lagging behind other team members.

Juniper Products Company, based out of Bengaluru, is an IT-enabled Services (ITeS) provider for Solar Pharma Company based in the United States. The former bags a project from the latter, wherein the senior management is of the opinion that high performance in their deliverables may lead to repeat business from the client, as well as open up a new portfolio to acquire projects of similar nature from that industry vertical. A team that bonded so well in the initial phases, calling itself a ‘family’, frittered away into fragments as certain employees formed a group and targeted a few others in order to outshine.

The case throws light on how the team members displaying high political behavior justified their attitudes and actions, and how the manager, who’s ‘ideally’ expected to be poised and unbiased, legitimized them in the name of performance. The team dynamics have been overlooked, exposing the hollowness in the appraisal system, wherein some became victims of corporate political nexus. It results in a bad experience for some employees and increases chances of talent attrition. The HR manager is in a dilemma over how to manage the situation.


Pedagogical Objectives

The case addresses the following objectives:

  • To introduce participants to the concept of organizational politics, especially in case of teams
  • To understand why and how political behaviours are exhibited in organizations
  • To understand how political behaviours can be addressed in organizations

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used for either of the following courses in MBA or Executive MBA programs:

  • Organizational Behaviour
  • Human Resource Management
  • Career Management
  • Performance Management
  • General Management



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- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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