Dharma Of A Manager

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 07 May 2010 08:20 and updated at 07 May 2010 10:08

Dharma; Definition from Mahabharata

Mahabharata defines and describes Dharma in the following verses:-

Mbh.12.89.5047 Righteousness is called Dharma because it aids the acquisition and preservation of wealth.
Mbh.12.89.5048 The sages, have declared that Dharma restrains and set bounds to all evil acts of men.
Mbh.12.89.5051 For this reason also, Dharma has been said to be the foremost of all things.
Mbh.12.108.6141 Righteousness or Dharma is so called because it upholds all creatures.

In ancient times Dharma was followed by the kings for protecting their subjects and for increasing the wealth of the kingdom. In modern days, managers should uphold Dharma to protect their sub-ordinates and to increase the wealth of the company. What is the Dharma of a Manager?

Belief that one should work less up in the pyramid

Here are some voices and views that are heard from different managers in different parts of the world in different times in different industry sectors.

"A manager should work less and ensure that the maximum load of work is upon the sub-ordinates."

There is this misconception among many managers in various industry sectors that up one goes in the pyramid, the less they need to work! One can only guess the state of the sub-ordinates working under these managers.

The significance of talent-match

"That guy is good at technology analysis but I need him to be good at arranging team-logistics and in product documentation. It is better for him to learn it or I will screw up his career"

It is better to ask a horse to run chariots and an elephant to lift heavy items. If you force the elephants to ride chariots and insist to ride them quickly or if you ask the horses to lift heavy load, everybody will suffer, the horses, elephants and you. For the efficient functioning of the machinery called "Organization", each piece should fit properly. Talents should be matched with the work. Otherwise wastage of energies and fatigue are the results. A common complain is that it is difficult to make this match. But this is nothing but laziness and short-sightedness. With some effort, every talent can be matched with the jobs to be done. Often, personal interests, favoritism and shortsightedness and trying for local-optimization are the stumbling block that prevent a proper talent-match in your organization.


"That guy is very good to do the job. But I like this guy. He should get the opportunity. Let that guy suffer"

Favoritism is the greatest evil of managers. It is unknown how many have suffered due to this evil. This also result in an attempt to satisfy the local optima and in some cases personal ego. There are some managers who silently watch the hard works of the sub-ordinates he dislikes and not even bother to say a few good words about it. They may some time let his favorite sub-ordinates steal the life-long works of the hard workers in order to enhance the image of the favorite one. Thus, those sub-ordinates, those unlucky souls, will continue to work as raw materials for the favorite subjects of the manager.

Failure to acknowledge process faults

"That guy says there is some flaw in the process. How dare he say that? May be he don't want to follow the process. What else?"

If you are a company, you are lucky if you got some employee who can detect faults in your system. You have to thank him and probably appreciate him for the effort he has put in for studying your organizational-processes and for detecting faults in the system. In modern society you get people who say "well, everything is all right", "there is no problem", "it is perfect", "I am lucky to be in this perfect organization", "I am deeply pained to leave this wonderful organization" (usually said as the person leaves to elsewhere). No body wants to tell the truth. Everybody leaves in the organization by praising each other and by scratching each others back. When somebody detects a problem, he is cornered by all. He is expelled from the friend-circles and branded as an outcast. What he has done due to love for the company, with an earnest interest to improve the environment in which he work, his hard work spent in studying the system, everything is ignored. Forget about appreciation, the people who point fingers at the organisational process are simply dismissed as anti-process and anti-organizational.

A real manager will back such individuals who thoroughly scrutinize things around him, including organizational processes. Such managers will increase the employee morale and will help in eventual corrections in the system and in the process and make organization more profitable.

Manager Dharma

Thus we have seen some cases of Adharma that is prevailing in the field of management. Let us see what is the Dharma of a Manager.

Some say that a manager should be a leader, who leads his sub-ordinates. Well, it is good if the manager is a charismatic leader. I have tried to find the differences and similarities of a leader and a manager in another article titled leader and manager. But it is very rare for a manager to be also a charismatic leader. A manager can, however, act as a mentor to all of his sub-ordinates. He should have a relationship with all of his sub-ordinates so that they will tell to him first, any problem they face, instead of telling it to somebody else. Manager will have many things to manage. Management of the customer, management of the project, management of the cost-account and the management of the sub-ordinates. Of this, managing of customer is what get most of the attention. Usually, management of the sub-ordinates is what get least attention. What ever be the pressures, ignoring sub-ordinate management can have serious implications. In the absence of manager attention usually week-minded sub-ordinates are bullied by the vocal members among the team and they take undue advantage, like stealing others works. This result in dis-union in the team. Eventually this can also lead to project failures.

Manager should thoroughly watch the talent profile of their sub-ordinates. It is tempting to retain a sub-ordinate with different talent-profile in the team, especially if there is a shortage of getting resources into the project. But this is not beneficial in the long run though it may ease out short term problems. There are cases where a sub-ordinate, who is extremely passionate about a technology domain, is denied to attend some events associated with that domain, only because it will result in a single day absence of the sub-ordinate's work in the ongoing project. Such acts are cruel and cause terrible pain to the sub-ordinate, based on how much he is passionate to pursue the domain of his interest. It is fine to extract some effort from the sub-ordinate with a different talent profile into your project, but to tie him down eternally to the works you wish him to do is not recommended. It may cause severe mental stress to the sub-ordinate. A good manager will see to it that the talent profiles of all his sub-ordinates are well matched with the work they do, even if it requires letting him move to another project.

Manager should never promote favoritism. Manager should stand by the weakest among his sub-ordinates. He should ensure that every one among his team are getting opportunities to grow up. The belief that the major portion of work rest on the sub-ordinate and manager should take less effort is blatantly wrong. Fortunately majority of managers do not share such a principle. Managers should also never give a promise of some career opportunity to his sub-ordinate and then back-track from it. This will reduce the trust of sub-ordinates upon the manager. If such breaking of promise is repeated more than two times, it will be hard to repair the bruised relationship between the manager and the sub-ordinate. If a manager, foresee that a certain promise cannot be met, it should never be made to the sub-ordinate. If due to some unfortunate circumstances, the promised career opportunity is not going to materialize, any amount of effort has to be taken by the manager for making the situation understood by the sub-ordinate and is acceptable to him.

Contextually, I have heard of examples set by many managers, which immediately touch your mind, and prompt you to follow such managers. In ISRO there is a manager who travels in bicycle to come to office, while he is entitled to use a costly car. I know of a manager in a small company who discovered that his sub-ordinate has no money to spend for the month, invited him for a lunch and surprised him by giving him a salary advance.


As Mahabharata points out, Dharma aids the acquisition and preservation of wealth. It is tempting to side with Adharma, for short term gains and in pursuit of local-optimizations. But in the long run it reduce wealth of the organization and affect the preservation of wealth. This is true about the tangible wealth, i.e. the revenue and assets of the organization as well as intangible wealth which is nothing but the people of the organization. Dharma of managers is to ensure that in their organization Dharma prevails and Adharma is eliminated. Thus by upholding Dharma managers should ensure that evil acts of men are bounded and all members of the organization are protected.

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