Fair to Whom?
The head of an R&D unit in a high-tech firm in India faces a tough decision about whether to recommend firing and replacing or investing even larger amounts of time and resources into training employees who have come up through India's "reservation system." Similar to "affirmative action" policies in the United States and Brazil (where the focus is on race), the reservation system in India is meant to counteract inequalities resulting from the historic oppression of "lower" castes in the country. The question faced by the protagonist in this case is whether and how a middle manager can address problems in her team that result from much larger, systemic problems in her country. The case is designed to surface and explore students' instinctive decision-making tendencies around a complicated problem. Thus, it is short enough to be read and responded to in class. Students are assigned readings and assignments related to the case after class discussion in which they are encouraged to reflect on their initial responses. The case is quite flexible and would work in any course that deals with leadership, ethics, difficult conversations, decision-making, organizational behavior, human resources, and related topics. It is appropriate for a range of levels and audiences, including undergraduate, MBA, and executive education.