The Art of Punishment
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This article explores the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies discussed in the 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World.

The CEO or the leader of any organisation has a tough role to play. In order to reach the target set to him by the board of directors he has to tactfully get the work done by his team. Dealing with the employees of the organisation is not very easy task. He has to consider their problems, look at the areas in which they are getting held up and solve them immediately so that the work does not suffer.

At the same time, he has to be a disciplinarian. He should be very flexible with the employees but he should not loose focus of goals and the priorities of the organisation – the reason for which he has been appointed.

At times, he has to even use his rod (punishments) to discipline his employees. How much punishment to be given, when to give it and why is an art, by itself. This art is perfected by Kautilya in the Arthashastra. This is one of the reasons that Kautilya’s Arthashastra is also called as Dandaniti - the art or the strategy of punishments.

Is punishment required at all? Can an organisation or leader do without it? Punishments are frame work set up by any society or organisation crossing which is harmful for every one. What if this framework is not set?

                  “If the rod is not used at all the stronger swallows the weak in the absence of the wielder of the Rod” (1.4.13-14)

The leader or the CEO is the final authority in the matter of punishments. In case he is not disciplining his team from time to time, there is always a possibility of him being taken as a poor leader. More important in his absence, the law of the jungle will take over and disturb the set up and structure of the organisation. The ‘bully’ in the team will start over powering the weak ones as he would have no fear of the boss, or his actions to be taken after his return.

However, the CEO should not get into the mode of punishing for the sake of showcasing his power and position.

“The king severe with rod (punishment) becomes a terror. A king with mild rod is despised. The king just with the rod is honored” (1.4.8-10)

He will become a Hitler if he is too severe with his punishments with unfair reasons. At the same time if he is too soft, others will take him for granted. The leader who knows the right level of punishments, in the right manner and at the right time is always respected. He is honored by one and all. Such a leader is highly productive, that too in a disciplined manner.

Contributed by  - Radhakrishnan Pillai


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