Never let others champion a cause against you
American Samuel Adams (1722 - 1804) agonised over the fact that Great Britain ruled over the American colonies. He longed for the day when they would be free. When the government would reflect the will of the people.
He tried to arouse the colonists. He wrote moving articles in newspapers and spoke passionately and endlessly about the need to be free, but no one cared to do anything. People may have grumbled but hardly any one was inspired to act.Then the British in 1765 introduced the Stamp Act to raise money from America. All documents would be treated as legal only if a stamp of the British Crown was affixed to it.
Samuel Adams writing became inflammatory and now he used this opportunity to unite the people against this new tax. He ignited passions with the phrase " taxation without representation is the first step towards tyranny"
In addition to his powerful writing he swung into action. He had built up support amongst the working people. These were folks that been shunned by American polite society.
Similar to what happened in all colonies and more so in India a minority of colonists opposed the efforts of Samuel Adams for they benefited the most by supporting the British. Unlike in India they were not successful.
The people of Massachusetts resorted to work stoppage, non cooperation and prevented the sale of stamps. Such was the furore that in April 1766 King George III had to repeal the act.
The British then tried to then introduce an indirect tax called the Townshend System.
Samuel Adams now went on a new offensive. He brought to light how the British under various guises was overtaxing the Americans.
The working people now united under the banner of 'Sons of Liberty' organised a series of non cooperation actions. No citizen of Massachusetts would sell anything nor provide any service to the British.
Situation grew desperate and the British Crown had to clamp down the movement with an iron hand. Additional troops were sent to quell the increasingly tense law and order situation. The British resorted to firings and many Bostonians were killed in what came to be called 'the Boston massacre’.
Finally the Tea Act which was an additional tax introduced in 1773 enabled Samuel Adams and his colleagues the ability to deliver the final nail to the coffin.
The provocative act called 'The Boston tea party' where all the imported tea was taken off the British ships and thrown overboard in the harbour was the turning point.
Exploiters using the apathy of the exploited as did the British as colonialists are always on weak moral ground. By being excessively greedy and over-confident they allowed people like Samuel Adams to champion successfully the cause of American freedom. This resulted in the loss of a comfortable and highly profitable source of revenue for the British from America.
These very actions fuelled the revolution by uniting the people in Massachusetts and subsequently all of America into isolating the British and eventually denying them America as a colony.
Fast forward to 1983 when we took over the business. We brothers inherited from our elders some great things and a few problems. One of the big issues were labour problems.
Constantly at war with our workmen, these issues were damaging both revenues and our reputation not to mention our peace of mind. At first we followed in the footsteps of our elders, matching blow for blow and even more.
As our spiritual teacher and guide Sant Baba Ishwar Singh ji explains repeatedly, 'violence never ever solved any problem'.
Yet we humans persist in our bickering and conflicts, for the animal within us knows only ego and force
While we continued with our policy of war we grew frustrated as we learnt at great cost that 'violence is a journey with no end'. The only thing we had to show for all the conflict was significant bills for damages and short interludes of peace.
The group dynamics between us brothers was very good, we debated everything passionately before coming to a course of action. Our labour problems tended to take up a significant amount of our time and attention, something we could very well do without. Guided by our teacher, friend and guide, Mr. Nana Shaney, one day my brother Varinder turned our thinking on its head.
He asked a simple but very important question; "Are we being fair?” Are we doing what we should, before we ask of our employees that they do what they should?"
The answer was obvious. No matter what so ever may have been the provocation, the bottom line was we were failing in our responsibilities. The lapses may have been small but they were several.
It is said; "In war there are no victors, only losers". Some lose more than the other but nevertheless everyone loses in acts of conflict and destruction
Now issues were secondary, egos were at stake and they had gained ascendancy
So hardened and polarised had the situation become that we and the workmen were warring for the sake of war.
We took a hard and critical look at ourselves and our conduct. We realised that we had not attended to many little issues that had now grown into giant problems. At the helm of affairs there was no point in blaming anyone else but ourselves, so it was our responsibility to set things right.
Our negligence and inefficiency, had allowed outsiders and opportunists to stew up resentment within the ranks of our employees, against us as owners and managers. Our oversight had provided fuel to troublemakers so that our own people came to challenge our legal and moral authority.
We resolved henceforth never to allow any opportunity to antagonists to champion a cause.
We changed our approach to conduct ourselves as employers who came to be seen by our employees as protective and caring parents and not as arrogant, uncaring and domineering bullies. This is the true essence of winning hearts and minds.
We spent several years in winning the trust and respect of our own employees, but in the end it was very well worth the effort. Wining trust does not mean rolling over and playing dead. Trust comes from trust worthy actions, it means being fair but firm, hard but humane. It also means constant dialogue, safety, a good work environment, etc, and most of all being respectful of people.
Issues arose all the time but they were handled in an atmosphere of fairness and respect. Issues were always tackled quickly. Often we had to take the effort to explain why we adopted a particular stand. People may have disagreed but they respected the decisions and actions and they supported us.
After all my brother Varinder always said; "Reasonable people, equally informed, seldom disagree.”