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Sanjay Gandhi*, 30, is a senior manager with a leading furnishings company. His boss, the owner of the company, is the son of an industrial tycoon, a Page 3 regular and an absolute tyrant. For Sanjay, an ordinary work day never ends before 1 am; his boss reaches the office at 1 pm (having partied late into the night), schedules meetings 8 pm onwards, and keeps employees there till late at night.
Everyone at Sanjay's office loathes this practice, but the rule is, raise your voice and get sacked. Says Sanjay, "My boss is out partying daily till 4 am, so he comes to the office at 1 pm and meetings don't usually begin till late evening. They go on till midnight, and sometimes even later. We reach home dead tired, but have to make it back to the office the following day by 9.30 am! My boss comes in when he wills. We all hate his working habit, but don't have the courage to tell him about it."
The reason is clear -- there are horror stories regarding those who have dared to cross the boss' path. "Not only have they been fired, but their compensations have been held back for over a year and they've found it very difficult to get another job!" he explains.
So why doesn't he quit? Pat comes the answer: "The pay is really good." Sanjay's case isn't an exception -- there are many like him who are trapped in well-paying jobs where they have to do their boss' bidding.
Shekhar Kadam*, 29, works for a music company. His boss has absolutely no consideration for family time. Says Shekhar, "My boss calls me constantly and expects me to drop whatever I am doing and take care of business. He expects me to be on call 24 x 7. I always have my laptop in the car. There have been occasions when I have gone to a friend's party, gotten a call from my boss and begun working on my laptop sitting in my friend's bedroom! It's a joke with my pals now. They call me 'boss' slave', but they don't understand that if I don't do it, there are five other people waiting to jump into my position. Toeing the line is my only option."
Sudha Mehta*, 27, used to work for a PR firm in Delhi. "I reported to a lady who has never married and has no kids. She lives alone, and her life revolves around her work. She doesn't understand the challenges of a working mother. I have a husband, a child, and a home to run -- I need to devote time to them. But my lady boss thought my only responsibility was my job; everything else can wait. I put up with a lot from her, but the last straw was when she refused to let me take leave when my daughter was hospitalised. She said she had helped me admit my daughter to the best hospital with the best medical facility, so what did I need leave for? The woman just refused to understand that my four-year-old needed me! She wanted me to come to work, so I put in my papers. I don't regret it."
These are just a few cases, but most working folk admit to having bosses who like 'yes men' -- employees who nod in response to all their demands. "Sycophancy is rampant in our work culture. Also, the sheer numbers make a person dispensable. If you aren't willing to be the boss' slave, to jump at every request and agree to every whim and fancy, there are 10 others waiting to take your place," says Shekhar.
Sanjay has another take on the subject. He says, "What makes matters worse is that these Page 3 socialites run organisations like their own fiefdoms, and their wives also want to be perceived as serious business women. It's not enough for these social butterflies to be photographed at Page 3 parties; they want to be known and seen as corporate women. Without the requisite training, education and experience, they want to sit in at meetings. It is pure hell for professionals like us to pander to these women!"
Ashok Verma*, a senior executive with a telecom company, agrees. "If my boss is hell, his wife is worse. Her latest craze to be seen as the next big thing in the corporate world," he says. "All of us are well-educated, with degrees from leading B-schools and have earned our laurels in various reputed companies. For us to pander to the whims of a woman who has little experience in and even lesser knowledge of the business is humiliating and degrading."
Adds Sudha, "There are many bosses who are good-natured and understanding. In general, however, the senior culture in India is that of superiority. I say jump, you say how high!"
She also agrees that, among the socialites, there is a growing desire to be seen as serious corporate women. "For these glamorous women it is not enough to be photographed with champagne glasses at glitzy parties. They want the world to perceive them as intelligent, capable, corporate individuals. But, in reality, they are far from that. They lack the qualifications and experience needed to run a business, but they want to be part of the corporate world. It makes life very difficult for the professionals who work for them."
Sudha also believes this isn't related to gender. "There are many men who are party animals, Page 3 regulars who have inherited family wealth and businesses. These men have flashy degrees from foreign universities, but they have no respect for ordinary people who have to work hard for a living," she says.
Amit Nanda*, 30, works for one such person in Mumbai. He says, "My boss is always busy attending film festivals with his actress girlfriend, and following her around on shoots. All our projects are perpetually held up, as he is usually out of the country. He calls when it is day in his part of the world, with no consideration and thought as to what time of night it is in India. He misbehaves and shouts at senior personnel in the company who have served his father loyally for years, and has absolutely no regard for anybody. He has blatantly told us that he pays us astronomical salaries, so it's our duty to be available when he calls!"
And you thought Shah Rukh Khan [Images] was exaggerating his role in the film Yes Boss!
It is common for employers to do a background check of prospective employees before hiring them. Maybe it's as important for employees to dig up information regarding their prospective bosses, before giving a high-paying job the nod!
*Names changed to protect privacy.
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