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Don't harass her just because you can't compete with her

Last updated on: September 15, 2011 16:50 IST

Don't harass her just because you can't compete with her

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Sexual harassment at work by fellow colleagues, bosses and management personnel has become common place. Vijay Nair, author of the best selling The Boss is Not Your Friend analyses a similar situation and offers some workable solutions to readers. Illustrations by Uttam Ghosh

Early this week, Kannada actress Nikitha was held responsible for the arrest of actor Tugudeepa Darshan who was charged for assaulting his wife Vijayalakshmi following an alleged affair with the actress.

While the actress has denied the charges and sought an enquiry into the matter, she has been banned by the Kannada Film Producers' Association for three years.

Of late, incidents of harassment at work has been a common affair.

Vijay Nair, author of the best seller The Boss is Not Your Friend analyses a similar situation and offers some workable solutions.

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Image: Incidents of harassment at work has been a common affair

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She was thrilled to bits to find her name in the list

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Anjali was deliriously happy when she discovered she had been selected for the Royal Management Services during the placement season in her management institute.

The House of Royals was one of the oldest and most prestigious corporate groups of the country.

The organisations under its umbrella had products and services as diverse as steel to automobiles and chemicals to software.

While each of these organisations visited the business school campuses independently to make job offers to graduating students, the group as a whole also recruited from the leading B schools in the country for what it called the RMS (Royal Management Services).

This group was conceptualised as a corporate equivalent to the Indian Administrative Services and as such was reputed to have the best and brightest in the group. Those who got selected for the RMS graduated from it after a year's training and orientation in any four companies of the organisation.

The selection process outlined for this lot was much more vigorous and candidates were screened for their leadership aptitude apart from their subject expertise in management areas like Finance, Marketing, Operations and HR.

Anjali had set her eyes on this much coveted placement for the two years she was in her business school and was thrilled to bits when after the one day gruelling selection process where she had to compete not just with her own institute mates but also students from other highly ranked business schools, she found her name to be among the 16 who had made the cut.

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Image: She was thrilled to bits to find her name in the list

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It had taken him eight years to get there

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The one year of training in RMS flew like a dream. After a fortnight long orientation Anjali spent two and a half to three months in four different organisations of the group.

In each of the companies she was assigned to, she had to take up a project related to strategy and planning along with two or three of her batch mates.

Each of these organisations treated the RMS probationers as if they were royalty. It was a commonly held belief in the group that most of the CEOs in the group organisations had been RMS probationers at some point of time. RMS probationers were considered the future of the organisation.

After the training was over Anjali opted to join the Hotels division of the group in the Marketing function.

She had to report to R Kartik, one of the Marketing Managers in the organisation with over eight years of experience. Anjali was designated as Assistant Manager.

This was also due to the special privilege of being a RMS probationer. The members from this group were given a designation two levels higher than a direct recruit for the same company who may have been hired from the same campus.

Kartik was also from the same business school that Anjali went to but he hadn't been a part of RMS.

While it had taken him eight years to reach the position of a manager from a junior executive, Anjali was likely to get a similar position in two years time if she performed well.

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The promotion meant that she and Karthik were at the same level

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As it happened the organisation was in the midst of devising a new advertising strategy for its hotels and Anjali and Kartik were both made members of the task force responsible for designing the campaign. Initially Anjali found Kartik to be extremely helpful.

He would come to her aid whenever she faced any opposition in the task force. He also helped her network with other critical stake holders in the organisation. They spent a lot of time together in her first year in the organisation.

After nearly a year of brainstorming and coming up with alternatives, the campaign was launched and proved to be a great success. Many of the ideas came from Anjali, as being a new entrant she had a fresh perspective unfettered by the baggage of the past.

The Managing Director in the annual meet made a special mention of her and her promotion to the next level came about in another six months time.

The promotion meant Kartik and she were at the same level.

So she was shifted from the group she was a part of and a new portfolio assigned to her. The organisation was getting into budget business hotels for the first time and Anjali was asked to look after their marketing. Though she continued to be in the same city, her office shifted to another location.

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Image: The promotion meant that she and Karthik were at the same level

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She started receiving nasty calls

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Initially she found it difficult to break out of the habit of asking for Kartik's advice for all critical issues although they were no longer working together.

She would call him frequently whenever faced with a challenge. But after a couple of months, as she got more and more immersed in her new responsibilities, she started depending on the counsel of her present team rather than the suggestions of her ex boss. In any case, she had realised that some of the advice doled out by Kartik seemed to suggest she be more political in the team.

Anjali grew cautious and stopped discussing her work with her ex boss. For some time he persisted in calling her even when she didn't. She managed to field his queries firmly and politely, indicating she could manage on her own in the new role.

The interactions between Kartik and her became more and more infrequent. A few days in the new role she started dating a Finance professional from another organisation who she met in a party and between her pressing work responsibilities and a fuller personal life, she had little time to remain in touch with her ex boss.

She started receiving nasty calls at her residence land line late in the night.

The caller would abuse her in the filthiest of language in a gruff put on voice. She had a caller ID installed but it didn't help as the calls would be made from different public booths.

Later she started to find abusive messages in her email too. Her boyfriend proposed to her around the same time and she accepted.

One day she was shocked to learn from her fianc e that his mother had got a call from an unknown person telling her that Anjali was promiscuous and living with another man while making a fool of her son at the same time.

Anjali was furious. She wasn't sure whether she wanted to take up the matter in her organisation.

She suspected the culprit to be one of her batch mates from the business school who had proposed to her while they were studying. He had taken it badly when she rejected him.

Her fiancee suggested that they take the help of one of his uncles who ran a private detective agency in the city.

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Image: She started receiving nasty calls

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They trapped him as soon as he came out of the booth

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The detective agency checked her phone records and discovered the calls were coming from six different public booths that were in the same locality in a three to four kilometres radius.

The agency also discovered Anjali's emails were being hacked in both her office and personal accounts.

After a month, the agency through the field detectives discovered a man would furtively look around before diving into a phone booth in the locality around the same time as Anjali received the calls.

They photographed the man and showed the pictures to Anjali.

The photographs had a very anxious looking Kartik. Once Anjali verified she knew the man in the picture, two detectives lay in wait for Kartik when he appeared the next day to make the abusive call.

They trapped him as soon as he came out of the booth and took him to a nearby coffee shop. They told him they were policemen on duty and acting on a tip off had caught him red handed harassing a female colleague.

One of them also called up Anjali and she turned up with her boyfriend just when Kartik was trying to tell his captors he will pay them a hefty sum if they let him go.

When he saw Anjali, he started crying. He begged her not to report him in the organisation as he will lose his job and his wife was expecting their second child.

Anjali was thoroughly disgusted with the man but at the same time felt sorry for his wife.

Kartik had invited her home a couple of times for dinner when she had first joined and his wife had cooked for her.

Her boyfriend took Kartik outside the cafe and roughed him up a little, warning him to pull any such stunt in future not just on Anjali but any other woman.

Kartik promised to reform. Three months later he resigned from his job and moved to a gulf country with a new job.

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Even today most organisations in India are male centric

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Sexual harassment cases are rampant in Indian organisations.

Even today most organisations in India are male centric and the values espoused by them patriarchal.

When a woman joins an organisation in a critical role, male managers vie with each other to make her into their prot g but the moment she outgrows them and starts making a mark professionally, the same set of male colleagues will leave no stone unturned to vilify her and label her as easy or promiscuous.

Many women professionals choose to remain silent about the harassment at work because they are convinced the largely male organisation will be insensitive to their plight.

Reporting harassment is likely to lead to a fresh chain of another kind of harassment and victimisation from the powers that be.

It is high time Indian organisations realised gender sensitisation should be an integral part of all organisational orientation programs and value initiatives.


Image: Even today most organisations in India are male centric

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