Wednesday, May 27, 2020

#IRIS 9) Apparent- inappropriate rude behaviour of young woman executive at the workplace (Most commented true story/case study by a global audience at my Linked In profile)

   #IRIS True Story 9)

Apparent- inappropriate rude behaviour of young woman executive at the workplace
(Most commented true story/case study by a global audience at my Linked In profile)

Issue/Concern of chairman’s office
Investigate the matter, get to the root cause and suggest remedial action to prevent such incident

Jasmine is employed as front desk CRE with leading telecom company at an important city in Punjab; most visited by NRI and foreign dignitaries. Two complaints of her rude behaviour with senior NRI customers were reported directly to the corporate head office at Mumbai. Chairman’s office wanted this matter to be investigated, with clear instructions, “get to the root cause and suggest remedial action to prevent such incident”. The zonal manager wanted her services to be terminated with immediate effect, dismissal without notice as per terms & conditions on her appointment letter. Her misconduct was recorded on camera (CCTV footage shared with Chairman’s office)

I was appointed as the special investigating officer for this job, when I reached the showroom this woman misbehaved with me as well, everything was again recorded on CCTV.  I sought help from my seniors because she was not cooperating in the investigation. I was told to get to the root cause, find the reason and a logical rational explanation for her rude behaviour else I should quit and not show my face. This woman's conduct was beyond rational comprehension of people sitting at the regional office and corporate office at Mumbai as well.

I carefully checked her training record, background reference check investigation report, and interviewers remarks on her CV in her employee file with HR. She had scored overall of 77% in induction training (excellent score) and her knowledge level score was greater than 80% consistently on LMS portal over a period of last one year (consistent excellent score).  She was trained by my team and me as well; there were no adverse remarks or behavioural issue during training. All other documents were in order, without any adverse remarks.

I inquired about her behaviour with her colleagues. I was surprised, almost everyone complained about her frequent bad behaviour and few hinted at she might be having inappropriate relations with the franchise owner. They accused her of doing him favors and perhaps the reason for him tolerating her rude behaviour.

Reluctantly, I invited her for breakfast at the head office. When I communicate this to my seniors and requested 48 hours to complete the investigation; I was told to complete Investigation within 24 hours. They made fun of me, laughed, and called me incompetent stupid. I was commented upon as “are you a man, you cannot handle a woman, it would have been better, had you taken her out for an evening movie show and dinner, you would have easily found the root cause”.  These comments still echo in my mind about the lack of insensitivity shown by senior managers and my reporting officer. (Somehow, since she was trained by me, it was natural for me to have a genuine affinity for my student and compassion for a lady; I wanted to do something about the situation, honourable solution for everyone. I couldn’t sleep; the most luxurious five-star hotel at Amritsar seemed like a Golden cage. I woke up at 0300 Hrs and prayed till 0500 Hrs for divine intervention)

Next morning she came to the company’s swanky zonal office. By this time I managed to source all the information about her family background in detail from the alternate channels. We exchanged pleasantries and I initiated conversation; empathetically inquired about her father's health (he was differently able, full-time wheelchair dependant and her younger brother had recently lost his job). Initially she was nervous, hands trembling. Now she was comfortable, she smiled, took tea biscuits and we proceeded to the cafeteria for breakfast. She mentioned that she is only earning member in the family, her mother juggles various roles, as a part-time tailor, house maid and look after her ailing father as well. Her brother is a stupid, non-serious pampered boy, who never sticks to a job or take his life seriously. (I was also aware that her brother was asked to leave from his current job due to non-performance)

I emphathised with her and offered help to get her brother a job at another leading bank on priority. I asked her how many women friends she has, I was shocked she had none; she was not going for an evening or morning walk or visit any spiritual place or engage in any social activity. She had attended the last family celebration a year ago, it seems like all happiness in her life has been snatched. She cried and confessed she is too stressed, she is too involved in her work, she is being overused, and long working hours often extending beyond her shift timings are taking a toll on her health. 

She was often asked to stay at the office beyond the stipulated time, reaching home late was disturbing her entire home commitments. She was also forced to work on holidays/Sunday. She is unable to complete her graduation she was spending a lot of time commuting, her home was too far off from the workplace. Reaching home at late night was harassment to her, inappropriate comments and stalking by anti-social elements was causing her emotional distress.

I promised her that some positive good news shall be given to her within fifteen days. I suggested her to live for herself, love, and respect herself. She must enthusiastically participate in social and family activities she has to cultivate and invest in her happiness, create more women friends, go for a regular walk, listen to spiritual audio and also do her best to complete her graduation under all circumstances. A graduate degree will help her to be on the company’s role. I wished her all the very best of happiness and success in all aspects of her life and offered help again to get a job for her brother at other bank on priority. (In my thoughts I prayed to God to help her complete graduation and find a suitable groom for her)

I complimented her for being an amazing exceptionally intelligent person, a capable asset to our organization, someone who has done well during training evaluation and LMS knowledge evaluation test scores. I assured her that within the next 15 days she would find favourable timings at the current location and God willing change of work location near her home (15-20 minute drive compared to current 45 min drive). I also assured her, all statutory pending dues (overtime payment and performance incentive) to be paid on priority.

After I spoke with her reporting officer Vishal and requested Jasmine to be shifted to another location nearer to her home. He bluntly refused and told me, she is the only one at that location, who knows in-depth about the processes, systems and performance will suffer, he still insisted on her termination. (His thought process was, other manager’s performance will improve and he will be adversely impacted if she is transferred to another team)

I requested/explained Vishal; we also have women members in our family, and our wife, and sister, a daughter; they also work and it is important we must be sensitive. Shifting her location will be good for her. All my efforts to persuade him and to be empathetic failed, he still insisted on her termination. As a last resort I told him if this woman files a complaint against us, about not being compensated for long working hours we would be at a disadvantage position due to us not honoring her working hours. He again bluntly refused her transfer.

Since Vishal was a smart manager, he got Jasmine’s backdated signature on her willingness/ consent form for overtime and promised to release all her financial dues asap. Now I was in the firing line, all guns trained on me for not submitting the investigation report on time. After receiving the firing of choicest expletives from all senior managers, I promised my reporting manager, I’ll submit the action taken report along with the investigation report tomorrow morning.

I visited Golden Temple and prayed again for divine intervention. Next morning, I met Vishal, empathized with all his concerns and spoke, “I understand the performance of other franchise will improve and his franchise will suffer a temporary setback, however, it is my gentleman commitment, within 15 days, myself and our training team will train existing junior CRE and send on deputation additional CRE for 15-30 days, all cost borne by common expense pool, besides you can claim this as your achievement during performance appraisal to help the zonal team in improving team performance”. Jasmine shall hand-hold new CRE for 15 days. After much persuasion he allowed Jasmine to be transferred to a new location near her home. I thanked Vishal, hugged him, and made a quick exit from zonal office….. LOL- The way people run when the red traffic light turns green, what a relief!!

I called Jasmine and assured her that she will get her transfer order and she can join a new location within 15 to 30 days. All her pending dues of incentive and overtime salary shall be released within the next 48 hours. She must call Vishal and thank him like an elder brother; he is a good person who always acts in the best interest of his team members.

Eureka !! Honourable solution for everyone

I immediately submitted my carefully worded, politically correct and acceptable investigation report as “there was no electricity at the showroom, summer was at peak and the customer was upset about not being offered a glass of cold water. Air condition cannot work on recommended generator specifications, the only working fan at the showroom was not facing the customer” besides stress due to overtime, high temperature of peak summer and mental exhaustion of CRE was also a contributing factor for her irritable behaviour during the interaction (Internally, I was sad, the true root cause was diluted and suppressed, the system kills)

Action taken report was “franchisee agreed to install one more fan on generator back up, install water dispenser of higher capacity, buy two more chairs, offer cold water promptly to all and attend/offer chair to NRI/Senior citizens on priority” besides as per mutual discussion between manager & CRE, Jasmine shall always keep two large cold water bottle beside her desk and she will be transferred to a new location to save on her travel time. Our commitment to woman’s safety will also help reduce her stress and help maintain her calmness always. (a face-saving for everyone, I am happy because during the entire episode, we kept Jasmine in high self-esteem, I achieved my objective)

My thoughts; wish Vishal had acted as a mature manager rather than as a damager, supervisor means a person with superior vision. During an informal discussion at the corporate office, requested HR to nominate Vishal to attend behavioural workshop. O God !, to save their skin, people at the corporate workplace are willing to terminate another person at the drop of a hat.

This is not the end of this story, rather beginning of the new wonderful happy chapter in the life of Jasmine, within next twelve months she completed her graduation and something amazingly happy happened in her personal life and the worst thing happened for our company. Her potential was recognised by competitor she joined them at a senior position as a team leader with a much higher package, we lost an intelligent resource, a promising talent whom our training team had carefully nurtured and groomed. With her hard work and God’s blessing, her status was enhanced; she married a handsome man in banking sector. Now she is the mother of one child as well and of course, she will always remain my valued student.

Jasmine you are a bundle of joy to your parents, an angel on this planet and you make us teachers also happy, when we see our nurtured buds take higher responsibilities in life. You make us feel worthy and proud of our training profession.

Important points to ponder

1)      Whenever I think of this incident, I feel sad about how corporate workplace culture can be a place of harassment. Why can’t we retain (women) talent?
2)      Why protect their own turf, managers ensure either talent work only for them or doesn’t work at all with their company. Why can’t they be a better human being?
3)      Never take important decisions when you are angry. Investigate any issue to the core; go beyond what is spoken/stated. The meaning behind the words is more important.
4)      Usually women quit any organization for reasons which perhaps they would never like to put in writing. True reason must be investigated and corrective action taken to prevent further loss of talent.

Our team at Eagles Learning have researched and read innumerable books about gender differences, interviewed many women, tried to understand challenges faced by them at workplace. I am also fortunate to have investigated many cases of non-performance, insubordination, sexual harassment and interviewed close to 5000 men and women.

We are proud we have never ever allowed anyone to exit the company, due to non-performance; we always kept people in high self-esteem. We have devised interventions to retained performers for at least a year and engaging them as per their natural talent. We have helped create a corporate workplace as a welcoming and engaging place for women-men. 


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