Employee Separation – When I Was Fired…

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Mr. Rohan Bhargava – Marketing Head

Mr. Vikram Gupta – Country Manager

Mr. Robert Moody – Global VP, Marketing

Mr. Thomas Dawson – VP, Asia Operations

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Mr. Rohan Bhargava

Rohan Bhargava joined this company is 2010 as National Head – Marketing. He was functionally reporting to Robert Moody, Vice President – Marketing [working from Company Head Office in USA] and administratively, he was reporting to Vikram Gupta. In his role, he was expected to increase India business for Boilers and Pumps Inc, which was surprisingly stagnant at 350 Million USD for EIGHT Years before the joining of Rohan. However, in last THREE years, Rohan took revenues of India business from 350 Million to 575 Million USD and gross margin from 8% to 14%. He became blue-eyed man of leadership team in India. Rohan’s personality was that of being aggressive, independent, go-getter, and result oriented.

Mr. Viram Gupta

Vikram Gupta is Country Manager – India of Boilers and Pumps Inc. [BNP) – a Company headquartered in USA. He is working in this role since 2007. Vikram joined BNP as a Production Engineer and has been associated with the Company for last TWENTY years. He is an aspiring leader, who is eagerly looking forward to next level of hierarchy. He missed one such opportunity in 2011, when the company decided to bring in Thomas Dawson for the role of Vice President – Asia Operations instead of promoting Vikram.

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In senior leadership roles, be it in India or elsewhere, trust plays an important role. As you move up the hierarchy, trust becomes crucial component of our role. At the top, leaders behave as if they are part of a community. They support each other. Many a times, a manager is likely to support his colleague than his sub-ordinate(s).

Friday, 27th June 2014

I was called to the cabin of Mr. Vikram & in the presence of Mr. Robert Moody I was informed that the management decided to bid a bye to my services with the company with immediate effect. 

This came as a shocker of my life and I stood there as a statue as I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I was also left clueless on the decision in spite of being rated “Outstanding” for the last THREE years. 

After a couple of minutes, I regained my senses & tried understand the reasons behind the decision.  All I was told is that the decision was taken as a part of “Cost Optimization Measures”.  Beyond this they did not speak a word.

As the silence prevailed in the cabin, I left the place.  However, the buzz around is that I was asked to leave in view of violating the company policies and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).  Given the context I was stormed with many unanswered questions.

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Through the Memory Lanes

In the year 2013, I won one of the single largest orders in the entire history of BNP.  The order was worth 75 Million USD with gross margin of 15%. It was moment of celebration for the company, particularly for Leadership Team in India. Details of deal were shared with all concerned, including Country Manager and Vice President – Asia. The project was to be completed and delivered in time span of 18 months.

THREE months later when the Project Team was preparing project charter and scope of work, it was identified that few of the terms agreed in the deal are not in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures [SOP’s). As per the SOP’s, such terms should have the approval of from the President of the Company.  This resulted in hiring of additional resources due to which the gross margin dipped by 3%.  From Vikram to Robert and Thomas, everyone put the blame on me for creating such a situation & also issued a warning letter to me.

While the fact is that it was a collective failure as this missed the attention of all the three (Mr. Vikram, Mr. Robert & Mr. Thomas), everyone shrugged off their shoulders. On that day it was decided that for the next 6 – months I should get approvals for all new orders from Mr. Robert before committing anything to the clients.

I took it in a right spirit as I identify with the entrepreneurial mindset which is more towards: Deals, Deliverables & Profitability.

Having said this, I also feel that putting blame on me for the approvals missed doesn’t spare Vikram from his accountability because, a leader should also be prepared to take the heat of the loose ends in a success created by his team member for the company.

During that period, a Corporate Announcement on promoting Mr. Thomas Dawson as the Chief Executive Officer and President of BNP.

 The SOP’s that made me Soak

In the month of May 2014, I received an email from Vikram stating that I missed taking his approval before renewing a service contract with an ad agency. On referring the SOP manual, there was no clarity given on if the approvals are required for new (or) ALL service contracts. However, Virkam’s interpretation of SOP was that of having the approvals from Country Manager & Global VP, Marketing.  Hence, I was in no position to speak as the one whom I look up for support has viewed this as violation.  This came as another dent on the efforts to reconstruct my image.

Following week, I received TWO emails from Vikram duly highlighting the violation of SOP’s in getting approvals for:

  • Incentive plan that was launched for Channel partners during 2012
  • Ad Campaign for India in early 2014

From then on Things were becoming stressful. At one point of time, I felt as if Vikram is building a case on me.  However, my colleagues and friends advised me to maintain low profile as they felt that anything that I am doing is hitting the roadblock. 

And as the days passed, there was hardly any communication between me & Vikram.  One day I received a call from Robert regarding his plans of visiting India in the following week.  I could sense a piece of ambiguity in his plan as the purpose / agenda was not clear. On the last working day of the week that followed which also happens to the last day of Robert’s trip to India, I was called for a meeting.  As I entered the meeting room, I could see Robert sitting across the table.  It appeared to me that they already rehearsed on what they wanted to do & could sense that Mr. Vikram is all set with his script for any kind of situation.

All those professional courtesies were missing and within a few moments of entry into the room, I was asked to put down my papers duly quoting the reason – “Cost Optimization Measure” as I happen to be one among the 5 highest paid employees in India.  I could have argued or disputed my termination, but preferred to stay calm and quietly walked out of the cabin. However, the fact remains that why such a decision in spite of justifying the compensation taken with the performance & deliverables as agreed.

While you may be busy investigating into the material facts to establish the roots of my exit, let me introduce you to the Silence that fired me.

The Silence that Fired Me

You may recollect the Corporate Announcement about promoting Mr. Thomas Dawson as the “CEO & President” of BNP.  This promotion created a vacancy of “VP – Asia Operations”.

At that point of time Mr. Vikram offered his candidature for the position only to face the disappointment of getting rejected as he earned the tag of manipulating, misrepresenting and mismanaging facts and affairs in India.  Later I also came to understand that it was for the 2nd time that he faced a similar situation within a span of 4 years. 

It was during those times of his gloom, rejection & hurt, I made a place for myself amongst the leadership team in India with my performance and results.  This probably could have made him feel that I have become a hurdle on his way to get crowned as “Vice President – Asia Operations”.  And you know the rest of the story to date.

Given the background, I am sure you all might have now understood that “mine was a clear case of planned & premeditated exit”. 

As we come to the end of my story with BNP, let me just share with you the 4 major incidents that made me Beware of the language of Silence that can fire”:

  1. FOUR weeks before my premeditated exit, there was little or no communication from Vikram. I used to send mails regularly. However, Vikram was not responding to any of those mails unless it is very mandatory.
  1. During those times, once I sent an email to my reporting Manager, Robert Moody. However, he responded very rudely & it appeared to me that he did not even read the mail completely. It could be because his mind was fully preoccupied with some inflated information about me.
  1. The trip of Robert to India was planned in haste. He was travelling to India and being his direct reportee I was not aware of his schedule. This was contrary to his previous visits.
  1. Finally, the presence of Mr. Vikram in the meeting room all set with his script for any kind of situation.

As I leave…..

Now that you have completed reading my story & my perspective, you may like to delve into the following:

  • Am I really fired as a part of the cost optimization process as I am highly paid?
  • Am I fired because of my non-compliance to the SOP’s (needs clarity?)
  • Do you see the Non-compliance as my deliberate attempt?
  • With the 1st one being an ‘oversight’, do you see the other two instances are deliberately pushed on to me?
  • What was the turning-point in my story?
  • Do you think Robert could have played a constructive role?
  • Do you think things would have taken different shape had the company not promoted Thomas to next level?
  • Do you think I was made a culprit or scapegoat to hide something else?

Composed By: Sanjeev Himachali

One thought on “Employee Separation – When I Was Fired…

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