“I am going to commit suicide” – A message received by the CEO of an Organization

WORKPLACE BULLYING

It Destroys Careers, It Destroys Lives…It has to Stop !

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Leading Characters

Ms. Aditi Ghosh – Area Sales Manager

Mr. Deepak Garg – HR Director @ DSS, Bangalore

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“I am going to commit suicide – Aditi Gosh”. The message got flashed on the CEO’s mobile of Desmond Suiting & Shirting India Limited (DSS)

Who is this Aditi Ghosh?

Aditi Gosh has been working with DSS for last THREE years as Area Sales Manager looking after sales through channel partners in THREE states of India, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Union Territory Chandigarh. Her total work experience is over 12 years. She is based out of Chandigarh.

DSS doesn’t have any office in Chandigarh. Most of the time she visits channel partners and therefore stay in field and at other times she can work from home. She is reporting to Regional Sales Manager – North.

She is married and has a FIVE year old daughter. Her husband is working as Guest Relations Manager with a leading 5-star hotel in Chandigarh.

Aditi’s Life – Back Home & at Office

Three months ago Aditi lost her mother due to cancer. She saw her dying right in front of her. She was close to her mother. She was finding it difficult to overcome that trauma. She shares a strained relationship with her husband but she is not having any kind of affair with anybody. Her husband wants her to get pregnant with their second child and give him son but is not prepared for it. Her husband is not earning enough to take care of entire family.

Nothing was different on the professional front. Though her reporting manager & department head were aware of her situation, they didn’t show any kind of empathy. Her boss missed on the courtesy of empathizing with her, rather they went to the extent of frightening her that the company will fire her anytime as she is unable to meet her targets, but it is him who is protecting her job.

However, the fact remains that it is she who does the work & the credit is being taken by her RSM. This RSM is a very typical guy who doesn’t plan work. Sometimes he calls her at 9 PM in the night and asks her to visit a Channel Partner in Jaipur the following day. Or call her at 10 AM and ask her visit a Channel Partner in Amritsar before the end of the day.

She discussed this issue with VPM only to get further disappointed as there was no due consideration given to her version. All that she got to listen is – “Follow the instructions given by RSM because he is more competent”.

And this made her feel suffocated and decided to call it a day to the life and that was YESTERDAY….

 The Yesterday’s Story

In the light of the experience narrated above, she was so upset that she wanted to commit suicide. She spent her entire day at Chandigarh railway station. But her heart throbbed and sobbed for her daughter. However, she felt ashamed of whatever she thought and promised to herself not to repeat such behavior again. And from that day on…she decided to live for her daughter. At around 11 PM, Deepak received the following message from Aditi:

“I have reached home”.

In the mean time…

Deepak asked one of his team members to contact Aditi and see what’s happening. He asked another team-member to consult local police station and see what can be done.

A colleague of Deepak reported –

”We tried reaching her from different numbers but she is not picking any call. We have TWO numbers of Aditi and she isn’t answering on any number. We tried calling on the mobile number of her husband but that number is out of service”.

Another colleague reported that –

“Bangalore police (remember DSS Head Office is in) refused to register First Information Report (FIR). They said that the FIR shall be registered with police station closer to her area of residence. As she is working in Chandigarh, they cannot register her report in Bangalore. According to police, even if they register FIR, they will not be able to do anything because they will not be sending any team to Chandigarh to locate Aditi”.

Aditi’s Husband’s Version…

A colleague of Deepak managed to connect with Aditi’s husband. She asked him about her whereabouts. He appears to be surprised but not much bothered. He said –

“Aditi was at home when he left for his work.

Throughout the day neither did he call Aditi nor she tried to call her”.

Deepak seems to be hitting hard blocks at every step. In the midst of such updates, Mr. Deepak received a call from Vice President – Marketing.

The VPM’s Version….

This lady has always been problematic. As such she is not working and now this type of drama. She will surely write my name in her suicide note and create more problems for me. Do something about her. I don’t want her in my team.

At the end of the tele-con, all that Mr. Deepak could sense is –

“VPM is much concerned about life of Aditi and implications of her suicide on her family.

He was only bothered about his name getting dragged into this case”.

The RSM’s Version…. (Call from Delhi)

And then there was a call from the RSM which went on this way –

“I talked to her in the morning. I asked her to visit one of the Channel Partner who was having a problem with one of our product lot. She refused to go. She is behaving this way for the last few months. She is not following the instructions. I have spoken to my boss and he has confirmed that we need to replace her. Now she has put us through this situation.

 Except for the loss of her mother because of cancer, I don’t see any other issue that could be bothering her. In fact, it appears to me that she has got problems because of her extra marital affair.

 Hence, please do something about her. Terminate her employment and find a replacement. It is affecting my targets. I cannot go everywhere and do her work”.

Fixing the Issue

Deepak tried to take the support of the RSM to explore the possibilities of filing an FIR in Delhi as “committing suicide” is also a crime. However, the RSM expressed his inability to do this on himself as he has got other priorities to attend in view of his marriage anniversary. However, he told that he will organize someone to take care of this.

Having listened to the 3 versions, he followed it up with the checking of her previous performance records, inquired about her association with other colleagues in the department. He could receive hardly any negative remarks on her.

Somehow Deepak was not convinced with what he got to listen about her from his reporting manager & department authority.

As such Deepak also spoke to her…..and got her version too. Accordingly he got an overall understanding of what’s happening within.

As he was thinking about the incidents one by one from the morning message to the tele-con / interactions happened, the feedback received from her colleagues,

Mr. Deepak got convinced that the issue is not just about the “individual’s attitude” and it has something more to deal with i.e; “Workplace Bullying”.

What happened Next?

Deepak updated CEO regarding his discussion with Aditi. In the interim, one colleague of Deepak managed to file ZERO FIR in Bangalore. Copy of FIR is sent to Chandigarh to the police-station falling in the jurisdiction of Aditi’s residence.

Discussion with VPM and RSM reconfirmed some of the allegations leveled by Aditi, though they managed to cover-up their behaviors and actions with sufficient excuses. They also mentioned that the primary responsibility of Sales team is to get business and it is a responsibility of HR to keep every employee engaged and happy.

Aditi was given TWO months of paid leave to sort-out her personal issues. She was also asked to see a psychotherapist & was told that she could join back ONLY if she brings in a fitness report from the psychotherapist.

At the end of the story…

While there are lessons for all, let’s not forget to read between the lines to understand the silence that is loud and clear. It helps in answering the following questions that we have:

  1. Did Deepak do the expected best?
  2. While the behavior of VPM & RSM appears to be harsh, do you got to say something on the view they shared on the HR’s responsibility in keeping employees happy?
  3. As Aditi made a ‘soul searching’, she did not die. What if otherwise?

The Key Take Away

  • HR must keep their records updated all the time. Personal information about employees must be current.
  • Department Heads must involve HR as soon as possible & not wait for the situation to deteriorate in this fashion. Employees must reach out to HR as soon as they begin to feel uncomfortable with any situation or person. Don’t wait till the very last moment.
  • HR must not only confine their focus to employees working in corporate office or in regional office. They should have processes or systems in place to stay in touch with people working in satellite offices or working from home.
  • Depression or high-level of anxiety is a big concern. Don’t overlook it. Don’t pileup negative emotions inside, Talk to people. Get necessary help…else…

It Destroys Careers, It Destroys Lives…so, it has to STOP

Suicide - I

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