It was Wednesday morning. I was in the midst of a coaching session with my client, and my smart phone vibrated…..drrrrrzzzz. It was Sheetal Gandhi, a friend since college days. I disconnected the call and left a message for her, “In a coaching session with client. I will call back”. In my mind, I was trying to gauge the purpose of her call. She is a not a frequent caller. I last talked to her around SIX months ago. I was hoping for everything to be alright at her end.
Last Day – The Test Day
Make it Emotional – Positive (or) Negative – An Employer’s Choice
About Sheetal Gandhi
Sheetal is a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and an MBA from IIM Calcutta. She has been working with French MNC, Sophronia Metals India Private Limited [Sophronia] as Vice President – Finance for last over FOUR years. Her total work experience is over 15 years.
He has been working with Sheetal for last SIX years, when she was working with a German MNC. He has been hand-picked by her. Sheetal was mentoring him and grooming him for bigger role in Sophronia. She has family-like terms with Ashish and his family members. Last year, she went all the way, along with her husband, to attend the wedding of Ashish in Chandigarh.
The Call, The Greet & The Meet
After finishing my coaching session, and on my way back to the office, I called Sheetal & she immediately picked the call. After the initial nostalgic talk of the memories of togetherness re-cherished, decided to meet the next day at the Starbucks café in Koregaon Park
With fluttering butterflies in the stomach, I tried killing the day hard…and the next day I reached Starbucks café by 11 AM (Saturday morning). Sheetal made it 15 minutes late. As in her white levies t-shirt and diesel jeans. She was the same……looking simple, yet elegant. She has always been like that. She entered the café & I waved to her.
Once again it was time to share few more moments that went into the past as she sipped Caffè Latte & I enjoyed the Caffè Americano. And as the hot coffee dripped down the throat, she asked if I could help her in finding a job…..urgently.
While getting her a job is not an issue, I was bit surprised as times were not the same. Her feedback about her new assignment is still afresh in mind and I remember it word to word the way she expressed it –
“I am happy with my current assignment at Sophronia. It is a stable job.
It also offers professional challenges, growth and rewards”.
What went wrong in the meantime?
Looking at my expression, she understood the questions of my mind and went on to share the background of the story.
“I was called to an unplanned Executive Council meeting and Managing Director (MD) of the company told me that my services with the company are terminated with immediate effect. Neither had I asked for any reason nor did they give any genuine reason”.
How can this Happen Sheetal?……I yelled at the top of my voice. And she continued with her version –
“I was working on a project with MD of the company. This project was my brainchild. Of course my MD had many interventions and suggestions. Had it gone as per the plan, the company would have saved 3.7 million USD.
However, the project busted and we ended-up losing 600,000 USD. Senior management team of the company, which is based out of France, was not happy with the outcome of the project. I was aware of unhappiness of senior management but had no one-to-one interaction with any of them. Our MD told me that he will take-up the issue with management and will address all their concerns and queries”.
At that instance, my intuition sensed something fishy as I placed the things in chronology:
- Last week he asked me to submit role and responsibility matrix of my entire department with minute possible details.
- He mentioned that he has a mandate to restructure Finance & Accounts Department of the company to align it with company strategy and future goals and need my help in it.
- On Monday, he asked me to call-up a meeting with my entire team. He also came for the meeting.
- He told that the company is pondering with few ideas of making changes in the department.
- Hence, he needs to understand role and responsibilities of each one of us and what additional responsibilities we are willing to take.
Connecting the Dots…
Failure of project and then restructuring of team was bit difficult for her to digest. It grew Sheetal’s suspicion that probably her job is in danger and this meeting with entire team is to understand who among her team members is better prepared to take her role. While she did not share her fears with anyone at that point in time, I could understand that she would have gone through a very high-level of anxiety and distress.
Rest of the story – Her Version
“It was around 10 AM, I was working on one report when Ashish Purohit came to my cabin. I looked at him and asked him to sit. He sat down and for a while he didn’t speak anything. I looked at him and asked him if he is alright. And he began to cry. I could guess but he might be going through but I wanted him to tell. After a while he said that –
- He was called by the MD and the company has decided to fire me.
- The Executive Team will call me at around 4 PM and will advise me to put-down my papers.
- He was ordered by MD to coordinate with HR for related documentation / full-n-final settlement.
All that I could do is to listen and tell Ashish not to worry; things will be fine and I asked him to leave. All the while I was wearing a mask of holding to myself and the moment he left, I was totally shattered. All my thoughts were revolving around the commitments of my life – the car EMI, Home Loan EMI etc. I didn’t know what to do except to call my husband.
The moments of pain
At 3 PM, MD called me and asked to come to his cabin. As I entered his cabin, I saw other members of executive team sitting there. I tried to be normal. Before I could settle on my chair, MD said,
“Sheetal, we have decided to part ways with you.
This is your resignation letter. Accept it and sign it”.
“As per letter of appointment there is a notice period of THREE months.
You will be paid for three months”.
And I didn’t have an alternative except to say – “That’s fine with me…That’s Okay” and walked out of his cabin.
After I came out from the cabin of MD, I called my entire team and informed them that today is my last day with them. I think I owe them at least that much. I could have walked out of the company without saying anything to anybody. I didn’t give any story or justification to them.
What if I asked for a justification?
This would have spoiled everything. Yes, MD had lot many things to say, I could see in this body-language. He has come prepared with list of allegations, he wanted to put against me. I could have justified my stand with facts, reasons and logic.
I could have proved him wrong but then what? I had to work with him and the same team. Things would have become worst. I have no idea what he has portrayed in front of senior management and other members of executive council. In such scenarios, usually the weak support the power-centre.
I think I walked out gracefully but not giving any chance to MD to say what he wanted to see. It will remain with him.
My take on Management’s Decision
Ashish was then promoted as my successor. That evening he came to my house along with his wife to show compassion. However, it appears that MD had informed him as early as Tuesday morning regarding their decision to promote him. While he told me regarding the decision of management to fire me, he didn’t tell me about his elevation to my chair.
I cannot comment on the decision of management. I don’t know what was going in their mind at that point of time. But Yes, Ashish is qualified. After me, he was only CA with MBA we had in the team.
Her Story – My Reaction
That’s been a very terrifying experience for anyone to go through. I can feel what she would have been through.
I asked her to send her profile as one of my clients was looking for a “Finance Director” & will be able to pay her the same salary that she was drawing with Sophornia Metals.
On listening to this, I could see her eyes twinkling with HOPE and could feel the expression on the face that silently communicated – “Thank you Sanjeev”.
And as she left, I had the following questions…..hope you too have these –
- What do you think went wrong?
- Do you think Sheetal made a mistake by not debating his stand with MD?
- What do you like to say about the role of Sheetal, Ashish and MD?
- Had you been in their place, how differently you would have handled it?
- For over SEVEN years, Ashish was groomed by Sheetal, what do you like to say as he gets into Sheetal’s shoes?