Self esteem Boosters - The Bullies

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

I am sure we all have come across people who bully their juniors, kids and weak people to show their might.  Such people also exist in the corporate world. They select their target very carefully. Whenever they are among their equals or with individuals who are better than them, they behave like trained pet. However, when alone with the target or in the company of other bullies, their behaviour changes like that of a lion on the hunt.

Currently, Shefali is working as an HR Manager in a reputed IT Service Organization in Bangalore, and I am still her HR coach and mentor.

It happened around EIGHT years ago, one day Shefali came to my cabin. As soon as she sat on the chair at my table, she began to cry. When I asked her as what had happened, she told me Deepak had humiliated her in front of other employees and everyone was laughing at her. I asked her to explain. She gave the following note, “While she was working in her cubicle, Deepak walked across and asked her if she knew Microsoft PowerPoint. She replied to him in affirmation. Then he asked her to help him with animation in his PowerPoint presentation, which she couldn’t do as it required an advanced level of knowledge and skills. So, he said to her, “What is the point in doing MBA, if you cannot make good presentation”? At this everyone across the corridor began to laugh.  

Shefali is Bachelor of Technology (Chemicals) and MBA in HR. She is having less than TWO years of experience in the corporate world and joined my team THREE months ago as HR Officer. On the contrary, Deepak is Masters of Technology (Mechanical) with more than 20 years of experience and working as General Manager - Production. 

At first, I asked Shefali to let it go. However, after THREE weeks, it happened again. This time, it was during the Monthly Review Meeting of all Department Heads. Shefali was invited to the meeting to take down minutes. She couldn’t understand abbreviations SG&A and PPM, so she asked. To which Deepak again made fun of her and humiliated her. She came to me during lunch and started crying. She told me that if he would do it again, she would abuse him, even if I had to terminate her employment for it. Such perverts didn’tknow how to talk to a female. They seem to have a problem with educated and working women. Incidentally, none of these incidents happened in my presence. Secondly, though having listened to Shefali, I could have spoken to him and resolved the matter; however, I didn’t want to give an impression that Shefali was complaining in nature and couldn’t handle criticism. Moreover, it wouldn’t have empowered her to deal with such situations in future. There are many such bullies in the industry. I spoke to him and told him to mind his language while dealing with female employees of the organization. I told him, “You willgain nothing by comparing yourself with your juniors. They are juniors because they know less than you. Secondly, a comparison if any should be what someone learned after 2-3 years of experience and what you knew after 2-3 years of experience. Comparing TWO years of experience with 20 years is neither wise nor does it suits someone who is as senior as you are. It will be very humiliating for you if one day a junior responds to you in your tone. These days, fresh graduates are not so mild and innocent as they used to be 10-15 years ago. So, just be aware and take care”.

On the other hand, I trained Shefali on how to use sarcasm to tackle such bullies. Deepak was a difficult nut to crack. After a month or so from my interaction with him, he targeted her again. This time, she was prepared. She smiled at him and said, “What Sir? Why do you like comparing yourself with juniors? You are more knowledgeable than me”. One day, she asked him to help her in doing Job Evaluation for his team. He couldn’t get the word “Job Evaluation”. She replied, “Sir, don’t you know what is job evaluation? It is taught to people when they become a manager for the first time. I thought you are so senior and knowledgeable; you must be aware of it”. She smiled and walked away. Seeing Shefali using sarcasm, few other juniors, who were getting bullied by Deepak, also joined in.   It took 3-4 months of sarcasm to lame Deepak. Soon Deepak found a job elsewhere and resigned after serving our organization for EIGHT years.

I think these types of employees are everywhere. They are the reason for stress and anxiety among many employees. I don’t believe there is any other way to manage such bullies. I have told this story in very mild manner. Deepak used to make sexist remarks about people, commenting on appearances, clothes, and make-up of female employees.  Some management researchers say that it is a way of working at senior level; one must be aggressive and dominating. However, I believe aggression with people is not required at any level of career. Aggression is needed in work and execution of plans and dominance is necessary while dealing with competition and competitors. 

Subject Matter Experts + Energetic = the Powerhouse

Last month I hired Anju Sharma as an HR Manager. It is our second stint of working together. And though she is joining back after a break of THREE years and after being a mother of a Two-year-old kid, she is still a powerhouse as she was when she joined my former organization, SIX years ago.  

I first met Anju known as Anju Taneja, SIX years ago. That was the time when my Senior HR Generalist resigned, after working with us for more than THREE years, to pursue better career opportunities, I asked the Recruitment Manager to find his replacement. It was during the selection process that I first met Anju. Before coming for a final interview, Anju had gone through screening interview with our recruiter, first round of interview with Recruitment Manager and psychometric assessment. I looked at her as she walked into my cabin and for a moment, I thought if she was at the right place. She was 5’6 tall, slim, fair complexion, dressed in a red colour sari, loose shoulder length hairs. She had that unique combination of innocence and cuteness on her face. She was looking like a college student; however, her resume stated that she was having an experience of FIVE years. I looked at the recruitment manager; he smiled back and shared her assessment report with me. 

I grew a bit suspicious about her. It was hard to believe that the girl sitting across the table was same who had listed her experience in FOUR pages. However, soon I was proved wrong. She was very thorough in her subject matter expertise. No matter how complicated the questions were or how I twisted simple question to put her in a spot, she answered all questions, calmly, accurately, and efficiently.  We hired her. 

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