Sexual Harassment at Workplace - A Case Study - Part 1

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

It was the evening of Friday, 21st October and most of employees in our organization were busy planning their weekend. Ours was a young company, less than 9 years old; ours was young crowd with an average age of 28 years. Excluding our senior team, the average work experience of employees in our organization was less than 5 years. Approximately, 40% of our employees were female. I was in my cabin, signing few offer letters. Someone knocked at door of my cabin. As I looked up, I saw Meera Roy peering in. I asked her to walk-in. Meera was working with us as Assistant Manager in one of our process, since February 2011.  She was 26 years old and this was her second job. I lowered my laptop, told her to settle down and then asked, “Tell me Meera, how can I help you”? “Sir, I need to complain about Mr. Vikram Anand. He has been harassing me for quite some time. I don’t want to work with him”, Meera said. “Please elaborate it”, I asked. Meera said, “Sir, he ask me to stay late, even if there is no work. No matter what I do, he see fault in everything. He behaves rudely. I feel stressed. I don’t feel like coming to office”. “That’s really stressing. Did you speak to Vikram? Did you speak to our Chairman of Sexual Harassment Committee, Ms Neha Singh? I suggest you to speak to them”, I inquired. “No Sir, I didn’t speak to any of them”, she responded. “Don’t worry. I will take care of it. You relax,” I assured her.

Vikram was working with us as Associate Vice-President - Digital Marketing, for last THREE years. He is 36 years old. Good looking, with toned body. He is excellent in his domain. He is subject matter expert. Vikram is Management Graduate from one among top-5 management institutes in India. He is very popular in his team and among female employees of the company. He is known for taking care of his team. He takes them out for lunch, dinner, outings, etc. He is known for flirting with female employees of the organization and we never received any complaint against him.  Getting complaint against him was a surprise.

Neha was working with us for last FIVE years. She joined us as Manager - Finance and then moved on to become Associate Vice-President - Finance. She is also Chairman of our Internal Sexual Harassment Committee. She is 38 years old. Before joining our organization, she has worked with couple of multi-national companies for 10 years. She is qualified Chartered Accountant and Company Secretary. After speaking to Meera, I called-up Neha and told her about the compliant that I received. I asked her to probe Meera and get more information.

Before signing-off for the day, I called Vikram and asked him to come to my cabin. He walked-in with joyous mood. He was full of liveliness and vigour. “Tell me Sir, how you remembered me? What can I do for you?” he asked curiously. “There is nothing serious. Just like that. By the way, what’s your plan for weekend and for tonight?” I asked. Vikram said, “Well. Tonight, I am taking my team out for booze and dinner party. Tomorrow, I am going out of station with my family. My daughter is having her holidays, so we just thought of going out and having some fun. She love going out to different places.”, he answered.  “Wow that seems to be a lot of plan”, I responded. “Well, I just wanted to check with you regarding, Meera, Meera Roy, one of your team-member. How is she? How is her work?” I continued. “What is this Sir; you are taking some interest in her. Is there anything serious? If you want, I can speak to her on your behalf”, he asked flirtatiously. “Well, clear your mind and thoughts. There is nothing like what you are thinking”, I replied sheepishly. “Just tell me about Meera, her work, her performance and about her behaviour”, I continued. “She is not a great resource. She is an average performer. Have lots of ego and attitude. She is not a team-player. She cannot complete even one task without an error. I am planning to terminate her job”, Vikram replied. “But I remember her interview. You highly recommended her with lot many phrases and appreciation. I believe she has great credentials then what happened?” I inquired. “Yeah, I remember, but she has been a regretful hire. She is not able to translate her potential into performance”, replied Vikram. “Well, just for your information, she has filled a harassment complaint against you. Speak to her, if you want, and help her improve her performance”, I said. “What? She has complained against me. I am trying to help her and she is complaining”, Vikram said fumingly.  “Don’t react. Talk to her.”, I tried to pacify him.

On Wednesday, 26th October, I asked Neha, if she got an opportunity to speak to Meera? Neha said, “I am trying every day but I am not seeing her in office. Her team-member said that she is not keeping well and that she is on sick-leave”. “I think you must call her on her mobile number or residence number or maybe visit her. I am sensing something wrong”, I said to Neha. “Okay. I will visit her tomorrow before coming to office. She stays on my way to home”, assured Neha.

On Friday, 28th October, as I walked into my cabin, Neha came rushing to me. “Sir, I need your time. It is serious.”, Neha said gaspingly. “Okay, sit down. Tell me, what happened”, I said. “Sir, as discussed, yesterday I went to Meera’s house”, Neha said before my interruption. “Oh Yes, tell me how is she? Is everything alright?” I asked curiously. “Sir, she is not Okay. She is going through mental trauma. And this is not a case of normal workplace bullying. It is sexual harassment”, Neha continued. “Tell me in detail. Let’s go to conference room”, I told Neha.

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