About victims and victors
On Organisational behavior
About victims and victors
This article tries to write the stories of many skilled workforce who died silent deaths in the hands of groups catapulted as ‘everybody’. The ones included in this, are most of the times powerful people playing the victim card. Since they have the number with them, organizations give the so-called ‘bad apples’ a royal ignore. The only fault these bad apples have is that they have less of interpersonal skills or life skills, so to speak. The definition of life skills, as it is seen in application is very frustrating, it shifts largely from its prescribed definition, life skills doesn’t mean one has to acquiesce unconditionally, it gives an individual the power to cope with their difficult situations, viz. re-location, work schedule; it is about being more available to the organization, it doesn’t mean one has to say yes to thoughts that are accepted by the ‘majority’ as true, even when they are disturbing and in some cases spread hatred and anger. Any strong group in organizations is found to be intolerant towards people who are different. This alarming phenomenon can make any organization, still unaware and indifferent, counter-productive. The objective of this article is to change certain aspects of organizational behavior rather than ignoring them as ‘allowable weaknesses’, it is also to bring about consciousness towards the importance of spreading tolerance and respect for individuals so they are applied through actions rather than remaining as merely unused ornaments of organizations as missions and visions.
Victims are cruel
They use their impoverished fate, fake it as real. For instance, if they see anyone more powerful than them in office, in the field, or anywhere, they group together to teach the powerful person a lesson. Some complain of their bad behavior, some about their incompetency…mind you the victims are all in it together as a machine called ‘everybody’ dangerous than the most disastrous weapon the world has ever produced. The victim card they play is the sheep’s clothing they wear to off-guard their prey, apparently the victor. They see to it that the so-called ‘victor’ is thrown out; they wouldn’t rest until the victor lies dead in front of them. Strangely, even when the powerful person ‘dies’ (separated), the victims are still together and they still feel victimized. Strange! Even after winning they wear the loser’s hat. Hats off!
Victims think they have the right to hurt
Imagine an accident on the road. Someone is hurt. The person who is injured immediately becomes a victim who instantly gets support from the ‘crowd’ and it pounces on the driver. The immediate reaction is to hurt, damage the vehicle and, if possible, bleed the driver to death. If you find me supporting the driver strange, think again. I am not supporting the driver, nor am I supporting the act of the ‘crowd’. I am laying bare an example to show how our brain functions when we face situations such as this.
Victims spoil good initiative
The example is sad. Kalyan worked in an IT as let’s say a translator. Of course he had a designation but that is not the point, his job was essentially to translate. Kalyan was reasonably fast. The average speed of other translators was 2500 words per day (wpd). He found all translators going exactly by that speed, if some were a little fast, they would while away their times at breakout areas, chat with friends, but would ensure their speed of 2.5k wpd at the end of the day. Kalyan found this as cheating the company. Unhappy with the output, the management bought an effective translation tool to ensure speed as well as accuracy. Kalyan’s productivity was at 5k to 6k wpd, way above the orchestrated output of 2.5k wpd; at this the team, with their victimized self became insecure and took offence because all major clients were opting for Kalyan; so they were up in their arms to prove him wrong; now their job was more to find his faults than to do their own. Despite the fact that Kalyan found their job to be of sub-standard quality, even at 2.5k wpd, managers could do nothing because the number was with the victims, let’s say 18:1; eventually Kalyan’s work was found to be wanting, in terms of quality, and the inevitable had to happen; he was checked out of the company. Without remorse or regret, he disappeared from the scene.
The point I am trying to make here is that in many cases good initiatives die premature and insinuating deaths in the hands of victims. I can quote another example. There is this Krishna who ensures the management to automate the process of translation to such an extent that even managers, who never knew foreign languages, could translate flawlessly strings and texts that have repetitive words, with the help of a foolproof and approved domain-specific glossary … this initiative was immediately rubbished by the team.
In another organization, Parthasarathi lands up in trouble. He was the first one to initiate translation of a major Belgium-based insurance company in his department; he hailed from a team called Foreign Language Training which mainly dealt with training; he was tired of listening that the department in question ran on subsidy and hence wanted to earn something for the department, if possible. When the project became successful, with him being the SPOC (single point of contact), and the project being the first ever to run with one in-house translator, his project leader from Chennai Dr VCS Laxman said, ‘Thank you Parthasarathi, even at 42 you worked like 24, I wonder what your manager Ms Indrani was doing, she was sitting there and doing nothing, telling us to hire translation agencies, we had to continuously outsource the work and pay through the roof? She told us it was impossible to run any translation project with in-house translators, but you have made it possible. You will definitely be rewarded.’ Parthsarathi’s boss Ms Indrani immediately played the victim card and saved her back. There was also another point that went against Parthasarathi, and that was he had issues with everyone in Kerala (‘everyone’); in fact he was deported to Chennai as a punishment (teaching a lesson); the learning manager Mr Subhesh who initiated his transfer, told the project to keep Parthasarathi in Chennai for good, but told him that the project would give over in a few months and he would be brought back again to his base branch. When Ms Indrani the FLT manager also had issues with him, the matter became serious. Earlier also, Indrani had issues with him… she made two power point presentations, one was called ‘Walking the culture bridge’ that was copied from the learning department’s repository…no one said anything…Parthasarathi said, ‘Indrani you have used our material and have not acknowledged that… am I missing something here?’ Indrani was visibly furious because the matter was discussed in a meeting. The second one was disastrous… her pet Sandhya from Chennai came up with a ppt on French Literature as a module for top level management with incorrect input about Jean-Paul Sartre…on the slide of the master, she wrote ‘I think, therefore I am’… Partha pointed out the mistake not in a very kind way… ‘Sandhya, sometimes downloading information from the net can be dangerous… for Sartre had said just the opposite of what this slide claims… the thought in question was by Descartes’. Indrani, instead of taking this in the right spirit (Partha had just saved her from being mocked as it would have backfired with the top level management who are not only intelligent, but well-read and in most cases are unquestionably erudite), took offence. However, suave and polite as they (the corporate savvy) are, she thanked Partha on the face of it, but deep inside Partha heard a different tune. With all this in his baggage, Partha panicked and resigned without a job in hand but realized the mistake later. By then it was too late, Ms Indrani and Mr Subhesh had already got what they wanted. He was summoned and was told that the evaluation for two years has been at 2, his performance was very low; He pleaded but the learning manager Mr Subhesh said, ‘listen even if you work at the best of your ability, you will still be at 2 in the next evaluation’. It is interesting to note how people with power can predict the outcome of an individual’s work even before it is committed, what does it say about the process of evaluation one wonders. Ms Tulsi the HR manager was asked to manage the attrition. Pink slip was issued. Parthsarathi was cleared.
Some examples of mental torture
Subrata doesn’t have interpersonal skills, he has been very vocal talking about what he feels quite openly and in most of the times it was not connected to work. For instance, Subrata thinks that the way a lady dresses up is her personal choice, nobody has the right to violate a lady because of that, should smoking be injurious to health, it would be injurious to men as well, it cannot be injurious to ladies alone, they should not be disrespected because of their addictions, non-veg is bad… who says that… in this world of globalization, you could have people devouring frogs, enjoying pork and beef… how can you condemn people because of what they eat…I think you need to groom yourselves a little. With all this, Subrata had offended the crowd…because of this a series of torture had to follow. Let’s say where Subrata had worked for almost five years was in Kerala. He would take the office bus, like others. Every single day you could see him sitting alone looking out of the window going from home to work and from work to home. No one would sit beside him. And if by mistake someone did, he’d find a Deepthi or a Nisha or a Jyothi or a Preetha Chinese whispering the person. The person would invariably find another seat. This would go on. From inside he would bleed but not say a word. He worked in a department called PLI… also had dotted responsibilities with another department called ILF…these two departments were at loggerheads, everyone enjoyed the rift. He did not and hence did not participate in such juvenile feuds. There was a fete organized jointly by PLI and ILF… he came up with a logo PL(I)LF to focus on the synergy of the two beautiful departments. It doesn’t seem as true, but it’s a fact that there was no one (literally no one) on that fateful day. He was sitting there like a zombie not knowing what to do. Everyone was on approved leave!
Interpersonal skills…he didn’t have… for this he had to pay a heavy price. Every single day lunch was shared… he sat alone and had lunch because he did not say yes to things he thought were wrong, and also because he did not eat, nor speak like them. This unkind behavior was not restricted to him alone, it affected his family too. In every office functions where the family was also invited, his daughter had to face the consequences. She, in class VI then, would come home from her father’s office functions and throw up. On probing she said ‘Baba, why are those aunts and uncles so hard with me… they would call all my friends on stage, gift them but never call my name… what have I done…’ would curl up to him weeping and say, ‘if you don’t mind I will not go there again please, they don’t like me’. By then Subrata had finished reading Moderato Contabile by Marguerite Duras where there was this child who would also throw up as a reaction to repulsive behavior by adults. He therefore did not insist his daughter. She stopped going. What he could not tell his daughter was that the mindless behavior was not meant for her, it was meant for him, she was not spared, that’s all. All this happened because Subrata did not acquiesce.
He uprooted himself from a city leaving his job because he was ordered a deputation, at the time of crisis, he was stolen from the company he originally worked, unfortunately dis-invested and then, when he was not required any longer, was shown the door from a city in Kerala where he thought he’d live happily ever after, bought a flat and kind of settled there with the hope of living a good life, he was thrown out as a convict, uprooted again, but this time as a bad apple, sell off his flat, his car at throw-away price and just leave. The victims sang in chorus, sang in tandem, ‘rightly served, rightly served’.
Sad that all of this happened in renowned learning organizations standing up for diversity, tolerance and respect for individuals.
Victims are not always right
There are victims spread everywhere in the world. They are negatively powerful, can even make the sun rise from the west. With power they have the number too with them.
Of course there are exceptions. The farmers of India, for instance; but if looked carefully, can we call them victims, even when they weren’t able to pay their debts, they did not make anyone else’s life miserable. The peasants and the fisher-women who revolted against Louis XIV were not actually victims, they organized themselves against ‘le Roi Soleil’ and his team of nobles (who played the role of victims) to tell them how they wanted equality in the distribution of wealth and power. They emerged as victors.
The aim objective
With correct dosage of training, the workforce can be empowered to think in the right way. Very often, a team is sub-divided into groups. This happens also in learning organizations. Surprisingly during inductions, the workforce is also alarmed on the same and I quote “during layoffs or other managed attrition, people with less interpersonal skills would be the ones to leave”. Most of the time, the group that propagates fear and mistrust is the one that picks on some scapegoats to spread the message of terror in the working ambiance. This destabilizes the atmosphere and people with good initiatives have difficult times in the company. This can be avoided by not punishing the victims, but by ensuring, with the help of some robust and motivating training program from time to time, that there are no victims but victors who can ‘collectively learn how to learn (and grow) together’.
All names are fictitious.