"I am going to commit suicide - Aditi Gosh". The message flashed on the CEO's mobile of a leading Suiting & Shirting Company.
Who is this Aditi Ghosh?
Aditi Gosh has been working with this company for the last three years as area sales manager, looking after sales through channel partners in states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Union Territory Chandigarh. Her total work experience is over 12 years. She is based out of Chandigarh.
This company doesn't have an office in Chandigarh. Most of the time she visits channel partners and therefore stays in the 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 years old daughter. Her husband is working as a 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 to cancer. She was close to her mother and was finding it difficult to overcome that trauma. She shares a strained relationship with her husband but, she doesn't have an affair with anyone. Her husband wants her to get pregnant with their second child and give him a son but she is not prepared. Her husband is not earning enough to take care of the 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 he went to the extent of frightening her that the company would fire her anytime as she was unable to meet her targets, but because of him, her job was protected.
However, the fact was, she would do the work & the credit was being taken by her RSM. This RSM would never plan work. Sometimes he would ask her at 9 PM to visit a Channel Partner in Jaipur the following day. Or would call her at 10 AM and ask her to 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 was - "Follow the instructions given by RSM because he is more competent."
When unable to deal further with such circumstances, she decided to end it all and that was YESTERDAY….
In the light of the experience narrated above, she was so upset that she wanted to commit suicide. She spent her entire day at the Chandigarh railway station. But her heart throbbed and sobbed for her daughter. At that moment, a new revelation dawned on her; she felt ashamed of what she was going to do and promised herself not to let such thought cross her mind again. And from that day on…she decided to live for her daughter.
At around 11 PM, Deepak-HR Director received the following message from Aditi : "I have reached home."
In the meantime…
Deepak had asked one of his team members to contact Aditi. He had asked another team-member to consult the local police station and seek their guidance.
A colleague of Deepak reported - "We tried reaching her from different numbers but she is not picking any call and her husband's mobile 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 the 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 appeared 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 did she try to call him."
Deepak seemed to be hitting hard blocks at every step. In the midst of such updates, 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 telecon, all that Mr. Deepak could sense was - "VPM was not concerned about Aditi's life 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 -
"I talked to her this morning. I asked her to visit one of the channel partners who was having a problem with one of our product lot. She refused to go. She has been behaving like this for the last few months. She is not following 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 extramarital 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 FIR in Delhi as "committing suicide" is also a crime. However, the RSM expressed his inability to do so as he had got other priorities to attend to in view of his marriage anniversary. He assured he would organize someone to take care of this.
Having listened to the 3 versions, Deepak followed it further by checking her previous performance records and inquiring about her association with other colleagues in the department. He didn't come across any negative remarks on her. Deepak was not convinced by his reporting manager & department authority's versions.
Finally, Deepak reached Aditi directly to hear from the horse's mouth. He got an overall understanding of what was happening within.
Mr. Deepak got convinced that the issue was not just about the "individual's attitude" and it had 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 the FIR was 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 the 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 brought 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 his best?
2. While the behavior of VPM & RSM appears to be harsh, do you agree 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 the corporate office or in the 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 pile up negative emotions inside, Talk to people. Get necessary help…else…