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Archive for the ‘management’ Category

eros@ergon.con*: a conversational story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 6, 2010

Recently an Indian CEO was sacked from his company because of a complaint of sexual harassment. He maintains what they had been in a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. This story triggered me to think on these issues.

Here is a fictitious story in form of conversations bringing out few issues which might have relevance to sexual harassment. I am no expert in this field. Though I have heard of many stories on domestic violence I have not heard much on sexual harassment. What I know is limited to conversations I have had with friends, patients and co-passengers in trains. I call the story “eros@ergon.con”.


“Have you heard of what is happening?…This is bullshit going on here in our company.”

“I know. I work in Vicky’s team. I also know the reasons for all this.”

“What exactly happened?”

“See, Rashmi joined our team six months ago.”

“Is she the one we saw in the theatre last month?”

“Yes. She is the one. Remember, she was there with her boy-friend.”

“I remember being introduced to him. Ramesh is his name. He is in the accounts department…Ok. So, what did she do?”

“She has not been doing well in the job. Vikram had to admonish her for her mistakes. She felt offended. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Vicky.”

“Oh my goodness! I heard about that complaint but did not know the background. Anyone who knows Vicky can vouch for his integrity. It is terrible for his name to be stained like this. I wonder how he and his wife have taken this.”

“Rashmi has been roaming around with Ramesh whenever she is off duty. Their relationship is secret. Ramesh’s parents would never agree for their marriage. She is probably stressed. This gets carried to work. Instead of accepting responsibility she has used her trump card to defame Vicky.”

“Vicky’s name would clear off after the enquiries, but what about the trauma he is undergoing. She loses nothing for filing such a complaint.”

“She should be sacked for raising wrong allegation, when Vicky is cleared.”

“Some of these girls are crooked and some are just sensitive idiots. Last year, I had a complaint against me.”


“Yes. It was a tough season. Our team leader Mrs Johnson wanted us to finish a job within 24 hours. She announced this at the end of the working day. It meant that I would not be going home that night. Our friend Raju was admitted in the hospital and I was to go to relieve his wife Laxmi for few hours. I was so pissed off at such untimely deadline, I pointed my middle finger as Mrs Johnson left the room. I basically meant **** off.”

“I can understand.”

“You have seen Swathi in the party two weeks ago. Didn’t you?”

“Oh! Is she the girl, who was sipping coffee when we were gulping beer in the party?”

“Yup! The very same girl. She saw my gesture. She went to Mrs Johnson and complained of this offensive gesture the next day.”

“Oh my God! What happened?”

“Mrs Johnson came and congratulated our team for staying up the whole night to finish the work. She also said that if we had not completed the job then she might have had to send us home to…as she said that she pointed her middle finger.”

“Really? She is cool.”

“We all had a good laugh.”

“Except Swathi…Perhaps.”

“We have to be sensitive to people around us. It is very true, but what if someone does not fit into our culture at all. What can we do if a person is overly sensitive? Thankfully Mrs Johnson is cool. If she was another sensitive nut, I would have had it.”

“It is a pity that Swathi could interpret a sign of frustration as a sexual gesture. But I respect her. She is good at her work and has good character. She is not like Urvashi, who sleeps with the boss to get promotions. In fact she has to do such shit to even retain her job.”

“Isn’t it interesting that everybody knows that the CEO is sleeping with a staff and nobody batters an eye lid. Urvashi’s father is a professor of Sanskrit and Indian Culture. I cannot believe how a girl like Urvashi is born into his family.”

“Who knows one fine day Urvashi might file a case in the court against the big boss for sexual harassment? Ha ha ha”

“Yes! The world would believe it to be harassment too. Poor girl…what other option does she have in this male dominated society…She had to do it…She kept it secret for long because she was stuck with fear…etc.”

“Absolutely true. These are bullshit arguments in her favour. She made her choice. She is doing this to move ahead in the corporate ladder and nothing else. If she really has some emotions for him, then she would realize with time that the CEO is just using her. Rashmi sleeping with Ramesh hurts the company in an indirect manner. It does not affect others directly. Urvashi’s sleeping with the boss is a lot different. She is growing in the ladder bypassing many worthy people. This would hurt the company more. Don’t you think so?”

“Incompetence and physical beauty put a girl at risk of being solicited for sex in her work place by people who can cover her incompetence. If she is ambitious, she uses her beauty to bait men around her to cover for her lacunae. I really do not think this kind of thing can be called sexual harassment. It is happening with the choice of the woman.”

“Whenever there is less difference between two people and the difference that a senior can make to them is huge, favours including sexual would tilt the scales. You can take the entertainment or fashion industry for example. At least this is not so much pronounced in our technological industry.

“True. In fact, the ones who can be considered as harassed because of sex like this are people like Mrs Johnson, Vikram and us. We work hard and finish our projects but we are sidelined to make way for people like Urvashi.”

“Hmmm…That is right. It is OK. In the long run we will catch up. So long as we enjoy our work and our compensation, why bother about others? Anyway, I got to go buddy. Bye for now. I will catch up with you in the mall this weekend.”

“Ok. Bye. Take care.”


(Inside a sub-urban train)

“Hey! What is up man? You look sad.”

“Sure. I do. I have reasons for it.”

“Want to share? You could…if you want to?”

“I got fired today.”

“Oh I see. Any reasons?”

“See, I am a laboratory technician in a college lab. I am in love with a final year student in the college. The college management feels that if they fire me they would send a strong signal to discourage romantic love inside the college.”

“Don’t mind this…Did you do something?”

“No…Nothing that you might imagine. We have not even touched each other. We know each other for the past three years. There was some Chemistry between us. We learnt more about each other over coffee. I proposed to her three months ago. She accepted. We have planned to get married after her graduation, which is two months from now…and now…I am unemployed.”

“What the hell is this? There is no complaint, no problem in your work or her studies, just arbitrary dismissal for being decently involved in love though there are marriage plans. This is surprising.”

“I am not surprised. Last month my friend gave a love letter to a colleague proposing to marry her. He got dismissed for this itself. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment.”

“Oh my God! This is ridiculous. I cannot stand this. Where do I go? Is there an escape from this kind of persecution? Looks like anyone can harass a man. A day will come when men file cases against men saying the boss is sexually harassing them. I have developed a phobia. I am going to leave working for a company. I will not start a company too, where I might have to employ people. I have to try my hand at politics. That is a safe place, where no one talks about even about the culpable ones. It is a place where the daring can brazen and the phobic can hide.”

“I don’t get you.”

“You don’t have to get me. Even I don’t get me. May be I need to consult my friends in NIMHANS $, Benguluru.”



“Eros” in Greek means Romantic love

“Ergon” in Greek means Work

“Con” means

1. on the negative side

2. to trick; involve in abuse of confidence


NIMHANS- National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences ; a premier psychiatric facility in India

Posted in bussiness, distress, emotion, ethics, gender, indian society, law, love, management, social, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Whistle blowers- Beware: a story with notes

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on June 25, 2010

Have you heard of the term ‘whistle blower’? I would save you the trouble of clicking an external link to understand this term by sharing what the Wikipedia says as on 24th of June 2010. A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organization or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organization. The revealed misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).

The organization that I work with abides by the laws of the land, rules and regulations formed by itself, health and safety norms and works in public interest. It is very open to listen and is keen on being a ‘learning organization’. It only requires some time and energy to walk to a senior and put forth your views. The ideas will be taken note of and discussed. One need not fear any reprisal.

Unfortunately many organizations are not like that. You can read this story from Riverbank Laundry Inc. It is a modified version of a story I heard as a child. It does have lessons to be learnt in the context of working in organizations and on being a whistle blower.

Dhobanna was CEO of Riverback Laundry Inc.  Riverbank Laundry was a one man organization which had a human assistant and two animal assistants. He worked on banks of a river. His  two animal assistants were- Kuki, a dog and Gardhab, a donkey. He washed clothes in the river and let them dry in the sands of river bank. Kuki would keep a watch on those clothes as they dried. In the evening Dhobanna would pack all the clothes and load them on Gardhab. Gardhab would carry all the clothes back to Dhobanna’s house a mile away. His wife would Iron those clothes and then Gardhab had to carry these to the homes of the clients. On the way back, Dhobanna would have a ride on Gradhab.

The business situation in the region was like this. Many had entered the laundry market. There were no entry barriers. It required no major capital investment. All that one required was a clientele. Usually people managed it from the street of their residence. Dhobanna’s Riverbank laundry was an old player. It existed in that town for at least 5 generations. Dhobanna cut his costs and kept the price low to retain his market share. He continued to grow despite the competition. In the bargain Kuki and Gradhab were losing on their daily nutrition and they had to work more to cope with his market.

Kuki started resisting passively. He would intentionally look away if a thief was eying some clothes to steal in the hot afternoons in the river bank. He wanted his master to get insulted by his clients for losing their stuff. Dhobanna’s growth attracted attention of local thieves. One night they broke into his house. Kuki and Gradhab were tired after a day’s work, but they were still awake.

Kuki looked away. Gradhab told Kuki, “ Bark, Kuki…Bark. Wake up our master. There are thieves in our home”. Kuki replied, “Gardhab, I am tired of Dhobanna. Fellow is starving us and squeezing us at the same time. Let them loot him of the booty he made from our toil. I want to see him cry tomorrow morning. If you want to so loyal, go ahead and bray.”

Gardhab brayed hard. He wanted to wake up his master. Dhobanna had had a tiring day. He woke up. He was furious at his donkey for waking him. He grabbed a stick and rushed to the back yard. He started beating Gradhab, incessantly. Gardhab brayed more trying to get his attention to the problem. The more he brayed, the harder Gardhab got hit. Gardhab stopped after he could not bray more. Dhobanna went back to his bed.

Kuki slept silently in a corner. Next day Dhobanna found his house cleaned up. All things worthy of mention were gone! He cried out loud. He went to the back yard. He found Gardhab lying on his side. He went close. Gardhab’s eyes were open wide and blood which had oozed from his nose and ears had dried. Gardhab was not breathing. He was long gone. His master had beaten his loyal servant to death. Kuki was watching all this at a distance. He lost his friend. His master lost his everything. Even if Kuki were to be thrown out, he could always make a living outside.


Was security on Gardhab’s job description?


Was he not recruited for logistics?


Did Kuki do the right thing?

Passive resistance is found in organizations, but it is picked and addressed.

Did Gardhab do the right thing?

We all feel he did the right thing, because we see the bigger picture that he saw. He worked in the interest of the company. He went beyond the text of his job description. He was not a right fit into the job. He was too good for that job. His boss did not understand his integrity or his competence. In working for a wrong boss and wrong company Gardhab paid with his life.

Should we blow whistle in our organizations?

Yes, if it is going to be taken seriously. No, if it makes no difference and especially if we might attract reprisal. If the issue is crucial and goes against the personal values a person stands for, then it may be better to leave the job. It is not our business to change a company’s values to our personal values however good they might be.

Posted in economics, management | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Six Rules of Employment

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on June 14, 2010

“  Sir, Is the scientist’s post on nanotechnology project, still vacant?”

“Yes, I think so. We haven’t found the right candidate. We had given an advertisement and interviewed a few candidates… Oh! I remember, you were one of those applicants. Right?”

“ Yes, Sir. My name is Ahista.”

“Oh! Ahista. I do remember. You were the successful one. You were good. You had right qualifications, good track record and good testimonials. You were not ‘clear’ on joining, when we called you up last month. Weren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir. I had some personal issues. I needed more time.”

“Did we not offer you a dead-line before which you had to send your acceptance letter?”

“You did give a comfortable dead line, Sir. I missed it. I was not clear by that time. I am very clear now. I want to join the nano-technology project. That is my mission in life. I am quite convinced.”

“I am really sorry, Ahista. We are looking for people who would build their life and grow with the nanotech project. You have a Master’s degree in Chemistry. You have passed your PhD qualifying exam. You know enough about what nanotech research is about for the past few years. You know about our organization. You know our past. You know our present. You know, where we are heading. You have friends in our organization. You had a brief exposure to our research few years ago and last summer. You had all the inputs needed for you to make a decision. We were recruiting a scientist to be with us for rest of his/ her life. Your PhD would have come through in your walk with us. When you were not ‘clear’ given all these circumstances, I really do not think you were made for working with us.”

“But Sir, I had some personal issues.”

“ Come on, Ahista. You had two months to decide after our call to send in the acceptance mail. We had not considered other applicants for those two months, as we were looking forward for you to join. Then we closed the position. Of course we have not found suitable candidates. You know our work is challenging and not very rewarding. It requires one with commitment, passion and energy to work with us. We do not find that in many…That is OK. The position would wait till we find a suitable candidate.”

“Am I not eligible as a fresh applicant, Sir?

“Ahista, your file is closed. I am sorry. I cannot help you. You have not demonstrated interest in a life-time opportunity. You were the only one to have such a chance. You squandered it. Whatever be your personal issues, I really wonder how they affected you? Wasn’t it a decision for which you were trained for a third of your life?”

“What can I do, now?”

“I am no career counsellor. I am just a scientist. Anyway, I think it is simple wisdom to follow these six rules for your future employment.

  1. Even before you apply, check if the organization’s values and goals are in line with your personal goals. If yes then only apply.
  2. If you get selected, do not even think. Just join. You will enjoy your job.
  3. There will be a time you cannot choose. There would be an urgency to join something. It would be a time when you think any job is better than being unemployed. Then apply to all places, where you are likely to be happy.
  4. If you get in one join it.
  5. If you get in more than one, then choose the better one.
  6. Your friends and family can help you make a better choice.”

“OK. Sir. Thanks for your advice. You need not have given all this, spending your precious time.”

“That is Ok, Ahista. I do understand that you have potential to be a good scientist. All the best.”

Posted in education, fiction, management | Tagged: , , | 15 Comments »

“Divide and Serve”

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on December 29, 2009

I worked in a Hospital associated with Leprosy work for quite some time. Few months ago I went back to my parent hospital and my own specialty. I returned few weeks ago to cover for absence of a doctor for a period of 3 weeks. Dr Johnson, the doctor whom I have relieved was also here for a short term replacement only. I went with him to the Leprosy home for a routine visit. I found that the whole atmosphere there has changed. Patients were more involved in care for themselves and also for others. This came as a shock to me. I have seen them for years. I found them indifferent to their own problems, not to speak of problems of others.

 Dr Johnson organized games after the clinic was over. I was overjoyed to see the participation of the inmates. I was curious to know, what magical spell he had cast that the whole culture had changed in a span of 6 weeks that he was here.

The problems that patients faced were usually reported to the paramedical staff. Those staffs were responsible to settle the problems and refer appropriately to the hospital. The paramedical staffs are also responsible for arranging food, supplies, accounts etc. They were not answerable to the hospital administration directly. Their broad job descriptions and not being in span of authority of anybody on a daily basis gave them freedom. The patients suffered. Hospital could only help when hospital staff visited the Leprosy Home or when patients came themselves to the hospital. My predecessor and I tried to change the organizational structure for the better. We failed. So, we reduced the target of quality and tried the best that we could do instead of looking at the best that patients could get.

Dr Johnson changed the system without changing organizational structure in any way. He divided the patients into groups of 6-8. He selected young, intelligent persons within their group to the group leader. He divided the groups in such a manner that each group had a balance between young and old, fit and disabled etc. So there were groups among men and groups among women. He selected one representative from men and one from women. The group leaders are supposed to meet these representatives everyday and report the problems faced by individuals in the group like who has got fever, who pricked her/his foot with a thorn etc. These reps were senior inmates who have received some medical training. They knew when a patient could wait for the next visit of paramedical worker/ nurse/ doctor and also when a patient needed to be moved to the hospital.

Within a short time the groups became alive. They met regularly. They knew each others problems. They started to help each other in other ways as well. Their attitudes changed. Initially, they had to report their problems to STAFF. Now they had to report their problems to their OWN people, which is much easier. Dr Johnson taught me the principle of decentralization in a novel way. The paradigm that patients can care for each other is also new. The beauty is that it also works. There is another lesson. Individuals, as weak as they could be can become more self-reliant in groups. Leprosy home visit would remain memorable for many reasons.

Posted in education, management | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Exam Blues

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 11, 2009

exam preparation:drowning in information

exam preparation: drowning in information

I have exams coming up at the end of the month. Topics are related to management. IT in Management, Total Quality Management, Project Management and Business Communication. I need to cover about 15oo pages of absolutely new information in less than 3 weeks now, also working full time and being 24 hours on call.

OK, take up the challenge and just do it- so I thought a week ago. Find it difficult to settle down to read. I do get opportunities to read. I do it too. I read fast thinking I ll cover the ground and after I get a rough idea I could revise. I did this many times in my life and never managed to ‘digest’ all that was required to my heart’s content. I keep resolving to improve my study habits, but I don’t.

Of course, this time I have not wasted as much time procrastinating as I had in the past. It was only about 10 days ago that I received the books. Still…

Do I want to change my style? Probably I won’t. Read in a rush…get a vague idea…a big picture…add detail if possible…revise before exam…face it. That is the best that I could think of doing in a short period like this.

For the next set of exams in October,do I change my style? I sincerely hope that I do…

Posted in challenge, management | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Family’s (poor)BCG analysis of children : Sons as ‘Stars’ and Daughters as ‘Dogs’

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 11, 2009

let them shine

A few weeks ago I skimmed through a book* on Strategic Management. I came across ‘Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s portfolio analysis. It is based on product life cycle theory that can be used to determine what priorities should be given in the product portfolio of a business unit. It feels uncomfortable comparing a family to a business unit, but interestingly the word ‘economics’ is derived from ancient Greek and means laws of management of a ‘household’. So, there should not be a problem with studying unwritten ‘business’ laws in a family. What has that got to do with sons and daughters? Let us see…

A family decides how much resource is to be allocated to each child based on certain values and this affects the future trajectory of each child. My previous post was on society’s obsession with having sons. In this post, my point is that ‘maleomania’ might also not be useful.

Let us study a modified version of BCG’s portfolio analysis. The two dimensions in which children (products) are to be rated are Growth Potential and Domestic Productivity. My intuition is many young boys fit in the ‘problem children’ category as they do not contribute much in the house-hold chores and are perceived to have a high growth potential. Young girls on the other hand help their mothers in their domestic work. There is indifference to her growth potential. So most likely an average girl falls into the ‘cows’ category.

Domestic Productivity

Growth Potential





Problem Child




How do managers deal with ‘problem children’? They increase investment in product development or encourage retrenchment into speciality niches. If son is not studying well in studies, what do parents do? Send him for tuitions, coaching classes, cricket coaching (at least he can use sports quota), personality development workshops etc. If he is absolutely not fitting in, parents would plan sending him to some uncle’s place to learn business!

Daughters on the other hand are like BCG’s ‘cows’ which keep producing/ serving the family without much scope for growth. In the adult years, when the focus is on the son’s produce/ service (economic/social), the daughter’s share (domestic) looks small and she is perceived to be a ‘dog’. If the family accepts her well it is the case of a ‘faithful dog’ if not it is sadly that of a ‘mangy’ dog! The manager’s solution for mangy dogs is disposal, in this case in form of marriage!

The model is supposed to work for the benefit of the family economy, though I have seen it failing. I have been observing the problems faced by old people. There was an old lady, who was admitted in our Hospital with acute watery diarrhoea. She needed intravenous fluids for some time. She has five grown up sons. None of her sons was willing to be her caregiver. A salaried son of hers arranged a caretaker of another patient to also look after his mother!!!What is the use of having five useless sons?

What is the least expectation from children? Reasonably, that they take care of parents in their old age. What is the guarantee that a son would surely take care of parents in their old age? One can only hope that the proverbial budape ki lathi does not give a stick to the old parents. In the yester years, when society was agrarian, it was expected that eldest of the sons would take care of the parents.

Changing demographics shifted the responsibility to one of the sons who ‘could’ take care of them. This shift was pragmatic and not driven by social norms. So, even if a family abandons their old, there are no issues raised by others. In the modern era, when people have fewer sons, the probability that all sons would fail them is more than if they had more. I am not presenting a case against family planning. I want to argue that sons need not be stars working in interest of their family. They could become druggies, they could elope, they could be ‘hen-pecked’, or they could just abandon their parents.

The society always had capable girls, who provided in the domestic front and if need be in the community too. Please read this post for such a story. Given an opportunity, girls can achieve all that boys can. The society is changing. Women are entering workforce. Roles in a marriage are changing. Women too earn for the family and men help in domestic chores. In such context, I am sure responsible girls would provide for their aged parents. The BCG analysis forgot that with time, management itself would change! If the family considered a daughter as a star and had invested in her growth there are possibilities that the daughter proved herself worthy, even more than what could be imagined.

Intuitively, it is expected that sons move from ‘problem child’ status to ‘star’ status and daughter’s descend from ‘cow’ status to ‘dog’ status. In real life despite odds against them many daughters shine like stars and in spite of receiving all inputs few sons go to dogs.

Is it worth killing an unborn girl child (a potential star) for having a son (a potential dog, God forbid)? …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

*Ginter PM, Swayne LE, Duncan WJ. Strategic Management of Health Care Organizations. 4th edition (2005). Blackwell Publishing

Posted in bussiness, challenge, economics, gender, indian society, management, social | 7 Comments »

Broken window theory

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on April 29, 2009


James Q. Wilson and George L.Kelling wrote an article in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly titled ‘Broken Windows’. It says:-

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squattors or light fires inside.   

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

In summary it means that if some one is  ‘in-charge’ then there is less chance for things to go wrong. Let me share an example.

Few weeks ago we white washed our compound.Just outside the gate of the hospital campus, there a notice was written on the wall in Oriya ‘ Please do not urinate here’ . (see the pic)

I have seen this area clean for the first time after about a year of work here. I reasoned it to de due to the newly painted wall and the ‘notice’. When I shared this with my staff, they had a small story to add. It seems even after the notice was put up, a nearby shop keeper was passing urine right under the notice.

One of our staffs asked him, ‘ Hey, Cant you read that? Why are you passing urine here?’

‘Is this your father’s land?’ was the retort.

‘Yup, This land belongs to municipality. So it is my father’s as much as your father’s’ our staff said.

In a short while, a small crowd gathered and took the ‘urinator’ away. Since then no one passes urine near the notice. They do it a couple of feet away ! Officially that area is the rickshaw stand. No one looks after this area. You can see the litter near the place where the hero of the pic is urinating 🙂

No one passes urine near the white washed wall now. They go a bit farther ! Broken window theory is probably right. I have a feeing that in additon to broken windows, windows with cracks need mending too. Also an occasional shout, ‘Who’s there?’ probably also helps !!! 🙂


Posted in management | 2 Comments »