ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Workplace Harassment

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Workplaces are a microcosm of our larger social structure. In India, women—and men—are taught to respect authority and not question it. The largest Indian businesses are visibly family-owned. Here, the organisation is often viewed as a benign tree that bestows largesse on employees, in return for their loyalty. Given that the same coterie of managers circulates between organisations, this culture of patronage travels even to the apparently professionally managed multinational corporations.

Harassment in these organisations is not reported for the same reasons for which assault by a family member is not brought to the police. The stakes are heavily in favour of maintaining reputation rather than washing one’s dirty linen in public. Colleagues and seniors would advise the woman to “put your head down and work” and “internalise the blame” (both statements have been personally experienced). In a structure where support is not forthcoming, this can sound like very wise counsel.

The culture of subjugation of women is intrinsic to our society and therefore to our workplaces. Male leaders with chequered personal histories find themselves in no position to stand up against another offender.

Where does this leave (the very few) women leaders? Under pressure to portray gender balance, organisations are striving to hire more women, though usually at entry levels. Once in the organisation, however, women are expected to “fit in,” which is a euphemism for aping the existing work culture. Frequently, diversity in gender does not lead to diversity in thought or expression.

Women in organisations are inherently more vulnerable than men; a few degrees removed from the old boys’ club, walking into the maternity wall before the glass ceiling is anywhere in sight. In their tougher-than-for-men climb up the corporate ladder, women leaders are reluctant to disturb their delicate balance by displaying any disloyalty to the organisation.

Thus, the shiny glass orbs of venerated organisations continue to gloss over the muck within.

Tanushree Mainrai

Mumbai

Updated On : 12th Oct, 2018

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