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The Optimist (Consultant)     20 January 2014

Menta; torture and harrassment at work

Dear Experts, I have a few queries regarding the mental harassment at work law/act and what can be done in a situation like mine.

I am working for the finance center of a MNC Bank as an Assistant Vice President, based out of Gurgaon, Haryana. I joined this organization in Feb 2013. My problems started from the time I joined. I am listing them down below and will explain each one:

1.      Mismatch in the JD: I was given a detailed job descripttion of the role being offered by the headhunter who was coordinating during my selection process. Upon the shortlisting of my CV, I went through 4 rounds of interview with the senior management and Head of the department. The discussions were basis the JD that was shared with me. I asked a lot of questions around my role, work timings, travel, hours of working etc. I also mentioned my expectations in terms of what I was looking for and where I see myself a few years hence. These were satisfactory as per my expectation.

 

After joining the Organization, I was given tasks that were neither mentioned in the JD and nor were they matching my experience, skills or expectations. I also was not given independent role and responsibility as should be the process, especially at a senior level. Within 1 week of joining, I traveled to an International location for very important official work. No training etc. was imparted. I did the job well and returned to India. My boss appreciated the work.

2.      Made to do menial tasks: I was being made to handle very menial tasks which were bothering me as I had started worrying about my career. I was also made to attend office, aligning with my boss’s timings even though I was told at the time of selection that it is flexible work hours and I could manage my time basis the work and meetings that I need to attend to. This was at times turning out to be very long hours where I would have to sit with my boss and not even get a lunch break. There was a time when he made me reverse my car from the highway when I had left for home at 8.30 pm. Being a woman, I was getting hassled by long work hours that were eating up on my personal space and my health started suffering.

3.      Ill treatment by the Head of the Department: There was an instance where I was attending a meeting (I was just 2 months old in the organization), and the Head of another department was cracking jokes. I laughed at his jokes. The lady, who is the Head of the department where I worked, is apparently a “good friend” with this gentleman and did not like my laughing at his jokes. Next day I was told by my boss that I am not supposed to laugh during the meeting as “she” does not like it. And that I should apologize. While I was shocked at this, I agreed not to laugh in the future but refused to apologize as I was not at fault. Subsequently in one of the meetings that was a weekly governance meeting for the senior management in the department, she targeted me and insulted me for almost 90% of the time. I was berated, shouted at, insulted in front of a room full of people. It was clear she was targeting me as most of the topics were irrelevant and not known to me since I was barely 2 months old in the company. I was shocked at this treatment but kept my composure and came out of the room flushed and red faced but kept my dignity.

4.      Change in role: They soon realized that the role for which I was hired is not required anymore as the project was almost over and that I should be handing over whatever I was doing to another colleague in the team. Meanwhile I should do process mapping for next 2-3 months. Here is when my patience had started giving away. I spoke to my boss for clarity and a road map of my career. He had no answers, so I reached out to HR. They heard me out and got a meeting fixed with my boss, head of the department and another department head (who was cracking jokes). I did not see why he was made to be a part of the meeting. I was informed that there are some changes in the Organisation and that is why I was required to help with process mapping. They were working on the new Organsition for that particular vertical and would soon make an announcement. Until then I should wait. This wait turned out to be almost a month long. Where I had nothing to do. Then one day a meeting was called where all people who would be a part of the changed organization were called and the announcement was made. My role changed and I was given another department and boss to work with. In a way it was good as I did not want to work with that lady anymore since she continued to be hostile with me.

5.      Felt jobless: During the time, I was waiting for the new role, I had absolutely no work to do. It was difficult to sit in the office pretending to work. Since I was doing nothing, I would leave early so as to be able to reach home (Delhi) in time.

6.      New Role: my new boss while on the face was good, turned out to be an insecure man, taking advantage of the situation that I was in with that lady. He told me constantly that she hated me and doesn’t want me to attend the meetings, does not want any emails from me and that I had to work that way. Yes, while she was not the Head of the Department, but being “good friends” with my new department head (my boss’s boss), she influenced his decisions, perceptions and interfered in everything.

7.      Isolated from friends: there were a few of us who joined at the same time and became friends. We would take breaks together and go for lunch together. While the above was going on, this lady separated us and we were warned not to be seen together. I may mention that we were all seniors in the team and did no policy breach or misconduct. It was just to satisfy her ego that all this was being done. I was suddenly all alone as being new in the company, did not know too many people. I had to go for lunch alone and did not have anyone to talk to. I felt very isolated, awkward and miserable.

8.      Growing frustration: I was very tired and frustrated with my job and felt immensely dissatisfied as my entire role was reversed and my 7 years of related experience was going down the drain. It was a huge career regression for me. Also, since I was kept out of meetings and discussions, I felt extremely unimportant. Also, since I did not have the direct information, I was unable to get the complete understanding of what is being expected. (we were putting together a new department/team, process and documentation). While my boss gave me good feedback, my work was neither being appreciated, nor was it being accepted. This lady would review all weekly governance reporting. She started removing my name from the reports and would add some strange person’s name. This was annoying as I was putting in the hard work with my boss and I was getting no acknowledgement for my efforts.

9.      Mid-year review: My previous boss was asked to complete my mid-year performance appraisal. Considering that I had reached out to HR for help, there was a HR lady present in the meeting with my previous boss, my current boss and the department head for my performance appraisal. This appraisal obviously was full of unfair statements as the boss was taking out his grudges for me to have reached out to the HR. he gave false instances of me not performing well giving the example of the work for which I had traveled abroad within 2 weeks of my joining. I was shocked as I had an email where he had appreciated my work, since that had really gone well. I shared that email with everybody. They also went to the level of tracking my swipe in and swipe out time where I had left office in 6.30 to 7 hours’ time (this was during the time when I was asked to wait for new organization announcement and I had no work to do.

10.    My current boss: My current boss continued to act as a well-wisher while talking bad about the department head, my ex-boss and that lady. He supported me on my face, empathized with me and said that what was happening with me was unfair and that people back in the UK headquarters were getting to know of what all is happening in this center. For some reason, I did not trust this man and on one instance recorded his conversation with me. He would not take me to meetings using the same reason that the lady is invited to the meeting and doesn’t want me to be there.

11.    Final straw: I was also constantly told that I should not be seen standing and talking to anyone, take long breaks, talk on the phone, why do I need to talk to my parents etc etc. I had started getting severe headaches with all this stress. I am a fairly senior professional and have worked in some very good companies. When I could not take it any longer and the atmosphere was suffocating me, I again reached out to HR and asked for a permanent resolution. HR being scared of the department head and that lady, invited the department head in the meeting- which I felt was inappropriate as I had asked for the meeting and HR should have heard me out without him present in the meeting. The meeting obviously did not go very well with people being patronizing and condescending. They tried to give reasoning for each issue I had raised and supported that lady saying that it is not her who does not want me in the meetings, but since my boss was attending meetings, I was not required to do that. I knew this was bull sh*t as all others who were working on similar initiatives were being called in for discussions and status reviews.

12.    Confrontation: Finally they realized that my boss is giving me a lot of information and is misleading me, taking advantage of the current situation. They organized for yet another meeting between all of us and my boss. That meeting was for 2 hours and went extremely bad as my boss was twisting his words and did not appear to be supporting me. He also changed his stance and made me appear like someone who was taking all this too seriously and should forget the past and move on. He had once mentioned to me that I should not ever become friends with that “lady” since he found here very vindictive and knew that she would try taking me in confidence if I go to her to mend things and will try to use me to get information against him! (I had once discussed this with him that I should talk it with her so that we can work better). He also said that he is very loyalty conscious and will not spare me if I become friends with her.

All of this, he was now denying and made very different statements. To which, I finally said that I have recorded conversation as an evidence and now that he is denying everything and is so obvious that he never supported me or talked in my favor, I had lost faith in him and in the company- their policies of honesty and integrity. The meeting was concluded with no resolution. I was too stressed and felt a huge burden on my head. Since I live all alone, I was very miserable even after reaching home.

Next day at work, I could not concentrate on my work and the previous day’s events played in my head like a hammer. Suddenly my heart started racing and I could not see my laptop screen clearly. I went to the meeting room to get my composure but continued to feel unwell with clouded thoughts. I called the HR lady for help. When she did not answer, I reached out to the HR head. To my horror, words were not coming out of my mouth. There was a sound and feeling of suffocation.

They rushed me to the hospital. I was taken through a series of tests and was put on medication for a week. They reached out to me brother and friends. Since my brother was out of town, my friend took me to her place after I was discharged from the hospital. I was at home for the remaining week and the following week went to work. After reaching office, HR head called me for a meeting. He enquired about my health and then suggested I go back home and they would give me extended medical leave. I was also put in for the counseling sessions with a professional (was not forced, but recommended).

I received a letter a couple of days later where I was asked to take rest and join back in January (I got about 45 days of paid leave).

13.    Joining back: Before joining, I was asked to get myself checked by the company doctor, get a certificate and then join back. I did that. This was a doctor in the mental health and psychiatry department of the hospital where my company has a corporate tie up. And the doctor is a psychiatrist. It was weird for me to go to a psychiatrist as I did not have a chronic depression, seizure, panic or anxiety problem. This was all due to far too many events and too much torture and stress that played havoc on my mind. I was fine now and have had no repeat symptoms. I am also a very positive and brave person and have taken up all challenges in life very bravely and with determination.

 

Upon joining, HR again called for a meeting and suggested that I settle down, hand over the medical certificate and continue to work in the same department. They would set up a meeting the following week with my boss for annual appraisal and set my goals- role and responsibility. They also mentioned that my boss wants a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) as he felt it was not upto the mark.

In view of all the past events, obviously my boss now will try to get back at me. People who are targeted to be thrown out of the company are put on PIP. I disagreed with HR on this and said that till 1st Nov, there was a weekly review of my performance and he was very happy with my performance (I was on leave for Diwali subsequently for the whole week and then after I returned, on 21st Nov the meeting happened, 22nd nov I was taken to the hospital- so 1st Nov. was the last discussion). This discussion my boss used to have with me every Friday so that we can avoid any difference of opinion during the annual performance review for me. Till 1st Nov., he did not see any issues with my performance, then what had happened in those 2 weeks that he was going to put me on PIP? I demanded that from HR. They said they have no say in this and that it will be on my boss’s discretion.

 

I am yet waiting for that meeting to happen since my boss was traveling.

Now my questions are:

a)      Should I submit the medical certificate? It is on the letter head that says “department of mental health and psychiatry”. Although I have asked HR about the confidentiality and whether it is shared with the new employer, I am still skeptical about giving the certificate to them (they want the original). I do not wish to share it as it could lead to a misunderstanding with anyone that I have some mental issues and jeopardize my future employment.

b)      I do not wish to agree to a PIP as this is monitored for 3 months and if not satisfactory, the employee can be asked to leave. This is unfair.

c)      They have put me through so much torture and mental stress that I had to be hospitalized. Can I sue them for the same?

d)      This lady has a history of torturing people. She did the same with another female employee 2-3 years ago and that employee complained to the police against her and the HR head. She is still doing the same and the unfortunate truth is that she is strongly favored by the head of the Center, and HR head has his hands tied. He is a nice man but tries to make it appear that my thoughts are incorrect. He tries to be patronizing and instead of investigating the root cause, tells me that I may be thinking wrong.

e)      I feel isolated, watched all the time. I cannot take breaks- I am conscious and scared.

Please suggest what course of action is to be taken with all of the above.



Learning

 4 Replies

Kumar Doab (FIN)     20 January 2014

The post is not legible. Can't be read.

1 Like

The Optimist (Consultant)     20 January 2014

Thank you Mr. Doab for responding. I had prepared it in a word document and then copied and pasted it here. I will enlarge the font and resend.

 

Dear Experts, I have a few queries regarding the mental harassment at work law/act and what can be done in a situation like mine.

I am working for the finance center of a MNC Bank as an Assistant Vice President, based out of Gurgaon, Haryana. I joined this organization in Feb 2013. My problems started from the time I joined. I am listing them down below and will explain each one:

1.     Mismatch in the JD: I was given a detailed job descripttion of the role being offered by the headhunter who was coordinating during my selection process. Upon the shortlisting of my CV, I went through 4 rounds of interview with the senior management and Head of the department. The discussions were basis the JD that was shared with me. I asked a lot of questions around my role, work timings, travel, hours of working etc. I also mentioned my expectations in terms of what I was looking for and where I see myself a few years hence. These were satisfactory as per my expectation.

 

After joining the Organization, I was given tasks that were neither mentioned in the JD and nor were they matching my experience, skills or expectations. I also was not given independent role and responsibility as should be the process, especially at a senior level. Within 1 week of joining, I traveled to an International location for very important official work. No training etc. was imparted. I did the job well and returned to India. My boss appreciated the work.

2.     Made to do menial tasks: I was being made to handle very menial tasks which were bothering me as I had started worrying about my career. I was also made to attend office, aligning with my boss’s timings even though I was told at the time of selection that it is flexible work hours and I could manage my time basis the work and meetings that I need to attend to. This was at times turning out to be very long hours where I would have to sit with my boss and not even get a lunch break. There was a time when he made me reverse my car from the highway when I had left for home at 8.30 pm. Being a woman, I was getting hassled by long work hours that were eating up on my personal space and my health started suffering.

3.     Ill treatment by the Head of the Department: There was an instance where I was attending a meeting (I was just 2 months old in the organization), and the Head of another department was cracking jokes. I laughed at his jokes. The lady, who is the Head of the department where I worked, is apparently a “good friend” with this gentleman and did not like my laughing at his jokes. Next day I was told by my boss that I am not supposed to laugh during the meeting as “she” does not like it. And that I should apologize. While I was shocked at this, I agreed not to laugh in the future but refused to apologize as I was not at fault. Subsequently in one of the meetings that was a weekly governance meeting for the senior management in the department, she targeted me and insulted me for almost 90% of the time. I was berated, shouted at, insulted in front of a room full of people. It was clear she was targeting me as most of the topics were irrelevant and not known to me since I was barely 2 months old in the company. I was shocked at this treatment but kept my composure and came out of the room flushed and red faced but kept my dignity.

4.     Change in role: They soon realized that the role for which I was hired is not required anymore as the project was almost over and that I should be handing over whatever I was doing to another colleague in the team. Meanwhile I should do process mapping for next 2-3 months. Here is when my patience had started giving away. I spoke to my boss for clarity and a road map of my career. He had no answers, so I reached out to HR. They heard me out and got a meeting fixed with my boss, head of the department and another department head (who was cracking jokes). I did not see why he was made to be a part of the meeting. I was informed that there are some changes in the Organisation and that is why I was required to help with process mapping. They were working on the new Organsition for that particular vertical and would soon make an announcement. Until then I should wait. This wait turned out to be almost a month long. Where I had nothing to do. Then one day a meeting was called where all people who would be a part of the changed organization were called and the announcement was made. My role changed and I was given another department and boss to work with. In a way it was good as I did not want to work with that lady anymore since she continued to be hostile with me.

5.     Felt jobless: During the time, I was waiting for the new role, I had absolutely no work to do. It was difficult to sit in the office pretending to work. Since I was doing nothing, I would leave early so as to be able to reach home (Delhi) in time.

6.     New Role: my new boss while on the face was good, turned out to be an insecure man, taking advantage of the situation that I was in with that lady. He told me constantly that she hated me and doesn’t want me to attend the meetings, does not want any emails from me and that I had to work that way. Yes, while she was not the Head of the Department, but being “good friends” with my new department head (my boss’s boss), she influenced his decisions, perceptions and interfered in everything.

7.     Isolated from friends: there were a few of us who joined at the same time and became friends. We would take breaks together and go for lunch together. While the above was going on, this lady separated us and we were warned not to be seen together. I may mention that we were all seniors in the team and did no policy breach or misconduct. It was just to satisfy her ego that all this was being done. I was suddenly all alone as being new in the company, did not know too many people. I had to go for lunch alone and did not have anyone to talk to. I felt very isolated, awkward and miserable.

8.     Growing frustration: I was very tired and frustrated with my job and felt immensely dissatisfied as my entire role was reversed and my 7 years of related experience was going down the drain. It was a huge career regression for me. Also, since I was kept out of meetings and discussions, I felt extremely unimportant. Also, since I did not have the direct information, I was unable to get the complete understanding of what is being expected. (we were putting together a new department/team, process and documentation). While my boss gave me good feedback, my work was neither being appreciated, nor was it being accepted. This lady would review all weekly governance reporting. She started removing my name from the reports and would add some strange person’s name. This was annoying as I was putting in the hard work with my boss and I was getting no acknowledgement for my efforts.

9.     Mid-year review: My previous boss was asked to complete my mid-year performance appraisal. Considering that I had reached out to HR for help, there was a HR lady present in the meeting with my previous boss, my current boss and the department head for my performance appraisal. This appraisal obviously was full of unfair statements as the boss was taking out his grudges for me to have reached out to the HR. he gave false instances of me not performing well giving the example of the work for which I had traveled abroad within 2 weeks of my joining. I was shocked as I had an email where he had appreciated my work, since that had really gone well. I shared that email with everybody. They also went to the level of tracking my swipe in and swipe out time where I had left office in 6.30 to 7 hours’ time (this was during the time when I was asked to wait for new organization announcement and I had no work to do.

10.  My current boss: My current boss continued to act as a well-wisher while talking bad about the department head, my ex-boss and that lady. He supported me on my face, empathized with me and said that what was happening with me was unfair and that people back in the UK headquarters were getting to know of what all is happening in this center. For some reason, I did not trust this man and on one instance recorded his conversation with me. He would not take me to meetings using the same reason that the lady is invited to the meeting and doesn’t want me to be there.

11.  Final straw: I was also constantly told that I should not be seen standing and talking to anyone, take long breaks, talk on the phone, why do I need to talk to my parents etc etc. I had started getting severe headaches with all this stress. I am a fairly senior professional and have worked in some very good companies. When I could not take it any longer and the atmosphere was suffocating me, I again reached out to HR and asked for a permanent resolution. HR being scared of the department head and that lady, invited the department head in the meeting- which I felt was inappropriate as I had asked for the meeting and HR should have heard me out without him present in the meeting. The meeting obviously did not go very well with people being patronizing and condescending. They tried to give reasoning for each issue I had raised and supported that lady saying that it is not her who does not want me in the meetings, but since my boss was attending meetings, I was not required to do that. I knew this was bull sh*t as all others who were working on similar initiatives were being called in for discussions and status reviews.

12.  Confrontation: Finally they realized that my boss is giving me a lot of information and is misleading me, taking advantage of the current situation. They organized for yet another meeting between all of us and my boss. That meeting was for 2 hours and went extremely bad as my boss was twisting his words and did not appear to be supporting me. He also changed his stance and made me appear like someone who was taking all this too seriously and should forget the past and move on. He had once mentioned to me that I should not ever become friends with that “lady” since he found here very vindictive and knew that she would try taking me in confidence if I go to her to mend things and will try to use me to get information against him! (I had once discussed this with him that I should talk it with her so that we can work better). He also said that he is very loyalty conscious and will not spare me if I become friends with her.

All of this, he was now denying and made very different statements. To which, I finally said that I have recorded conversation as an evidence and now that he is denying everything and is so obvious that he never supported me or talked in my favor, I had lost faith in him and in the company- their policies of honesty and integrity. The meeting was concluded with no resolution. I was too stressed and felt a huge burden on my head. Since I live all alone, I was very miserable even after reaching home.

Next day at work, I could not concentrate on my work and the previous day’s events played in my head like a hammer. Suddenly my heart started racing and I could not see my laptop screen clearly. I went to the meeting room to get my composure but continued to feel unwell with clouded thoughts. I called the HR lady for help. When she did not answer, I reached out to the HR head. To my horror, words were not coming out of my mouth. There was a sound and feeling of suffocation.

They rushed me to the hospital. I was taken through a series of tests and was put on medication for a week. They reached out to me brother and friends. Since my brother was out of town, my friend took me to her place after I was discharged from the hospital. I was at home for the remaining week and the following week went to work. After reaching office, HR head called me for a meeting. He enquired about my health and then suggested I go back home and they would give me extended medical leave. I was also put in for the counseling sessions with a professional (was not forced, but recommended).

I received a letter a couple of days later where I was asked to take rest and join back in January (I got about 45 days of paid leave).

13.  Joining back: Before joining, I was asked to get myself checked by the company doctor, get a certificate and then join back. I did that. This was a doctor in the mental health and psychiatry department of the hospital where my company has a corporate tie up. And the doctor is a psychiatrist. It was weird for me to go to a psychiatrist as I did not have a chronic depression, seizure, panic or anxiety problem. This was all due to far too many events and too much torture and stress that played havoc on my mind. I was fine now and have had no repeat symptoms. I am also a very positive and brave person and have taken up all challenges in life very bravely and with determination.

 

Upon joining, HR again called for a meeting and suggested that I settle down, hand over the medical certificate and continue to work in the same department. They would set up a meeting the following week with my boss for annual appraisal and set my goals- role and responsibility. They also mentioned that my boss wants a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) as he felt it was not upto the mark.

In view of all the past events, obviously my boss now will try to get back at me. People who are targeted to be thrown out of the company are put on PIP. I disagreed with HR on this and said that till 1st Nov, there was a weekly review of my performance and he was very happy with my performance (I was on leave for Diwali subsequently for the whole week and then after I returned, on 21st Nov the meeting happened, 22nd nov I was taken to the hospital- so 1st Nov. was the last discussion). This discussion my boss used to have with me every Friday so that we can avoid any difference of opinion during the annual performance review for me. Till 1st Nov., he did not see any issues with my performance, then what had happened in those 2 weeks that he was going to put me on PIP? I demanded that from HR. They said they have no say in this and that it will be on my boss’s discretion.

 

I am yet waiting for that meeting to happen since my boss was traveling.

Now my questions are:

a)     Should I submit the medical certificate? It is on the letter head that says “department of mental health and psychiatry”. Although I have asked HR about the confidentiality and whether it is shared with the new employer, I am still skeptical about giving the certificate to them (they want the original). I do not wish to share it as it could lead to a misunderstanding with anyone that I have some mental issues and jeopardize my future employment.

b)    I do not wish to agree to a PIP as this is monitored for 3 months and if not satisfactory, the employee can be asked to leave. This is unfair.

c)     They have put me through so much torture and mental stress that I had to be hospitalized. Can I sue them for the same?

d)    This lady has a history of torturing people. She did the same with another female employee 2-3 years ago and that employee complained to the police against her and the HR head. She is still doing the same and the unfortunate truth is that she is strongly favored by the head of the Center, and HR head has his hands tied. He is a nice man but tries to make it appear that my thoughts are incorrect. He tries to be patronizing and instead of investigating the root cause, tells me that I may be thinking wrong.

e)     I feel isolated, watched all the time. I cannot take breaks- I am conscious and scared.

Please suggest what course of action is to be taken with all of the above.

Sudhir Kumar, Advocate (Advocate)     20 January 2014

Alas I could read small fonted and very long descripttion and agree or disagree with Mr Kumar Doab

1 Like

The Optimist (Consultant)     21 January 2014

Sir, apologies for the same. I have posted it yet again after increasing the font size.


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