(As told to Anney Sam)
A different work culture meant a different sexual culture
The call centre is a melting pot of people and along with a milieu of young adults are their values, attitudes and behaviour and ideas about fun and sex. We had kids from the seven sister states of India, lots of Anglo 20-year-olds and then there were the south Indians, some far away from their native villages and towns. They were given British or American names for their telemarketing jobs and suddenly it seemed like they had a split personality.
Sexual freedom was like a newfound hobby and sometimes when we would step out for our coffee break and smokes we would find the staircase lined with cosy and more than cosy images of young people getting ready for coitus, at 2 a.m. IST. Life was good with the sweet smelling Lady Jane in the air; it just felt like an extension of college life in a hippy era. None of this was permitted, mind you, and you could be thrown out if you got caught.
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A fresher in HR who got into trouble
This is the story of a young HR person, a fresher from a local college for whom this was all too much excitement. The HR department got to know everything that happened in the office. Everything, and it was the role of young ER’s or Employee Relations staff to do the spying and reporting. Our young HR-ER was named Vijayalaxmi and though on the face of it she loathed the culture she was seeing, the things she was seeing equally intrigued her. She was following the Vice President Operations, a lady in her late 30s, who was pursuing another VP who was just 28, nearly ten years younger, and even saw them in a compromising situation in one of the conference rooms.
Then there was Zara, a girl from Calicut, who used to come to work in a hijab, would promptly change into a mini skirt and cut-away blouse and high heels and go preening at her boss who was a married man with two children. He was pretty happy with this attention and it was obvious that they had started a relationship at work; they would disappear for long hours and return looking content. Zara got a hefty raise and promoted to team lead in just six months of this development. Wow! That was truly a boss with benefits, thought Vijayalaxmi.
Targeting the cute boss
She thought, “If you can’t beat the system then you must join it.” Her own boss was a sweet mild-mannered Kannadiga. He was an upright man, straightforward and honest. Since call centres work into the early mornings, many office work relationships become extremely close and comfortable. However, Vijayalaxmi misjudged her own boss. He was an introvert and quite immune to the happy and wild ways of his department. He had an endearing smile that showed off his dimples. I cannot say whether Vijayalaxmi fell in lust with him, or thought she could climb the ladder with services rendered. She made the fatal mistake of hitting on him.
Initially she stumped all her colleagues with a complete makeover, cut her long hair into wavy layered short hair. Her dressing also altered and she began wearing makeup, all to impress her boss. He ignored her. So she tried to be bolder. Here she was out of her depth, as she had no social skills. So one day she went to his cabin and blurted out that she was in love with him and wanted to sleep with him. The boss was alarmed, to say the least. For one she belonged to the HR department, the folks who are custodians of the code of conduct and policies on sexual harassment. He asked her to leave, and quickly called the core group that is responsible to handle infarctions such as these.
Related reading: When scorned women misuse the law for their own selfish motives
She learnt her lesson about office affairs
Poor Vijayalaxmi, she was suitably chastised and memo-ed, and within 3 days she was out of the organisation. The boss however, was kind enough to write her a decent letter of recommendation, omitting the ghastly business of the romantic nature. Fortunately, she found employment elsewhere and has learned her lesson. She had a traditional arranged marriage and when I met here recently had risen to Head of HR in another MNC.
I don’t think she was being a gold-digger; she was a confused soul, wanting to fit in with the crazy world she found herself in. She soon found her path and stuck to the good old values she grew up with.