case of Phaneesh Murthy raises some issues which are of serious concern to HR
Murthy has been sacked by his employer, iGATE, of which he was the CEO for
sexual harassment. This is the second high profile sexual harassment case for
Murthy, the first was the much publicized Infosys case. And therefore this case
brings to the fore many issues which are both common and unique.
first issue is whether one should employ a person involved in sexual harassment
case at all. There would be many who would say ‘No’ we will not employ him at
all – we do not want to take a risk knowingly. The assumption is that if you
did it once, you have told
the world about your proclivity, and you will, in
all probability do it again. [I wonder whether insurance companies saw Murthy’s
employment as CEO as enhanced risk and liability while selling insurance cover to iGATE].
emotional interactions between a man and a woman are very complex. It is not
easy, though it is pragmatic, for us to presume that a person convicted of
sexual harassment will be serial offender. We saw this, the man as a serial
offender, being portrayed dramatically by Sanjeev Kumar in ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh.’
I think it was Vijay Tendulkar who said that every man was like a ‘Tiger on a
prowl’ looking for his ‘prey,’ and many persons, particularly ladies seem to
confirm this view. While discussing employment of women in a male dominated
organisation, I heard one executive recommend women’s employment because ‘men
raise their invisible plumage in the company of women.’
return to the issue: Will you employ somebody who was sacked previously on the ground of
sexual harassment, in your organisation? Unfortunately, we do not know, and
nobody writes about a case where the man is reformed, and is leading a good
life after a fling. May be Amitabh Bachchan, who is reported to have had an
affair with Rekha is a case in point, or may be Bill Clinton who was involved
in Monica-gate. [Incidentally Bill Clinton was not impeached and remained in
office notwithstanding the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice
brought against him]. A reformed man does not make a good story, a persistently
evil man does.
people persist in criminal activities like sexual harassment? Here is a
possible answer from Colin Wilson who says “.... man made his most important discovery; that control is not simply a
negative virtue. Anyone who has been forced to master some difficult technique
- such as playing a musical instrument - knows that learning begins
irritation and frustration; the task seems to be as thankless as breaking in a
wild horse. Then, by some unconscious process, control begins to develop. There
is a cautious glow of satisfaction as we begin to scent success. Then, quite
suddenly, the frustration is transformed into a feeling of power and control.
It dawns upon us that when a wild horse ceases to be wild, it becomes an
invaluable servant…… It is a power for conquest, for changing our lives. Once man has made this discovery, he looks around for new
fields to conquer.”
The reason behind Murthy’s astounding success in his
career and equally shocking failure is the same; it is the desire to control
and conquest, everything and everybody. The dominant male, the tiger on prowl
are the images of this ‘controlling’ man.
The issue, to my mind, is not whether you will employ a
man with a history of sexual harassment. The real issue is whether an
organisation [read its senior managers] has the will and courage to reign in a
manager who shows excessive ‘controlling’ tendencies.
And we can see failures
on this count all around us, in every organisation. The knowledgeable say that
the affair of Phaneesh with Reka was known to several persons in Infosys before it went sour. And the second
affair, in all probability, was known to many too in iGATE.
It is good to part ways at this stage rather than meeting
in the courts of law. What say you? But it requires courage to kill a deviant golden-egg-laying-goose, and that quality is in short supply.
Labels: iGATE, Infosys, Phaneesh Murthy, Sexual Harassment