I have known the author of this book “Viji Hari” for a long time and the topic of this book – prevention of sexual harassment, is something that’s close to her heart. When I opened the preview copy of the book I was sure of boat loads of learning, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be an interesting read that I read the whole book in one go. I just couldn’t believe this is her debut work; the hard work in the compilation and storytelling is clearly visible, congratulations to her.
Having worked in a large organization like Infosys for more than a decade and as the founder of Kelp HR, a human resources consultancy firm, Viji has seen and learned of many incidents of workplace sexual harassment. Almost all the incidents happen behind closed doors – hence the title of the book Behind Closed Cubicles. They cause untold harm to the victims, are done by perpetrators who are their colleagues and friends; and due to the social stigma & fear, only 62% of the incidents are reported.
Let us look at few of the stories shared in the book:
- Elsa, Sheryl, Nikhil and two others had joined as trainees at a luxurious 5-star resort. Due to her hard work and talent, Elsa gets promoted but is close to losing her dream job due to a false rumour that she had slept her way up the ladder with their boss Anoop.
I wonder why is that in India whenever a young lady recruit progresses fast in her work, her character gets assassinated. Even a mere thought never occurs of a man losing his morals in a similar scenario.
- Vaishnavi was a senior research scientist at a large automobile firm’s R & D division in India. She encounters her personal space being breached by their global CEO Mr.Rossi during one of his visits to India. Mr.Swamy, India Directors then handles the delicate issue in a befitting & smart way.
It is true, that the customer is king. But in many cases, it is only the Asian outsourcing firm (across industries) that educates its employees on western customers’ customs and practices; on a true partnership basis shouldn’t it be done both ways?.
- Lokesh worked for a company along with other men and women. One day his manager gets a complaint that Lokesh is a Casanova. After digging through the issue, the HR partner is perplexed on seeing evidence that the rumour-monger could be one of Lokesh’s another male coworker.
Sexual harassment shouldn’t be stereotyped to be something that’s made by a male to a female; it could be the other way or it could even happen within the same sex.
In the book, Viji not only covers the what, how & why it happened; she has provided explanations on what should be done as per prevailing law and what could’ve been done better. The rights of the employees and the duties of the management are outlined as well. Good illustrations accompany every chapter of the book.
As for me, in my stint of running a company for nearly 2 decades, I had to handle two to three complaints that got reported to me. The low number of incidents was just because we were small with employees hovering around 100 across geographies. Without a book like this on hand to guide, I had a tough time handling the complaints – it meant seeking advice from friends who were working at bigger firms and mostly improvising. For that reason alone, this book is a must read for every entrepreneur, manager, and team lead, even before they do their first hire.