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Are Star Performers Above All?

Himanshi Fernandes

- May 15, 2020

Sexual harassment is a recurring problem around the globe and sadly it is often overlooked as a ‘problem’ by the employers. Oftentimes, employers have been in a dilemma when the star performer is to be tried for any kind of disciplinary conduct. Recently, I came across a very interesting matter involving the behaviour of one such ‘star performer’.  

Swati (name changed to protect identity) was presenting the sales statistics to the management of her Company. Her team didn’t meet the expected target and didn’t do too well as against Rishabh’s(name changed to protect identity) team who was also touted to get the prestigious ‘salesman of the year’; award in the upcoming annual Rewards and Recognition party.

Rishabh approached a visibly upset Swati and suggested “If you hang around with me, I could probably help you on how to increase your sales and meet the target”. Swati didn’t appreciate the statement but was too disheartened to react to anything at all. A few days later, Swati bumped into Rishabh in the parking lot where he told her that she needs to start using her assets in order to get more sales or to keep her bosses happy. When Swati expressed her discomfort over his language and asked him to refrain or face consequences, he got very angry and replied that no one in the Company will touch him no matter what he does. Rishabh was very confident that the company does not want to lose him as he’s an invaluable asset.

Swati approached her immediate boss Rajiv (name changed to protect identity),who was also Rishabh’s boss, about the parking lot incident. Rajiv echoed Rishabh’s words and advised her to concentrate on her sales strategies instead of targeting the best performing sales person.

It is when the matter was brought to the IC’s attention, that Rishabh was met with a befitting penalty for his behaviour and Rajiv with corrective counselling. Kudos to the IC members to have looked at Rishabh as a mere employee, a mere respondent and not a star performer. After all, the IC, under the Act, is formed, to be unbiased and it is imperative for the IC to make at least one such strong decision to pass on a strong message to the entire organisation, that this behaviour is not acceptable despite what your role or background is. If an organisation tries to save an important employee in spite of him being accused of sexual harassment, think of the kind of message and the value system the Organisation is trying to drive down. This sets in a culture where employees will come of the view that as long as they are productive and super performers, they will go scot-free for all unethical/immoral practices.

Most employers would carry Rajiv’s mindset of protecting the star performers, after all such employees add revenue to the employers pockets. They would have sexual harassment and other disciplinary policies in place but may be reluctant to lose their super performers, leaving such policies applicable to the non super performers. The essence of ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 is provide for an IC that can go beyond being influenced and kneeling under the pressure of employer preferences. The Act also envisages all employers to have a Sexual Harassment policy in place to protect women employees from being harassed. I might sound like a broken record when it comes to company policies. So here it goes again: no matter what policy you have, you must follow and enforce it.  It doesn’t matter if it is a star performer or not.  In my opinion, failure to equitably enforce a corporate policy is often worse than not having one. 

More information

The materials on this web site have been prepared by Serein Inc. for informational purposes only and are not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. Reader should not rely or act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH training in India and the US).. For more information on how to conduct a fair, timely and legally sound POSH enquiry process, write to us at hello@serein.in

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Siri Prasad

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Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

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Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

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Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

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Kirtika N

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Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

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She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

Sharanya Venkataraghavan

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Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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