25 August 2016 15:06:00 IST

Facing the truth and taking hard decisions


Sometimes you need a third person to help see things the way they are

He was in need of help and, as his best friend, only I could offer that. But first, it was important that he see himself for who he really was.

The beginning

Ravinder and I had known each other for over 20 years. We were classmates at IIM Ahmedabad, from where we joined the same company in 1996. Later, our paths diverged and we went our separate ways, but always stayed in touch. During the intervening years he changed six jobs while I changed three.

At IIM, many in our batch, including me, were from the IITs. Ravinder, a science graduate, often taunted us, “Why spend four-five years in engineering if IIM was your ultimate goal?”

During one of his weaker moments, he confessed to me that he had tried to get admission into an IIT, but had failed. I never spoke of this to anyone else and earned his trust forever.

Staying in touch

Ravinder was now based in Mumbai and I was in Gurgaon.

One day, he called to say that he too was moving to Gurgaon. He would be joining one of India’s large consumer durable companies and would operate from their corporate office here.

I had heard that this company was not very professionally run and that the owner had a set of his own loyalists across the company who tattled on everybody; there was no dignity there. But Ravinder seemed so excited that I did not want to ruin it for him.

“I hear that’s a tightly-controlled, family-run business Ravinder. Hope you have thought this through?” I asked him.

“Yes Ashok. The compensation is excellent and they have promised me a free hand in growing the business,” he said.

We spoke often. He would always tell me how well he was doing and how happy he was.

All is not well

Over the next 12 months, however, he called me on three occasions to tell me how the owner had humiliated him. Whenever I offered to connect him to some search firms, he would initially agree but back out a few days later, saying the owner had changed and all was well.

I was not sure how much of this was really true; Ravinder had a tendency to exaggerate in order to impress.

One afternoon he called me, “Ashok, are you free? Can I come over for a coffee?” He sounded worried. It had been six months since we last met.

“Sure Ravinder. Come over. I will wait for you.” I replied.

Thirty minutes later he walked into my room. He had lost weight and had bags under his eyes — he had clearly not been sleeping well.

I ordered some coffee.

“What’s happening Ravinder? You don’t look too good.” I asked.

“You remember the interview I had given to the media last week, about our new product launches?”

“Yes I do. The newspapers even carried your photos,” I replied.

“Some of my colleagues had cautioned me that the owner did not like it if someone became more visible than him. I had thought that they were just being jealous. Turns out, I was wrong. This morning my whole team and I had a sales review meeting with the owner. Suddenly, the owner commented that I was spending too much time in the corporate office and wasn’t out on the field enough. He then asked me, ‘What am I paying you?’ I tried to politely tell him that we could discuss that later. But he shouted at me, insisting I spell out my CTC. I was embarrassed but mentioned the figure.”

“He then said: ‘I don’t pay you that money to just warm your chair in the corporate office and give media interviews.’ and walked out of the meeting.”

The battle within

“In my entire career I have never faced such humiliation,” Ravinder said.

His hurt was written all over him and I had never seen him so vulnerable.

It was now or never. I had to help him see the reality as it was and to resolve the conflict within himself.

There was only one way.

“Ravinder, I want you close your eyes and relive those instances where you felt humiliated by your owner,” I told him.

“Ashok, I don’t want to think of that again.” he said.

“The reason you don’t want to go there is because our brain stores not only memories but also our the emotional reactions during these moment as they happened.” I said.

“You have been humiliated so often yet you delude yourself that things will be alright,” I continued.

“Maybe I was just hoping things would change for the better.” Ravinder replied.

“Look at the toll it has taken on your health. Are you certain that you will not be humiliated again in the future? Do you really want to go through these experiences again?” I asked him.

“I have to admit, that all along I have been wrong in not seeing things as they really are. I have been pretending that I was happy here and have been saying this to every one. I guess I can’t be like this any more.” Ravinder replied.

Finally the die was cast.

Two months later Ravinder quit the company and joined a firm in Mumbai.

The last I heard, he was much happier now.