27 October 2016 14:01:39 IST

The pink envelope

Even a bully can change if he is helped to confront his own insecurities

Another job change. It was 12.30 am when Rajeev returned by the last flight from Chennai.

His wife Sri waited for him to change and get into bed. “Now tell me about this offer you mentioned on the phone.”

Rajeev and Sri were classmates from IIM Ahmedabad. “At the Nasscom conclave, I met Ajay, who runs this large software company, and his dad, who is the chairman of the AMS Group. Ajay has made me an offer which is too good to be refused.”

“So, now we shift to Chennai?” Sri asked.

“Yes, Sri. The AMS group will take care of everything. And Amma and Appa will be happier in Chennai,” Rajeev replied.

“In the last five years, you have changed three jobs and two locations. Every time things get a bit difficult, you take the easier option of resigning. Our son cannot keep changing schools like this,” Sri said, worriedly.

“Don’t worry Sri,” said Rajeev, as he pulled her towards him.

Initial honeymoon period

In the initial six months, Rajeev, who was the head of HR, learnt many things about the company and about Ajay. The company was highly profitable. While attrition was an issue at the entry level, things were stable at the manager and the levels above it. Ajay had hired many from the IITs and IIMs for these positions, and paid them top quartile salaries.

Ajay had two older brothers who, after completing engineering abroad, moved on to Harvard for their MBA. They now took care of other businesses in the group. Ajay was lovingly referred to as the black sheep of the family. After completing BCom, he started this company with investments from his father.

Much of the company’s revenues came from an uncle’s fast growing IT firm in the US. As days went by, Rajeev settled down in his new job. The many occasions on which Ajay sought his opinions on matters beyond HR helped boost his confidence. All seemed to be going well.

Until some months later, Sri noticed that Rajeev appeared stressed and edgy.

Her worst fears

Sri confronted Rajeev one evening.

“What’s eating you Rajeev? Hope it is nothing about us?” she asked.

“Of course not, Sri.”

“Then you agree something is bothering you.”

There was no way out now. Rajeev sighed and said, “Over the past few weeks, I noticed that Ajay openly humiliates some of the senior folks. I am tensed that one day, he will humiliate me too. I must find another job soon before this happens to me.”

Sri knew that her worst fears were about to come true.

“Why don’t you talk to some of the old-timers here and find out if Ajay was always like this?” she suggested.

The next day, Rajeev met the CFO.

When the CFO heard Rajeev’s concern, he said, “Oh, so you finally noticed. He has been like this always, Rajeev. Initially, I was confused and tensed. Till one day, I overheard him sharing his frustrations with his friend. Apparently, his family taunts him for not being as qualified as his brothers, and now, he feels vindicated that he employs so many from the IITs and IIMs. I guess it is his complex that makes him humiliate these folks.”

The pink envelope

When he heard the CFO, something in Rajeev snapped. He would run no more, he decided. As an HR professional, it was his job to not just protect the employees’ interest but also help the CEO if he could. From that day onwards, he kept a long, sealed pink envelope in the top pocket of his shirt.

A week later, Ajay brought this up.

“Rajeev, what’s this pink envelope you keep carrying around all the time?” he asked.

“I am glad you asked, Ajay. That’s my resignation letter.”

“What? Don’t tell me you are going to resign!” Ajay said, surprised.

“No plans yet, Ajay.”

“So, this is some kind of a joke?”

“No, Ajay. The way I see you humiliate others makes me tense. If and when you humiliate me that way, I shall hand over the pink envelope,” Rajeev said.

“How can you say that, Rajeev? You are more like an advisor to me!” Ajay protested.

“Then I would be failing you if I did not point out that the stakes for you are much higher than for any of us here. Just imagine if one day, someone shouts back at you. He would resign and go, but where would that leave you? Your real leadership strength lies in getting the IIT and IIM folks to work happily for you. You employ us.”

Ajay took the envelope from Rajeev, pulled out the resignation letter and tore it. He then pinned the pink envelope on to the board behind his desk, turned around and, with a wink said, “That should serve as a constant reminder to me.”

“And let that be our little secret,” said Ajay, as Rajeev strode out of his room with confident strides.