In my earlier posts on getting past depression– I ended where I could step back into a corporate career with confidence and joy. Returning to one of the biggest and most admired companies in India was neither easy nor without its share of doubts , questions and insecurities . But “hedonistic adaptation”( the feeling of getting used to pleasure/ happiness/ achievement  and then craving for more )  soon took over and the gratitude of having been blessed with this rare opportunity replaced by the usual bickering about boss and work . (Come on , I am not the only one doing that right !! Also inspired Meera Om’s style I am tempted to pen down about the 20 type of bosses 😊 but may be for some other time!)

Fast forward 7 years . Having grown in the organization and having earned the equity with senior leadership – when I requested for a role based out of NCR after commuting like mad between Delhi and Mumbai ( which by the way is not very different in terms of time than between Delhi and say Noida – I realize )-the company obliged . I was filled with gratitude again – this organization indeed took care of the people who worked for it . I saw colleagues who were struck by life threatening illnesses- and who were looked after with exemplary compassion and care . This only cemented the belief that I am lucky to work for the best employer in India  .

The new role involved integrating the process and systems of a newly acquired company into our own. The acquired company was 4000cr too and had its own set of people who were all assured of a role in my organization. However, that later turned out to be sweet “HR speak” (No offence to anyone in HR). To make the business case work – cutting people cost is the quickest way to turn around profits and operating margins.

Then came a saviour which put a spoke in the  ambitious retrenchment plans . Can you guess who the saviour was ? Believe it or not – it was Covid . The Covid crisis – necessitated that business continuity be prioritized over everything else – to keep the factories running , the trucks moving and the salesmen visiting the stores .Also , imagine a company at the forefront of corporate social responsibility – donating  hundreds of crores of money for covid support and then stealthily firing its employees in these tough times without any opportunities .

But then the first wave of covid eased off and the pressure on people cost came back again . Starting March this year – the reshuffling and retrenching ( with a notice period of 6 months) began-ostensibly on performance grounds . I wondered where the caring employer had disappeared when the ruthless executive had taken over . I was worried about my own predicament too, although I was repeatedly assured that I would have no issues in coming back to the parent organization . The insecurity , anxiety and worry kept me up at night …..many nights and took a  serious toll on my health . I felt like the criminal in movies who is hired to do a difficult dirty job and then shot by the mastermind after its completion ( well too much drama there – no ?)

After ruminating , worrying and kicking myself endlessly and cribbing continuously to my very patient friends  , I decided to turn around and either find a role more in consonance with my purpose or leave . While there would have been severe financial implications on the life style – I still could sustain comfortably  for a few years atleast .( Truly inspired today by Kirtee Om’s post)

 But the memories of the past, when after a career break , I struggled to get back to  a vocation and was rejected multiple times – hounded me and shattered all my self confidence . Also I wondered am I not running away from my duty to protect those who work for me – my own team?  A Manager is only as good s the team , has always been my belief and  I always found a lot of my own energy coming from the team. A vibrant and energetic band of people – how could I just leave them alone ?

A global opportunity came by in my own organization and while I jumped at it – my boss (like all selfish bosses) didn’t want to let me go and hence refused . The truth was she wanted me to handle the difficult conversations and the business challenges . To cut a long story short – through various organizational interventions – I did manage to make the transition . But I still felt responsible for the team .  Through my network and equity – I got good roles secured for 5 out of 8 of my direct reports . I am still trying to get opportunities for balance 3 . They are well qualified – engineers and MBAs from the most premier educational institutions in the country – but a loss hurts everyone and more so the achievers – as I had learnt through my own experience.

With this long story as the context , I want your views on the various dilemmas here

1.       There is a business case to every acquisition and the people “synergies” are there in each one . Should the organization commit to retaining employees when its long term view is to clearly do the opposite ? And should the employees believe the same and dig their heads like an  ostrich in sand believing that nothing will happen to them? What does it mean to be a caring employer ?

2.       My employer is one that supplies daily essentials to all of India – with its impeccable penetration and reach. IF in these times – our factories , supply chains and sales force had not worked – India would be short on soap , sanitizers , foods and several other essentials . Yet these heros – put their own lives on line  and faced the risk of an unknown virus to keep the system running – are now being asked to go if there are no suitable roles for them in the new structure  . That’s definitely not fair – but is being justified as necessary for business sustainability. You risk your life for the organization and then are thrown out to maintain cost – how would you have any sense of loyalty for the employer or a sense of mission towards your duty ?

3.       Is it good to hold off the sword until it falls -or better to declare upfront that its going to fall? Tell the people that there would be firings but without a timeline and assurance about their position – or keep the workforce assured until the gun is ready to fire ?

Hardly , spiritual questions I would say but then hey is the most authentic place for all dilemmas. So don’t hesitate , pick up your pens (sorry , keyboards) and do share your thoughts.