Well-intentioned efforts to address gender discrimination at the workplace are subverted when people claim concessions as entitlement. Vikram Rana, chief editor and head of production at Margot Financial Securities, Mumbai, was engaged in an energy-sapping battle of nerves with his associate, Neha Salian, an overbearing woman older to him whose workplace ethics were not up to the mark. The management of Margot wanted to promote a women-friendly workplace, and had instituted a Women’s Grievance Redressal Committee in keeping with best practices in the industry. Fearing that a complaint to the grievance committee might mar his reputation and career, Vikram was careful in his interactions with his direct report. Neha defaulted on her duties using familial responsibilities as an excuse, and exploited Vikram’s inability to confront her openly. He yielded to her manipulation, but retaliated by pointing out her professional inadequacies. As matters spiralled out of control, Vikram feared his attempts to enforce professionalism would be misrepresented as harassment.
The case explores the interplay of gender dynamics and entrenched biases that contribute to toxic relations. It examines the issue of victim-turned-persecutor through different perspectives. Was Vikram an ineffectual boss who succumbed to bullying? Or was he an over-punctilious bully who was difficult to please?