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How I stood up

July 23, 2012

This happened to me about a year ago. My boss was traveling and he had left me in charge of most of the things at office he had been handling. I work in the Construction Industry and as such, days preceding a Project handover can be the most stressful ones. There was this project that our firm was handling and there were just a few days before the hand-over. Needless to say, Clients were anxious and we were out in our full strength trying to get things in order. From the Client’s side the MD himself was personally overseeing the final stages and from our firm’s side, the boss had put me in charge.

The Project site was a frenzy of activities with last minute paint touch-ups, clearing away materials and cleaning. The Client MD was worried about the cleaning part and I assured him the site supervisor had  been instructed and things would be in order before the hand-over.

One morning, I reached office and in some time received a call from the Client MD. He sounded very tensed and was actually shouting at the top of his voice. I was in my most polite tone and heard him out. He kept mentioning that some things were lying on the floor and this was not done and that was not done and that I was in efficient and didn’t care about the work that my boss had entrusted me with. I patiently tried explaining that things were getting sorted out, but he refused to listen. Now, it is an unwritten rule that ‘Client is King’ in the service providing sector and though I was getting angry at his unfair outburst, didn’t show it. He went on and on  and I had no other option but  to listen to him. At one point he screamed, ‘ You come here and clean the place every evening before you go home!’. I was stunned hearing those words and his tone. Tears immediately welled up my eyes and I just  mumbled something and hung up.

I was shocked and felt humiliated because of those words. Now, I am the sort that believes in dignity of labour and think there is nothing wrong in cleaning something. But in a Corporate set up, the words he had used at me were just not  ok as far I was concerned. Whether we like it or not, we all have our qualifications and positions in our Professional life. To shout at a ‘white collared’ person to do a ‘blue collared ‘ person’s job could only mean one thing-  humiliation.

I sobbed for sometime. I was alone in the boss’s cabin and there was no one around. I just couldn’t get over it. One doesn’t throw words like that at some one, how ever angry that person might be. Later, when I spoke to my boss, I narrated the episode and expressed my anguish at having been spoken to like that. I also told him that I wanted to tell the Client MD how he had hurt me with his words. My boss agreed that it was not the right thing to have been said and asked me to go ahead and speak to the Client if I wanted to.

I kept thinking about it throughout that evening and night. I discussed with V as well and he also encouraged me to bring it up with the Client and make him aware of the effect his words had on me. I dilly-dallied. Should I really confront him? Why can’t I just let it go.. Of what use would it be to anyone..All these thoughts kept cropping in my mind. But I was clear that I just didn’t approve of the words he had used and the humiliation it had caused. I made up my mind.

I interacted with him a few times on the phone over the next few days and the conversations were thankfully professional. But the hurt in me just refused to go. I wanted to talk to him in person. Finally, I had to go to his office and decided to talk to him. We had  a discussion for some time and then I brought it up. I reminded him about the incident and told him how bad I had felt by his words. He just couldn’t comprehend at first and then when he did, he said that he didn’t mean it in that way. I replied that what ever way he had meant it, I didn’t find it appropriate and his words had upset me deeply. He said that he would never humiliate anyone and that he called even their office help as ‘Bai-ma’. I told him that all that was fine but his words had caused me a lot of pain. At that point, he got furious and told me that there was no point in talking to me as I just don’t ‘understand’. I told him not to bother and just moved away.

I was telling myself that I shouldn’t break down there and was trying to control my emotions. What do I call this attitude , I was struggling to think. Was it just a co-incidence that I happened to be a woman and he was insinuating I couldn’t ‘understand’ because of that? I know these are painfully personal feelings and chances are some one else might not have reacted in the same way I did. But it was me. So, I would react in the way I deemed right.

He came up to me after some time and started the conversation again. He apologised and said that he didn’t really mean to humiliate me and if his words had made me feel just that, then he was really sorry about that. He went on to add that he respected women and wouldn’t ever do something disrespectful  to women. That’s what I had wanted! I had wanted him to see that he just couldn’t talk anything how ever angry he might have been and get away with it. I very graciously ‘accepted’ his apology. I felt so light and relieved.

Does one have to fight against ‘physical’ harassment alone.. What about the other so many forms of subtle and not so subtle verbal ones.. What is your experience..

This is written for the I stood up Blogathon contest by Womensweb

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From → Life

10 Comments
  1. I have faced similar situation. My boss shouted at me but after sometime he himself came and apologized. Its normal to get angry. But one should control his/her words.Wise people realize their mistakes soon and come forward to apologize.

    • Decent of your boss to have realised for himself and apologise..problem is when some people don’t even realise the effect of their words..in this case, I don’t think he would have ever felt what he said wasn’t right..that’s why I had to make sure he got the message

  2. Really humiliating…good he came around the second time atleast. You taught him the right lesson.

    • Yeah..didn’t want to feel horrible throughout that I had let someone humiliate me and not do anything about it.

  3. It’s great you took the initiative to communicate to the client that his behaviour was uncivil and uncalled for. Normally clients are treated at par with God and we are ready to take anything they dish out – including bad behavior. Wish you luck for the contest.

    • Thanks Chattywren! Exactly..my dilemma was because of this client ‘equation’. It’s rather sad that most of the times, knowingly or unknowingly, we are conditioned to bend over our back to please clients. But, yes, I am glad to have made my point across to him.

  4. Kudos to you and a big pat on your back. Instead of letting it become a bad memory, you made it a proud moment 🙂 Really happy to read this 🙂 All the best with the contest. But you are already a winner and you know that, don’t you?

    • Thank you kismitoffeebar! You are so right..am sure it would have haunted me for the rest of my life had I not spoken 🙂 Thanks for those sweet words.. of course I didn’t win the contest but glad I posted this because of the contest 🙂

  5. Hey Hugs to you Nithvin…
    You really stood up…and as you pointed out there are so many subtle and not so subtle verbal harrassments that women go through…

    • Hi T2M! Nice to hear from you after a long time.. I suppose your comp. is fine now 🙂
      Yeah..true, right..

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