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Taking Advantage of Privileges

The elephant in the room while discussing empowerment of women is whether women take undue advantage of the special privileges that companies offer them, and does that then bring into play a sort of reverse bias?

Nobody likes to talk about this fact lest it be seen as politically incorrect and reflect badly on the whole gender equality issue. But I think it is very important to address it upfront, if not for any other reason than to separate the chaff from the grain and fuzzy impressions from unambiguous reality.

So I took a long hard look across several years, at all the HR issues I have seen regarding privileges. And believe me I used a magnifying glass of terrifying intensity!

And this is my submission to you: Yes, there are most definitely employees who take advantage of the softer side of any organization and exploit its good intentions; but there is no empirical evidence to suggest that women do it more than men. In fact laziness or unwillingness to work is certainly not gender specific, neither is the inability to cope with stress.

For example, most organizations will have one or two employees who are always going through some personal crisis or another. It is as if bad luck singles out only those chosen few. So we had a market head who invariably fell sick with every single ailment doing the rounds; he also had several friends who constantly needed his personal intervention in a far away city to save them from some catastrophe; and to top it all, deaths in the family with alarming regularity.

Initially all of us felt extremely sorry for him and wondered how some one could be so ill fortuned, till his grandmother passed away for the third time! Then we had to politely tell him that maybe the time had come to make place for a person who could devote more hours to work and that maybe he personally would benefit if he took up full time employment with his relatives and friends.

But again, as I said this behaviour exists both in men and women. A woman employee who was ostensibly on a longish sick leave posted pictures of herself holidaying abroad on Facebook! Obviously she is now an ex-employee.

However in nine cases out of ten wherever women have got special privileges like flexi timing, I have seen them work far more responsibly and with extra effort during the time they are in office. In fact an ex colleague who is working from home these days was telling me how guilty she feels if she gets up to make lunch or do some household chore during the typical ‘office hours’.

Do you agree or have you had contrary experiences which you would like to share?