Sunday, May 31, 2009

A wake up call

In today’s environment of equal rights and awareness about prevention of harassment of any kind, an incident which a young lady professional wrote to me is a rude wake up call. This young retail professional has done her management studies and used to work with a leading organisation. To say that I am shocked by what she mentions is an understatement.

it was a kind of torture.... my store manager want me to stay after 9:30 in the store.... he misbehaved... I complained but nothing worked.... nothing will happen as everyone is aware, but still do the same.....

I am not naive enough to think that this could be the only or first such incident. Also, I am aware that I have heard only one side of the story. However, I am publishing this and hope the following happens –

1. People who are exposed to such harassment are encouraged to stand up and fight.
2. Retail, which not only has many women employees but also depends on the goodwill of the housewife, should be especially sensitive to avoid any such harassment to the women staff.
3. With the expected growth in corporate retail, maybe it’s time to proactively create an employee ombudsman. Such a neutral arbitrator would encourage employees to come forward more confidently instead of losing faith in the system, like the person who mentioned this incident.
4. Lastly, there should be an open and secure channel of communication to the senior-most management level. This should be championed by the senior leadership and well publicised. Let us remember that most of the store staff are young and might be graduates at best. Their natural inhibition itself would be a barrier to report/ complain which can be easily exploited.

The prevalence of harassment is there in almost every industry. However, in retail it has enormous significance. If women face such situations and also lose hope that the organisation does not bother, the industry loses both an employee and a consumer! Which housewife would be comfortable shopping in a store which allows women to be harassed?

In the coming days of competition, no retailer can afford to lose either.


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