When Colleagues Turn Romantic

Posted: May 15, 2010

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An incident that took place long back keeps coming back to my mind every now and then. I belong to an older generation and my career has not been particularly difficult, so I had it easy. Not so the current bunch of ambitious young women. They have goals in mind and work hard to reach them. In the course of their interaction with their male colleagues, they sometimes find themselves in unpleasant situations. How much of the blame should be accorded to whom is my question.

Take for instance the case of PP. She landed a job in far off Ahmedabad in a small company. Her job was interesting as well as challenging. The average age of her company’s employees was around 25. Her boss was just 2 years older than her. It was the culture in their office to call the boss by his first name. Western influence perhaps? Everyone including her boss treated PP as a friend rather than a subordinate. When her parents visited her for the first time she was at the station to receive them. It was a Sunday and the train being late, she asked her boss to give her company while she waited for them to arrive.
In the days that followed there was considerable interaction between PP’s parents and her office colleagues. They all seemed a decent lot and nothing seemed out of place even to their experienced eyes. So when they started looking out for a suitable match for their daughter they were surprised when two of her colleagues started harassing her – one being her boss himself. The girl herself was at her wits’ end and found it easier to tell the boss that her parents were just looking for a suitable match but had not found one yet, rather than tell him outright that she was not interested in him and preferred to marry a person chosen by her parents. This in fact acted as a deterrent to the other colleague who withdrew himself on hearing about the interest shown by his boss in her.
The trouble started when she finally got engaged to a person of her parents’ choice. The boss threatened to make life hell for her if she dared to marry someone else. She had no option but to ask her parents to intervene. Finally after ascertaining that she really had no interest in him, they spoke to him as well as his parents and sorted things out. Her fianc was informed but he took it in his stride and did not worry too much. Today she is married and happily settled in Dubai having put the incident behind her. But the whole episode left me wondering who was to be blamed in all this. According to her parents there was nothing in her behavior that suggested that she was even remotely interested in him. How then did he get the impression that she was?
The answer perhaps lay in the explanation given by a senior colleague of mine. According to him, girls may not think much of getting odd chores done by a male colleague. An innocent request of getting a few pages photocopied can put ideas into some guys’ heads. One never knows which of them would be hoarding romantic ideas about her even without her knowledge. Is it therefore in her own interest that a girl needs to draw a line and make her position very clear? But then the girl’s fiance did not worry too much which is again indicative that such incidents do happen and no one worries too much about it. With more and more children taking up jobs in distant places I suppose this too is part of their career experience.

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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