Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another Incident of Playing Politics by the Branch Manger

      Before writing further about my struggle with the branch manager in The Hindu, I have to write something about the then Managing Director, who was also the publisher of The Hindu. He was kind of an eccentric man. I knew nothing about him or his method of conducting business except one or two incidents involving him. If he finds someone in the office doing some unpleasant things, the first thing he would say is “Fire him.”  Of course, he would not pursue the matter further, but the office staff in the head office will shiver at the sight of him.

       I have heard about one such incident in which an employee was smoking outside the office. Being a newspaper office, no one would smoke inside the premises. When he saw him smoking, he told some officer who was accompanying him to fire him, but as usual, he did not pursue the matter further, and the staff was left alone.

       In another incident, once while he was vacationing in Ootacamund, some boys from Chennai, who were also vacationing in the same hotel, approached him with a complaint that they were getting The Hindu at their home in Chennai very late and requested him to do something and help them get the paper delivered to their home earlier.

      He immediately telephoned the Chennai office, and informed the staff in the circulation department that the concerned agent should be fired immediately.  The agent was then summoned to the office immediately, and he had to explain a lot and promise to deliver copies of The Hindu earlier to his subscribers, and only after a lot of explaining by the agent that he was allowed to remain as an agent of The Hindu in Chennai.

      In both cases, the concerned persons could get away with their mistakes – if any – only because the staff of The Hindu did not want to fire them. If someone in The Hindu had something against them, they would have used those incidents as an excuse to get rid of them even if they did not deserve such a punishment for their mistakes. 

       I want to the readers to bear this in mind while considering what would have happened to me in one such incident where I was involved directly with a work relating to the Managing Director.

       The Hindu is published by a company that is a wholly family owned one. Many of the family members visit Ootacamund during the summer season, and they maintain a guest house there for their summer holidays. During May-July every year, some members of The Hindu family on their way to Ootacamund will visit the Coimbatore office. Sometimes, before their visit to Ootacamund, furniture and many other things will be sent from the Coimbatore office to Ootacamund guest house.

        During such time, the manager will inform me to see that those things that have to be sent to the Ootacamund guest house are sent on the same day they reach the Coimbatore office and that no delay would be tolerated by the management.

       The branch manager would call me around 9 to 9:30 p.m. on those days to specifically inform me about sending things to Ootacamund guest house, and he will inform me that if he driver of the Ootacamund transport say that there is not enough space to take all those things that are meant for the Ootacamund guest house, the manager would tell me that I can ask the driver to leave some or all of the newspaper parcels of the day in the office itself and that he must take the things meant for the guest house first on that day itself.

       Of course, some drivers, who sometimes say that there was not enough space, when he was told about this choice to them, he would invariable make space and take all the parcels meant for the guest house as well as all the newspaper parcels.  Everyone understands that the management does not want to take it literally, but it is meant to emphasize the urgency of sending the parcels to the guest house without delay.

       One year, for the dog show held in Ootacamund, an application form was sent from the Chennai office to the Coimbatore office to be sent to the guest house in Ootacamund, where there were some staff to look after those matters.  Usually, when such documents are sent, it is noted in a log note, and after sending the document to Ootacamund through the transport driver, I would make a note that the document has been sent with the date of dispatch. 

       The application for the dog show was sent on a day when I was not attending the dispatch work, and my friend was looking after the dispatch work on that day. The application was not sent on that day, and my friend did not tell me about the letter to be sent through the Ootacamund transport driver, nor did the branch manager call me at around 9 p.m. about this.  when I came to the dispatch work the next day, I found the letter with a note made on the previous day that the letter should be sent to Ootacamund the previous day. I sent that letter on that day to Ootacamund through the driver of that transport.

       Immediately, I realized that something was wrong, and I could not take a chance of just informing the branch manager about this, because if there was any delay and the application could not reach in time for it to be accepted, I thought that the consequences would be terrible for me, and I would know about whether it reached in time or not only after that terrible things had happened to me or nothing would happen if that application reached in time.

       I did not want to take a chance on that and I decided to do some whistle blowing job to save myself from being sent away from the dispatch work because I knew that the manger who wanted to get rid of me would use this as an excuse if the application did not reach in time for it to be accepted. I wrote a letter to the Circulation manager about this in detail as a preemptive measure.

       Nothing happened for a few days, and I realized that the letter had reached in time.  A few days later, by the activities of the branch manager and the staff, I realized that the letter I sent to the circulation manager reached him, and the news about such a letter being received by the circulation manager has reached the branch office also. Within a few days, I came to know that the circulation manager will be visiting the branch office soon, and I was asked to be present during the daytime on the day that he visited the office. What happened on that day and the ensuing days, I will write in the next post.