The topic of sexual harassment at work has again come to fore in recent times thanks to Tarun Tejpal. Flick to any news channel, you are likely to come across a panel discussion on the same (only displaced by one on elections). Reams have been written on the subject and how the guilty gets away more often than not while the victim lives with trauma and stigma for years to come not to mention damage to her career.
However there is another workplace menace that never gets the same print space or even mind space for that matter – use of sexual favours to rise up the career ladder.
Before I proceed any further, let me clarify that this topic has nothing do with the incident at Tehelka. I am as disgusted by Tejpal as everybody else and I hope that he pays for his deeds.
With that ‘disclaimer’ out of the way, let us come back to this phenomenon that happens often but is seldom discussed.
Pick any industry, media, banking, education etc., all of them have their version of ‘casting couch’.
Unfortunately there are no laws against this as the relationship is ‘consensual’. No one talks about the trauma and frustration faced by deserving employees whose career growth is unfairly stalled because they chose to keep their pants on. They suffer dual humiliation from the boss and his ‘pet’ and are saddled with HR mumbo jumbo in the name of explanation for denial of promotion/opportunities. I am sure that most readers would know at least one person who has suffered this fate.
What compounds this problem is that the existence of these clandestine relationships can’t be proved and organizations are only too happy to look to other way as long as results are being delivered. Employees treated badly have little recourse and it is not uncommon for them to lose their drive and motivation.
However this weapon of ‘sleep your way to the top’ is not only used by women alone. There is no dearth of young men willing to be ‘toy boys’ in the hands of their female bosses. Even providing ‘spouses’ to bosses is something that is not completely unheard of, as sick as that is.
The first move towards initiation can be made either party. In some cases, a senior manager with a ‘roving eye’ is all the invitation as aspiring junior needs. Conversely in many organizations, top bosses chose management trainees to serve on their team based on how the level of flirtations and accidental ‘free-shows’ they received during the orientation program. In cases of lateral movement or inter-department transfers, necessary ‘feedback’ is taken from fellow partners in crime.
In conclusion, corporate world is far from fair and many idealistic individuals get a rude reality check once they enter it. While I don’t have any statistics to back my claim, I am certain that the menace of using sexual favours for career advancement is as if not more rampant as sexual harassment at workplace. Unfortunately for many, it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves.
Culled by: Vivieanne Danielle