What prevents Indian companies from formulating a guideline to include the ‘significant others’? HRKatha finds out.
Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, should have paid heed to the old adage, ‘you don’t dip your pen in the company ink.’ Krzanich had to resign because of a violation of the Company’s non-fraternisation policy, which forbids managers from dating employees. It also speaks volumes about the Company’s zero tolerance policy on account of the #metoo movement, which has gained momentum globally.
What is all this fuss about the non-fraternisation policy? Such a policy globally prohibits supervisors from getting into a relationship with subordinates and vice versa, and they can refuse to hire married couple.
Most importantly, such relationships raise issues of equity, fairness and favouritism regarding the involved employees’ work responsibilities, salary, and/or career progress.
At work, people are bothered that decisions are not based upon extraneous reasons. It hasn’t yet struck the Indian companies to expand it to significant others. However, it is coming up in a different way and the POSH Act has made organisations sensitive to the fact that possible claims of harassment could arise if people have relationships within the organisation.
The non-fraternisation policy in Intel came into effect during 2011, in the middle of the reign of Paul Otellini, the former Intel CEO who passed away in 2017. Sandra was his second wife whom he met at Intel.
In fact, even before this, Robert Noyce, cofounder of Intel, had married an Intel employee. Ann Bowers began working in human resources at Intel in 1970, and Bowers and Noyce got married in 1974.
However, fraternisation was not encouraged at Intel even after some high-profile relationships were witnessed in the past.
Now sample this: According to CareerBuilder’s Annual Valentine’s Day Survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, office romance in the US is at a 10-year low, with only 36 per cent of workers reporting dating a co-worker. This is down from 41 per cent last year and 40 per cent in 2008. While 37 per cent of men say they have dated a co-worker, only 35 per cent of women follow the same path. One in five male workers (20 per cent) say they have dated someone at work two or more times in their career, compared to just 15 per cent of their women colleagues.
In India, it is not about the lack of a policy but more about the courage to speak about their relationships because people are scared about how it will be perceived and received. At this point of time, India is still not there.
Back home, have Indian companies woken up to this policy? Not really. Most companies have a policy on nepotism, which prevents related individuals (pertaining to birth or marriage) from working in the same company or department. It has been formulated to prevent the employers from taking undue advantage within their circle of influence.
Some companies have ethics committees wherein individuals falling under a chain of command need to declare to the reporting authority or the board about such a relation.
However, the purview of this policy has not been extended to include a ‘dating relationship’ with another employee yet.
“At work, people are bothered that decisions are not based upon extraneous reasons. It hasn’t yet struck the Indian companies to expand it to significant others. However, it is coming up in a different way and the POSH Act has made organisations sensitive to the fact that possible claims of harassment could arise if people have relationships within the organisation,” says Pradeep Mukerjee, founder and director of Confluence Coaching & Consulting.
Somehow, Indian culture relates these aspects with morality and leaves it to the judgment of the people at large. Organisations also prefer to keep a blind eye until such relationships have a business impact, people impact or a brand impact.
“Enhancing the coverage to ‘significant others’, gives a message to others who are likely to get into a relation,” opines Mukerjee.
“In India, it is not about the lack of a policy but more about the courage to speak about their relationships because people are scared about how it will be perceived and received. At this point of time, India is still not there,” says SV Nathan, partner and chief talent officer at Deloitte India.
Companies in India don’t have clarity when it comes to dealing with fraternisation in respect to dating the team member as long as it is not formally established. This is very critical to ensure that there is no conflict of interest and from consistency and transparency perspective which helps in creating the right culture.
“Somehow, Indian culture relates these aspects with morality and leaves it to the judgment of the people at large. Organisations also prefer to keep a blind eye until such relationships have a business impact, people impact or a brand impact,” says Rajiv Naithani, Head of HR, Infogain India.
Many organisations didn’t think about having such a policy to that effect in India because of implementation issues. “It seems difficult to implement such a policy because defining such a relationship isn’t easy, as it could be casual or serious. Besides this, checking the degree of impact of such a relationship within the organisation is also not easy in a large organisation,” says a senior HR practitioner.
“Since the area is not well defined and is still grey, any other form of relationship which doesn’t have a legal validity has not been covered in policy documentation,” says a HR leader on condition of anonymity.
However, some believe that going forward it is necessary to have a guideline with more women joining the workforce. “There needs to be some clarity otherwise people will tiptoe around such an issue, and nobody handling it directly or talking to the two people concerned also sometimes create a noise in the system which is not a healthy space,” she explains.
Another thing is the moral view of this issue, which might differ for each individual and lead to an unfair treatment. “It doesn’t serve the employer and the employee if the area is left completely undefined,” concludes the HR leader.