Yelling, shouting, and verbal abuse are unfortunately prevalent in various workplaces, as highlighted by the recent ‘HDFC video’ incident. In the said video, Pushpal Roy, senior vice president, RBB, HDFC Bank, is seen shouting at his team members during a sales meeting call.
It raises the question of whether this behaviour has always existed but remained hidden or if it’s only now gaining attention due to viral videos. It is indeed a regrettable reality that some individuals resort to negative and unprofessional actions in professional settings.
In certain high-pressure industries or environments where aggressive or competitive behaviour is encouraged, there is a higher likelihood of witnessing such conduct. Sales-driven organisations, for instance, often emphasise meeting targets and achieving results, which can create an atmosphere that fosters aggressive behaviour as a means of motivating or pushing employees.
Talking about the HDFC incident, Bhuvaneswar Naik, CHRO, Lentra, says that regardless of whether the video gains widespread attention or not, it is crucial for companies to take immediate responsibility and thoroughly investigate the incident.
The video reveals disrespectful behaviour that contradicts the company’s core values. It is essential that swift and uncompromising measures be taken to address the situation. “Companies must not waver in upholding their values, particularly when it comes to promoting respect and ensuring that employees treat one another with dignity and professionalism. If the video depicts behaviour that runs counter to these values, it is imperative that the organisation respond decisively,” says Naik.
“Engaging in disrespectful or inappropriate behaviour not only reflects poorly on the individual but also tarnishes the reputation and credibility of the organisation as a whole.”
Bhuvaneswar Naik, CHRO, Lentra
Naik opines that employees act as representatives of the organisation’s culture and values. It is their responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that aligns with the company’s principles. He says, “Engaging in disrespectful or inappropriate behaviour not only reflects poorly on the individual but also tarnishes the reputation and credibility of the organisation as a whole.”
Possible reasons behind these outbursts
According to Sunil Singh, senior HR leader and founder, Mindstream Consulting, the blame for the ruckus captured in the video can be attributed to multiple factors and individuals. He says, “If the video had not gone viral, the incident might have remained unnoticed or swept under the rug, allowing such behaviour to persist unchecked. It is possible that similar incidents have occurred in the past without being addressed appropriately.”
It is important to recognise that power dynamics within the employer-employee relationship play a significant role in how such situations unfold. Employees often find themselves in a vulnerable position, feeling compelled to comply with the behaviour of those in positions of authority to protect their careers or livelihoods. This power imbalance can hinder the reporting of misconduct or create an environment where individuals believe they must tolerate mistreatment.
Singh suggests that, for such issues, it is crucial for organisations to foster a culture of respect and accountability. “This requires top management and leaders to take the initiative in setting the tone and actively engaging in initiatives that promote a healthy work environment. Merely engaging in superficial engagement activities is not enough; there must be genuine efforts to create a culture where employees feel safe and empowered to speak up,” adds Singh.
In sales-driven organisations, for example, there may be a focus on meeting targets at any cost, which can lead to undue pressure on employees and an environment where abusive behaviour is tolerated. This must be challenged, and mechanisms should be in place to protect employees from burnout and ensure their well-being.
“If the video had not gone viral, the incident might have remained unnoticed or swept under the rug, allowing such behaviour to persist unchecked. It is possible that similar incidents have occurred in the past without being addressed appropriately.”
Sunil Singh, senior HR leader and founder, Mindstream Consulting
Singh further adds that, in the aftermath of the video going viral, it is not sufficient for the organisation to simply distance itself from the incident. “It is necessary to introspect, understand why such incidents occur, and take comprehensive measures to prevent their recurrence,” says Singh.
Singh notes that while the video may appear to be disturbing, however, it is actually a polite version of what usually happens in the sales meeting of many other organisations.
When discussing responsibilities, it is essential to acknowledge that they may not be limited to a single individual or position within the organisation. Managers, leaders, and top management should assume responsibility for the behaviour displayed by their subordinates and take immediate action to rectify any misconduct.
In many corporate settings, there is an unfortunate prevalence of disrespectful conduct, which some individuals have become accustomed to over time. This may lead to a culture where inappropriate behaviour, such as verbal abuse or harassment is normalised and goes unreported. The notion of ‘playing hard’ or engaging in unprofessional conduct may be prevalent, particularly in certain industries like sales, where high-pressure environments are common.
It is important to recognise that companies have an obligation to implement appropriate mechanisms to address any wrongdoing or misconduct that may arise within their ranks. These mechanisms should provide a platform for investigating incidents, implementing remedial measures, and holding individuals accountable for their actions. Even in cases where an employee may be underperforming or facing performance issues, resorting to yelling or unprofessional behaviour is never justified. Instead, there are more effective and respectful methods for dealing with such situations.
What can an organisation do?
Leadership plays a vital role in shaping the organisational culture. Managers and executives must lead by example and demonstrate respectful behaviour in all interactions. They should be mindful of the language they use, avoid abusive or demeaning comments, and treat employees with fairness and empathy.
Kamlesh Dangi, group head, human resources, InCred, suggests that, first and foremost, organisations should establish clear guidelines and policies that explicitly define acceptable behaviour in the workplace. These guidelines should emphasise respectful communication, collaboration, and the importance of treating colleagues with dignity. By setting these expectations from the outset, companies can promote a culture of professionalism and mutual respect.
“Once such behaviour is brought to their attention, organisations must investigate promptly and take appropriate action. This can involve disciplinary measures, providing counselling or training to the individuals involved, or implementing corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents”
Kamlesh Dangi, group head, human resources, InCred
Dangi expresses his opinions and says it is essential for HR departments and leaders to be attentive to any signs of inappropriate behaviour.
“Creating an open and trusting environment where employees feel comfortable reporting incidents is crucial. Once such behaviour is brought to their attention, organisations must investigate promptly and take appropriate action. This can involve disciplinary measures, providing counselling or training to the individuals involved, or implementing corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents,” opines Dangi.
Additionally, organisations should prioritise employee well-being by promoting regular communication channels for feedback and grievances. Encouraging open dialogue and providing avenues for employees to express concerns or seek support can help prevent the escalation of inappropriate behaviour.
It’s important for companies to establish a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying and abusive behaviour and hold individuals accountable for their actions. By doing so, organisations can create a healthier and more inclusive work environment that promotes employee well-being and productivity.