The year was 1988. I had just then joined one of the leading FMCG companies as a Territory Sales Manager.
In fact I joined the FMCG company after working for about seven years with Cipla. For me it was a shift from Pharma to FMCG, a change that I sought very actively. As I was new to the sector, I was told that I would have to go through a training period of six months, and a probation period of six months. I accepted the offer willingly with a lots of excitement. I was very impressed especially by the HR team that was then led by a well known HR personality who even today has lots of reverence in the industry. In fact this HR Head had later become one of the Directors on the board of the global company itself. A fantastic, accessible and fair man.
The FMCG company was well known then (and even now) for its systems and processes across functions, and many of its former employees have gone on to become CEOs of leading companies in India and abroad. The company is today an institution by itself generating a large pool of extraordinary talent year after year who do very well wherever they go.
Coming back to my case, with a well structured program, encouragement and support of my then colleagues, I was able to learn a lot within a short period of time and had begun the turnaround of the territory’s performance that was earlier performing poorly for two consecutive years. With my track record of the turnaround and building of my team, I was very sure that my confirmation at the end of the year would be a walk over.
But that was not to be. To my shock and horror. My then boss handed over me a letter informing me that my probation has been extended by three months beyond six months of training and six months of probation. I asked him the reasons for extension of probation. He told me that although I had performed very well during the period, the only reason for probation extension was that I could not adapt myself to the FMCG culture.
I thought about the whole situation and decided to SPEAK UP.
I asked my then boss to explain his understanding of culture and why he felt that I had not adapted and adjusted to the culture of the organisation. As his explanation could not convince me, instead of suffering from within, I chose to speak to the HR team at the headquarters and sought a one on one meeting.
I met the HR Manager who felt that I had a case and put me on to the VP-HR. He listened to me patiently and then requested the VP-Sales to look into the matter immediately. Within a fortnight the VP-Sales travelled along with me for a few days, working with me across the width and breadth of my territory to see my work in person. At the end of his joint work with me, the VP-Sales gave me his feedback that he is absolutely satisfied with my work, and will take appropriate steps immediately reg my confirmation.
Within the next few days, I got a call from the VP-HR that I would receive my confirmation letter shortly by mail with retrospective effect. He also apologised for the entire episode and the impact that it had on me. My joy knew no bounds. I have a great admiration not only for this HR personality but also for the systems and processes put in place by this world class organisation to address any grievance.
I am sure that many of us have faced this kind of a situation at work and I realise it is important to SPEAK UP! If we don’t stand for ourselves, who will?