What action does Infosys plan to take in the wake of its HR manager's arrest?
When bad things happen to good companies, it can often lead to a systemic change. When we read that an HR (human resource) manager at Infosys, which aspires to the highest standards of corporate governance, was arrested for the brutal murder of his wife, there was a sense of shock. What the company’s management wants for its employees was clearly at odds with the mind of a manager, whose very job function was empathy and welfare. So how should Infosys react? Let it go as being beyond its control or examine its recruitment policies for key job functions?
Let’s go back to 2003, to see how Infosys dealt with a similar crisis; or probably a bigger one, because Phaneesh Murthy, who was accused of sexual harassment was one of its senior-most executives, a marketing whiz and someone who was in line to head the company. Infosys took a tough decision then—one that was admired by women’s rights groups around the country. It investigated the matter internally, decided to let Phaneesh Murthy go and also entered into a settlement with Reka Maximovitch who had filed the case against him. It was the first ever cash-settlement in a sexual harassment case (a few years later, there was another quiet, almost unpublicised case, by a cola company with the film star Sushmita Sen). In the Infosys case, the company refused to attack the woman’s character, probably to protect itself from the possible embarrassment of dirty linen being washed in public. The settlement caused many leading Indian companies to start sensitising employees about what constitutes sexual harassment and also putting in place committees to deal with it.
So what does Infosys plan to do in the wake of its HR manager’s arrest? We think that it can consider introducing psychographic profiling/tests, at least, for those who are hired into a function that requires nurturing, assessment and enforcing discipline. We hear from NR Narayana Murthy and HR director, Mohandas Pai, that it has already started work in this direction. Let us see what Infosys comes up with; it will probably become a template for the rest of industry. — Sucheta Dalal