Sexual harassment, Corporate culture and Julie Gallagher

“Display or dissemination of materials (such as cartoons, articles, pictures, etc.), which have a sexual, racial, or other protected nature that is not necessary for work may constitute harassment.”

  • Code of Ethics, C.H Robinson


In 1985, Govind Nihalani made movie on industrial relations called – Aghaat. One of the characters in the movie was a lady welfare officer, who is exploited by head of personnel department, her husband and by union leader. The corporate world of late eighties was quite hostile to women; words like diversity, gender sensitivity, sexual harassment were unheard of.


Few years back I met a lady who started her career sometime in late eighties. The organisation had a workers union and union leaders were quite powerful. This lady earlier belonged to worker category and was member of union, soon she got promoted and joined officer’s cadre. Some of her colleagues did not like this, they started targeting her by spreading rumours about her having affair with her boss. One day someone put a cartoon on notice board depicting her as cow and her boss milking her. She complained to her boss and head of personnel department. The cartoon was removed and but no action was taken against anyone as personnel head was more interested in maintaining cordial relations with union leaders than take action on such “trivial issues”.

harassment lab law

There is a nice phrase in Kannada language- Swalpa Adjust Maadi, which means “Please adjust a little”. The lady was asked to “adjust a little” and not to pursue the matter further.

Has corporate world changed in last 30 years?  Case of Julie Gallagher shows that, not much has changed in terms of attitude towards women, but women today are more aware of their rights and can sue organisation.

Julie Gallagher worked with Trucking Company C.H Robinson as sales representative. She worked in that organisation for four months (September 2002- December 2002). During her employment with that organisation, she was exposed on a daily basis to derogatory, gender-specific language by her branch manager and male co-workers who referred to women as “bitches,” “sluts,” “whores”.  Male employees brought into the office and shared with each other photographs of their naked girlfriends. Gallagher was also exposed to pornographic images in the magazines, which were openly kept on desks and images of naked women on computer monitors. Gallagher could not avoid hearing the derogatory comments and sexual discussions and jokes, or seeing the graphic sexual images in the office, due to the open office configuration and the loud voices in which the men spoke.

sexual harressment

“C.H. Robinson requires each employee to help keep the Company free from discrimination or harassment. Any employee aware of possible violations of these policies is required to report the situation so that the situation can be investigated and appropriately addressed.”

–  Code of Ethics, C.H Robinson

In addition, in Branch manager’s presence, male co-workers   joked about Gallagher’s weight calling her “a heifer with milking udders”, others joked that C.H Robinson covered two quotas by hiring Gallagher-the girl quota and the fat quota. She complained to her branch manager, who didn’t take any action. Finally she decided to resign and sue the organisation.

Surprisingly, the trial court dismissed the case on following grounds…

  • Since men and women were both subjected to the same atmosphere, there’s no discrimination.
  • The harassment wasn’t severe enough and not directed at her.
  • Since she reported the harassment just to her manager and did not go to HR or call the company hotline, the employer is not liable.

But higher court reversed the decision of trial court, it considered behaviour of male employees as gross evidence of a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, remarking that even though members of both sexes were exposed to the offensive conduct in the office, considering the nature of the patently degrading and anti-female nature of the harassment, it stands to reason that women would suffer, as a result of the exposure, greater disadvantage in the terms and conditions of their employment than men. The court also emphasized that focus must be placed on the effects of the harassing conduct “on the victim-recipient.”


Kejriwal, Katiyabaaz and Price of Anarchy

“Yes, I am an anarchist”

  • Arvind Kejriwal , Chief Minister of Delhi on 20th Jan 2014.


Yesterday Arvind Kejriwal won landslide victory; people have raised him to iconic status. Opposition leaders are getting vicarious pleasure from Kerjriwal’s victory. Kejriwal will now have tough time in remaining humble. He has made lot of promises like cutting electricity bill by half, free Wi Fi, make Delhi a safe place for women, all illegal residential colonies will be made legal and so on.

power theft

A Mumbaikar like me cannot understand voting preferences of Delhities. But simple maths will tell you that to fulfil promises he needs money equal to 5 times the current budget. Question is how will he raise money? Either increase taxes or lower expenditure. Given his Santa Claus like image he can do neither. Plus he may have to go on strike on regular intervals to maintain his anarchist image.


One person who can help him in this Katiyabazz, local electricity thief, this person can give illegal electricity connections; this will lower electricity bills of lot of Delhities.  In fact it was his Katiyabazz like stunts that won Kejriwal earlier election. In this process electricity distribution companies will suffer, but then that is a small price to pay for populism.


Moving from politics to economics, the Price of Anarchy is a concept in game theory that measures how the efficiency of a system degrades due to selfish behaviour of its agents.

Let take an example of a town where 10 cars have to travel from point A to point B. They can take two routes, one is highway which takes 10 minutes and second is narrow road. Narrow road takes less time but there are certain conditions. If only one car travels, it will take one minute, if two cars travel at same time it will take 2 minutes and so on, if 10 cars enter narrow road, there will be chaos and it will take each car 10 minutes to cover the distance.

Given option everyone will opt for narrow road. City authorities decide to make a rule that 5 cars must take highway and rest will go via narrow road. Total commute time = 50 + 25= 75 minutes, so average travel time is 7.5 minutes. But during elections, to gain votes the city authorities decide to repeal the rule and now everyone is free to choose his own route. Result is all 10 cars start using narrow road, so average travel time is now 10 minutes. So average extra time is 2.5 minutes.

The Price of Anarchy here ratio of extra time over global optimum, i.e. 2.5 mins/7.5 mins, which is 33%.

Price of Anarchy has wide applications it can be applied to electrics power and communication networks.anarchist

Cournot’s Duopoly, IIM Nagpur and IMT Nagpur

For a long time Nagpur lacked a reputed management institute. Nagpur University had its department of business management, but it was stuck with outdated syllabus. In spite of outdated syllabus, students did quite well in their professional career. Unfortunately, Nagpur University could not take advantage of talented faculty and alumni base to upgrade itself.

Later IMT Gaziabad started its Nagpur Campus and Nagpur got a reputed management institute, now Chief Minister has announced that Nagpur will now have an Indian Institute of Management- IIM. IIM Nagpur will be mentored by IIM Ahmedabad.

There will be competition between IMT and IIM to attract brightest talent from Nagpur. Each of them will charge certain fees, now question is how many seats should each institute have to get maximum profit?


In Game theory, there is concept of Cournot’s Duopoly which helps in solving this problem. It is named after French philosopher and mathematician Antoine Augustin Cournot.

Everything starts with market demand; the market demand curve in turn is function of price and quantity. Let us assume that market curve is defined by equation

P= 120-0.5 Q

Where P is market price and Q is market quantity demanded. Here Q is sum of number of students who will either join IMT or IIM i.e. Q= q1 +q2, where q1 is number of seats IMT should have and q2 is number of seats IIM should have.

With this equation now becomes P= 120-0.5(q1 + q2).

There is certain cost which institute incurs on each student i.e. marginal cost, let us assume that for IMT it is MC1 and for IIM it is MC2. Let MC1 be 10 lakhs and MC2 be 11 lakhs.

To make profit the institutes should earn revenue to cover up the cost, for profit to be maximum marginal cost should be equal to marginal revenue. We have assumed marginal cost, now we need to calculate marginal revenue.

Let us first take case of IMT, for calculating marginal revenue say MR1, we need to first calculate total revenue.

Total revenue for IMT = Price x Quantity

Total revenue for IMT= TR1= P x q1= (120-0.5 q1-0.5 q2) x q1= 120q1-.05q1 q1-0.5 q1q2

To find marginal revenue we need to apply differential calculus to the equation i.e. dTR1/dq1, which will give us

MR1= dTR1/dq1= 120- q1-0.5 q2

For maximum profit MC1= MR1 i.e. 120-q1-0.5q2= 10 i.e. q1= 110- 0.5 q2

Similarly we can find Marginal revenue for IIM i.e MR2

Now MR2= dTR2/dq2= 120-0.5q1- q2, here profit will be maximum when q2= 109-0.5 q1

Solving two equations q1=110-0.5q2 and q2=109-0.5q1 we get q1= 74 and q2= 72.

So for given fee and market demand, both IMT and IIM should have 74 and 72 seats respectively to  make maximum profit.


Vitiligo, Self Esteem and Fashion Model

“Everyone can relate to being different. It’s not just me trying to be a role model. It’s my genuine opinion that it’s those quirks that make you gorgeous. Let whatever quirks you have shine.”

– Chantelle Brown-Young, Model


Dr. Sumati Kshetramade wrote a novel in Marathi on a girl who suffers from leukoderma. Later a novel with similar theme was written by Sudha Murthy in Kannada. The story is about girl belonging to lower middle class family. The girl is very good in studies and gets married to a doctor, later it is found that girl suffers from leukoderma, suddenly perception about her changes, now nobody wants her- neither her husband & in laws nor her parents and siblings. This in spite of fact that leukoderma is a cosmetic problem; it is neither infectious nor contagious.


I could relate to most of the events in this story. I belong to category of upper caste, lower middle class, Maharashtrian, where owner has to fulfil three tasks in his life time…

  1. Ensure that his son becomes doctor/engineer ( must) and goes to USA ( highly desirable)
  2. Ensure that his daughter gets married in a family that is economically better than his.
  3. With whatever money that is left after above two tasks are over, buy a house.

I know of a family (Uppercaste, lowermiddle class, Maharashtrian) where a couple had three daughters. Their mother suffered from leukoderma, fortunately none of the daughters showed signs of leukoderma. But none of them could get married. To know reason, one needs to understand mindset of uppercaste, lowermiddle class Maharastrian. To get your daughter married, she has to be flawless in terms of anatomy, character and genetics. The daughters in our case unfortunately were perceived to be having genetic defects. This may not be supported by statistics or genetics, but perception defies logic. In case of daughters, their self-confidence and self-esteem went for a toss, one of them tried to commit suicide, fortunately she survived.

Chantelle Brown- Young is a Canadian girl who suffers from Vitiligo, first spots started appearing when she was around 4 years old, and she was teased a lot by her friends. But she never let that affect her self-esteem. She was selected as model for Spanish brand Desigual.



“Desigual stands for being unusual and unique and atypical, so they figured I’d be the perfect person for that…They had a new line that had a lot of dots. And some of my skin patterns are dots. In the campaign video, there’s a part where the dot on a scarf lines up perfectly with a dot I have on my waist, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

– Chantelle Brown- Young







Decision Making, Tolerance to Ambiguity and Regret Theory

“Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.”

-Sigmund Freud

Colin Shaw is expert on subject of customer experience. In today’s world to manage customer’s experience you have to be agile, innovative and able to deal with ambiguity as there may not be a readymade solution.  Kano Model shows that what delights a customer today may become basic need tomorrow- ask manufacturers of mobile phones.

kano model

Change is the only certainty in this world today and the pace of change is ever increasing. We all know that change isn’t easy. Every day that passes we need to deal with an increasing amount of ambiguity. Ambiguity creates complexity and means decision making is difficult. Ambiguity creates uncertainty and stress. However, to be successful in business today you need to be good at dealing with ambiguity.

– Colin Shaw


To deal with ambiguity you need decision making skills. There are statistical models which help you in decision making. There is lot of literature available on this. Here well will deal with some aspects of decision making.


There are 3 models of decision making under uncertainty- Maximax, Maximin and Minimax. For last model- Minimax ,  we also need understanding of Regret Theory.

Regret theory says that people anticipate regret if they make a wrong choice, and take this anticipation into consideration when making decisions. Fear of regret can play a large role in dissuading or motivating someone to do something.

decision making

If you are an optimist then you will usually go for Maximax .The maximax looks at the best that could happen under each action and then chooses the action with the largest value. It assumes that a person will get the most possible and then take the action with the best case scenario.

If you are a pessimist then you will go for Maximin. The maximin person looks at the worst that could happen under each action and then choose the action with the largest payoff. They assume that the worst that can happen will, and then they take the action with the best worst case scenario.

If you are opportunist and believe in regret theory, then you will go for Minimax . Minimax decision making is based on opportunistic loss. Opportunist looks back after the state of nature has occurred and says “Now that I know what happened, if I had only picked this other action instead of the one I actually did, I could have done better”. So for decision making (before the event occurs), he creates an opportunistic loss (or regret) table. Then he takes the minimum of the maximum.

Ex. if you were given an option to decide how much money you can invest in project, you construct a table with amount you would like to invest in different scenarios.




In given table an optimist will first look at best scenario table and look for highest profit i.e. invest Rs.4000, as he can earn Rs.400 in best scenario. Pessimist will first look at worst scenario table and then look for minimum loss i.e. invests Rs.1000, so that in worst case he will end up losing at the most Rs. 50.

An opportunist will construct a regret table i.e. how much amount he had to forego (opportunity loss) by taking a particular decision. He will then look at each row and highlight the maximum amount in each row. He will then chose one with minimum loss i.e. invest Rs. 3000 as opportunity loss here is least i.e. Rs.100.

Butterfly Effect, Shirin Dalvi and Charlie Hebdo

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world

– Chaos Theory

Meteorologist Edward Lorenz proved that seemingly insignificant factors can have a huge effect on the overall outcome. This was called as Chaos Theory. The Chaos Theory explores the effects of small occurrences dramatically affecting the outcomes of seemingly unrelated events.

The Butterfly effect is a term used in Chaos Theory to describe how small changes to a seemingly unrelated thing or condition (also known as an initial condition) can affect large, complex systems. The term comes from the suggestion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect the weather in Texas, meaning that the tiniest influence on one part of a system can have a huge effect on another part.


Chaos Theory - a butterfly flaps its wings...

I don’t know if Shirin Davli, Editor of Mumbai edition of Lucknow based newspaper Avadhnama knew about Butterfly Effect, but I am sure she will now start believing in Butterfly effect.

In September 2012 French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, this created lot of unrest in Muslim world. On 7th January 2015, two gunmen killed 12 staff members of Charlie Hebdo. On January 14th Charlie Hebdo published cartoon of Prophet on front page.

These events happened it Paris which is far away from South Mumbai and Mumbra, a suburb of Thane. But the butterfly had started flapping its wings in Paris and its effects were to be felt in Mumbai.

butterfly poster

A Mumbai based media firm owned by Shirin Dalvi got permission to publish Mumbai edition of Lucknow based newspaper called Avadhnama. The newspaper was read in areas with significant Muslim population like Mumbra and South Mumbai ( Byculla).

While publishing an article in her newspaper, she printed front page of Charlie Hebdo which contained cartoon of Prophet. She later realised her mistake and apologised, but by then some members of Muslim community and police were after her. She was arrested and later granted bail. The daily has shut down its office and stopped publication. Shirin has gone into hiding, but around 25 employees of Avadhnama are now jobless.

It was a mistake and I had no intention to hurt the feelings of my community. Like any other Muslim, I deeply respect Prophet Mohammed – Peace Be Upon Him.”

  • Shirin Dalvi , Avadhnama.


While Shirin says that it was a printing mistake, the employees don’t agree with her. They feel that it was done deliberately to close down daily and to get rid of employees.

“The entire incident was planned to get out of the legal, financial and monetary obligations that the owners were bound to as part of the agreement of running the paper. The paper was facing financial problems and this incident was scripted to shut down the paper and get rid of all present and former employees who were not paid their salaries”

– Saeed Hameed, former Editor of Avadhnama.

But story does not end here; police have arrested newspaper vendors Sharif Ahamad Shaikh and Salman Kalam Shaikh for selling Avadhnama! At this rate many believe that police will now arrest people for reading Avadhnama!

If this sounds ridiculous, remember Chaos Theory.



Game Theory and Organisational Politics.

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

-Vince Lombardi        

One of my clients took pride in calling itself competency based organisation. Competency structure was central to all its HR related developmental activities like appraisal, recruitment, succession and career planning, training etc. I found one competency quite interesting- “Puts organisation before self.” An employee was expected sacrifice his self-interest and work for good of organisation.

But employee satisfaction survey showed that most of the managers were interested in protecting their own turf. So there was gap between what organisation desired and what real culture of organisation was.


Defending turf is a time-honoured tradition in most large organizations. The organization is seen as a collection of competing interests held by various departments and groups. As each group attempts to expand its influence, it starts to encroach on the activities of other groups. Turf protection is common in organizations and runs from the very lowest position to the executive suite.

Game theory can help you in understanding why managers are more interested in protecting their turf than collaborating with others. It is trade-off between costs and benefits. Where the costs exceed the benefits, the manager may act to protect his or her position.

We will design a payoff table for two managers- Lee and Leslie. The problem concerns a decision as to whether or not they should allocate resources from their unit to a special project of organisation.


matrixIf both managers authorize the resources, the project gets completed on time and organisation wins client. Unfortunately, if they do this, both Lee and Leslie spend more than they have in their budgets. Taken on its own, a budget overrun would be bad for the managers’ performance records. Obviously, any organisation would want this to happen. But this selfless act of “Organisation before self” is rare.

We will see more common scenarios.

One likely scenario could be either Leslie or Lee allocated resources for special project, while other person does not. Here organisation will lose client, one of them will upset his/her budget, but other person is able to manage his/her budget and improve his/her appraisal score.

But most likely scenario will be both Lee and Leslie fail to act, each stays within the budget and therefore gains, but the organisation loses the client.

While the organisation wants both Lee and Leslie to act, they rarely do so. It has lot to do with organisational culture and way it rewards its employees. Would you take the risk of overspending the budget, knowing that your colleague may refuse to do the same?

The question of trust is critical here, but building trust among co-managers and other workers can be difficult and takes time. The involvement of higher-level managers may be needed to set the stage. Yet in many organizations both Lee and Leslie would fail to act because the “climate” or “culture” too often encourages people to maximize their self-interest at minimal risk.