How much do we know about the Bangladeshi corporate culture? Taunting and insulting an employee has become a habit at work. It is a tendency that persists in every sector of our country, but the corporate sector requires special attention in highlighting this issue. Presently, in Bangladesh, the general trend is junior associates are highly educated. Many have sought a higher education outside of he country, and return with high hopes and contributing back to their society. They return with ambitions of living a good life through working in the Bangladesh corporate sector, as pays relatively well compared to other sectors. However, the corporate culture they enter is one of abuse by senior employees. Senior managers treat junior associates like they are their property. I have witnessed a senior manager telling a younger associate, ‘I don’t need a highly educated engineer’, in order to make him feel inadequate, despite having graduated from France!
At home we may not be used to appreciating the people around us. We may constantly taunt someone by saying ‘You can’t just wear nice clothes, you have to be aware of world events!’ But this kind of behavior cannot be expressed at work. You cannot yell at your employee the way you yell at your housekeeper, or even your son. Whatever happens in the home must remain in the home.
Executives are sophisticated employees. They have a similar family background as any high official, they have a similar standard of living, they are not uneducated people from rural areas with little world experience. Just because the executive is keeping quiet and not being aggressive does not mean they are fools. It only shows that they are polite. No matter how much authority one has at work, it does not give them the right to tease someone and make them feel bad.
Managers and higher officials in the Bangladesh corporate sector are in desperate need of behavioural training. As an HR professional I am exhausted with stories from employees about harassment at the workplace. Regardless of whether it’s a shabby bank, or the rest company within its industry, Bangladeshi managers have become unbelievably insensible.
The problem is amplified by the fact there is no channel for employees to express their grievances, nor does Bangladesh have a third party for dealing with such problems. Managers are all friends with one another and any personnel with a higher rank would not risk losing a highly paid employee to help an executive. It is these relationships that discourage addressing harassment issues. Sexual harassment is not the only form of harassment at work. Yelling at an employee and trying to belittle them in front of their colleagues is completely inappropriate.
So what’s the solution? Are we supposed to teach the current batch of managers and high ranking the basic mannerisms of talking to associates? Although we may receive higher degrees from overseas universities, awards and work for the best companies in our field, but when do we learn to behave and act professionally?
*Ameena Ahmed is a Human Resource professional based in Dhaka. Ameena holds a post-graduate degree from University of South Australia