Virtues in the Sky

After yet another rage-inducing and modesty-clipping incident, are we as organizations attentive towards the terrible experiences that our employees or clients are going through?

The Air India case of an inebriated 34-year-old man urinating on a lady senior citizen – robbing off her dignity – is in limelight. News articles also report inefficiency on the part of the flight crew in managing the situation. Other passengers have claimed that standard operating procedures of resolving such situations were not followed either. Also, the flight crew did not provide an exchange of seat – despite the seats being available in the flight – to the lady who was extremely shaken by the ordeal. Another report also stated upon landing at the airport, him and the lady had a “mutual compromise”. Further, he was also allowed to leave the airport premises by the airport security after completing the formalities.

The question that arises is why this issue was not addressed seriously at the site itself. After the incident, why was the flight crew reluctant to give the lady and exchange for her seat. Is a 30-day ban over flying a justified action from the airline? Additionally, there is no mention anywhere of the senior lady receiving any apology or compensation from the airline’s side. As a result of the incident, there are reports of the male culprit being fired from the respectable company he was employed at. Was there any action taken against the flight crew for their failure at taking care of their customers? What was the motive behind the airline company not taking any immediate action against the pilot in command and the rest of the flight crew?

This really draws attention to the integrity, and ethical policies of all the organizations. Balancing between customer-centric behavior as well as employee well-being is the need of the hour. Learning from this, we appeal to all the organizations to be aware and mindful of any/all the unpleasant situations happening within our organizations. Please take into account the seriousness of any such incidents – observed or reported – by your clients or your employees. The approach of “mutual settlement” doesn’t do justice to the trauma experienced by the victims. So, as organizations, we need to keep our ethical values in check. Taking ‘immediate’ and strict action against distressing situations is also a great way to creating safe working spaces.

After yet another rage-inducing and modesty-clipping incident, the question we are grappling with is as organizations, how serious are we about the terrible experiences that our employees or customers may go through?

The Air India case of an inebriated 34-year-old man urinating on a senior lady citizen – robbing her of her dignity – is in limelight. News articles also report inefficiency on the part of the flight crew in managing the situation. Other passengers have claimed that standard operating procedures for resolving such situations were not followed either. Also, the flight crew did not provide an exchange of seat – despite seats being available in the flight – to the lady who was extremely shaken by the ordeal. Another report also stated that upon landing at the airport, the man and the lady had a “mutual compromise”. He was then allowed to leave the airport premises by the airport security after completing the formalities.

The approach of “mutual settlement” doesn’t do justice to the trauma experienced by the victims. We can argue that the victim is being selfish after accepting the settlement. However, the victim may be temporarily counselled, lured or coaxed into a mutual settlement but can feel violated and on the wrong side of justice later and is not wrong in feeling so. The question that remains unanswered is why the SOPs were not followed.

What’s also highlighted is the sheer lack of empathy. After the woman reported the incident, the crew came and first made sure it’s true. Fair! It was only the seat that was reeking of urine, not the woman who was drenched in it. Once it was established, how would a cabin crew respond? In this case, the flight crew gave the lady a cabin crew seat for the rest of her journey as an exchange for her seat she had bought – in spite of this being such a rare and shameful incident! Are we not nurturing empathy? Are we not hiring for empathy for the roles that have it as a core requirement?

Okay, what’s done is done. How are we setting it right? As a result of the incident, there are reports of the male culprit being fired from the respectable company he was employed at. Compared to this, is a 30-day ban over flying a justified action from the airline for the crime? Was there any action taken against the flight crew for their failure at taking care of their customers and pilot in command? And if not, why? Additionally, there is no mention anywhere of the senior lady receiving any apology or compensation from the airline’s side.

Details that we have found in news reports may not be accurate and complete. Agreed. However, this still draws attention to the integrity and ethical policies of organizations. Most organizations have a set of values they intend to abide by and these are the incidents that test the alignment. How we tell the right from the wrong using the values of our organization shows how strong the values are as the North Star and how deeply they are ingrained in the people representing the organization. Having values on the walls means nothing. How entrenched they are in the day to day thinking and functioning is what matters at the end of the day.

Have you recently done a check on the values alignment of your employee base? How are you reinforcing your values for daily functioning, decision making and showing care to customers? How can we hire for values, empathy and customer focus? Are our interviewers trained to hire effectively? And are we strong enough to make tough calls when things don’t go well? Are we building that muscle as the leadership and throughout the organization?



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