Dear Experts,

I am a senior accounts executive. We have a pantry boy who serves tea to some of my colleagues on their tables while other has to go to a tea vending machine and get themselves a cup of tea/coffee. This boy is informer of factory head for which he is fearless and easily ignores tea requests by employees. Some selected employee of almost equal rank are served by this boy as if he were recruited to serve them only . Other employees have not complained so far to HR or factory head or management. This tea partiality also create a divide among equal ranked employees. This happen on day to day basis. The office boy generally focus on serving those who can clear his bills or can give him a shock. I have pointed out to him his partial behavior many times before but he still continues. Sometime I feel to report this partiality to management or HR or factory head but at the same time stops to reconsider my feeling because others are bearing with it. There is a general perception from seniors that office boys should not serve all on their tables to save time to utilize them elsewhere too. Management may take this issue as trivial and I would be in bad light for complaining. After all this is just a matter of cup of tea. But if you analyze the situation it is more than a cup of tea. Either all same ranked employees should get their tea at their tables or all should go to VM. How should this situation be tackled ?

From India, Jaipur
Dear member,

If a pantry boy musters the courage to discriminate while serving tea, then one can understand the bitter feeling in the minds of those who are not served it. However, pantry boy is just a symptom of the malaise that lies at the top management. Nevertheless, what is happening in your company bodes ill for the organisation culture.

Discrimination has no place in the workplace. The principle of equality must be implemented in toto. It is the duty of the top leadership to ensure a uniform application of the rules. But here is a case of a pantry server discriminating against a few with the blessings of Factory Head.

The case that you have mentioned is not new altogether. Generally, persons like PA to MD, EA to MD, MD's driver etc., show their haughtiness. They do not have qualms to rub the wrong way the senior management personnel also. Considering their closeness with the top boss, even the seniors keep them in good humour. However, a case of special powers being bestowed on a pantry boy is unusual. Rather than relying on the means of formal communication, the top leadership occasionally plant their informants. These informants are dreaded because of two reasons. One is the misinformation that they could pass and the other is the unlimited trust they enjoy from the top leadership.

The small case highlights why companies grow or do not grow. Generally, the growth of the company is attributed to the top leadership, however, the company's culture is responsible for the growth of the company. It is the duty of the top management to foster a culture of motivation and motivation begins with justness at the workplace. The top leadership has to be cautious to avoid unfairness at the workplace. That is why a culture of openness and upward communication is encouraged. To do this, town hall meetings or skill level meetings are conducted. Later, action is taken on the points brought out by the attendees.

So what is the solution? There is no solution as the discriminatory tendencies are coming from the top. I don't think that making a complaint to HR will serve any purpose as even they sit afar, they are informed of what is happening. However, since their powers are also limited, they do not dare bell the cat. There is no remedy to this problem within a framework of ethics. However, to stop this nonsense, scrupulous people are not ready to take the route of unethical practices. So put up with the discrimination as long as you can!


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
Like Dinesh Divekar mentioned, suggest don't waste your time in trying to resolve what's not in your hands.
If you think the powers that be don't know what's happening, forget it. They would very well know it AND most likely want it to continue.
This is the general spying tactic in many large organizations--where the bosses are not very empathetic AND have low self-esteem.
And the general pool of employees who are selected for such rolls are mainly office boys or those who have a chance to go about the whole office without any issues & eavesdrop the talks around.

Looking @ the situation from another angle: like the Sanskrit Saying goes: 'Yatha raja, thatha praja'. Don't expect too much from this company for your career--just gain the experience you wanted to & move on.

The more you stay here, more the chances of YOU also turning into one such guy. That's when YOUR career is likely to get hit, as you may get stuck here in such an environment.
And most Companies hesitate to hire those who come from toxic environment [irony being including such Companies where you are working now]--so any possibility of moving out get reduced day by day.

At worst, you will have to go to the VM for your daily quota of coffee or tea--is it that tough? May also be good health-wise......daily walking exercise.

All the Best.


From India, Hyderabad
Dear Colleagues,

Great views given by our Collogues on this sensitive point even though looks small but it has deeper meaning and impact.

As rightly mentioned, such things happen because of very unprofessional organizational leaders due to which many loose their mental peace. I had faced such situation during my very beginning of my career where in the Tea and Refreshments served to elite group crossing my cabin and it happened every day. I had 2 options- one to fight directly and loose may career or metal peace or the other is to keep calm. I chosen the second option and you may not believe purposely I stopped taking any tea / coffee from the Work place but I started either bringing on my own or going to outside stall on my own. In 2 occasions, I intentionally brought refreshments and served to the " so called catering boy" in the office who served only to elite group. This made him to feel ashamed and he begged sorry but still I did not changed my habit of avoiding taking any refreshment from him. I was very peaceful and probably the message would had going to those groups also.

Years gone by and in next 1 year later the scenario totally changed as the boss who encouraged left the organization and the boy cried to me to protect his job. When next neutral boss came he made a point that including himself and all members to go and sit in the cafeteria and take the refreshments unless otherwise a business guest comes to his cabin. He made it as a point and even when I visited after 30 years I saw that the same practice is going very well in a highly modernized cafeteria but no individual serving to any one in the organization. The seed once upon a time planned grown as a good plant with good culture. I am also happy even today.

Just thought of sharing
Thanks and Godbless,
Tamil Nadu

From India, Chennai
Dear Experts,

Thanks for your views!
I would like to share what happened next . I was working late after office hours and I asked the boy to serve tea. Tea was already on gas when I told him . I was carrying biscuits in my bag and thought that it would manage my hunger and I would be able to maintain full focus on the task. I continued my work and forgot about the tea. After one and half an hour when my stomach reminded me of my hunger I called the boy and asked for the tea. He replied rudely. I was so angry that a person who could easily slipped out of the office like others and postpone the task on one pretext or another actually chose to stay late for complete the task is begging for a cup of tea. Next.. I completed the task and picked my bag after around two hours of work and started going , suddenly this boy came from another factory area after distributing tea to other factory workers and urged me to have tea. I left office without giving him reply.
Next day in the morning , I reported the incidence to our HR who called the boy and gave him a piece of his mind badly. This boy tried to outshout HR(remember he is a secret informer to factory head). Since complained had reached HR's office so he had to be looking like an action taker so he did it. After this boy came out of HRs cabin he directly went to Factory heads cabin and might have narrated the incidence by playing a victim card. I saw this and thought the situation is not good for our company. And later on exactly what I had anticipated, happened. Our MD came. The factory head and the boy was in her cabin and were securing her confidence as it seemed to me since my seat is just opposite MDs cabin with see through glass . Till date the boy enjoying same attitude and carelessness.

I planned to bring my our coffee on that day and actually have started doing so. I came to know Mr. P Shivakumar's post later on on 23rd Oct, his action and mine happen to be similar. I also have tried to give refreshment to this boy but he never felt guilty.
I don't understand why others are silent on this partiality . Their tolerance level might be higher than mine. Why cannot I easily overlook it? Why it is pinching again and again? I think I should accept the situation as it is.

Thanks and regards!

From India, Jaipur
A storm in a teacup indeed.

You will never win in such a toxic workplace. If the time is not right to start looking for a better employer, then my advice is simple. Avoid these people as much you can, only interacting where necessary for work purposes, and maintaining a strict business approach. Continue to do your own catering by bring tea/coffee and food from home, and close your eyes to the stupidity going on around you. Above all, give this nasty little piece of work nothing, and make sure you do or say nothing to give him any grounds to report back to his patron. If he should deign to speak to you, smile and politely tell him you are busy with a deadline, and can't stop to talk. He will get the message - eventually.

From Australia, Melbourne
Dear Colleague,
This is a peculiar situation one has to create his own island and focus only on the performance as long as one wants to serve in this type of work place. As well said by the Colleagues, it is better to avoid such people totally and ignore which is the best medicine. As quick as possible, change this work place and find a new place of work if possible as what is more important in life is mental peace.

Fully appreciate your agony undergoing as a similar person very long back in my career experienced such situation.

Do your best and Leave the Rest in the hands of God if you are not able to change the work place immediately

All the Best and God Bless
Doctor Siva Global HR
Tamil Nadu

From India, Chennai

The situation is indeed pathetic.A tea boy having power to create so much of mental tension.
The whole game is clear.He has extra constitutional powers due to access to the high and mighty.This in in tself speaks of the standards of the high and mighty or shall I say lack of standards.
Personally I would just ignore the whole matter and carry on.By trying to straigthen a canteen employee and loosing one's own peace is not worth your time.The general mass of employees would notice and accordingly make/form an opinion on those who protect and abet such behaviour.
By ignoring the canteen boy you are sending a message of calmness and cool headed attitude.

From India, Pune

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