NG
K Nandagopal

Am I working under a good manager? This was the question that tormented my mind quite often in more than 10 years of my association in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a well respected newspaper organisation in India, The Hindu. I felt very excited when I was offered the contract work for packing and despatch work in one of the branch offices of The Hindu in Coimbatore.

I later came to know that it was also offered to another person, but he refused because it was not a financially rewarding work commensurate with the responsibilities involved. The despatch work is usually handled by the city agent of The Hindu. A newspaper agency is a profitable business and, as an obligation for having such an opportunity from the company, the city agent accepts the responsibility of running the despatch work.

Hiring people for the job is the most difficult part of the work. The work being on night schedule, one has to engage people who work in the daytime somewhere else, who need additional income to augment their salaries. Besides, you have to hire people near the printing press of The Hindu for them to be present regularly for work. The other problem is that of attrition.  One or two workers will be leaving regularly for various reasons, and you have to find replacement for them.

With a print order of 75,000 to 100,000 copies of The Hindu at that time, shortage of workers in a particular day would lead to problems for nearly 400 agents of the newspaper served from the Coimbatore centre in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For these reasons, the city agent as despatch contractor is a great advantage to the company as he is able to handle these problems easily.

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This Ferag mailroom at the Coimbatore plant services more than 2,00,000 copies during night production.

But in Coimbatore, the city agent of The Hindu was a relative to the owners and, therefore, the company did not expect him to assume such a difficult responsibility. For these reasons, the branch office of the paper itself was running the despatch work and was looking for someone to handle the work. These were the circumstances under which I was offered the work, and I accepted it as a challenge and hoped that I would be able to do it successfully and will be offered an agency later.

Even though the job did not involve any news or editorial job, it was of crucial importance for the successful running of the newspaper. Therefore, doing well in the despatch work was expected to be appreciated by the company. I thought I would be awarded with a news agency of The Hindu sometime later, which would be a financially rewarding one for me, or so I thought until I realised later that the manager who had hired me had other ideas.

After running the work for one year, a sales representative, who was very close to the branch manager, told me — obviously under the manager’s instructions — that the city agency was being bifurcated. He asked me to write a letter to the head office asking a part of the agency.

I thought it was in keeping with the manager’s promise of offering me a news agency when I first accepted the job. I thought if I was offered the agency, besides offering me a financially rewarding work, it would also help me run the despatch work in a more efficient manner as I could recruit boys in the area for despatch work since the area was near the printing press of The Hindu. I wrote a letter to the head office and received a reply that there was no such proposal at that time.

After writing that letter, the manager’s attitude toward me and the despatch work changed a great deal. He acted as if he did not want me to continue the despatch work any longer. At one point in time, he even told me casually that those who worked for the company for some time and left the company had become much more prosperous in life.

Then I realised even if the city agency was bifurcated, he would try to give the agency to one of the agents in the suburban areas of the city. I also, by his attitude toward me and the despatch work, came to understand that his purpose of offering me the despatch work in the first place was neither with regard to any advantage to the company nor he had any interest in keeping his promise of offering me an agency.

His sole purpose of offering me the despatch work was for me to write a letter to the head office asking for bifurcating the Coimbatore agency and then offering it to somebody, whom he had already chosen with an idea of getting some financial reward for him, which looked like he had some kind of a tacit understanding with the higher management.  I also came to understand that he had some agents in the suburban areas of Coimbatore who were given agency recently on this basis. But I did not want to give up after so much of hard work in settling down in the work and succeeding in running the work well and with great success.

Only after nearly 10 years of work in the despatch section, I was finally able to succeed in getting an agency of The Hindu, but only a part of the area that I was asking for was given to me. I persisted in my efforts to get the remaining part of the area for my agency, explaining to the branch manager how it would also help me in running the despatch work better.

After only about 9 months of running the agency and despatch work together, one day the circulation manager from the head office came to the branch office and met me. I told him about my request for the additional area to be attached to my agency. I have heard that he was a ‘trouble shooter’ for the top management, and I hoped he would reward my hard work in the despatch section and would offer me the agency for the additional area.

A few days after that meeting, I received a letter that I was being relieved from both the agency and the despatch work with immediate effect, and I was asked to handover both the agency and the despatch work to someone else. To this day, I have not understood this type of action on the part of the circulation manager and the company and what type of management principles made them take such an action.

No reason was offered for relieving me and nothing was said about my request for the additional area for my agency.

The agency and the despatch work were offered to a person who refused the offer in the first place when I was offered the despatch work. He was also given the agency for the area that I was asking for to begin with. I guess probably the circulation manager of The Hindu — being a ‘trouble shooter’ for the top management — got a promotion for solving a problem in the despatch work in a branch office of the company, if it can be called “solving a problem”.

I left The Hindu in around 1995. I almost felt like a bonded labourer in that media house after spending some time in my work as a despatch contractor. Things I went through there exposes the hypocrisy of a newspaper that preaches everyone in the world but it does not follow: Principles of transparency, keeping its promise to its workers, and other principles of management in its own organisation, as I would explain them later.

In my future posts, I will write about those instances in my work in The Hindu, which made me think very badly of the newspaper and about the management of the company. Now I am employed in an entirely different area. I thought about expressing my anger for my unjust removal from that company and have decided to express my thoughts. I thought this was one of my legitimate modes of protest.

In my future posts, I will write about the way in which the management of the company treated me and my work, how many obstacles and barriers were placed by the branch manager, which made it difficult for me to run the despatch work efficiently, and how they have failed to provide the necessary atmosphere for me to work properly in the 10 years of work for them.

Anybody can turn angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Aristotle.

This quotation from Aristotle epitomises the purpose of my article: to express my anger about The Hindu and its method of management. I think that the method is the right way of expressing my anger as per the above quotation.

This was posted by the writer on 7 November 2011 in his blog. After सिर्फ़ News was launched, he approached our editor for its reproduction, complaining at the same time that his former employee was blocking his blog to stop his allegations from reaching the people at large. This post should be read with these blog-posts explaining what the writer went through in The Hindu office:

  1. Building of printing press managers
  2. Manager’s attitude towards despatch work
  3. Managing increased workload
  4. Deputy managing director
  5. Was my manager a jerk?
  6. Another incident of office politics
  7. Circulation manager versus branch manager
  8. Tug of war
  9. Motive of branch manager
  10. Motive of branch manager – II
  11. Three villains
  12. Great betrayal of friends

सिर्फ़ News does not vouch for the authenticity of the claims made in this article or those made in the attachments. We will readily publish the accuseds side of the story if The Hindu management writes to us at write@sirfnews.com.