IT pink slips leave drastic scars

Updated: Jan 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
Affable, sunny and fun-loving. Thats how colleagues used to describe Aman Bhargava, a human resources (HR) manager working for a Delhi based software firm. That was before the slowdown hit the information technology (IT) industry.

After he had to give 120 co-workers the sack in one go, Mr Bhargava has morphed into an irritable, grumpy and melancholy man. Struggling with his conscience, he hasnt slept for days.

The scars of the infotech slowdown, which resulted in drastic cut-downs, especially in overseas operations, and left a trail of pink slips are becoming visible. I could not understand Amans behaviour in the beginning, but later realised the impact of the experience he had gone through, said one of his colleagues.

Similar symptoms of acute depression can be seen in people who have been recalled to India along with their families from overseas facilities. Having invested in houses and cars and grown used to an upwardly mobile lifestyle, many of them had plans to settle down overseas.

From a high-flying life not too long ago, the reality of the slowdown has come like a crash-landing. While at work, most of these software professionals avoid eye contact with colleagues, at home, they find it hard to adjust to a life back in Indiaoften made more difficult at the sight of their children grappling with an alien environment at school.

I spent three weeks with Bipin while in London on an assignment. He was a happy-go-lucky guy with his own house and a BMW and enjoying life with his wife and school-going children. But when I spotted him in the office canteen a few days ago, he ignored me like I was a stranger. Later, I was told by a friend that he had just moved back with his family and was taking the help of a psychiatrist to get over his depression, a top manager with a software export company said.

Hospital, Dr Gorav Gupta confirmed a spurt in such cases after the slowdown. Human behaviour is very complicated and every individual reacts differently to crisis. It is very natural for a person to go into depression or to start behaving abnormally in crisis. We advise the people who are facing such problems to share and open up, rather than retract into a shell, he says.

Dr Gupta said he had been approached by a software company to provide counselling to its employees before and after the pink slips were distributed.

Fortunately, some software companies seem to be concerned about the psychological fallout on their employees. We tried to help people who had to leave in terms of providing placement assistance through references and through our own placement agents. The company also conducted counselling and therapy sessions to help them get over with their depression, said a human resource head of a Noida-based company on condition of anonymity.

The entire working atmosphere undergoes a dramatic change during and after the retrenchment process. Music playing at work stations goes dead. Laughter and smiles are replaced with stares and whispers. Productivity also goes for a toss, said the chief technology officer of a top IT company, adding that she was planning to take help from experts to improve the situation.

(Names of software professionals have been changed to protect their identity.)