The first time I ever tried to fire anybody was in 1997 when I was editor in chief of the Daily Targum and an assistant sports editor didn't show up for a part of his job. He laughed at me and showed up to work the next day.
Ten years later, I have made my first fire -- our driver Deepak.
We told him it is because of the communication gap; our Hindi is limited and his English is nonexistent. He's a Class 10 pass (that means he went up to 10th grade) but I don't think he reads signs so well--huge problem. Anyway, consider this week's problems alone: he got into a fender bender, he missed picking up Naya from school because he got delayed elsewhere, he watched from the front seat one day as I juggled Naya, her bookpack, her water jug, my laptop, my purse, a stack of newspapers, my tiffin and my red-hot temper as he just kept sitting.
I know I sound like an elitist but he just didnt get us and I don't entirely blame him. He is 23 and seems like he's never really had to work, didn't have the skills to get a job beyond driving but really didn't have his heart in it.
But who would? It's a job that requires waiting for people all day and having no idea what time you will go home that day. It must be the least empowering thing. I maintain that if India could put its millions of unemployed women to work as drivers, the sweater- and hat- and scarf-making industry here would be booming because they would find something to occupy their time all the time, in the name of multi-tasking, motherhood and survival.
I think we partly failed as managers, too. We didn't regularly tell him where he was going wrong, nor assess him monthly. By the end, it got so bad, it was not worth fixing. And we resented him so much that most of the time we were in the car was marked by being huffy, brewing, silent. It's an awful existence--especially in already-maddening Delhi traffic. We didn't send him cups of tea or ask him to join us for dinner. But we did tell him we will give him a good recommendation if he wants. When we handed him his final pay and severance, his eyes seemed to brim a bit but he stayed stoic and gave Nitin a sort of half-salute, salaam and namaste all in one. Sad.
So we're trying to be better for the next driver and hope he will to us. He's a father to a 2-year-old so he he should "get" it. His name is Deepak, too.