It was late in the evening and I had returned home late from office as there was a delivery in following week. My team was working very hard as there were some changes which came in the later stage. We accepted those changes as there were some critical decisions taken with the existing contract. Though we were doing well at our end, it was not so great in the overall progress of the business.
I received a call from one of my team members. I picked up the call and he told me that he is leaving to his native as his brother had met with an accident. He said that he is not so sure about the situation and it looks like an emergency. I told him to leave immediately and not to worry about the work. I also told him to contact me if there is any kind of help required. He said he would return in two days and disconnected the call. While talking to him, I got a wild scene of disbelief, for which I felt bad about myself. I told myself that you could not be a bad manager. I made a plan for the situation at the project end.
Next day I called up for the meeting and told rest of the team members about the sad incident happened. I also told the team that we all will have to work a bit extra to ensure that his work is also completed. I also requested help from my managers for an extra resource for some days as we need to complete things on time. Keeping the offshore manager informed about the absence of one member and making him understand the problems it might cause in the delivery, I got some of the deliverables excused for this delivery.
While the day progressed, I thought of calling him and asking him about the situation. His phone was switched off; I could not get in touch with him. My worry increased as there is no information about him. Not knowing what happened to him after leaving that night. I kept on calling him for one more day and shared my worry to some of the team members who were working closely with him in the current assignment. I also kept my manager informed about the situation.
On the third day when there is no information from him, I send a mail to HR copying my manager on the situation. We in the project have got a practice of keeping emergency contact number of all team members. This will be a local number and a number of his permanent residence. I reached the first number, which was of his friend who lives in Bangalore. He said he did not hear form him for some days and do not know anything. I got more worried and decided to call the other number which is a mobile number.
Before I call, I decided to think for a while on what to say and what not to say and called the second number. It was a lady who picked up the call and was talking in a regional language which I do not know. I again got help of one of my team member, who is from the same region, and asked him to talk to the lady and know what the situation is and where he was.
The team member kept on talking for some time to the lady and kept the phone. He turned to me and told me that, it was his mother, but she does not know anything about the accident and also not sure if she felt it appropriate to answer the questions as she is not sure who is calling. Now we both were confused.
In the very next minute I received a call from my team mate from some other number. He was very upset and was worried that, his mother, who is a heart patient, to who they have deliberately kept the news of the accident hidden, because of her health condition, now know that her son has met with an accident. He also told me that she is now taken to the hospital as she was feeling chest pain. I felt sorry and felt that I am an idiot to call her. He then told me that he is in the hospital with his brother who is in a very bad situation. He said that he could not call me because his phone was not working for some reason and now he is calling from his cousin’s phone. He said that he got this number as I called his mother. He told me that he can only come back after a week and is arranging money for his brother’s treatment, which would come around 7 lakhs. As he had no money he needs to sell his farm which is the bread and butter of his family. He said now his brother is in a coma stage, as there is a stone which got into his head in the accident.
I felt so bad about myself and realized that this guy needs help. I talked to my manager and other team members and made them understood about the situation. His phone continued to be offline and whenever I tried his cousin’s number, his cousin picks up the call and says “ I am somewhere outside and will ask him to call you once I reach him”.
Delivery of the project was nearing and we managed to deliver all that we promised on time. It was a great team work. Rest of the team members worked extra hours to complete the tasks on time. I was very happy, but there was always pain thinking about the member who is now in the hospital taking care of both his brother and his mother. Though there was an excuse in some of the modules, those where also completed, but testing was incomplete. So it was excluded in the delivery. Offshore manager was happy for this delivery and we agreed to include the excluded parts along with the next delivery which is planned in a months’ time.
I tried his cousin’s number. This time I got him on the call and asked about the situation. He said he would come back tomorrow. He said his brother is still moved to another hospital and gave me details of the new hospital where his brother is admitted now.
The very next day, he came to office he said that he is going to apply for a month long leave to take care of his brother and his mother. I called up an HR manager and told him about all that happened and asked him to talk to him and see if he could help him in this situation. The HR manager talked to him and called me and said that the situation is true and should give him maximum leaves you could give. If he needs more leaves then there are other policies which would support and he needs to avail those.
I called for a meeting with the rest of the team members and told them that I am probably going to give him some money for his immediate expenses. Some of the other team members also offered to help, but two of the team members were so hard hearted that they said they do not know if the accident is true and would not be interested in giving any money. Though I thought it was rude, it was a different angel to the whole situation to think and decided that we should pay directly to the hospital and tied to reach the hospital.
I then called up the hospital, and told them that I am calling to know the situation of a patient and would like to pay a share of the bill. They were happy to help and asked me details of the patient. After some time, they told me there is no such patient admitted in the hospital. I asked if there is a coma patient in the hospital who was admitted a week before and it was an accident case. They could not find any coma patients in the hospital and told me that ICU unit has got a separate register if patient is directly admitted from the emergency. They then transferred the call to the department. I told them the very same reason and asked if they could tell me the current situation of the patient. To my surprise, they told me that there is no major accident cases admitted in the hospital for the last many months. And they never had any coma patient in the hospital.
I was surprised and called him for a meeting, I asked him to tell me the truth and told him that I could help him even now knowing that the whole thing was a story which he made so as to escape from the delivery responsibility. He was defending himself and telling that his brother is in the hospital. I had no better option left than to leave it to HR to handle. I called the HR business partner for help and while talking he accepted that he did not want to show that he could not complete the things he was supposed to complete and in his absence he wanted other team to do it.
I remembered what Shakespeare told: Never play with the feelings of others because you may win the game but the risk is that you will surely lose the person for a life time. And that is what happened in this case. He lost me for life.