A few days ago, this ‘confession’ on a Facebook page started for Cognizant India employees to share anonymous posts went semi-viral:
Let’s not even go into the stupidity of the gentleman who ‘needs tips to manage a wife’. He was schooled and ridiculed on Twitter quite thoroughly (thank you!), though some people couldn’t understand why a guy expecting his wife to learn how to cook was out of line. Ah well.
But while we have discussed these ‘confessions’ pages at FactorDaily before, this particular post raised hackles. A closer look at these pages was clearly called for.
And let me tell you, there is no better mirror to middle-class Indian society today than these online groups, mainly populated by engineers and IT workers from companies like Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, and Wipro.
Read the confessions and a picture emerges: of a male-dominated workplace where women are objectified with impunity and treated as providers of entertainment and some light relief for male workers. While there are posts about ‘onsite’, hikes, layoffs and office cab and canteen services, the overwhelming majority of posts are either silly sexist memes about women or men griping about not being able to “manage” and “understand” their wives and girlfriends, or about being in “one-sided” love with a girl who is not responding to romantic overtures.
Within two minutes of trawling through the pages, I came across these posts:
You get the picture.
There is no doubt that the forums are useful for raising a variety of issues related to infrastructure, administration and employment. For instance, this post by a female employee of TCS Chennai talks about an important issue for women — feeling uncomfortable in shared office cabs (a case of manspreading, perhaps?)
And here’s one about pay hikes:
However, a majority of the posts are personal in nature and it wouldn’t be unfair to assume that they are an online reflection of a culture of male entitlement and prejudice.
Some of the moderators of these groups, who I reached out to on Facebook, admit that sexism is a problem. “Yes posts are sexist but we usually try avoiding such… but stalking and all we do post as they are not offensive,” the moderator of the group ‘TCS Confessions’ told me. The group, which has around 16,000 members (mostly TCS employees) from across India, is a one-year-old reincarnation of an earlier TCS Confessions page, which had 75,000 members but was taken down by Facebook following changes in its algorithm and policies regarding public groups.
The admins clearly harbour hopes of a robust revival and an uptick in the number of members.
“We have excel sheet where (we) receive confessions. Our first page had 75000 likes, but it was unpublished so we started again,” says the moderator. He’s not the only ‘mod’ — this particular page has six more (a throwback to the glory days with 75,000 members, perhaps) and they receive, on average, 10 confessions a day. The admins clearly harbour hopes of a robust revival, and an uptick in the number of members. “Please post link of our page,” the moderator told me before we signed off (here it is).
Most of the confession pages follow the practice of providing Google forms or spreadsheets as URLs
Most of the confession pages follow the practice of providing Google forms or spreadsheets as URLs, through which people can share their posts, which are then added to the page by admins. It can be an overwhelming task. The sole admin of the ‘Infosys Confessions – ICCA’ page, which has over 75,000 members, says he receives between 30 and 50 messages a day (ICCA stands for ‘Infosys Confessions Completely Anonymous’, an older name of the page). Around 10% of these are rejected for bad language, racism and overt sexism. “Mostly i filter containing sensitive information, using abusive language, any personal attacks or the ones discussing company policies… focus is on helping employees in their personal issues and also take up general professional issues,” says the software developer. Incidentally, he doesn’t even work for Infosys anymore, but has moved to a different tech company. “Making admin someone else… gives me a fear whether he or she will do justice to the page or not,” he says. He spends around 30-45 minutes a day moderating the page, handling member requests and going through and posting confessions shared through Google Docs.
One would think HR managers and other administrators of IT companies would keep a close watch on these pages to learn what their employees are talking about…
The Cognizant page (the one with the notorious ‘how to manage a wife’ question) has around 18,000 followers and is also moderated by a single employee, who says he started the page in 2016 after the ‘Cognizant Chennai Confessions’ page started to generate some buzz in software employee circles. “Why i started means… mainly for relieving stress for Cognizant people…something people confess ..someone give gud/jolly comments…They feel happy,” said the moderator. He didn’t want to reveal where he is located.
One would think HR managers and other administrators of IT companies would keep a close watch on these pages to learn what their employees are talking about, but none of the moderators I spoke to for this story said the confessions have led to any policy changes or communications — positive or negative — from ‘management’. “Yes company HRs and many senior people follow this page and see the concerns… but I am not sure if they take the action or not,” said the admin of the Infosys Confessions page.
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