A demanding employer or bad office culture can make work life difficult.With companies trying to do more with less, it’s common for IT professionals to complain of being overworked, underappreciated, and of course, underpaid. Hearing some of their tales of woe can leave you not knowing whether to laugh or feel sorry for them.

In the film Pyar ka Punchanama, during one of the repartees between the protagonists, a friend asks his roommate about his whereabouts on a Sunday morning. His friend laments at the question saying, “Dogs don’t have a Sunday. Dogs are dogs for all seven days, who can be kicked and woken up by their managers on any day of the week.”

While most IT pros aren’t actually being kicked — at least not on a regular basis — many aren’t feeling the love from their employers. Of course all jobs contain some bit of unpleasantness, but when an employer demands too much and returns too little, valuable employees start heading for the door. Below are some of the more common bad traits demonstrated by demanding bosses and unscrupulous IT employers:

Impossible deadlines. These are the times when the boss assigns a highly unrealistic target to be met within an impossible timeframe. Quite often the help you will need to accomplish the task isn’t supplied, and the only thing you can count on that the team will fail to hit the target. At which point your supervisor, in order to save their own neck, pins the blame on you.

There is a humorous sign commonly seen in offices that states: “We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.” This may be good for a few laughs, but if employees feel this way in their hearts, it’s time for the boss to rethink their demands.

Nepotism and cronyism. According to my contacts in IT, this is all too common. Irrespective of performance and qualifications, when people of high rank favor or hire their relatives and friends over genuine hard-working employees, it does tend to ruffle feathers. As bad as this behavior is, a greater tragedy is when these less deserving employees reach the top-level hierarchy. They seem oblivious to their fortunate path and often they continue utilizing the same practices.

As the Americans say about such practices and individuals: “They were born on third base and think they hit a triple.” Nepotism and cronyism are certain to demoralize other employees and bosses should take care to not be viewed as practicing such behaviors.

Abusive, ill-mannered and sometimes immoral seniors. Being in a bad work culture can take a toll on even the most positive of employees. Combine that with a boss or a senior who yells, abuses or behaves indecently and you have the recipe for high rates of discontent and turnover.

Some bosses or seniors excuse themselves by saying, “That’s just the way I am and I don’t mean anything by it.” They may be that way, but it doesn’t give them the right to disrespect others. Good employees will not long endure such behavior. If you are one who acts this way towards subordinates, you would be well-advised to remember that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Bad increment policies and delayed salaries. This is always a “Top 10 Employee Woe” and it is always associated with badly run companies. Any delay in making payroll is sure to raise fear, grumbling, and resentment among employees.

I’ve known of companies that schedule payday on a certain day of the month and ended up extending it without warning for a few days or even weeks. This is terribly bad form. Your employees trusted you enough to give you their effort before you pay them. Don’t violate that trust by being late with payday. Owing money in business is never a good idea — owing your employees is a disaster in the making.

Draconian HR policies. I’ve known of companies that upon hiring an employee make them sign an agreement to not separate from the company for a set period of time, usually several years. If they do the company is liable to withhold their pay for several months as a punishment. Although such practices are unenforceable in court, good luck fighting the company to cough up the funds in a prompt fashion.

Other abhorrent HR policies that I’ve known of include deducting a half-day’s pay even if an employee is only a few minutes late, no comp-time off or extra pay for overtime, and asking employees to regularly work more than 10 hours a day. Each of these policies is a sign of an abusive and short-sighted HR department. If HR practices these policies they probably aren’t good at hiring smart employees either. Word gets around and good employees will stay away.

Constant vigilance of employees. In one of the lighter and funnier anecdotes narrated by a frustrated employee, he compared his office to the popular TV show Big Boss’ House, where 24 hour surveillance is performed on the inmates, what they eat, what they say, etc. He mentioned that closed circuit cameras and microphones were installed everywhere in the office, so that staff conversations could be recorded and listened to later. He complained of always fearing saying or doing something that would cause him trouble.

Constant vigilance tells your employees you don’t trust them to do their work or to make decisions—nothing like micro management to kill off innovative thinking and proactivity.

Fraudulent companies. This is one of the more reprehensible hoaxes in India. A colleague told me how a fraudulent company got in touch with “prospective employees” by sending e-mails to them. He received an e-mail from this company promising a great position with a handsome salary in one of its departments. The trap was that he first had to make a security deposit to their bank to ensure that he would join the company. He ended up sending in ₹ 20,000 ($300 USD) to “hold the position.” He never got the job, because the company didn’t exist in the first place. It was just some scammer looking to rip him off.

Unfortunately, in India this is more common than people imagine. Some people are naive enough to believe these sorts of emails promising them handsome fortunes. Eventually the loss becomes tormenting for the already struggling job seekers.

Foolish demands and bond issues. Most employees will gladly do an occasional favor for the boss that falls outside their normal job duties. But there are times when a request or demand just goes too far. One friend complained of being regularly asked to pick up boss’ children from school. Time and again he was required to do his employer’s personal and family work. At other times his boss requested him to drop him at the railway station or airport or to purchase vegetables and other random articles for him and his family after hours. My friend ultimately grew so frustrated with all this nonsense that he resigned.

But this didn’t end there, at the time of handing in his resignation, his boss asked him to sign a bond that legally forbade him to join any competitor for two years or to start his own business in the same domain ever.

Zero Personal Life. One Bengaluru based employee complained that people are treated like donkeys in her company. She said working there for any length of time required employees to give up their self-respect. As per her account, employees were called as early as 8 a.m. to CEO mandated stand-up meetings, but half the times the CEO himself would skip those meetings. The employees would end up standing around until being told to dismiss. To rub salt in the wounds, employees were required to answer offshore calls that came in hours.

Newbies and freshers. So what is a new employee to do when they find themselves being abused or asked to sign an employer bond limiting their ability to work elsewhere? Fortunately India is still a nation of laws, and according to Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, any agreement by which one is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind, is void. The one exception is if you are doing something that harms the goodwill of the company.

Often a company will make vague contracts to put fear in an employee. The companies want you to think you are under a liability if you don’t serve the complete period what you signed for. That’s a modern version of debt bondage, earlier referred to as slavery or peonage. All that an employer may recover from you, in the event of early separation, is training expenses.

Some IT companies know how to play the game by writing these service bonds in the form of bogus training. Before joining a company carefully review all the papers and the clauses. Check with a legal advisor or research the points you are doubtful about. Also don’t hand in your original certificates unless it’s just for scrutiny purpose. Let the companies make copies of them if needed, but you keep possession of all your original certifications.

A demanding employer or bad office culture can make work life difficult.If they threaten to withhold salary, plan your exit smartly. If they tell you that they are claiming your salary for the notice period, ask them to put it in writing. If they refuse, tell them that you are ready to serve the notice period. If they say they won’t pay your salary during the notice period, you are not legally bound to serve that time.

What happens if, in your desperation, you’ve signed a contract stating that you must pay a certain amount of money if you leave prematurely? In such a case you might remind them that, as per the Palermo Protocol Section 12a, debt bondage is a crime in personal contracts.

There are a great many wonderful and considerate employers in India who understand Leadership 101 – “Take care of your people and they will take care of you.” Unfortunately, there are also some unscrupulous ones. In the end it’s up to you to know and defend your rights. It’s your right to be treated fairly, to be respected in your work space and to be paid for your work. So starting today protect yourself from being exploited by being aware and by creating awareness.

  • NOTE: The contents of this article are for general information purposes only. Consult a licensed professional or government employee agency if you have questions or concerns with your employment situation.