Shikha Bhatnagar moved to India in 2008 with the intention of making it home for at least two years. Armed with years of experience in the development world, including internships with NGOs in India, she was excited about the future. She accepted a job running the Pune operations of an education organisation. That’s when her India dream started to unravel. The rampant unprofessionalism and nepotism at the workplace quickly got to her. An American woman raised to speak her mind, Shikha found that her Indian colleagues did not appreciate her bluntness or her opinions.
The “yes people” in the office were promoted while she was sidelined. “It verged on workplace bullying in some respects, especially for those of us who spoke out the most,” she says. “It was frustrating being there.” Within eight months, she had chucked up her job and was plotting her return to America. “India wasn’t new for me, I knew some of the challenges of working in that environment,” says Shikha, who is now associate director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “What was very frustrating was the complete lack of professionalism.”