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Since 1st March, 1999
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Slap that stings
Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth at the end of Mumbai Indians’ match against Kings XI Punjab

The ground realities of the Harbhajan slap and the Sreesanth howl are now behind us. We don’t even know if it was a thwack, because Sreesanth is supposed to have said, “I won’t really call it a slap, more like a handshake, which was in the wrong place. I’m OK with it.” Oh man! Is this fortitude, forgiveness or just faked clemency?

What would have happened in an office situation if there had been a similar punch-up? The reality of the matter is that while physical slapping doesn’t actually happen, the psychological slap in the face is a common occurrence. It stings much more, too, than a palm-on-face swat.

Picture a scenario which must have happened time and again. A project report done painstakingly is submitted to the department head. It hurts his ego that he himself couldn’t generate these ideas. Instead of a congratulatory slap on the back, the boss throws the report back at the junior in full presence of the rest of the department, rejecting it as unsatisfactory. A slap in the face, or what?

Hauling an employee over the coals, making scathing remarks, putting people on the mat, and, most horrible, giving a person a drubbing in full view of his peer group — ah! These wounds do not easily heal. When you have raised a very valid point at an internal conference, and your question is totally bypassed by your superior, as he breezily says “Next query” it can really, really hurt.

The indignity of an article written by a bright reporter being spiked for no reason at all and replaced by another mediocre piece because of a favouritism problem is also a rebuff worse than a tight slap could inflict.

But come to think of it, the slapper is the one who suffers more, when the buzz for the underdog gains momentum.

Just a few months ago, an unwitting master of ceremonies introduced Kenya’s first lady (known for her outbursts) by using the name of the President’s second, tucked away, wife. Sure, she was miffed, but instead of letting it pass as a slip of the tongue, she went and slapped the MC in full view of the audience. If you make a fool of yourself by slapping another in public, the barbs only boomerang.

So, sip before you slap should be the mantra for the hotheaded honcho. Sip in your anger, sip a cuppa, sip your pride and then face the perhaps erring employee.

Now it is another matter if the boss finds out that there is a bit of a slap and tickle happening under his very nose. That surely calls for major reprimands, and he could slap a notice of wrongful behaviour on the romantic duo.

What ultimately distresses and hurts is that Parthian shot. A what? When Parthian cavalrymen were retreating or pretending to retreat, they usually shot at the enemy thus. So it is what we might call a parting shot — that intimidating and harsh gesture or remark passed as you depart from a situation or a place. Leaving the person menaced, slapped.

Save the slap for punishing a naughty child, or in an eye-for-an-eye duel. But for the most, the stings and barbs controlled could make for a healthier workplace.

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