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“Benefits of discipline”- 22 November 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 24 December 2011 11:31

Sushant was a relative new member of the corporate staff of the big company. He had worked elsewhere earlier and came with a strong recommendation from his previous boss who had closed down his India operations. Sushant did not want to move out, and so sought a job locally. When he came on board, Sushant made friends with one and all, and was all the time smiling. Yet, he did not seem to lose much time in office gossip or kitty groups. Yet, in a few weeks, all came to know about Sushant’s multiple interests. He worked in plays. He was a good badminton player. He always spent a lot of time with his two children and wife. He also took part in various office activities and the bosses sought him out if they wanted to organize any ceremony or host a seminar. Sushant was everywhere, smiling, willing to help, and soon became popular with all.

Of course, this gave rise to a lots of jealousies and also hostile remarks about Sushant’s lack of concentration on work. Loose talk had it that Sushant never focused on his assignments and got ahead of others by indulging in various tactics to please the bosses. Of course, Sushant wasn’t worried, but the big boss was. For, the loose talk that Sushant employed various tactics to please the bosses meant the bosses did not bother about the completion of assignments by the staff. That was hardly so. In fact, the bosses were known for their strictness in favour of discipline. Yet this bad name! They were worried. For, on their part, they had never granted Sushant any concessions about work assignments. On the contrary, they were often pleased that he was always doing his work on schedule. Then, why the bad name, they wondered.
One day, things came to a head. A group of senior employees barged into the big boss’s office and complained against favouritism to Sushant: He got all the lift. He got all the concessions not to do work. He got all the time to waste when they were neck-deep in piles of files. The bosses told them sternly, however, that there was not one single assignment left incomplete by Sushant. This surprised and angered the delegation. The boss was trying to shield Sushant, they alleged.
When arguments got hot, the boss called Sushant. He said, “Young man, they have complaints against you. Can you answer those? The gist of the complaints is that you do not work and so you have all the time to do all sorts of things in office and outside it. I know the answer. I have told them, too. But what is your take? I would like to hear its straight from you.”
Sushant smiled and said, “I am sorry Sir, I have no specific answer. For, as you know, I always complete my work assignments in time and properly. That I have enough time at hand to get involved in other activities is not my fault. On the contrary, it is my plus point. I have tried to explain things in detail to all these friends of mine, but they don’t seem interested.
“Let me put it this way: I am a stickler for time. I come in at the correct time and work from the very first minute to the last. I rise for lunch at correct time and return to my work-station on the dot. And I plan my work meticulously so that I waste no time and I accomplish more. At home, too, my wife and I always do things meticulously on time. And because we save time, we have all the time to do things which many others cannot do. But Sir, when I tried to explain this to all these friends, they laughed at me and ragged me that I was doing more than my salary’s worthy. This is, of course, funny, but I cannot do anything more to convince these people.”
What Sushant said was straight and simple. He had a lot of time because he did not waste time. He also saved a lot of time by doing things meticulously. And therefore, he had more time at hand to do extra activities which others could not get involved in.
The big boss was quite happy. He grinned at the delegation and asked, “Tell me fellows, what will like to do – create a diligent work ethic and have ample time at hand, or keep wasting a lot of time and then keep complaining?”
The angry delegation just left, confused and rather non-plussed.

“Bringing creativity to work”- 8 November 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 12 November 2011 12:36

It was an interesting chat with a software professional based in Europe. Having studied and worked in India initially he was excited with the work culture abroad. He had no plans of coming back to his homeland to work he said. Such a pity! It saddens my heart when I witness such negative attitudes among our youth for their country. But it’s their exposure and their experience in foreign companies that opens their eyes to the differences and the advantages of working abroad. This is such a telling comment on our work culture and our home grown companies. The Indian companies on the fast track should take note about the opinions and perceptions of such experienced youth, if they care to.

For the intelligent and creative minds a stimulating atmosphere is the best opportunity they can get--for it helps not only in professional growth but personal development as well. A liberal work culture encourages new ideas and a free exchange of ideas among colleagues and the team. They love that! The atmosphere of sharing and exchanging thoughts, ideas and concepts is motivating and thrilling. There is a sense of excitement and freedom in the air. This encourages creativity. Such an atmosphere helps the intelligent minds to bring creativity to the work and extend the domain of knowledge. This is a continuous process and not a one- time phenomenon. That is ingrained in the system. Employees are given enough freedom to work and think out of the box and to implement their ideas.

A disturbing tendency seen among many employees here is to follow the beaten track and to do whatever is prescribed in their job profile. If they are asked to do something different they might think ‘what is in it for me’? ‘Will I be paid extra for this’? ‘Why should I bother’! Such attitudes only lead to mediocrity as it kills creativity in individuals and makes them servile. Attitudes such as these are rampant –ask any team leader and he will start grieving about it. Such attitudes could be deeply engrained in our collective conscious and unconscious as well as they get transmitted through the generations by nature or nurture. But that should not become a legitimate excuse to lament ‘nothing can be done about it’.

Whether the fault lies in the school system or the college level educational system or the family culture or society as a whole that is responsible for such attitudes is not the point of debate. The point is that when opportunities do exist in some organisations to experiment and explore, there too we get complaints of people not wanting to extend themselves beyond their bounden duties!

Ultimately people bring in change and not systems. One creative person can bring in tremendous change. And imagine what people can do collectively as a team if they unleash their creative talents. India has had many great dreamers who have ushered in scientific and industrial advancements. India owes it to them. The list is long but not very long enough considering the population numbers. Imagine how much creativity could be unleashed if we taught each child to be creative. The thought itself is energising.

Ask any researcher and he will tell you the same answer about the difference between creative and non- creative persons that creative people ‘enjoy and love their work’. They do things ‘for the love of it and not for the money aspect’. ‘They are continuously aspiring to bring creativity to their jobs and the work situation’. Money is important and that follows from a job well done. That is fixed before joining a job when the terms and conditions are finalised. Once done and taken care of, it is not the prime mover but a secondary consideration. The primary motivation is the pleasure of creating and the pain of aspiring to do that! The ecstasy is always necessarily connected to the agony of producing constructively. This dialectical process that churns the individual inside-outside leads to the evolution of the human mind and spirit. Nothing else does.

“Thank you, Dad”- 4 October 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 13:17

His credentials were impeccable -- Post-graduate in engineering from a very prestigious national institute in India, MBA from US, Ph.D. in marketing from the same American university, and fours’ working experience in a global leader in US. When 34-year-old Satish came to the company armed with these credentials, all were overwhelmed as well as excited. All were impressed with his personality, crisp and precise. Everybody expected him to become an integral part of the leadership team of the company. To make matters more impressive, right on the first day, Satish declared proudly in the coffee-break that he was a thorough-bread professional who enjoyed his work to the hilt. A phenomenon was taking place in the company, all felt.

The honeymoon, however, did not last long. In just a few months, everybody – from the MD to the lowest-level executives – started wondering why Satish came to the company at all. He had been offered one of the best packages in Indian industry. He was given a very high position over the heads of several seniors (who did not grudge because of his credentials). Yet, Satish never seemed to try to understand the company and its culture. He worked for himself, as if, and did not mingle with his peers and others, except for those few minutes of crisp conversations in clipped tones at coffee-breaks. Some seniors also started getting an impression that Satish looked down upon them. He had a condescending look in his cold eyes, one senior Vice President felt.
Despite all this, Satish was absolutely fabulous in his assignment. The department he headed worked with added efficiency and won appreciation of the Board. And yet, there was no cheer on anybody’s face in his department. For, Satish was too cut-and-dried professional who understood nothing beyond his task at hand. Everybody worked well, but nobody enjoyed work. The department wore a sullen air.
With people in other departments, Satish behaved with a chilling aloofness. Nobody expected him to take part in gossip or office politics. But that also did not mean such a cold behaviour. So aloof was Satish that he even refused to join week-end parties colleagues organised occasionally. Instead, he would take his pretty wife to the same club and sit there in one corner of the lawn having a quiet dinner.
“That is too much”, one senior woman colleague hissed. Her comment represented the sentiment all over. Some seniors even thought of recommending to the top management discontinuation of the contract with Satish by paying him more than adequate compensation so that he would go and the atmosphere in the company would improve.
“No, that cannot happen,” said a veteran member of the Board. A man with a fashionable white beard and longish hair, this Director took upon himself the task of talking to Satish, and even counselling him if necessary. “If I fail, then you may take the extreme step of easing him out,” he stressed.
Several weeks passed. During this time, people often saw the old man having coffee with the young Satish in the executive cafeteria. They also saw heard that the veteran had invited the young couple to his home for a Saturday evening. The two men – with distinct differences in personalities – were also seen spending some time together almost every Sunday. Nobody, however, knew what was happening. Nobody had much hope.
And then came a little surprise. One Saturday afternoon when things were relaxed, Satish lingered for half an hour more than his usual fifteen minutes at coffee-break and kept talking to the four executives in the group. The conversation did not proceed smoothly, but the subject was interesting. When the group broke to return to work, everybody, including Satish, promised to open the subject once again and discuss it in depth. “Then why not sit together for dinner today? I invite you all. At 8 in the evening. At Kwality. Is that all right? Is everybody free?”, asked Satish, throwing everybody off balance. That was a Satish not known to them.
After all, things were moving in the right direction! The veteran Director – Jagannath Iyer -- only chuckled when he heard of the dinner and the good time all had. His mission had succeeded. But that had taken him several weeks of persistent and persuasive contact with Satish. The young man had a funny image of a professional. He felt, a professional is a person who does his professional work and goes home, with having nothing to do with others the company or other affairs of the company. For him, company was just a workplace, and not a club where people mingled UNNECESSARILY, or make personal friendships.
“That is perfectly fine, Satish, but when people work for long hours and many years together, they are bound to develop close bonds. And building such bonds is not unprofessionalism,” Jagannath Iyer had said. He then gave several examples from the professional lives of many corporate legends who Satish regarded as his role models. Those were examples of their social behaviour, their ability to create human bonds that went beyond work, to make friends, to empathize and to bind the team in a stronger association that went far beyond the professional requirement. Nobody had exposed Satish to such a treasure of wisdom ever.
That evening, as the old man and the young executive talked for four hours sipping cups and cups of coffee Satish’s wife made, a positive change came over. Satish bent forward, and surprising his wife, said to the veteran Jagannath Iyer, “Thank you, Dad.”
Everything was beautiful afterwards.

“Befriending your emotions”- 6 September 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 13:14

Salil stormed out of the section, very angry with one and all and almost ready to pick up physical fight with anyone who would accost him. He had just had a very bitter argument with a colleague. So angry was Salil that he insulted the colleague and threatened him with dire consequences. “Meet me outside the office in the evening. I will smash your face”, he had said before storming out of the hall where more than twenty persons were working. In fact, nobody understood why Salil got so angry. For, there was only a mild disagreement over a trivial matter, and colleague said, “Don’t worry Salil. We will sort this out by seeking our boss’s advice. It is a small matter. Perhaps, you may be right. But I suppose, we had tackled a similar matter differently a few months ago. S, don’t worry, I will ask the boss.” Salil took a serious offence and said, “Boss does not know a damn about this. I know things. And don’t interfere in my assignment. I will smash your face.” The colleague, in fact all colleagues, were simply stunned. Nobody understood why Salil lost his temper so much.

In the three years he had been working in the organisation, Salil had fought with almost everyone. He had a bad temper, and did not have any control on himself once he got angry. Son of a wealthy family, Salil had not known how to control his anger. He had got involved in physical fights, too, on a few occasions.
Of late, he had developed a special friendship with a girl in the office. They met in the evenings and even exchanged gifts. That evening, however, the girl was serious. She said, “Look, Salil, I am very worried about your temper. Why do you get so angry over trivia? It appears, your anger is your worst enemy. I don’t think we will be happy if we get married. For, your temper would not allow any peace in the home. I do not know how to solve this problem. And, you do not want anyone to help you. You are just impossible.”
That reprimand did the trick. Salil got thinking. He sought the girl’s help sincerely. She was more than willing. Slowly, Salil started learning ways and means of controlling his anger. He is yet to come out of the ugly grip of that negative emotion on him, but he is on the way to recovery. In a few more months, he may be a changed person, thanks to the patient work his fiancée did to help him.
Salil’s example is not an isolated case, however. We come across in any workplace many such examples of hapless victims of their own emotions. Some have bad temper. Some are extremely sentimental. Some have never learnt the art of making friends. Some are all the time suspicious about others. Some are all the time jealous of anybody who is doing well.....
For all such people whose emotions are not in their control, life is a chain of unpleasant events. They are generally unsettled all the time. They are unaware of the damage they are allowing their negative emotions to cause to themselves. They are unhappy at work, and they are very troubled at home. If only someone tells them how to befriend their emotions, negative or positive, these people can turn their life into a very happy experience. If only....!
In fact, controlling negative emotions and befriend them should not be a difficult affair, provide we take time off to understand what is actually afflicting us. And once we understand the nature of emotions, we can begin efforts to control those. But in our homes and schools and colleges, we are never taught the art of understanding our own emotions correctly and tackle them effectively. Our workplace becomes disturbed zone when the number of such employees is more than the number of people with a sane head on their shoulders.
A systematic effort to understand the emotions, their origin, and why they afflict us, can solve the problem in most people’s lives. If such people are helped by professional counsellors, then our average workplace can be a happy zone. Unfortunately, most organisations do not have counsellors and no awareness of any such need.
An easier way to handle the complex situation of messed up emotions is to understand the nature of our emotions, and then tackle them step by step without giving any knee-jerk reaction. Patience is the key. For, we can befriend our emotions with patience and persistence.

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