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“Before and beyond money”- 9 August 2011

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 13 August 2011 13:03

Ajit had an impressive personality – well built, good-looking. In just a few years after he joined as a junior, he had risen in the ranks to become Number Two in his section. His juniors respected him, and peers appreciated him. He seemed to work hard. He seemed to work with focus. Many people in the organisation considered him a rising star.

Yet, Ajit’s rise became rather slow after an initial start. He seemed stuck in the groove. A few seniors noticed the block and suggested to him possible ways out of the quagmire. Yet, Ajit did not seem to appreciate the good-natured advice. And of late, he started showing signs of constant irritation and snapped at anybody who tried to be friendly with him. And he also kept blaming the big bosses for his getting stuck in the groove. He believed, the big bosses were against him for no reason and were blocking his path of progress in the organisation.
Listening to all those complaints and irritated statements of Ajit, one senior opened a talk with the big boss. “What’s the matter, Sir? Why is the fellow complaining constantly? Why aren’t we promoting him? He seems to be quite a good guy”, he wondered.
The big boss let out a sigh. He said, “Look, I have no personal problem with the fellow, but I have observed that he is interested more in money and not in genuine progress. He fakes his expense-account items, inflates his bills and I have caught his sly efforts on many occasions. He has already reached a stage after which ethics would count more than one’s desire to make more money somehow. Of course, if we promote him, he will get more money. But then, our organisation is looking for guys with sound ethical values so that they rise above money and serve the cause. At these stages, what I look for is values the guys have. I expect them to place ethical values before money, and then rise beyond money and join the highway to higher echelons of our structure. Ajit is falling short in this area.”
Ajit’s is not an isolated case, however. During my years of industrial counseling, I have come across many such people whose values are muddled up, whose goals are confused, and whose priorities are unclear. Of course, I have also come across examples of some smart people who rose above the mundane and charted for themselves a career graph that would be everybody’s envy.
One such example is of Sunjog, a middle-level executive in a FMCG company. Everybody seemed to love him. Everybody seemed to trust him. Bosses were happy with him, and peers adored him, a few jealous heads apart. The bosses often loaded Sunjog with lots of work and newer projects. The fellow never complained, kept smiling, and kept doing things most diligently and determinedly. On many occasions, Sunjog would do a lot of extra work without any financial or material reward. His friends criticised him for that, but Sunjog was not bothered. He did all his assignments with a sense of devotion, unmindful of the derisive laughter of many colleagues. He often said to his charming wife, “I do not work only for money. I have a higher aim.” She did not understand but trusted him for his judgement.
One day, a big break came for Sunjog. The management chose him to go abroad for a specialised training. Once he returned, Sunjog was absorbed into higher levels of management and became a director of a division at a shockingly young age of 30 years, something unheard of in his company. At a celebration party, one of his senior colleagues asked Sunjog’s wife, “What is the secret of your husband’s phenomenal rise? You must be aware of it!” The girl blushed, and said, “I do not know if there is any secret, but I know one thing – Sunjog does not work only for money; he works for a higher aim. He works for his personal satisfaction, for his self-actualisation. I don’t quite understand some of this stuff, but I have heard him talk of this aim of his. Perhaps, this is the secret, you know! ”
I realise that this may be a difficult path to tread for the average person. Yet, my experience shows that if one follows this path, rewards come faster. For, in that case, one is focused on the proper goals. The contrast between the cases of Ajit and Sunjog shows this clearly.

“Of fitness freak who made the difference”- 26 July 2011

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 20:24

“Meet Mr. Fitness freak. All the time, he is jogging or doing push-ups, and eating frugally. And whenever you meet him, he talks of exercising and asks you to follow some exercise regime. He is such a bore. Whenever I see him in the office corridor, I just sneak away. Who would listen to the nonsense?”

This is how most of his colleagues in the office spoke of Virdhawal who they called fitness freak. He had joined the mineral exploration firm just three years ago. He was always cheerful, always ready to take on any challenge at workplace, and willing to help whosoever was in need. Like many others, Virdhawal, too, was an engineer. But he was unlike most others who whiled away their time doing nothing in spare time. He would have his morning session of exercise for about an hour.
Later, during the workday, he would go out for a quick walk around the block for about 20 minutes before settling for lunch. After that, Virdhawal would have a power nap in his chair for a few minutes and would be back at work in time, all smiling, ‘cool’, and ready for any challenge. And whenever a chance came, he never missed telling his colleagues the importance of fitness regime. The colleagues hated his ‘fitness lectures’ and even avoided him.
Then something interesting (disturbing) happened. Three young colleagues who had been sent to an exploration site fell ill as they could not cope with the tough life there out in the wilderness. They sought their transfer back to any city-site. And this was not the first such case. In the past couple of years, at least a dozen of engineering staffers had opted out of that tough assignment. The company did not know how to cope with the situation. The site was floundering and the principals were pushing things hard. They had staked big money on the site and could only ill-afford to let the site run at a snail’s pace.
It is at this juncture that Virdhawal requested the bosses to send him to that ‘badnaam’ site that had sent many seniors packing. He did not any experience of site-management. Yet, out of desperation, the bosses chose him over others, gave him sumptuous allowances as part of their motivational efforts, and packed him off to the notorious site. He went with much confidence about success. Everybody laughed. All felt that Virdhawal would return defeated as the site was too difficult to manage.
In a few weeks, reports from the site were encouraging. The work had gotten going at full pace, with Virdhawal working almost round the clock. Despite the long hours, he still found time for his exercise regime which he had altered to suit the new conditions. Instead of coming away, Virdhawal seemed to enjoy the challenge, doing well for his assignment and for himself. Workers seemed to like his ways. He was everywhere with them. All were amazed to know that Virdhawal had not reported ‘sick’ even for a minute during the first one year. He worked on relentlessly and won plaudits from the principals. In a record time of two years, he completed the project that had not even got off to a decent start in the first seven years. Naturally, Virdhawal was the new hero.
After he returned to head office when the project was completed successfully, the bosses felicitated him and promoted him to a very senior position. At the small office function when he was felicitated, the bosses asked him what the secret of his success was. Virdhawal was a man of few words. He was reluctant to make speeches. But that evening, he spoke his heart out. “Regular exercise is my secret. Not only have I built a body strong enough to withstand the stress and strain of the tough life on the site, but also a strong mind to take on any challenge. I believe that my insistence upon fitness gave me the necessary strength. I am aware of the ridicule I faced when all of you called me fitness freak. I am aware that many of you even avoided me, fearful of my ‘fitness lectures’. But let me share with you my inner feelings – I do not mind being called a ‘fitness freak’. For, what made the difference was my fitness when most of you failed in the tough terrain out there.”
This story is worth listening to it from Virdhawal (his name changed for privacy) himself.

“Asset, not a liability”- 12 July 2011

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 18:10

Nandita’s biggest liability was also her biggest asset, which she did not take much time to realise once she started working as a chemical analyst in a start-up pharmaceutical company. She had just passed out with her M Tech and picked up the first job that came her way.

That was her need. Her mother was very ill and needed a lot of money for treatment, which her father’s income could not support. So, Nandita got going in the job from Day One, with full concentration so that she could finish her day’s work quickly and get back home without delay. There was a lot to do at home – cooking, feeding Mother, helping her younger brother in studies, taking care of Father’s things, going to market etc. She could not take part in office groups and did not have time and also inclination to indulge in gossip sessions (which often promised a lot of spice). Nandita was not a loner, so to say, but she did not have time to indulge in senseless socialising.
One of her colleagues – who had actually become sort of a personal friend at work – even said, “Look Nandita, you are so young and so full of life. But problems at home seem to pull you down. You cannot take part in office groups and have no time to sit down leisurely to talk with others. This will not take you much distance, I am afraid. Unless you mix with people and form power bonds, you will not progress.” In response, Nandita only smiled, said nothing, and got back to her work. She had a lot many things to do. Just a couple of weeks earlier, she had talked to her boss and asked for an additional assignment, if possible, so that she could earn a little more money which she needed so badly.
Of course, in her mind, she did ponder over the friend’s remark a little: ‘Why should this happen to me? Why hasn’t life given me a little spare time so that I could make friends with more people? Is Mother’s illness my liability.’ Of course, she did not allow this thought to linger long in her mind. She told herself, ‘No, this is my responsibility, and I will handle it with care and concern.’
Her boss, a fat and beautiful woman in her mid-fifties, was happy to give Nandita some additional work as well as a silent responsibility of compiling details of various researches on a drug formulation. The company was working on a new formulation and needed such research assistance. Nandita fitted in well. She worked hard and gave a lot of material to the core research group. All this deprived Nandita of even whatever little time she had every day at lunch hour. She ate her lunch real quick and rushed back to her desk, leaving behind gossiping colleagues who seemed to enjoy the loose talk about happenings in office. All made savage fun of her, spoke silly things, indulged in utter nonsense about her personality and character, which her friend, of course, did not like and fought bitterly in her favour. For her part, Nandita would tell her friend to stay away from all that, but the friend had no inclination to listen to her advice.
Meanwhile, things were changing in Nandita’s favour, slowly but invariably. Her mother had started responding to treatment favourably. Father was naturally happy with his daughter whose help had proved so critical to the family’s well being. And at work, the boss had got a promotion due to Nandita’s work and passed on the good feeling to Nandita by promoting her also well before the time. And as she did that, the boss told Nandita why good things were happening. “Look dear, I watching you closely,” she said. “You were focused and did not allow yourself the temptation of indulging in loose talk that takes place routinely in offices. You know that your mother was not well proved to be your asset, not a liability, because that forced you to stay away from loose talk and office gossip and politics. That forced you to ask for more work, which brought you not only more money but also the present promotion out-of-turn.”
Only gratitude flowed from Nandita’s dark, beautiful eyes!

“The key within”- 28 June 2011

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Monday, 04 July 2011 17:26

When Sangeeta first stepped into the large hall where her administration section was located, she felt impressed by its officious grandeur. She was just 23 years old and all eager to step into the new life of a management executive of a mid-sized Indian company manufacturing a range of machine tools. She liked almost everything in the place -- working facilities, library, research section, well-dressed colleagues coming from various parts of the country, smart bosses who seemed to know answers to all problems before they surfaced. She knew instantly, she belonged there.

However, as days wore on, Sangeeta realised that all was not well in her office. For, many among the senior colleagues seemed unhappy for reasons which at least she did not understand. Of course, there were happy colleagues as well. Yet, what perplexed Sangeeta was the people who did not like many things in the place. They cribbed. They formed groups during coffee breaks and indulged in loose talk. They told savage and often fictitious jokes about bosses. They also tried to rope in Sangeeta in their campaigns of spreading negativism. In short, they did everything to spoil the atmosphere.
On her part, Sangeeta was determined not to get involved in the dirty business. She had set a high goal for herself and wanted to allow no compromise on that count. And more importantly, Sangeeta had decided to stay a happy person, the troubles and difficulties on the ground apart.
As a child, her parents had encouraged her and her two brothers to extract grains of happiness in every situation. That mindset began helping Sangeeta at the workplace. She saw only the positive things around even though she did not miss the flaws. But on positives she dwelled and not on the flaws. She also realised one thing – at home, too, everything was not good or positive. Parents fought at times. There were times of money crunch. The house was rather small for the family with three adult children. And yet, the whole family made a happy home. Sangeeta realised often that even when there were some difficulties, some flaws at home, overall, they were a happy family.
Sangeeta followed this approach even at workplace. Many times, when she found it difficult to ignore the negative things, she would go to the bosses and spoke things out openly. That helped her understand the mindset of the bosses and appreciate the degree of difficulties which they had to contend with. This greater understand increased Sangeeta’s happiness quotient.
Her colleagues, of course, did not appreciate Sangeeta’s sense of happiness. They felt, she was faking the good feeling, fooling herself. That was hardly the case. Sangeeta had learnt to extract grains of happiness in any situation. She felt, the key to happiness lay within herself, in her attitude, in her ability to see positive dimensions of any situation. Not only did she remain undaunted by any situation but also learned to extract small grains of happiness at all times. There often was a faint, unexpressed smile on her lips, enhancing her good looks.
Happiness has a very special quality – it is infectious, it spreads all by itself. In Sangeeta’s case, too, this happened slowly but surely. Colleagues started noticing the difference. They started getting inspired by the young executive’s happy countenance. And even the bosses also started noticing the initially imperceptible change in the office environment. A young and junior executive could be the change agent!
Of course, the change was terribly slow to come by. For Sangeeta, everything looked like a dream. She enjoyed her happy feeling. And she sent happy signals all around her. Her attitude inspired the bosses to take up a new programme of stepping up happiness index of the workplace.
That programme may take its own time to start becoming effective, but it was, nevertheless, inspired by a young executive’s success in looking for happiness within herself.
This may appear as fiction to many, but almost every place has persons like Sangeeta, happy with life, looking forward to it, willing to share and spread goodness, committed to believing in power of the positive. The trouble, however, is that we do not allow ourselves the freedom to explore the key (to happiness) within. In an atmosphere where negativism was a default, this girl proved an exception.

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