Do unto others….

(Introduction: “Bachche” is a Hindi word which is equivalent to the English word “child”)

Manager A to Supervisor P, his team-member, on the phone: Bachche, what are you doing?

Supervisor P: Nothing much sir. Clearing up my emails.

Manager A: Can you come over to my workstation please, bachche?

Supervisor P: Of course. Be there right away.

Manager B, who was with Manager A when he spoke to the Supervisor, to Manager A: What are you doing? That’s no way to talk to a person, even if he is your team-member. Show him some professional respect at least.

Manager A: What do you mean? Of course I showed him respect. Did I not say “can you come over….please?”

Manager B: Not that. I mean you called him “bachche”. Isn’t it derogatory, calling him a child? After all, this is a professional relationship. And he is a qualified professional in a different role. Him reporting to you does not mean you should not show him professional courtesy.

Manager A: Don’t worry mate, you don’t understand. He likes it. It is like a term of endearment. He knows I am his senior, more qualified, more capable, hence he is happy to have me call him “bachche”. I think you should try it with your team-members. They will like it.

Thirty minutes later

The phone on Manager A’s workstation rings. Manager B is still with him as they were working on an issue together. Their common boss, the Senior Manager, is calling.

Manager A signals to Manager B to keep quiet by placing a finger on his lips, presses the speakerphone button and says: Yes sir?

Senior Manager to Manager A: Bachche, what are you doing?

Manager A: Just finishing the project discussion with Manager B.

Senior Manager: OK. As soon as you finish, can you please come over bachche?

Manager A, a little ruffled: Sure. Be over in ten minutes.

After disconnecting the phone, Manager A says to Manager B in an agitated voice: What does he think of himself? Is this any way to talk to a professional and a colleague? Just because he is senior to me and more qualified does not mean he can treat me this way. He needs to learn how to conduct himself professionally.

Manager B: But what did he say? I heard him on the speakerphone. I don’t think he said anything offensive.

Manager: Didn’t you hear him call me “bachche”?

Art of Misusing Company Resources – Come Unprepared

Lest the earlier discussed strategies convey to the Managed that misuse of company resources is the sole preserve of Managers, take heart ! It is not so. Most companies in the modern world are equal opportunity employers. The lower rungs of the Corporate hierarchy have as much right to misuse company resources as do the higher. In fact, more, if past data is anything to go by.

If you have been asked by your Boss for a presentation to the senior management on the competitive landscape in the industry, you have the perfect platform for showing your readiness for a senior management role by making your contribution towards misusing company resources. Here is how.

Employees often come well in advance of a scheduled meeting time where they are making a Presentation, especially when the Presentation is to seniors, to ensure that all systems (like Laptop, Projector, Lights) are working.

Instead of wasting company paid time by coming early and checking on resources that are expected to be working, you will swagger in five minutes after the scheduled start time of the meeting. This is not to show disrespect to anyone, but to allow for the seniors to gather. You don’t want the stragglers among the seniors to feel that they have delayed the meeting by coming in late, as you will try to explain when asked.

You will then proceed to connect your Laptop to the Projector and search for the file you need to display. You will not find it because while you had arranged with someone to make last-minute changes you had not agreed on the folder where the file would be placed on the shared drive.

You will then proceed to call the person last updating the file and, in a stern, officious tone, that displays your full control on the situation, proceed to ask for the file location which you then proceed to bring up on your Laptop. The file opens and plays the video of “Another one bites the dust” by Queen (you know your boss loves that one). You can feel the appreciative looks around the room boring into your back as if saying “thank you for taking us out of the daily tedium”, even as you struggle to muzzle Freddie Mercury & co. through some frantic pressing of keys.

As the video stops and a blank screen comes up you stand up to speak, and look intently at the screen, willing it to respond. Nothing happens. It stays frozen. You press some keys frantically but nothing happens. By now thirty minutes of the allotted sixty have passed.

You turn to the audience and offer apologies on behalf of the incompetent soul who you had entrusted with the responsibility of putting the right data on the file and say that you will “attend to that person suitably” and also reschedule the meeting. As people file out of the room your Boss asks you to stay back and says “I need to have a chat with you”.

The meeting never gets rescheduled. Turns out it was your last day at that company. You get fired.

Leadership assessment questionnaire

This self-assessment questionnaire has been designed to help you assess your readiness to assume a leadership role in the company. A significant amount of research has gone into each of the questions detailed below. It is suggested that you consider the options carefully before you make a choice.

1. Are you willing to lie shamelessly to your colleagues and subordinates to save your skin in times of trouble for yourself or for the business ?

Always Mostly Occasionally Rarely Never
€          €          €          €          €         

2. How willing are you to keep changing your requirements without assigning any reason ?

Always Mostly Occasionally Rarely Never
€          €          €          €          €         

3. How would you rate yourself on your ability to give vague and misleading instructions

Very high High Moderate Low Very low
€          €          €          €          €         

4. When you see a colleague who has been considered, alongwith yourself, a contender for promotion to the next senior role, in trouble because he has failed to deliver on promised commitments and is under scrutiny from senior management, you will

Feed rumours about his bad habits openly Covertly spread rumours about him Mind your own business Mind your own business, but stop any unfair comments about him Jump to his assistance
€          €          €          €          €         

5. How long can you keep subordinates waiting for a meeting that you have called ?

>2 hours 1 – 2 hours 30 – 60 mins < 30 mins Not at all
€          €          €          €          €         

6. How often do you call a meeting of your subordinates that is urgent ?

Daily Once a week Once a month Once a year Never
€          €          €          €          €         

7. Would you have pangs of guilt if you had to sack an employee without assigning any reason whatsoever ?

What does guilt mean ? Rarely Occasionally Mostly Always
€          €          €          €          €         

8. How often will you ensure that employees work on their day off either because of your slip-up or without there being a need to do so ?

Every week Once a month Once in 6 months Once a year Never
€          €          €          €          €         

9. If you can break rules, without fear of being discovered, for a financial benefit to the company or to yourself, will you do it ?

Always Mostly Occasionally Rarely Never
€          €          €          €          €         

10. How often do you check your Blackberry for messages ?

< 1 min 1 – 2 mins 2 – 3 mins 3 – 5 mins 5 mins
€          €          €          €          €         

There is no answer-sheet for this questionnaire. None is required. As a future leader, you should by now be aware of the traits required for senior leadership. If, after answering this questionnaire you have assessed yourself to be ready, step forward and take a place at the leadership high-table. If your assessment was inaccurate, you will know when you are sacked unceremoniously.

Annual appraisal and increments – maximising value

Discussion to finalise annual increments

Manager : While I am in agreement with the overall guidelines of the company of an increment of 8% for the top 20% of my team, I would like to use managerial discretion, also permitted by the company, in a couple of cases.

Senior Manager : Which ones ?

Manager : The first is Peter. Though he has made it to the top 20% bracket, he has not performed well. In fact, on a couple of occasions his actions have cost the company financially. I would like to bring him down to 6%, in line with the next 40% of the team. At the same time, Paul has shown himself to be an outstanding performer right through. He is of immense value to the company. Though no individual is indispensable, his value is immense. I would like to up his increment to 10%.

Senior Manager : I agree with your decision to reduce Peter’s rating. It will also save the company money. I am, however, not in agreement with your proposal to increase Paul’s increment. I don’t think he has done anything special. Any employee in his position would have done what he has done. He should be grateful to the company for having been given this responsibility. Besides, giving additional increment costs the company money. In these times, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Manager : May be additional increment costs money. I daresay it will become a lot more expensive for the company if he decides to leave. And I think he is considering options.

Senior Manager : That’s an illogical argument. Employees cannot start holding the company to ransom by threatening to leave.

Manager : I fully agree sir. However, this is not a case of an employee holding the company to ransom. It is a question of fair reward for work done keeping in mind the marketplace realities.

Senior Manager : He will not go anywhere. Take my word for it.

Next week

Manager : Sir, Paul has given in his resignation today.

Senior Manager : What ? How did you not see this coming ? You are expected to know about the people working for you. If we had known in advance we could have done something, like an additional increment.

Manager : I did tell you when we were finalising the increments. I did recommend an additional increment for him of 10% which you shot down.

Senior Manager : Don’t make excuses. What will happen to the Project he was doing ?

Manager : It will continue. But we will need to rework the timelines. And hire someone in his place.

Senior Manager : Let us try to keep him back. How much increase is he getting in his new job ?

Manager : Not sure, but I believe about 12%. Senior Manager : He is important to the company. Offer him a 15% increase and retain him.

Manager : As you say sir. I hope you will fund the extra 5% cost that we are having to pay Paul, from your Budget !

Appraisal – good only if it is better

The annual performance ratings have been finalised and informed to individual employees. There is a mood of despondency in the office as people meander around the office like zombies complaining about the unfair rating they have been given. Everyone is talking to everyone else despite company guidelines clearly stating that an assessment rating is private to the individual and should not be shared with others.

Employee A to Employee B : This company is doomed if it continues its selfish and high-handed way of treating employees. I am going to quit the job. I put in so much hard work through the year and what do I get for it ? A paltry 8% annual increment. Just about enough to cover inflation. In a year when profits have been good.

Employee B : Hey, that’s not bad. You got away light. My increment is only 6%.

Employee A : Really ? Sorry to hear that.

Employee A continues meandering around the office.

Employee A to Employee C : Hello mate. How are you ? How do you feel about the appraisal ? I seem to have got a bit of a raw deal. My increment is 8%.

Employee C : Hey, that’s not bad. I must congratulate you. My increment is only 5%.

Employee A : Really ? Sorry to hear that.

Employee A continues meandering around the office.

Employee A to Employee D : Hello there. Looks like reasonable appraisals this year. I got a raise of 8%. Hope you got a decent one as well.

Employee D : Judge for yourself. Mine is 4%.

Employee A : Really ? Sorry to hear that. Better luck next year.

Employee A continues meandering around the office. By this time he is positively beaming and ready to spread good cheer around.

Employee A to Employee E : What a great company to work for. Never imagined a company could be so fair in annual assessments. Got an 8% hike, cannot believe it. Enough to beat inflation and put away some. I am an employee for life here.

Employee E : Good for you mate.

You can depend on me….

Of course I will be able to do it sir. You need not worry. I can do it with my eyes closed. With my hands tied.

The only situation that can prevent me from delivering, sir, is :

If the supplier does not provide the raw material in time.

If the material received is not of requisite quality.

If the Labour Unions of our staff decide to initiate Industrial Action before completion of the assignment.

If the power situation takes a turn for the worse and we are strapped for power.

If the machinery breaks down.

If employee attrition spikes up and we are not able to backfill in time.

If the Steering Committee responsible for taking decisions on the Project is either not able to meet or not able to reach timely decisions.

If I fall ill or run into a speeding truck.

If there is any manmade event like civil strife or industrial action that paralyses vast sections of the country.

If there is any unforeseen natural calamity like an earthquake or tsunami.

And, by the way, the above does not purport to be an exhaustive list.

Other than the above, I have the situation well under control. You need not worry. Thank you for showing confidence in me.

The Very Important Person – how to find him in Office

It is normally difficult to tell the very important from the less important people in office, as the very important ones tend to go about their business in a no-fuss, even self-deprecating manner, letting their work “speak” for itself. Should one, however, need to find such a person at the workplace, even if it is for no reason other than the opportunity to observe and learn from him, a few pointers that may be of help in this pursuit are produced here.

You walk into his office just as he sinks the twelve foot putt into the waste paper basket lying on its side. You need to discuss the project that you are working on. He says “not now, I am busy”. You want to know when you could come back. He says “check with Jenny (his secretary)”.

He is a Manager and his team is working with the team of Manager B, a peer working in another department, on a Project. When he needs to communicate a project related message pertaining to the successful completion of a deliverable by his team to Manager B, he will call up Senior Manager B, Manager B’s Boss, and communicate the message with a request for the same to be passed on to Manager B.

If Manager B calls to give him (Manager A) a similar communication, he will ask him to call up Supervisor A, one of his team-members, and communicate the message.

He can be seen talking loudly into the mobile phone when he is outside his office, especially when he is on the move outside his office. On occasion he will be found to be cradling the mobile phone between his head (craned awkwardly to one side) and shoulder and writing something on a piece of paper likely to be a tissue.

In many cases he can be seen talking to himself. Loudly. He is actually talking on an earpiece connected to the mobile.

He is an effective communicator. In face to face discussions he makes productive use of his hands, flailing them wildly while talking. He also ensures people who don’t need to be part of the conversation hear him talk. His speech is slow, deliberate. If he has to communicate “Eastern is a very big company” he will say “Eastern is a company. Eastern is a big company. Eastern really is a big company. Eastern is a really big company. Eastern is a very big company.” And there will be a pause after each sentence so that the message has sunk in.

His conversation with the Security Guard will be peppered with words like “contract”, “transaction”, “price”, “revenue”, “deal”, “turnaround time”,” target”, “competition”, “market”, etc. interspersed with four-letter words.

He can often be seen holding four simultaneous conversations on four different topics with four different people.

I hate travel

Manager, back in his office after a week on the road, to Team Members : Good to be back in office. Some respite from constant travel. I am sick of constantly having to rearrange my personal life on account of business requirements. Seems as if my life is spent in airport lounges more than home. And the hotel food really gets to me. I hate all that.

Team Members, in one voice : We know it must be difficult sir. But isn’t it exciting to visit new places ?

Manager : Yes it is, but you know me. I am happy between my home and my office. I will tell my Boss that I am not travelling for the next one year. If the company insists that I need to go because nobody else is qualified, I will resign and leave. After all, there is a limit to everything.

Team Members : You are so simple and straightforward, sir. How we wish we had these opportunities to travel.

Manager : Well, you know me guys ! Focussed only on work and family. Of course I understand your feelings. And, believe me, when the opportunity next arises, I will nominate one of you to travel and represent the company.

In the middle of the meeting the Senior Manager (the Manager’s Boss) drops in and says, “Oh, by the way, we have been invited to the Industry Conference in Las Vegas end of the month. It is for a week and the company will bear all expenses. We would like someone from this team to attend the conference on behalf of the company. I am leaving the choice to you guys. No specific qualification or knowledge is required as we are not anchoring any session. The participant would mainly need to listen to the speakers, make notes where appropriate, collect Business cards, and come back and debrief. We don’t mind if you want to take your spouse / partner along as long as you pay for it.

Team Members, in one Voice : Hurray. We love the company.

Before leaving, the Senior Manager to Manager : Send me the name of the person chosen to attend by end of day please. My secretary will make necessary arrangements.

After the Senior Manager leaves, the Manager turns back to his team and says : See, it never ends. Just when I thought I will have a few peaceful days at home comes this requirement. I will again have to pack my bags and go. Such is my life!!

Logical argument wins the day, and ends the discussion

Today

Department Manager to his boss, the Senior Manager : Sir, I have studied the financial statement in detail. Our biggest cost is employee cost, which is obvious as we are in the services business. Almost all the employee cost is committed cost, which is written into the hiring contract of employees. The only discretionary expense, if I can call it that, is that of Transport, which we provide to everyone. That is not a part of the contractual terms. However, to save cost, if we take away the Transport facility, it could result in a huge backlash from employees as providing Transport is the norm in our industry. I don’t think there is any opportunity of reducing the employee cost.

Senior Manager to Department Manager : But we are one of the leaders in this industry (even though there are twenty other companies larger than us and growing faster we will ignore that fact). We have to set the pace for the industry. Others look up to us (I don’t believe this but am saying it for effect) to set standards and introduce the revolutionary new ideas that they can follow. Rest assured, what we do today will be replicated across the industry tomorrow. Have no fear. Implement the decision to withdraw Transport.

A few weeks later

Department Manager to the Senior Manager : Sir, our operations are seriously jeopardised on account of staff shortage. People are resigning and leaving in droves. And those who have not left are not turning up for work. We have no choice but to reinstate the Transport facility.

Senior Manager to Department Manager : This is total mismanagement. Why did you withdraw the facility without taking employee feedback ?

Department Manager to the Senior Manager : But, sir, you…

Senior Manager to Department Manager : No ifs and buts. Reinstate the facility immediately and apologise to them for your hasty and ill-timed action.

Two months later

Department Manager to Senior Manager : Sir, while the high attrition of two months back is coming down, it is still quite high. I have a suggestion for cost reduction. Instead of hiring graduates, we should hire under-graduates. They will be available for a lower salary. We can provide a little bit of training to make them ready. The additional cost of providing training will be more than offset by the saving on salary within three months.

Senior Manager to Department Manager : Hmmm. Worth considering. What are the attrition trends from this group in the industry ?

Department Manager to Senior Manager : No data available sir. This is a revolutionary new idea. Nobody in the industry has implemented it.

Senior Manager to Department Manager : Don’t be foolish, if it was such a good idea someone would surely have tried it by now.

Department Manager to Senior Manager : But sir, you said we are the leaders in the industry and….

Senior Manager to Department Manager : Shut up and go away.