In the eyes of others

In the late eighties, when I started working, in India, there were a handful of car models to choose from and very few cars. An air-conditioner (AC) in a car, though not unavailable, was a rarity. After all, a car was a means to an end. It served the purpose of transporting you from Point A to Point B. Its reason for existence was not to make you comfortable in an AC environment while transporting you, or to ensconce you in a cocoon while shutting out the external sounds, or to enable you to watch your favourite TV programme while travelling, as seems to be the case today. At that time, it was a big deal for a person to have a car with an AC.

One of my many early management lessons was from a senior colleague, who had a Sales job in the company and who believed that it was important to keep up appearances, who once told me “It does not matter that you don’t have an AC in your car. You should still drive with your windows rolled up. After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not. Hence, when someone outside sees you inside a car with the windows rolled up, he will naturally think that you are travelling in an AC car, and your position in his eyes will grow manifold.”

That lesson stayed with me. And I spent many joyful road-trips inside the car with windows rolled-up, feverishly wiping sweat off my brow and everywhere else my hand could reach, happy that my stock was rising in the eyes of the people outside the car who, of course, I did not know from Adam. Those joyful days of steadily rising in the eyes of the world came to an end as soon as I got a car with an AC.

A few years back, when Blackberry handsets had started becoming popular and one could do emails “on the go”, it was fascinating to watch senior people carry them around and keep peering into them or typing on them, especially when they were inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place. It imbued them with an air of importance. At least they must have felt important. Of course, I could not afford one. 

On one of these occasions my early days lesson came back to me and I heard the prophetic words again “After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not” which morphed to “After all, you know that you don’t have a Blackberry handset but the guy receiving your mail does not. And I sent the next email from my PC with “sent from my Blackberry handset” as the last line.

Thereafter, whenever I sent an email from my PC, I made it a point to type at the bottom “sent from my Blackberry handset”. So much so that it became a part of my email signature. Not sure if anyone ever noticed that I sent emails only from my Blackberry handset. Certainly my stock would have risen with all the people who received my emails in those days and they would have placed me in the same category as the important people who need to respond to important emails only from their handset even if it after three days of receipt, especially when they are inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place.  After flirting with the Apple iphone message for a short period, these days I am increasingly getting into the habit of typing “sent from my Windows Phone”, the one that I don’t have.

I am constantly window-shopping for newer and more expensive technologies and lifestyle rages that I will never buy. 

This stuff is addictive. I am hooked onto it.

When I am unable to accept an invite for golf I always text saying “Sorry cannot make it.  My Honma set will need to lie in the closet for another week.” Of course, if I accept an invite I send no such message because of the Honma set that I don’t have.

I have now even started writing “written by my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” on office documents which one needs to write on. Even where just a physical signature is required as proof of authorisation, I add “signed with my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” after every signature or initial. I did the same when I signed on the form I had to fill for renewing my Passport. My application got rejected. Seems like the government folks don’t get it.

Not only that, during meetings in office, whenever I speak or need to concur / differ, I make it a point to remind others who the concurrence has been given by. So, if the meeting organiser were to ask at the end of the meeting “do you agree?”, if I agree I would nod my head and immediately hoist a poster (prepared in advance) above my head that reads “this agreement has been given through a shake of the head that solved innumerable Calculus problems at MIT”. If I disagree verbally I would say “I disagree” and follow it up with “this disagreement has been voiced by the vocal chords that spoke out aloud at Oxford”.   

And it helps one aspire. For example, I am already planning my next email message line which will say “sent from my diamond encrusted Vertu handset”.

I feel great about what the external world may be thinking about me….

The Versatile Blogger Award

Have hesitated on this for many weeks, but am ready to finally give it a go. I was in mortal fear of having to write about me and, fortunately, always had other important tasks cropping up just as I was about to.

Having finally, and only recently, realised that that was not a show-stopping requirement, next time, which is now, when I sat down to write this post, for some strange reason, no other important task cropped up.

So, over to the award.

Firstly, thank you to my fellow bloggers for nominating me to this award and opening up my Blog to their audiences. I hope some of my readers make the effort to visit these unique bloggers and their distinctive styles.

This includes :

Mr MuthafuckingMaryPoppins at who seeks to administer dosages of reality, in his own inimitable way, by softening it up, breaking into small pieces, and many other ingenuous devices.

sorryiamnotsorry at who enjoys taking a lighthearted look at love and life through her Blog.

HaLin at who explores linkages that make life interesting (and liveable) in a manner that makes the humorous, humorously serious and seriously humorous often undistinguishable.

Through the short period I have been blogging, I have had the opportunity of reading some unique and wonderful creations, on a varied set of subjects.These include seasoned bloggers blogging from before blogging was invented to others who started only yesterday.

I hope to spread the joy and pleasure that I get from reading their blogs by nominating a few of them for the Versatile Blogger Award.

These include (in no particular order) :

Carl D’Agostino at for prolific cartooning output on a wide variety of subjects; democrtisation of cartooning if ever there was one.

Hilarius Bogbinder at who has been writing about subjects I would call meaningful. Has been inactive of late. I hope he gets back to what his readers enjoy most; his writing.

Rob Rubin at which, with its bite and sarcasm, manages to even get through to ardent non-followers of American politics (I mean other than American politicians) like non-Americans.

Eric at who has been bringing snippets from the life of Mechanic Leigh from the Singapore of sixties onwards, including some poetry.

Barry Parham at for high quality humour. The subject can be anything he chooses to write on.

“A British expat living in the Algarve” at Very close in subject to my own with his version of happenings at The Firm. Has been a little quiet these last two months. I hope he gets going once again,

Grumpa Joe at A versatile blog on a variety of current events and Grumpa Joe’s family.

Avtarit at who, I believe, is a recent convert to blogging and writes on subjects similar to mine, i.e. the empty spaces in large corporates. Occasionally, he also writes on other subjects.

Five Reflections at for plain old-fashioned good writing and poetry.

Martha B Mills at who, once again, can write about a variety of subjects with equal aplomb. She was one of the first non-family/friend visitors on my Blog and also left a comment which indicated to me that I was getting through. I am indebted to her.

The rules of the award are what have been passed on :

Firstly, the nominated bloggers should make an attempt at carrying on the tradition and nominating bloggers of their liking, in turn.

Secondly, they should contact the nominated bloggers and let them know about the nomination.

Thirdly, they should display the “Versatile Blogger Award” on their Blog.

Though unrelated to the Award, I also want to make a general request to all readers to try and leave comments on the posts they read and which touch them in some way.

I was young. I was foolish.

 “It will improve your career prospects significantly” they told me.

“But what good is a promotion without an increase in compensation” I protested.

“When you meet someone, do you talk about your designation or your salary ?” they posed.

“But when I am all by myself, I need money to live” I countered.

“Your near and dear ones will be able to proudly proclaim that you are now a supervisor in this company and no longer a mere employee” they suggested.

“To be proud, they will first need to stay alive, for which money is required” I countered.

“You will have so much more responsibility” they said.

“My personal responsibilities are also growing” I beseeched. “Besides, more responsibility will mean more work”.

“Don’t be so self-centered, thinking only about yourself” they said.

“Who else should I think about?” I asked.

“You don’t see the big picture, do you ?” they sneered.

“I am not in a position where I can admire pictures of any kind, or any kind of artwork for that matter” I confessed.

“You focus seems to be very short-term. You have a life ahead of you. Think of the higher value you will command in the long run by doing a higher level job” they argued.

“Higher value will come from a higher compensation” I persisted, “and anyway, like someone said, in the long run, we are all dead”.

 “You will get a lot of job-satisfaction from the higher responsibilities” they prophesised, while showing the light with “People at your level beg for promotions”.

“I have no complaints about the job I am doing” I insisted.

“You will have people at a lower level reporting to you, who will look up to you and seek your advice on important issues. Your workstation will be three inches longer than the employees and you will have a chair that swivels around. You will have the privilege of buying your own gas with your own money and driving in on your own, as the Transport will be withdrawn. From one amongst many cubicles in a row, we will move you right next to the toilet so that you are accessible to your people.”

Under this final fusillade of clinching arguments I crumbled.

I accepted the promotion.

I was young. I was foolish.

My compensation became half of what I was getting earlier and I started doing the work of three people.

Shortly thereafter, the company was under severe financial stress. In order to save money the company promoted everyone to a supervisory role and halved their salary.

Now, not only is my salary half off what it was earlier and I do the work of three people, I am back on the lowermost rung in the hierarchy with nobody either reporting to me or looking up to me. But I get to keep my three inch longer workstation, the swivel chair, my own gas in my own car, and a place right next to the toilet.

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.

More employee friendly policies

 Today’s post is a contribution from my friend S Subramanian who finally took pity on me and relieved me of the important (read only) task of “creating” the post from scratch. He asserts it is not an original but something he read and which stayed with him (source unknown).

So here goes….

TRANSPORTATION : It is advised that you come to work driving a car according to your salary.

  1. If we see you driving a Honda, we assume you are doing well financially and therefore you do not need a raise.
  2. If you drive a 10 year old car or taking public transportation, we assume you must have lots of savings therefore you do not need a raise.
  3. If you drive a Pickup, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.

ANNUAL LEAVE : Each employee will receive 52 Annual Leave days a year (Wow! said 1 employee). – They are called SUNDAYs.


  1. Skinny people get 30 minutes for lunch as they need to eat more so that they can look healthy.
  2. Normal size people get 15 minutes for lunch to get a balanced meal to maintain their average figure.
  3. Fat people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that’s all the time needed to drink a Slim Fast and take a diet pill.

SICK DAYS : We will no longer accept a doctor Medical Cert as proof of sickness. – If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

TOILET USE : Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilets.

  1. There is now a strict 3-minute time limit in the cubicles.
  2. At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, the door will open and a picture will be taken.
  3. After your second offence, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the “Chronic Offenders” category.
  4. Subsequent pictures will be sold at public auctions to raise money to pay your salary.

SURGERY : As long as you are an employee here, you need all your organs. – You should not consider removing anything. We hired you intact. – To have something removed constitutes a breach of employment.

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.

For your own good – Do my work

Friday evening

CEO to Senior Manager : What, you have not completed the analysis of last quarter’s Sales ? You had a whole week to do it. I need the analysis for my presentation on Monday morning.

Senior Manager to CEO : I am sorry sir. I know I had promised you the analysis by Friday day-end. Got so busy with the visiting client delegation over the last two days that I could not complete it. I did not want to delegate this work to anyone else. But rest assured sir, you will have it by Sunday evening, in a ready to present format. Once again, apologies for the delay.

Later the same evening

Senior Manager to Supervisor : Young man, I have chosen you from the group of some extremely smart young people who work for me to do an analysis on the Sales of last quarter. Unfortunately, the CEO and I need it by day-end tomorrow so that we can review it and include it in an important presentation to be made on Monday morning.

Supervisor : But sir, tomorrow is a holiday and I have some plans with the family.

Senior Manager : Its your call son. As you know, we were doing this for your own good. This is a recognition of your potential and could be a stepping stone towards higher responsibilities. But never mind, if you don’t want to do it, I will ask someone else.

Supervisor, after thinking : Sir, if you give me till Sunday morning I could do it on Saturday night.

Senior Manager : OK, this concession is only for you. The CEO is keen to see it by day-end tomorrow but I will explain to him. I will also tell him who the analysis was done by.

Saturday morning

The Senior Manager had a good game of golf with his friends this Saturday as well. He had no urgent Sales analysis to complete.

Art of misusing company resources – 2. Meeting rescheduled, finally !

The Boss calls a meeting of his team, people who report to him. It is slotted for one hour.

The Boss’ secretary is in the meeting room at the appointed time and passes an attendance sheet around. This is done in solemn silence. As if the people signing the sheet would be the only ones needing to come back to work tomorrow. People missing the meeting need not. Everyone in the room looking at each other with an enquiring look.

Every two and a half minutes she runs out of the room to check with the Boss, and comes running back exactly thirty seconds after going out and says “He will be here shortly. Just finishing an important call that got extended. He is very sorry for the delay”. When someone followed her out of the meeting room she stopped, pulled out her mobile and start dialling nonchalantly as if that is what she came out for. Perhaps she did not want anyone else accompanying her to the Boss’ office and see him playing Solitaire.

After repeating the above about six times, about twenty minutes had elapsed. By now a sense of disquiet and restiveness amongst the participants was visible. She then announced that that the Boss has offered to pay for coffee and cookies for the participants. This was a business meeting after all. This coffee and cookies, she suggested, would be ordered from the luxe Coffee shop just opened in the mall next door and not the cheap company cafeteria. The participants cheered and settled down to wait for the Mochas and Lattes and Cappuccinos. They engaged in a game of Dumb Charades while waiting for the coffee.

As the order of coffee was from the shop outside, coffee arrived about five minutes prior to the scheduled closure time of the meeting.

The Boss walked in at this juncture (when the coffee had arrived and was hot), loudly talking on his mobile. He was saying “OK I will call you back”, “I have an urgent meeting NOW” or some such thing. Presumably he was not talking actual business because that would mean he was actually talking to someone on the phone.

The Boss proceeded to pick-up his Hazelnut Frappuccino, which his secretary had taken to order alongwith the rest (and which on other days he would have paid for), apologised for the delay, and offered to get his secretary to check their availability and reschedule the meeting.

Logical argument wins the day, and ends the discussion


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.