Category Archives: Denial

Mistakes of Juniors

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This week has been unique in that two of my juniors have managed to make mistakes on two consecutive days.

First it was Lucky. Actually we had to get 2 books printed on an urgent basis. So we made the specs and scope of work for inviting bids from advertising agencies. She prepared a draft note based on our discussions and mailed it to me for checking. She also sent draft letter that was to be sent to agencies after this note was approved. I read the note and found that she had got the two books confused and jumbled up the specs. I corrected the specs and asked her to make same changes in the letter. She got the approvals and sent the mail. Next day when all the sealed bids had been received from agencies, she said one agency guy had called and pointed out the error in specs, as she was telling him something different on phone. She was very hassled, so I told her to calm down and we will see what can be done. I thought over it for few minutes and decided to tell to our boss and ask for her directions. Now I could have gone alone and put the entire blame on her, but I did not do that. I took her along and told boss that there was a mistake and explained the thing to her. She understood did not make too fuss about it and asked us to invite fresh bids. We did so and the issue was resolved. Since Finance was also involved in initial bids, I called up finance guy and said- Lucky had sent mail by mistake and this was how we were tackling. He said ok. Though Lucky sits in front of me and she was not listening. I felt bad in taking her name in front of finance. I had not taken her name in front of our boss. Secondly, I was apprehensive she might have heard in the open hall, so I wanted to come out clear, and said to her- I told finance ur name., though I did not tell ur name to boss. She said-why not sir, when I have made a mistake. Then I realized that I had broken the unwritten code of good conduct by bragging about it. I felt ashamed.

Today, Bob made a blunder. A few thousands calendars had been printed. Bob had supervised the job and today someone pointed out that there was a mistake, so the whole cost was wasted. Bob came to me and told. I kept cool and asked him at what stage the mistake had occurred. He said from the beginning. Bychance boss was not in office and was in a meeting. We asked the printer if the calendars could be salvaged, he said not really. I don’t know why but I was not very perturbed. I told him to remain calm, we will tell boss. It so happened that till late evening boss was in a meeting. So we decided we will tell later. Because if boss comes to know from some other source, she will not like that. And I had learnt from an earlier boss Jim that give negative news to boss first, positive news can wait.

Now I was in fix as there was not much fault of mine. Bob had seen the proofs, sent the okays, checked the final version. I had even asked him if he wanted any help, he said confidently no it’s all in control. Knowing myself, if i go to boss with him, I will end up becoming equally guilty if not more for the fault due to my modesty and definition of leadership. I do not want to be seen as ditching my juniors when they are in trouble. I don’t want to be seen as saying-he made the mistake. He is the culprit, let us hang him. I would rather say-we made the mistake. Boss will automatically believe what I say and consider me equally guilty.

But if I ask Bob to go to boss alone, he will feel deserted and secondly he may say anything to save himself. But that way burden of proving his innocence will be on him. Then I won’t jump and claim role in the mistake. Besides, I always encourage my juniors to go to boss and take responsibility. So they have to go when they make mistakes also.

FInally I have decided that we will go together and I will be cautious in jumping to grab the blame. If boss asks why you did not check- I will tell the truth that I asked him all is well and if my help is required, and bob said no all is well. Besides if every time I save them by sharing the blame equally, they will not get the lesson and become casual. Bob had earlier also made a mistake and he did not learn the lesson since I protected him.

Let us see what boss says.

If the issue does not become too complex, I am also taking it as a learning experience. Since I will have to face many such situations in future. Delegating jobs to my juniors and trusting them. They will make mistakes and I will have to face the brunt. Let us see how Tina tackles this.

BTW, an aside, I told Tom about his profile of activator, and he was not very happy with my assessment and told me so. He though profile fitted Jim and not him.

 

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Critical feedback dialogue

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Lucky (The female junior, early 30s)- Sir, what happened to that job we discussed last week. How do we do it?

Sunny (the male boss, early 40s) – I remember telling you clearly that estimate had to be taken from agency and an approval note made.

Lucky- (in a plain tone) I don’t remember.

Sunny- (getting irritated)- Well, I remember exactly, and you even said- one agency is charging reasonably, so we can get it done from that agency.

Lucky- (same tone) I don’t remember

Sunny- (with fuse blown, but in a clenched-teeth voice)- I remember 500 % that I told you, it is a separate thing that both of us forgot after that and the job was not done, but this was discussed.

Lucky- Sir, what happened, I wanted to ask you…..

Sunny- Let us not get into that in the morning, we will discuss later.

Later in the evening, Sunny calls Lucky and asks diplomatically- yes you were saying something in the morning.

Lucky- Sir, for last one week, you have been behaving differently , so I wanted to ask you what happened?

Sunny- Okay, first things first. About today morning incident, you know I hate lairs, and when someone directly or indirectly implies that I am a liar, you can imagine my problem. So when you said in the morning- I don’t remember, you were implying that I am lying, so I did not like that. This you have done once or twice in the past too, but I did not say anything. But when you did it again today, I lost control.

Lucky maintained deliberate, intelligent silence  and let Sunny finish, she just kept nodding.

Sunny then added- As for last week’s changes, let me start from the beginning.

See, as a team leader, I feel that I go out of the way to give visibility, exposure and opportunities to my juniors. Sometimes I feel that it is at my own cost, but I still do it. Secondly, I have told you earlier that my funda is clear, if one of us can do a job, I will not insist on both of us wasting our time on that. So you or me will do that. So I always try to create a positive work environment. Lastly, I asked during your appraisal this year, are there things you don’t like about me, and asked this again 2-3 times, you did not say anything, So I presumed that you are okay with my working and management style. And since I went out of the way to create a good team culture, I expected you to reciprocate that by being a good team member.

Lucky- And yes I always tried that. As for feedback about you, when you did my appraisal, I had worked with you for 2 months only so I could not tell much. But what happened last week, that changed your behaviour, which was confusing to me.?

Sunny- (Realising that her logic about 2 months working is solid, went to next topic) Well, you see, it is really good that you asked. Otherwise I was thinking that I had made a wrong image about you. After last thursday, I had stopped giving any agency work to you, and to show my anger, I was doing all agency related work myself. But when you did not react, I was puzzled. I would not have tried to have shown my anger this way to other guys. I did it to you, because I thought you were a thinking person, well-read, and you would notice the difference. So when you did not say a word, and acted normal, I was confused as to how do I manage such a team member. Because your non-reaction could mean only two things.

One, I was wrong about your emotional quotient, and you were plain Jane,a dumbo, who could not notice the difference in my behaviour, or

Two, you notice but you did not bother about my mood, anger, or reaction.

In either case, it was problematic for me. So I was confused how to handle you as a manager.

But by asking now, you have solved part of the problem.

Lucky- No, I noticed it Monday only, and in the evening I asked my mom also, and she said wait for sometime, you will get to know, but when it continued on Tuesday, Wednesday also, I was like what the hell. I did not want to ask as I was afraid it might make you more angry.

Sunny- Okay, so last Thursday, both of us knew, next three days were off-days, and we might have to work on all three days. I asked you given a choice, which days you would like to come, and you replied very curtly- If I have to come, I don’t mind what days?

That made me very angry. Here was I, a senior, who could have dumped the whole three days on you, willing to share the load, and offering you first choice. I was being generous and a good boss in my mind. And what do I get in return, an attitude and almost disobedience.

Then you said, you had to go home urgently, and I said-use official car for going. You were hesitant, but I insisted saying that we invest our holidays and all, so we deserve this much. You said okay.

I did tell you, that come what may, do try to come back, which I thought to myself, was a bit harsh, but I did tell you later that you could avoid coming if situation demands.

Aniways, you went and took a lift from another person, sms’ed me. I was okay with that. But then I went to agency and sms’ed you to use official car if you decide to come back to office. You sent back sms 2 hours later- I have taken a taxi and I have come back.

That really pissed me off, so I decided then and there not to call you on next 3 days.

On Monday also, my anger did not subside, I did not want to make an issue of it, knowing that my anger will go away in 2 weeks, so I decided that I will do all agency-related work and keep mum. This I thought will convey my anger to you. I wanted to convey two things to you.

One, I am self-sufficient and can do the work on my own, if required. If I ask you to do the work, it’s because I want the whole team to work together.

Two, If I end up doing work on weekends, I can jolly well do the work on weekdays too.

Lucky- Sir, I did not mean to hurt you, my anger was directed at the other departments who were working slowly and spoiling our weekends. Though I get it that my words did not convey this. As for car, while going home, I got a lift, and since I had already taken a taxi from home for the personal work I had, and I had to pay him aniways, so I came back by taxi.

But you could have told all this to me on Monday, you know how these things disturb me.

Sunny- No but it was intentional and I wanted you to realise how angry I was.

Lucky- I get that, but now you owe me a coffee, and please please in future do tell me if I say something wrong.

Sunny- Okay, deal.

(This is a real conversation I had with my junior this week. Thought to write in a dialogue form to make it interesting reading)

What say??

Junior this!

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You can get a lot done, if you don’t mind who gets the credit, thus goes a quote. And I firmly believe in that on a day to day basis. Though I did have a conflict in my mind when I was assessed as not-the-best performer. So I can’t say I live by this quote 100 %. But to be frank, on a daily basis I act on it. However once or twice a year, when it affects my assessment, it hurts me but I come to terms with it soon enough and get on with my life.

So this junior who was feeling singled-out and shared that with me, who was feeling hurt by comments of a friend and shared. In both the cases, I took remedial measures, so that she does not feel singled-out and feel hurt. She reads a lot of books, talks sense most of the time, but last week she behaved very oddly.

We have been working on a publication for last one month. I have given her full liberty, exposure and visibility. So I was feeling good that we were working as a team. But when it came to a long weekend, when I asked her to share the load, and choose the days she wants to come, she said-If I have to come, I will come any day. Then same day, she also disobeyed me when she did not act on my advice to use office car for some urgent work, instead hired a taxi on her own. Same evening happy told, that she would tell something this junior said about me. All this made me very very angry.

So I worked on 2 full days on weekend and did not call her. Then I debated in mind if to tell her how upset I am. But then I remembered she is the same junior who had cried before others, when I corrected her draft and made a silly comment. So I decided that I will not say anything. But I was still not at peace. I kept on thinking, and found that her daughter was not well that day and I had insisted that she comes back to office. She might have disliked that, but what the hell.

So on Monday, I did not say anything to her. I kept myself under control though it was very difficult. I felt like making satirical comments or sharp taunts, but I kept mum. Strangely in that state of mind, I subconsciously took a decision that for this job, I will not send her to agency. If I have to work on weekends, I can very well work on weekdays too. She appeared to take it very casually. But somehow I am liking this sudden decision on my part. Though I know this will not work with all colleagues. But since she appears to be well-read and sensible, maybe she realises that she hurt me. Though there may be possibility that she would be carrying grudges against me, which I don’t know, but I don’t feel like asking happy right now.

Maybe in 3-4 days, my anger will cool down and things will be back to normal.

Let  us see.

Denial

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Denial can be very funny and disturbing when you see it in other person. Of course denial in ourself is never easy thing to accept.

I am witnessing denial in a person, an ex-boss to be precise and it is very irritating. Whenever you speak to him, he will always project himself as holier than thou, and the most simple person on earth. The reality is he is very scheming and complex personality. His present job profile is such that he has to do some jobs which he used to do as our boss. Now that always results in obvious conflict with our present boss. They are most of the time at loggerheads. Present boss is well-mannered and rarely wears his emotions on sleeves. But the ex-boss does. Specially when ex-boss is with me, he keeps criticising present boss and ends every sentence with- Have I ever done anything bad to him? And what can I say but yes sir.

Ex-boss in reality never misses a chance to earn brownie points with CEO, and takes every opportunity to show present boss in bad light. Always keeps comparing his tenure and downgrades present team, which also includes me. Only I know, how I swallow all this. I just keep mum. The ex has this capability to tear apart the present boss and his work, and also claim his innocence in one sentence. He is the height of hypocrisy.

The ex had to go out from the department under unpleasant circumstances beyond his control. But he kept on blaming me and other people for his ouster. Now when mistakes during his time are noticed, he unabashedly puts the blame on me and other juniors. At the smallest of reasons, he starts shouting at me and abusing the whole department, how it has gone to dumps, how it was the best of times when he was heading it and all that. He is the perfect example of a manager in denial. On one occasion he said- When people needed promotions, awards, favours, they came to me, and now all ungrateful bastards are useless. I felt like shouting at him and telling him go f yourself. But I respect age, and he did a lot for me, though for his own selfish interests. He needed me as his sounding box, as his confidant and as his man friday and also for writing his speeches, articles and letters. So he squeezed me full and threw me some bones, which I did not ask for. And now he has the face to say he did it all without any self-interest. As if I don;t understand his shenanigans. He can be in a state of denial himself, but I can see through most of his game-plans.

Such people treat other people as tools and toys, to be used and discarded.

Mood swings

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Mood is a strange animal, very difficult to control. One day it is on, one day it is off. At times I know the reason of my mood swing, and at times I don’t. Now I can’t blame it on hormones, or can I. Then mood can be interpreted as nothing but a state of mind, which also affects other organs of the body resulting in fast heartbeat, headache and what not.

But for every person, reasons for mood getting off-track are different. Thanks to Daniel Goleman, M. Scott Peck and Dale Carnegies of the world, I am trying to understand the working of my mind these days, and so trying to guess reason of my off mood today on this fine Sunday.

Two things really I could pin down on.

One is the fear of an important person being angry with me. Actually this person if the spouse of a big shot in our company. I was asked to assist them in a printing job, which I did last year also. But this time I could not give full time to it, and had to rely on another person who is formally the editor, and it seems this editor backbited and sullied my image. I don’t have any confirmation yet, just hunch because I was not called to their last meeting. So I am feeling cheated. Seeing in a big perspective, after 3-4 years, these things won’t matter, but then why is my mood off. Actually there is a function to formally launch the publication next week, and I am not sure I will be invited or not, and if invited I should go or not. Besides, another reason for that spouse being upset is that last year I made my spouse a member of their club, and told the friend who mediated, that why my spouse was not called for their get togethers. It seems this cunning, conniving friend might have complicated the things by passing on the things with spice to big shot spouse. Again this also is a hunch. What I could read from this situation is more than the loss of face, what worries me is the choice dilemma-I go or not go, I take interest or not. So Choice or decision, that too associated with a tricky situation upsets my mood.

I told you about a junior of mine, who was not very keen on coming to work on weekends even for an urgent job. Now the confusion, whether I tell her about how angry I was with her attitude, is again perturbing me. So here again the choice is making me upset, not the act itself.

I was thinking of telling another junior also about two of his lapses. Till the time I was thinking, I was not okay. But when I told him, that issue is out of my mind now. There was other issue also, but there I came to a different decision, and that also led to peace of mind.

Life is really simple, if you make it so.

Women bosses

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There was an article in newspaper on how women bosses are perceived differently and how they are far better than they are credited for. That made me think of two women bosses I have had.

One was a terror so to say. She used to shout at the slightest provocation, and that too on small things. All floors in our head office were aware of her loud voice. I caught her backbiting and backstabbing too, even on me at times. She was all good goody to your face but screwed you in your appraisal and rated those persons better who sucked up to her, or did her personal errands. She was more interested in her personal interests, rather than company’s interests. She played politics to ensure that a junior of mine, who was working with her for last 15 years (I came to head office much later) always got better of me. Additional telephone, better seating, better rating, better visibility and better job assignments. Though in front of me, she always criticised him, her bias was very clear. So women bosses also have as many bad qualities as men bosses have, so I don’t get this discrimination thing really. She did have positive side also. She was assertive, protective, woman of her words, caring at times, forthright in negative feedback in her trademark style of course, well-connected, good command over language, resilient, fast and go-getter.

Then there was this another boss who had this image of a tigress, but was very good at heart. She was too cold and calculating though with no personal interest in you whatsoever, self-centred (as most of the bosses are, I don’t know why I have a problem with that always), self-confident bordering on arrogance. For example once I sent her an sms regarding some event she had asked for the day before. Her reply comes- Yes, I know. Well I did not expect a bouquet or commendation but a plain thank-you or even no response would have sufficed. She threw water on my FYI act by snubbing me this way, and this she did a lot. Though I might have also irritated her at times unknowingly. For example, once she appeared for an interview of Board member, I sent her wishes and all, but when she did not get selected, I avoided raising the topic with her, thinking that it might hurt her more. And two days later, in a discussion with juniors in front of her, I said that she might become a board member some day and you will suffer if she goes out. A positive comment delivered at the wrong time. I repented the moment i said it, but the damage was done already. Aniways she adopts the need-to-know principle to perfection which at times is demotivating as you feel out of the loop. She will expect the unexpected from you at times like doing a 30-minute job in 5 minutes. She keeps her calm in big crisis situations but smaller issues ruffle her up and she loses her calm.

But then again compared to other bosses, she respects her time so she respects yours too,, she is polite when she speaks, she is reasonable and understanding if you exclude the time-problem, she shares her experience, she trusts you, she keeps her calm and is well-mannered.

So, that is how I saw my women bosses. Will write on women juniors some other time.

Leading people

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Today I was reading a blog on how we should lead with compassion and not authority. Our goal should be development of our team/subordinates.It led me thinking how peculiar work environment in public sector enterpirse (PSE), the type of organisation where I work, is better suited for this kind of leadership.

As we say, there are 1-2 typical things about a PSE.

-Horses and donkeys, meaning smart-workers and shirkers get equal treatment. Smart workers don’t get any special facilities, nor do shirkers get any punishment.

-Pays and perks are exactly the same, irrespective of the amount of work you put in.

-Promotions are time-bound. What matters more at senior levels is your connections etc. So a mediocre executive with networking skills has as good chances of promotion as an excellent executive.

-Transfers are also for those not well connected.

Now if you consider these and other factors, I don’t have much to motivate me. And it’s any fool’s guess that the same applies to my juniors.

So what do we do, keep working like machines without any aspirations, hopes, expectations, just rewards and all that.

NO, that is where the first line of this post comes. These conditions or obstacles which seem hampering growth, can be converted to opportunities.

If I don’t play politics knowing well that it hardly matters either way. If I don’t go running around grabbing credit for junior”s work  knowing that it matters not. If I don’t suck up to seniors instead I work sincerely for mental peace. If I am not egoistic, don’t throw my weight around, literally and otherwise, don’t treat juniors as machines and  tools, then I may already have made a good start.

Let me put it in other words. By doing all this, I will be motivating myself by getting the real happiness of developing and mentoring  my juniors, and my juniors will be hopefully happy to have a really caring and different boss.

Had I been in a private firm with cut-throat competition, backbiting, backstabbing, ratrace and all that, you can’t be a genuine caring and sincere boss. Unless ofcourse in C-suite.

I am saying this and will try to practice it now that I know its true worth. But irony is today only unwittingly I did the reverse. Actually ever since my appraisal rating has been downgraded, I have been a little bit edgy or maybe confused. Today happy was showing final proof of inhouse magazine to boss, and without being sure of it (though I had an inkling that she might be in doing that, and I hesitated also for a second, before entering boss’ room. Had it been pre-downgrading I would have not gone in even if I had 10 % inkling, as I would have wanted her to take credit for the job we did together). But I went in. Moreover while boss was perusing the magazine, I butted in at places. She did not seem to mind overtly at least. But I felt bad at my un-me behaviour. So, note to myself to avoid this in future.

Let me see if I can maintain this.

 

Denial by Daniel Goleman

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We all share this tendency toward denial, an emotionally comfortable strategy that protects us from the distress that acknowledging the harsh truth would bring. Defensiveness takes many forms- minimizing the facts, filtering out crucial information, rationalization and good excuses, anything to rob the facts of their emotional truth.

And people around us may tend to collude with denial. Among the more difficult kinds of info to get in orgn is honest, constructive feedback about how we are doing, specially our lapses. Coworkers, subordinates, and bosses have an easier time complaining to each other out of earshot of a person than having an honest and open talk with the person about what is wrong. …

Whenever someone consistently mishandles a given situation, that is a sure sign of a blind spot. In the lower reaches of orgn, such problems can more easily be dismissed as quirks. But at higher levels these problems are magnified in consequence and visibility, the adverse effects matter not just to the person who has them, but to the group as a whole.

Here is a list of some more common blind spots…

Blind ambition

Unrealistic goals

Relentless striving

Drives others

Power hungry

Insatiable need for recognition

Preoccupation with appearances

Need to seem perfect

From- WOrking with EMotional Intelligence