Category Archives: Professionalism

Likes & Dislikes in Bosses

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Top 5 dislikes

ENIGMATIC We hate it when we don’t understand the boss. We want to know where we stand and what the rules are. We hate it when leader is inconsistent, or plays head games.  (Yep, my boss Jim was like that.)

THREATENING We don’t like the sword of Damocles over our head. We don’t like to see co-workers in that position either. Scapegoating, the art of torturing a subordinate for the sins of all, is a big no-no. It’s entertaining to a point, but no one wants to be the next line for humiliation. We expect our leaders to be able to discipline their passions and keep control of their emotions.

HYPOCRITICAL If you are an evil person, please let us know. We will be able to tell soon enough if you are self-serving. But please don’t say one thing and do another. It’s very confusing and gives virtue a bad name.

PEDANTIC Attention to detail is one thing, but let us do our jobs. When you are down in the hold rearranging the baggage, it makes us very nervous about who is steering the ship.

WASTING OUR TIME We understand the need for meetings. Hey, you are the boss. But we have a job to do here.

Top 5 Likes

COURAGE We love it when you take risks. We will feed off your confidence, and make you a legend. But we also want to see that 3 o clock in the morning courage, the courage to keep fighting when the whole thing seems to be coming down around our ears. We love fighters.

OPENNESS Let’s communicate. We can tell whether you want the real answers to your questions, or you are just showing off. How much noise you can handle. Challenging the prevailing wisdom always is. Openness means  making yourself a temporary equal once in a while and listening for the information that only the lower ranks can give you. (I think  I do it at times)

DRIVE TO WIN Sure, we all have different levels of commitment but at heart we all want to be winners. Set clear goals for us. We will block, carry the ball, or whatever but we want to know what the goal is. We want to see you committed to victory, however you define it.

FAIRNESS We know life is tough. Not everybody is going to make it. But we want to feel like we all have an equal chance to succeed. Mentorship is one thing, cronyism is another. Just be fair.

TRUST At the end of the day, we want your trust. If you give us the benefit of doubt, we will live up to your highest expectations. The greatest gift you can give us is your trust. If you can’t give it at least let us earn it.

(By Mark Bender)

Emotional Judo by Daniel Goleman

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A project manager notices a draftsman struggling over a simple aspect of blueprint. The project deadline looms, and they are all under tremendous pressure. As she approaches her colleague, the project manager notices that her hands are clenched, her thoughts are fixed on angry feelings about the difficult deadline, and she feels frustrated because the draftsman is not further along.

She relaxes a bit and asks the draftsman-What’s going on, is something wrong? His response is a litany of frustrations of his own, about not having enough information to finish the drawing., about how much he was asked to do in so little time.

Sympathetic, the project manager asks more detailed questions about what he is up against. Her speech is lively, animated, her gaze direct. She lets him know she feels overwhelmed by the pressure, too.

Her line of questioning leads him to see that he actually has more inthought, and formation than he that he can, in fact, finish the drawaing. He is buoyed, eager again to get back to the task. The manager even makes a joke about how everyone was missing some data on this project, especially the vice president who had made such a crazy commitment in the first place. They both laugh and get on with the work at hand.

What did the project manager do that was so right? She was emotionally present at work. She was fully attentive and involved in her work. Such person perform their best. Others experience them as accessible and engaged, and they contribute their creative ideas, energy and intuitions fully.

Presence begins with self-awareness. Manager… was attuned to her feelings, her clenched hands cued her to the anger she was feeling about the situation. And her empathy made her receptive to picking up the draftsman’s sense of frustration without taking it as a reflection on herself. Her ability to be comfortable with these distressing feelings let her deal with them effectively rather than avoid them. Instead of dismissing draftsman’s frustration or preemptively criticizing his performance, she drew him out. And she was able to highlight information that transformed the frustration to enthusiasm, ending the encounter with a joke that put th  onus where they both felt it to be- an EMOTIONAL JUDO MOVE that tightened the bond between them.

When fully present, we are more attuned to those around  us and to the needs of the situation, and we fluidly adapt to what is needed-in other words, we are in the flow. We can be thoughtful, funny, or self-reflective, drawing on whatever capacity or skill we need at the moment.

From- Working with EI

Bossing around

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Well at times bosses do go on bossing around, without any rhyme and reason. They will start lecturing on what should or should not have been done in a situation, without asking if I did something. Today was one such day. A set of newspaper clippings was to be organized from a small town 1000 miles away. There was this guy we had tied up with earlier this year for such jobs, again my idea and initiative, but no credit, but he was not responding today. Aniways we knew it is not that urgent as it is being made out to be, no sky is going to fall. In some departments, like the one, where we had to send these clippings, where every junior officer thinks of himself as  god incarnate, and tries to earn brownie points with his seniors by pressurizing us minions. But our own boss goes out of the way to impress them, so we are left with no help. Okay, so boss who was bunking almost the whole day, calls up in evening and starts lecturing why clippings were not arranged. I tried to explain how we tried different sources, but he was not ready to listen. Neither did he ask his favourite executive in department, who is senior to me, to take care of the job. When it comes to facilities, perks, trainings, tours, exposure, seminars, conferences, committees, he is the favourite, but when it comes to shitty jobs, I am the chosen one. So I was given a piece of boss’s mind, without ever given a hearing to what all I tried. I WILL TRY THAT I DON’T DO IT TO MY JUNIORS.

Another incident that happened today was a junior coming to me and reviving my faith in giving credit to team. Though she is very conscious, touchy and all, but she came out from boss’s room and told me, sir, boss liked the photo we got edited last week, and was appreciating the agency. But I told boss that it was your idea and not agency’s idea to redo the photo. I was not expecting this maturity and broad heart from her, I would have imagined that she would have gladly accepted the praise, without ever mentioning my name. But she did and pleasantly surprised me. That she came out and told me, and I believed her also speaks of trust in our relationship. So I am tempted to consider my self a better boss to my juniors, than my boss is to me. This junior can sit idle for long hours without feeling any repentance, which I find strange, but then she works sincerely when required, is obedient, cooperative and cheerful. So I rate her better than juniors who do insubordination, are two-faced and dishonest.

Another colleague who had expressed his desire to sit away from me, as I keep reminding him of jobs to do, was taken aback today, when I taunted that I will remind him weekly since he does not like my daily reminders. Well that was my midway solution and also I wanted him to know that I know what he said about me to others. He today tried to reconsider his decision of seat change, discussed with others and me too. So tactic worked, though this time I insisted that he sits away because I am not very keen on sitting with him specially if he was not happy with it. He also tried to patch up with me by showing some soft-porn cartoon, ultimate in male bonding, and offering to give some movies in pen drive.

Such are the ways of the world.

 

 

My Juniors

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I read a quote of Charles Darwin.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it  is stupid. Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

And it set me thinking. Do I judge my team members rightly, or should I be judgemental at all. I think I need to be judgemental about their attitude to work, because that is what I am paid for as a manager. I need to judge their personal relations or things but as far as work is concerned, I do.

One thing I am gradually realizing is that we at times forget the age difference. Luckily or unluckily, most of my team members are around 30, give or take 3 years. So I often tend to expect from them behaviour more suited to my age viz. 42. But they can’t. Let me try to describe them.

One is very impulsive. He wants to do everything right now, I mean if he decides to start doing it. Many a times he does not do a job inspite of several reminders. But if he starts, he needs to finish it asap, even at the cost of accuracy at times. He recently told someone that he does not want to sit beside me, as I keep reminding him of jobs to do. He keeps passing on things from one person to other, so I have stopped relying on him to keep things in confidence. Though I use this weakness of him now if I want somethings to be known to others but don’t want to tell myself. He is very envious too. Any info or facility that his peers or seniors are getting, he would like to have that too, even if he does not deserve it.

Then there is another young lady, who is very touchy. If a senior, including me, tries to explain something to her for her benefit, she gets irritated. She reads a lot, fiction, self-help books and what not, but still I am shocked to see her immaturity level. She also shares personal feelings and family things at the drop of a hat. In our very first meeting she told a lot about her husband. I felt good that she confided in me, but that she did it was surprising. Again since she is very methodical I start leaving complete control to her and then I get a shocker when she leaves out some major thing. Then I am reminded of her age and experience.

There is this another junior who is very ambitious. She is no longer formally reporting to me now but she is functionally doing a lot of things as a team member. She recently revealed a hidden side of her when she told me after a meeting, I have many weaknesses but I know how to try and manage seniors. She was talking of my reporting boss. This statement was a shocker, as I thought it came naturally to her and she did not deliberately work on it. But she did, good for her. Then again while introducing me to her friends, she dropped the fact that she is reporting to big boss now, implied meaning being that not to me. Well there is nothing wrong in that considering she shared a very confidential info about those friends before taking me to introduce to them, as she wanted to. So I thought maybe she wanted to make good impression on them that she is reporting to the Head, so I was okay, but it did sound very unlike her. She is taking part in a competition and she is reaching out to many seniors spread across different locations. This tenacity and thought process impressed me a lot, as I might not have done it.

Another junior is again very adjusting. Over last 5-6 years, he has changed a lot,, controlled his temper, enhanced his knowledge, grown his network, got his priorities set and learnt how to manage big boss. He does mind that his being from a vernacular school is taken as his weak point, but is coming to terms with this also. He confesses that he is not very comfortable lying to me. But I do find that he wastes a lot of time in office on social media, but fb is banned now in our office so let us see.

There are two people aged more than me in my team, one male and one female. Male person is more interested in his personal work, which he devotes 30-40 % of office time to. He is afraid of taking responsibility,  avoids multi-tasking, tries to pass on problems upwards or downwards, is never anxious about timelines and is a poor planner.

The female is hard working, street-smart, always cheerful. But this is the judgement I made about her when she started reporting to me, prior to that I used to think of her as a shirker, flirt and useless girl. But how wrong I was.

So enough judgements about juniors for today, right.

Credibility by Daniel Goleman

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The inventor of a promising new product, a two-chamber air mattress that had the competitive advantage of preserving body heat, tells of talking to a businessman who offered to manufacture and sell the mattresses, giving the inventor a royalty. The businessman, over the course of their conversation, revealed with some pride that he never paid any taxes. How do you do that- the inventor asked. The businessman replied smugly-I keep two sets of books. The inventor asked- So which set of books will you use to record the sales of my mattresses to compute the royalty you owe me.

To that question there was no reply. End of deal.

Credibility stems from integrity. Star performers know that trustworthiness at work translates into letting people know one’s values and principles, intentions and feelings, and acting in ways that are reliably consistent with them. They are forthright about their own mistakes, and confront others about their lapses.

From- Working with EI

Honesty

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I thought deep on what topic I could write on today and one topic that I am fond of is Honesty.

We used to read in primary classes stories on how honesty is the best policy. We read in Indian scriptures stories of Satyavadi (who speaks truth always) King Harishchandra. How he suffered a lot due to his habit of speaking truth always, and so did his family but in the long run truth won.

Well honesty in my view is much beyond truth, it is being true to yourself. I have this inbuilt hate mechanism for liars-to others and to themselves. I can accept an honest man who takes more money from me by telling the truth or by using his sense of humour, than being cheated. I feel that my marriage has succeeded for 16 years inspite of several ups and downs because we have been honest to each other. In fact the foundation of our marriage was based on honesty as during our courtship days we never lied or misled the other. I was a miser, had family problems, was not very outgoing and was from a small town. My partner also shared her details with me. Inspite of opposition from parents we got married and are living happily together till now.

If I think back, I can see that my closest friends have been those who were always honest with me. My favourite teachers, relatives and acquaintances have been those who were honest.

But there have been some who were not honest with me, and were habitual liars. Most of them got delisted from my favourites soon enough. There was this boy who squeezed his uncle and aunt for money by emotionally blackmailing them and telling lies right, left and centre. I used to adjust to him as uncle was a close friend of father. But I never liked him and still am not very fond of him. One of my ex-bosses did a lot for me by praising me behind my back, getting an award for me and so on. But I have never been able to respect him 100 % as I got to know of his lies and that he was not always honest with me, He dropped name of CEO to motivate me, he told lies quoting seniors to encourage me and put blame on me many a times even when he was guilty. There was this another boss who was all goody-goody but backstabbed me when I needed some help.  Then there have been colleagues and seniors who were two-faced and said one thing but did exactly opposite. Such dishonest people are no longer close to me. Another of my weakness being that I can’t put up fake appearance and liking for dishonest and hypocrite people. Any person can read my face and tell that I am angry or upset. Then there are people whom I love, but if they are not honest to themselves, that irritates me and frustrates me.

I have recently seen a newly married couple on the verge of divorce because they were not honest to each other.

Though I have also felt that at times my honesty puts me in difficult situations but till now I have been able to stick to my principles. When I pass on some gift received from others, I can’t say we bought it for you, wify hates that. Similarly when my ex-boss expects me to do things stealthily and not tell my present boss, I feel uncomfortable. And I told that much to ex-boss, saying he should only share things with me on need-to-know basis, because I can’t lie, and even if I do I get caught.

Honestly I love honesty.

 

Demotivation

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Human mind is strange. I shared in one previous post that I have been assessed and my rank downgraded from excellent (E)  to high (H). I pretended even to myself that I have been able to take it in my stride and am kool and okay with it. I asked the boss about reasons and what I could do to improve myself, but was brushed off politely saying u r good, this happens, will discuss sometime, which I am sure will never come.

Right so things must go on, but reality is not so. Now whenever boss goes away after office time and asks me to sit and wait for some important task, my heart burns. Whenever there is a holiday or weekend and I am asked to do some office work, I feel like reacting but I stop myself. Whenever boss attempts to praise me I get edgy and reply back harshly.  When other colleagues leave at 5-30 and I am expected to work overtime, I feel frustrated. Whenever I am admonished for small lapses of my team, I feel my blood boiling. But non-assertive me, always keeps quite. But internally I know all this is the result of E to H downgrading. I am still not able to digest it well. Though objectively the new boss is well within his rights to assess me as he wishes, but still downgrade is not easy to take.

Another problem I am facing with this boss that demotivates me is that he interacts directly with my reportees, gives them tasks without telling me, monitors those tasks directly, but when something gets delayed, I am expected to take care of this. I am not saying that he can’t interact with the millennials, as HOD he has right to do so. But then if they don’t act or respect me, he is to blame, as boss has given them undue weightage, and they think nothing of me in front of boss. Now they also don’t mind directly interacting with boss, without keeping me in the loop.  I try to act kool, but I don’t like this.

Then there is this ex-boss, who keeps digging holes for the present boss and expects me to help him, which I don’t, as I owe my loyalty to organisation not bosses. Yesterday only he sent some unit press release to boss. Boss called me and asked to mail to media. I edited it and sent some pix of CEO to media. Now this ex-boss calls me and starts giving lecture, why you did not research, why you did not talk to me, why you did not do this and that. I kept silent, he got the message and said take care in future. Same day earlier he called me and asked to arrange a car for a journo. Now he is ex-boss and I have to act with orders of present boss. So I asked how do I do it, he shouted that is your problem. I am literally screwed from both sides. God knows when I will be out of this grinding mill.

But all this frustrates and irritates me no end.

Yes

Our darker side

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An article by Angela Garvey Hammond on Insead knowledge portal appealed me, and here is the part I liked

Your career flourishes, you’re on your way up and then the cracks begin to show, along with the “dark side of your personality”. Understanding and managing this, Jarrett says, is “a key skill to moving from executive management to leadership”.

Generally agreed negative areas include: “poor interpersonal relationships; being aloof or arrogant; an inability to build a team or cohesion; an inability to manage one’s context or differences with upper management or other stakeholders; over-used strength; and failure to meet business objectives due to betraying trust or being overly ambitious.”

Jarrett goes on to look at work on Attachment theory (by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby**) and their basic idea that adults develop attachment styles based on how they were treated as children themselves. “The implication for executives is that the fault lines for derailment are set a long time before people get to sit at the boardroom table. They occur in the roots of our childhood and in the early years we develop attachment that sit, waiting, in the dark shadows.”

I don’t know but I almost always end up finding all the negative traits in me. Poor interpersonal relationships to stat with. I used to think of this as my best quality. But in last few months, my experience has been different. I was told few of my juniors have been telling bad things about me to their friends. So I failed somewhere in revealing my real side to these juniors, so I failed in interpersonal relationship. Last year my immediate boss changed and a new boss came. Earlier I was reporting to HOD, and now I am reporting to a person 2 years and 1 level senior to me. That in itself is a demotivator. His attitude towards me further aggravated the problem, and it ended in cold war like situation between us. He has remarked in my appraisal that I need to be given training on interpersonal relations. So here too I failed. Hmmm, time to retune myself.

Being aloof is also my second nature. As I keep sitting on my seat the whole day. Most of the people enjoy bitching which I am not interested in. And also I find it a waste of my time and others’ time  chit-chatting in office. This aloofness is also taken as arrogance by many.

Well till now I used to think that I built great teams and was good at cohesion. But these 2-3 juniors who badmouthed me shook my confidence. So here too I am at fault. Poor me.

Differences with upper management, as mentioned I have started to have now, after 15 years of workex.

Over-used strength is one area where I can claim to be not guilty. That goes with my non-assertive and adjusting nature.

Overly ambitious again I am not, I err on the side of caution rather.

What about you?

Good and bad me

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I have been analysing my weaknesses a lot on this blog, so I thought today let me brag a little bit. As in the good things people have said about me from time to time.

Early this year I received an award for good performance, which earned me many enemies within and outside the department. Some thought I did not deserve the award, some thought they deserved it more than me, and so on. So award earned me many enemies. But a few good friends made comments which touched my heart so sharing

-Many people do hard work in company, but there are few people who do it with a smile. You are one of the latter, so well-deserved award. Genuine praise this brought more smiles on my face. I admire and respect this senior person a lot because of his nature. I like his working principle, or say conflict-conversation principle, that never raise your voice and never let smile fade away from your face, then you can say anything you want to other person, without complicating things further. True that. (SA)

-Another senior lady officer remarked- After many years I feel the award has gone to a deserving person. She is a firebrand lady and most people avoid rubbing her the wrong way. Coming from her it meant a lot. Specially considering that even I was starting to doubt the importance of the award, when my name was recommended three times earlier, but other people got the award. Some of them were really good, but not all. (TU)

-My happy friend remarked that it has restored my trust in the system. Kool. I know she is one of the rare persons who would have been happy for me, inspite of she not getting the award herself. At least I think so. She has called me a saint many a times, when I do some foolish sentimental shit at times. And that after working for some more years with me, she will also become calm and patient like me. She did not mean it as a compliment though. Well, rightly so, since I think of her as my assertiveness guru. Trying to learn and observe her from this angle, though she is 10 years younger than me. But age should not be a bar when it comes to learning from people. Let us see how assertive I can become. She has also said that people don’t realise my good intentions and doubt my motives. That also felt good. Well at least I have a colleague who I can completely trust and who can be and is my sounding board on office matters. (SS)

-Another very senior officer remarked that there are many such occasions but only on few occasions, you feel glad and happy. This is one of them. Such specific compliments do make your day. (KK)

-Last but not the least, my ex-boss, whose many bad habits I have mentioned in my earlier posts. But I do feel from heart that it was he who persistently tried for my award and made it possible, even after he had left the department. I shall always be grateful to him for this and the fact that he is the one who single-handedly built up my image as a competent executive by giving me exposure.

-My present boss also did not hamper me getting the award by signing the award nomination form. So I am grateful to him, though next year the best performer has been downgraded to high performer by the same boss. So award proved a curse for me in that sense, as boss might have thought that he got award last year, so let us downgrade him this year. Though I have thought of other possible reasons for my downgrading also like

I did not adjust with my immediate superior (though in my view he is more to blame, my problem was not sucking up) so he might have influenced the grading by talking and bitching about me to top boss. Though he did give me okay marks and did not screw my appraisal.

I did not prioritise jobs in tune with big boss which I see other people doing. I had my own priorities, foolish me. I am trying to correct that problem.

I gave more exposure to my team at my own cost. I let them go to big boss for different jobs. So maybe boss thought they are doing all the work and I am not doing anything. Well I will still keep on doing that but will find ways to showcase my role also.

I got to know through rumour mill that I was being seen as a person who delegates all jobs to juniors and does not do anything himself. So more close to above point. Working on it. Need to correct perception about me.

I am seen as protege of ex-boss and close to him. Ex-boss also aggravates the problem by involving me in complicated jobs where our department is concerned. So this I can not avoid even if I want to. Though I have tried to convey to my big boss that my loyalties are to the organisation and not to anybody else.

Oops, I ended up criticising me again.

Experience sharing

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Today an ex-boss visited our home and we together remembered the old days.

I reminded him how he had taught me never to lose enthusiasm come what may and told that I am passing on this wisdom to my juniors. He had also told us that if someone invites you to a family function, it means he respects you enough to include in the list of select invitees. So you must never take such invite casually but rather as a special treatment. He not only preached this but practised also. Once he was hospitalised for some problem, and when he got discharged, next day there was an invite and he took the trouble of going there. It did impress me.

Today he shared another philosophy which I am aniways trying to adapt. Which is try to be happy in the happiness of others specially your friends and competitors. He gave an example of how he becomes happy as and when his batchmate and a close friend gets promoted, even before him.

He also shared how if you have power to make a difference in the life of one person or more, you must do it. One must not trivialise the problem if a person comes to you for help in your official capacity. People tend to generalise the issue and don’t help, but that is a wrong tendency.

He also shared how he had to face problems in his career because he took principled stand and fought with bosses. He had to move from one place to other and from one boss to another but god was kind enough to take care of him always.

He always used to treat us with respect even while assigning work. His Ps and Qs were always a welcome change from the shouting bosses.

I had always had this grudge against him that he dilly-dallied and tried to stop my transfer near to my hometown. He maybe intuitively knew that or heard from somewhere. As he was today saying how he tried to help in my transfer, and his deputy was against it. Full circle. But then I was not even given a farewell when I left the place after 9 years. It is still fresh in my mind after 7 years. I was also transferred to a remote unit for 2 years, and I was angry with this boss for not stopping that. He told today that even he was upset with my transfer-out that is why he got me back as soon as he got the chance. And he did. So he took care of two grudges I had against him, so to say.

Though I shall always be grateful to him for twice helping us when we had some personal issues, about which I have shared in another post.

So all in all it was a sweet and nostalgic meeting him after so many years.

There are very few people like him, who take mentoring seriously. May his tribe increase.