Category Archives: My writings Aug-2013 onwards

Strategic Lubrication

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I was stumped with a term ” strategic lubrication” coming from a close friend, also known for his sycophancy. ” What’s that?” I inquired.” As I go up the ladder, I realize the futility of oiling all and sundry. So I concentrate my lubrication power on a few key persons having a bearing on my career, ignoring the lesser mortals. That is the source of this term” he replied with a naughty smile.

Above lines are from the FB wall of a friend. But the truth in these lines is not far from reality. There are people who do all this. Though I avoid doing this, but I can understand if other people do it to their seniors. I am not sure though where to draw the line between genuine relation-building with boss and sucking up.

For example, I have seen people giving sweet packets to their bosses, when they are promoted or have some good news to share. I am not able to make myself do that, if I have to share sweets, I will give equal to all-seniors and juniors. Not party-pack to boss and single-pack to others.

There is this colleague whose husband is working abroad. I asked her to get some material on payment basis. She did not. but I saw her getting things for others. At that time, she was not reporting to ,me. After some months, she started reporting to me, then when her husband came to India, she gave me gift.  I politely refused but she insisted. I could not make myself tell her about her two faces.

I have seen people opening car doors, carrying boss’s luggage, serving them meals. But I can’t.

Rather I deliberately avoid giving any gifts to seniors lest they think I am sucking up. There is one senior to whom I am grateful for what he did for me personally. So I go to his house every year for gifting sweets in festive season. But that again I started when he had left our department, and now he has retired also. Till the time he was our head, I never gave him any sweets and gifts.

As for promotion or holidays, I don’t see any reason for specially bringing gifts for bosses, other than for sucking up, which I can’t.

What say you?

Photo shoot mis-planning

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We have been facing a lot of problem as we don’t get good quality, high resolution photographs for communication collaterals like calendar, diary, brochure, poster etc. So we thought of engaging a professional photographer for the job. He quoted exorbitant amount so we were not able to engage him. So I suggested that we can organise a photo contest among our employees, and reward them with cash award and photo courtesy mention. The idea was accepted and boss was after me to send contest details to all. I wanted to get precise so I spoke to few photographers I knew and formulated contest guidelines. Boss checked it and suggested some changes. I made the changes and moved a note for launching the contest. I also cross-checked with Finance department whether we can launch such a contest and they said yes we can.  So we were almost there. As told by boss, I told another teamer that she should send the details to regular photo contributors to our inhouse magazine. So we were all set with 2-page approval note, detailed guidelines, and I was almost going to send the mail for circulation.

Another teamer I shared the info with, commented-Sir, but can employees take cameras into factories, won’t that be difficult. Boom. It was right, I asked boss, she called up a factory PR head and he bluntly refused.

So the whole preparation, boss’s time was all gone. And the idea was dropped at the last moment. A dampener. But better than the contest being launched and we facing the camera entry issue, or worse receiving no entry at all.

Saved just in time.

Relation velation

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Last week attended a marriage of a cousin’s daughter.

It all started with a discussion on whether we should go or not. Parents advised us not to, though cousin being from mother’s side, mom was okay if we went. I took a high pedestal and bragged to wify that we will go because the cousin is not well-off, and it’s a girl’s marriage, we should go. Wify snubbed me for the superiority complex and asked to be realistic. If we will go, we will go, don’t talk in terms of poor or rich, it’s all relative.

So we went. It was a working day with ceremony in a distant town, and we wanted to be in time. So we took leave from our office and drove to the place. While on the way, mom called and said no one has gone and we should go straight to the engagement in the afternoon. Bro also called. We were shocked as mom and bro live in same town. Still no one went and they wanted us to go. We talked over phone what do we give. Father advised that we should all pool the monies and give as family and not separately. I somehow don’t understand this funda, but out of respect to father I normally agree. So we wanted to give 500 each to bride and groom, alongwith a gift during engagement. Father said no give only 100 each, and no gift. He gave the argument that there are many marriages in the family, so we should restrain ourselves. We did not like it but we ag reed. The time was 11 am, we reached at 12-30 still the function had not started.  We met all relatives. And we gave 100 to groom and gift to bride. That was our midway solution. Strangely two-three of our relatives gave us lectures on adopting child. The host family never bothered about us earlier, but they started complaining why we did not come earlier and all that.

In the evening a cousin met and started asking obvious question. Which car you drive, what is your designation, your house is rented and all that. I hate it when relatives start asking these mean questions.  Aniways we met many more relatives and exchanged usual questions. Our effort of specially coming out and attending marriage was worth it since we could meet so many relatives.

We were discussing how friendships and relations are gradually becoming weaker, because we do not take the trouble to go to such occasions and revive the memories. BTW wify was right and the host family had really made excellent decoration and food arrangements, which we did not expect. So I stand corrected and agree that richness is relative.

Though somehow I felt awkward as I had expected better welcome and reception from the host, which was ofcourse wrong of me. I did think of myself special, which I am not. They were instead giving more time to their maternal relatives who had helped in making arrangements for marriage, which was justified. But human nature being human nature, knowing very well that I was wrong in expecting anything else, I kept thinking in that direction.

Father who was not in mood of going at all, went because we were going. Brother who also was in two minds did come to attend the ceremonies. So our going did help in this way also.

Relations need maintenance, as do friendships.

Don’t you think so?

My Boss dick

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Dick, my boss is really bringing out the worst in me. The more I try to become emotionally strong, the more he challenges my mind and thoughts. I have shared in my earlier posts, how he badmouthed me a lot and spoke all kind of bullshit to my juniors, seniors and other people. I confronted him one fine day and clearly he denied doing any of this, but said he wanted me to be more open with him. So I tried to change myself, as there was no point in me working my ass off all day and then he screwing up my career for no reason. Secondly, I took it as a challenge to improve relations with him since in the past I had good relations with all my bosses and I though of myself as good in interpersonal relations.

Last 1-2 months were okay. But since last week he has again started throwing tantrums. He does not respond properly to my hellos. He assigns jobs directly to juniors and throws me out of the loop. He always says that he needs to learn things because he is new to our department. He wants us to send all mails in his name, which we do also. He wants to create an impression in office that he does everything. Well, I don’t mind but then he should start taking initiative. He comes to our department for 1-2 hours a day, rest of the time he says he is busy in his other department. He wants us to hold files for him, keep him in loop, take his permission. I do to the extent possible. There is one role of corporate gifting, which he could have taken care of himself but he dragged me in. On one hand he says, he wants to do things independently and on the other he drags me in jobs which he can do very well. He can’t have it both ways. For jobs requiring time commitments, or lot of coordination, lot of writing, I don’t think he can manage well, so I take charge fully. He minds that and butts in to take the credit.

Lately I am getting confused. I wanted to work on our relationship. But somewhere I am losing my self-respect, and it’s not ego, just dignity. I adjust to improve relations so that he does not spoil my career but he is taking me for granted. I can not have an intelligent argument with him since he is very rigid. I can not joke with him since he does not get jokes. So I end up saying yes to everything he says, which looks like sucking up. I am confused how to change this scenario into a healthy, positive one.

And yes, I need to stop criticizing him in front of others, as it reaches him ultimately.

 

 

My boss and me

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In last one week, 2-3 things happened which resulted in this post.

My boss Tina is very forgetful and sometimes absent-minded. So I am not surprized when she gives credit for my work to other people in front of me, or claims credit for herself. So it was a pleasant surprize when she acknowledged my suggestion. What happened was that an event was to be organised and two booklets were to be printed for the event. While designing was going on I suggested that we can avoid mentioning event date on the book cover so that if event is rescheduled, booklets are usable. She agreed to it. And 2 days later, government announces austerity measures and disallows govt. programmes in 5-star hotels, so our programme is cancelled. Boss expresses happiness that we did not print date on books. In a moment of sucking-up, and since it slipped out of my mind that it was my suggestion, I said- Boss, your foresight was bang on dot. She said-you only suggested it. I ended up having a mix of emotions- guilt for appearing to be sucking up, happy that she accepted my idea, surprized that she acknowledged me and so on.

But in another incident, we were to launch a redone website. So she planned it all with my junior happy. I was also okay since I trust happy, who is boss’s technical advisor and best-rated executive of our department. Happy lined up everything as discussed by her with boss. But being nice she kept me in loop and informed. So on the day of the launch, I let happy and ann manage all the work. Aniways I was not involved in the discussions also so i was a bit upset also. When the launch happened, i was asked to join. Post the function,Tina called me and said- Why don’t you supervise. I told her, happy had discussed with you, and moreover she will think I am interfereing and trying to grab the credit. Tina said-no you need to get involved, i can not go everywhere. I said okay.

Next day she calls a meeting on website, where senior officers from different departments come and take part. She calls happy, ann and others but not me. I am again confused what is her working style. She discusses work directly to my juniors, assigns tasks to them, and then asks me about progress. Am I supposed to beg juniors to tell me what all jobs boss assigned to them. Tina can always tell me and then I can assign. It’s all very confusing.

An aside, yesterday I went to a printer for some urgent job. He remarked-Sir, you are so polite in your dealing that I can not say no to you for any job. It made my day.

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.

 

Work without attachment- The Gita

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karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te sańgo ‘stv akarmaṇi

You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties are activities enjoined in terms of one’s acquired modes of material nature. Capricious work means actions without the sanction of authority, and inaction means not performing one’s prescribed duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he perform his prescribed duty without being attached to the result. One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.

As far as prescribed duties are concerned, they can be fitted into three subdivisions, namely routine work, emergency work and desired activities. Routine work performed as an obligation in terms of the scriptural injunctions, without desire for results, is action in the mode of goodness. Work with results becomes the cause of bondage; therefore such work is not auspicious. Everyone has his proprietary right in regard to prescribed duties, but should act without attachment to the result; such disinterested obligatory duties doubtlessly lead one to the path of liberation.

Arjuna was therefore advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment, positive or negative, is cause for bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna.

source-http://vedabase.net/bg/2/47/

This shloka/couplet from The Gita has always intrigued me as it is very difficult to imagine working without being attached to results. So as and when I find a new explanation, I feel interested.

Yesterday while watching a TV channel, a lady explained this concept very nicely. She gave the example of her kid who had planted a sapling in their house garden. After some days, that kid came to her and asked- Why is the sapling not growing? She asked- Are you watering it daily, giving fertilizer and ensuring it gets sunlight. Kid said yes. She asked- how do you know it is getting right amount of air, water, light etc. The boy replied- Daily, I shake it vigorously to check if the roots are strong and solid. The lady explained this as an over-attachment/curiosity/concern about the results. The boy was so concerned with the results that he was unknowingly doing exact opposite of what he wanted. By disturbing the roots daily, he was hampering the growth of the sapling, which was not what he wanted. Lady explained how similar attachment impacts the results, and we get what we did not want. Another example she gave was the desire of a man to buy scooter for his family. He was always troubled and worried about arranging finances for buying the scooter. One day finally he bought a scooter, and was happy for a few days. But he realized that he needed a car for him and his family. Same worries and troubles came back. I was thinking how she will tell, desires never end and one desire comes after the other. She however had a different take. She said the happiness that came to him after buying the scooter was not resulting from possession of a scooter or fulfillment of his desire. Instead it was the absence of desire for those few days. Since he had bought scooter, he had no desire for some days, no attachment, so he was happy. Till another desire of buying a car occupied his mind.  

My Junior Tom

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Out of my 4-5 team members who are all millennials, Tom is the most challenging to tackle.

Today only I gave him some task, he did it very fast and mailed it to me. I mailed back-well done. His response mail-Like.

SO that is Tom for you, as millennial as one can be.

I got to know two comments he had made about me to others.

Dick always dumps all jobs on juniors and sits idle all the time.

DIck keeps reminding me of pending jobs all the time so I don’t want to sit near him.

I let it be known to Tom that I know about these two comments he made about me.

He became very edgy and tried to get more info out of me, saying who can make such comments about you.

He also told others that I favour some people because they are close to top management. He even said that I watch videos in office all the time.

He prefers getting close to top bosses and our seniors, even at the cost of bypassing me. If boss assigns a job to me and him, he will gradually hijack the job and start discussing jobs with him, and not me. A stage will come when boss thinks whole job was done by him and nothing by me.

He keeps bitching about me to to my seniors and juniors.

He is so careless that he makes a mistake 5 times in repeated drafts. I have stopped signing his drafts without reading each draft once.

He keeps surfing the whole day, goes for tea-break 3-4 times.

The other day he was making cheap comments about our boss, who is double his age.

I have tried all formulas with him-carrot and stick, but nothing works.

Recently he attended a training, and after that he is trying to improve relations with me, let us see if this goes anywhere.

 

Lessons from US Civil rights movement

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Civil Rights, to put simply, are the rights of the people as written in the Constitution. These, inter-alia pertain to freedom of speech, religion, press, due process of law and the right to equal protection under the law.  US Civil Rights Movement, which actually began way back in 1783, took a new shape in the 1950’s, when African Americans came together in a series of non violent protests, popularly known as the Civil Rights Movement.

With the onset of new media and the resulting awareness in the civil society, the lessons of US Civil RightsMovement are as relevant today, as these were a few decades back. In modern times of Facebook, twitter, email, sms, the tools might have changed for the better, but the underlying spirit of camaraderie, brotherhood & non-violence still remains valid.

Respect for Human dignity, for one, is the lesson that we must learn from the history and make it a part of our lives. The segregation and differentiation may not be as marked and as differentiated as manifested in the earlier centuries, but there still are differences in our mindsets in subtle forms, differences of rich-poor, differences of literate-illiterate, differences of geography, which must go away, if we have to collectively rise up as a human race. Non-violence and its significance, is another lesson that we can draw from the movement. Coexistence, especially in nations like US and India, where diversity is a norm, is very important for a healthy democracy. Liberty, equality, freedom will have no meaning if taken in singularity, with each section of society defining and interpreting these terms in their own way.

Nobel laureate Martin Luther King Junior, was a major figure in the US Civil Rights Movement. His    “I have a dream” speech delivered on 28th August, 1963 is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation leading to significant developments in the coming years. Let us try to derive lessons of the US Civil Rights Movement from the words of this visionary leader only, from this and other speeches. This will be a befitting tribute to him as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historical speech.

“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must ever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force….We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We can not turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights- When will you be satisfied?…we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and the righteousness like a mighty stream….Let us not awllow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. “

“I think the greatest victory of this period was..something internal. The real victory was what this period did to the psyche of the black man. The greatness of this period was that we armed ourselves with dignity and self-respect. The greatness of this period was that we straightened our backs up. And a man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”

“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect, it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.”

And, in conclusion, we can see that the words and the thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr are as relevant today, as these were half a century back. The context in which he led the people might have been limited, but his philosophy was far-reaching and universal. His life was an example. He did what he preached.

So, whether the citizen meetings are organised using facebook, twitter or other means, the principles of non-violence, of equality, of justice, of freedom never change and that in essence is the learning from the US CivilRight Movement.

Coretta Scott-King, wife of the visionary leader put his philosophy in few words very beautifully.

“My husband often told the children that if a man had nothing that was worth dying for, then he was not fit to live. He said also that it’s not how long you live, but how well you live.”