General ramblings

Tuesday Night Thoughts

The past two days have taught me a lot more- I have learned that your manager’s problems are your problems and that you need to put up a false pretense of caring for them and their families, even though you might not know them personally. You should make it a point to remember the names of his/her kids but not take any offense if they don’t care about your well being. The lay offs that happen during recession time have surely taught you a lesson, dear reader? The companies proclaim to be like your family. But if they are really like a family, would they be laying you off? It’s a by product of living in a pseudo capitalist society. Use and dispose. You are as important as your work and your position. As long as you as productive and add value to the company, the company adds value to your existence. The day you stop churning out important stuff (due to any reason), you are shown the door.

I fail to understand the double standard nature of the corporate ladder. It’s difficult for me to not care about people with whom I spend 40 hours/hour. I spend more waking hours at work that I do at home. So why is it that managers find it very easy to disassociate themselves from your problems? Are they really task oriented? Or are they practicing selective perception? Maybe it’s a mixture of both. Should a manager’s people’s skills be limited to the job at hand and not go beyond that? How can a subordinate put his best foot forward if he doesn’t feel like he’s valued enough or cared for in a corporation? Maybe I’m over reacting, but I think a manager is all about making sure that everyone’s operating smoothly. Sure, I don’t expect them to listen to my sob stories, but if there is something that is preventing me from doing my job, then they need to listen to me and not turn a deaf ear! Worse, ask me for an explanation and then just ignore my explanation…I guess I’m too sensitive to how people react. The way I would handle the same situation is quite different. I wouldn’t ask anyone how he or she is doing if I don’t want to listen to his/her response.

But that’s how a lot of people operate- they’ll ask you “How you doing?”. But by that, they don’t want to know how you are really doing. Just give them back the usual “Oh I’m doing good. Thanks for asking” and they’ll be glad. Who wants to deal with unpleasantness at work? At work, everybody acts normal. The fact that everyone is acting normal is what makes them abnormal. I think it is normal to shout and show emotions. It is abnormal to put a smiley face when someone actually just shot you down. No wonder we behave horribly when we get back home. How difficult it is for us to behave like zombies for 40+ hours every week!

This reminds me- I haven’t seen too many males responding very well to my orders. Indians are probably worse when it comes to taking orders from an Indian woman who is in her in 20s. Just imagine telling them that they are doing their job wrong! Haha. Guys usually try to get the women to re-think their responses or actions. Women seem to be more vulnerable. I’m not sure why. Oh, and then there is this other problem of women not being able to take orders from women bosses and slim women not behaving appropriately with other women who are heavier or women who don’t dress that well. There are so many biases to deal with.

Who says that your success only depends upon the work you do? It’s a sad game that we’ve gotten ourselves into. I think most of it depends upon how you sell yourself and how you dupe others. Being funny earns you a lot of brownie points too. Who wants someone who is always serious and glued to the computer screen? Coworkers prefer the office clown who jumps around. The office clown provides the perfect safety net for other incompetent workers. Who gets the promotion and the best annual review? Why, the office clown!

Be funny and be abnormal at work.

P.S- Co-incidentally, this post comes exactly a year after I started working full time. Congratulate me.

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11 thoughts on “Tuesday Night Thoughts

  1. Hey, looks like you’re pretty disillusioned at your workplace! Take it easy. These days are tough for everyone, including managers.

    I don’t see what is the problem with the concept of the company employing you as long as you’re productive or add value to the company, and showing you the door when you are not. A job is a voluntary contract, both the employee and the company are free to end it as per the terms agreed upon.

    It is not easy for managers to disassociate themselves from your problems, though, yes, all they care about is making sure everyone is operating smoothly. And no one can operate smoothly if one doesn’t feel valued and cared for in the company. Any manager who doesn’t pay attention to what is keeping the team from doing their job well, and doesn’t listen to them needs to enhance listening and people skills.

    In the US, expressions like ‘How’re you doing’ are pretty much synonymous with greetings like ‘Good Morning’, so they’re empty exchanges in terms of content.

    Success depends on how you define it. If the office clown is getting the promotion, maybe you should look for a better job! 🙂

    Congrats for holding on for a year!

    • Mahendra- You are quite correct. Nothing stops companies from sacking employees when they feel like. That’s okay with me. What’s not okay is putting up this farce of being really concerned about the well being of employees. Sure we can argue that not all companies are the same and it’s the people who really define the corporate culture.

      It’s quite stupid, but I think that I can do my manager’s job better. Haha. I’m tired of hearing standard words like “scope, “prioritize”, “escalate”, “coordinate”, “team work”…ugh. What’s even more interesting is how these so-called managers can hide their ignorance regarding core problems by using boiler plate language. They’ll complicate things to such an extent that you’ll be left wondering…”Did I say something wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t involve my manager the next time”.

  2. Yeah, I fully agree. Most companies who purport to care about their employees are pathetically unable to keep up the farce, and everyone can see through it very easily. Sometimes makes you wonder how the HR folks can be so stupid and be blind to what everyone really thinks!

    Keywords, buzzwords, etc. I know what you mean. Many ‘career-savvy’ folk do rise up the ladder purely based on their faking abilities. Makes me sad.

  3. Dev says:

    Ruhi, when I was in college, we used to say this in Punjabi in situations like these,
    “Senti bandeya di kadhi zindagi” meaning, people who are too sensitive and emotional are doomed in this world..lol
    Most of the work places and managers are more or like the same as your experiences above..I think with more experience, you will be able to understand and handle such situations/people better. I agree with you that Indian men are worst in taking orders from a girl, especially if she is Indian too…and if she is younger to them too, perhaps in your case, they will not listen easily.
    But, I agree with Mahendra that here in North America, ‘how are you’ is nothing more than good morning and should be taken likewise..

  4. Believe me, most of the managers are as*holes. They don’t care if you live or die. But, then there is a small percentage who are really good at their work. They know how to get the best out of the team and are concerned with your problems.
    Also, it would be crazy to emotionally attach yourself to your company. Its a private firm which has to show quarterly results to the world.

  5. Not everyone is bad out there. Some indeed are @$$holes. But some are definitely not. But yes, everyone out there is wearing masks to full every other person, whom himself is wearing a mask!! What we need to do is to find out very own emotional anchor (which I feel lies deep inside us) and cling to it. Only then can we stay afloat in this ‘selfish (and why shouldn’t it be)’ corporate world. But when you say that “You should make it a point to remember the names of his/her kids but not take any offense if they don’t care about your well being.” – You are ABSOLUTELY right!!!

  6. Ruhi:

    Interesting post.

    I first “fired”/ made redundant people when I was 24. Now I have friends in big corporate jobs who are firing people at work. Remembering what happened to me and seeing what these friends are now experiencing makes it very clear to me that while much attention is paid to the laid-off, not much is written about the person who does the handing out of redundancies. This experience is different from survivor guilt. It is a painful experience and it is hard not to feel emotionally drained. I had lost so much weight that I weighed 32 kilos and became a bag of bones due to the stress. Now I see friends spending inordinate amounts of time playing golf, or cycling – basically anything to stay away from more emotional engagement at home. This affects their relationships, the real family relationships where “headcount reduction”, “redundancy” etc are not available options.

    As one goes up the corporate ladder, the work becomes less and less about technical abilities like project planning or doing complex Excel modelling, and more and more about managing people issues not just with direct reports but upward management. Which too are draining. Yes, bad managers abound but so do bad subordinates. I wouldn’t say that some of the people I had fired then didn’t deserve to be fired – because they were low-performing people and the high performers did not want to carry their deadweight with them. Fair enough, isn’t it?

    I have also to disagree on the clown bit. Just like in the blogosphere, my general reputation whilst in a company was that of a serious person, one who should not be messed with. The clown in our team got very little work done and we all picked up slack and yes, it blew up chances of his progress because we had – unfortunately for him – 360-degree feedback and there was no column for ‘clowning skills’.

    As for the greeting “How are you?”, I believe I have mentioned this ditty before (Ogden Nash)

    Do not tell your friend
    About your indigestion;
    “How are you?” is a greeting,
    Not a question.

    Since he captures the American social nicety so well, next time you hear the greeting, smile to yourself and say “good morning!” or the more appropriate response “How do you do?”. 🙂 And then, watch the fun.

  7. I agree with Shefaly. One of my managers i have worked with have told me about the stress he went through when he was told to lay off people from his team.
    He said its far worse than the time when he was laid of by an American company when he was in the US.

    I have not managed people,but I always think ‘Would I be a good manager??’
    And its normal to think that you can do better than your manager(if you hate him 😀 )

  8. Arpit Sen says:

    One of the basic definition of Management is “Getting optimum result from available resources”. So when the Resources are in abundance, everyone is invited to the party. Similarly when the resources are limited so will the party be limited.
    I think, Managers have to be more professional in handling the differences between the personal issues and business needs. The day you learn the difference between these two, you are the designated managers.
    I agree, it is tough to get jobs done from your male colleagues when you are a female and with less experience. I guess you have to be tactical in these situations. You have make them realize that it is you who is managing the show and not them. Somehow, somewhere you have to make them realize that you are the boss.
    I now realize that Management is all about going thru the Case studies, and resolving a situation based on the factors affecting them. You can not learn management, you have to practice it. Practice them in your day-to-day life, everyday routines, analyze them, look at examples. During the initial days, you have the freedom to experiment where you are watched over by your boss. If you go wrong, your boss will be responsible, as you are his/her subordinate. Obviously you will be shouted at by your boss.
    The point to look for is whether your boss shouts at you in front of everyone or talks to you separately. You will know, whom to choose, and you will also learn.
    A good company will always have both kind of people, as they realize that to value a hard working person, they need to compare with someone who is a clown. So having both of these people is good for the company. Because at the end of the day, the company has to make its profit, it does not matter who contributed more towards realizing the profit.
    Work culture is all about worrying what you are responsible to get it done in office and leave it there when you come out of the office premises. The moment you enter home, you should not worry about what happened at work. Deal your work issues in office only. Otherwise you are not professional.
    On success, I would like to say that, success is what you define for yourself, you don’t get judged by someone else whether you are successful or not. That would be success for themselves not your success.
    That is what I really like here. People know their limits, and don’t cross each other. Once they are out of office, they don’t talk about work. This is one of the other reason, why 8 hours of work here means 8 hrs of work only. While back there, it is half of your personal work get done in office.
    I would say, you are on the right path to discover the whole picture. It is only 1/3rd of the journey baby. You still have to go the rest of it. Enjoy each and every moment of it. And most of all, have fun on the way.

  9. I read this somewhere: “It’s ok if you treat your son like a dog, but you should definitely treat your boss’s dog like your son” Seems it is true.

    But I feel we can’t single out any individual to blame – everyone has pressures. Imagine having to ask one of your team members to quit or tell someone that they can’t come to work from tomorrow.

    Managers (unless you are talking about Management) are equal sufferers – like “Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi”, “Boss bhi kisi ka team member hai” – What about what he has to hear from his superiors?

    Ultimate mistakes are often committed by the top management – imagine having to sell a stupid product (because the management thought it was amazing) or having to justify obscene margins to customers.

    Basically, in such a time everyone (excluding the top of course) is in trouble.

    But I do agree about the “nothing personal” approach – but that’s the culture isn’t it? Remember the bank employee or kiraanawala knowing your khaandaan? Then compare it to your neighbors who might not even know you!!

    Hell, I have cousins whom I haven’t seen for years now!!

  10. this august marks one year since i’ve started working. totally relate to what you’ve said in the post. am not comfortable sharing my personal life with my bosses but i would like it if they were more sensitive to the office politics that surround. they told me themselves they are aware of it but would rather not be involved. understandable to an extent but office politics can be the undoing of many successes a company could’ve achieved without its presence, i think.

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