Monday Musings 217 - Two tales for the cubiclewallahs
Two conversations over the last week stayed with me – one was the disdain wreaked on me by friends back home on an innocuous question like “What do I really do at office” and the second was a conversation about what keeps some managers interested in their teams even when they move on.
The first generation job holders find it difficult to explain to his/her brethrens back home as to what do they really do at office. They understand work in simple terms – if you are a farmer you till the land, if you are a driver you drive the car, if you are a miner you enter the mines, if you are shopkeeper you open the shop every morning and sell, if you are a doctor you wait for folks to fall ill so that you can offer cure and if you are an engineer you make things. My folks understand work through the prism of the life of an ACC cement township, where every morning hundreds would trickle in every morning at the sound of a loud siren that would indicate the beginning of the 8 to 4 shift, an afternoon siren at 12.30 to indicate lunch and an evening siren at 4 to indicate end of shift, when the same thousands would trickle out – a tad tired and a tad dirty. In between what they really did was not difficult to understand – some ran machines, some picked up stuff, some made entries so on and so forth.
They found it difficult understand just as I found it herculean to explain, what I really did at office. For instance the notion of attending and calling meetings one after the other the whole day and then repeat it 5 days a week was pretty amusing to them. For instance a childhood friend after having struggled to understand what we really do in those meetings remarked, “So when do you guys work?” I kept silent. Another friend was not that kind when he remarked “so you make all that money by a few people sitting in a circle and just…err….talking and doing nothing, is it?” I swallowed pride but smiled but have not talked to him when he added “we do that all the time but our parents quite disapprove of it”.
I am sure someday they will realize that we are a hard working lot and earn our pizza with the sweat of our brow…mmmm….ok not really sweat of the brow, but we do sweat. The notion of work is in the hands and head of the worker and just like one man’s food is another man’s poison, one man’s work can be another man’s leisure.
The second thought was around how do managers behave once they move on to another role or another company? Do they keep calling old team members to find out what is happening and whether the world has actually come to an end? There are some matured ones who stay away consciously and purposefully because they recognize that what is worse than a breakup is to call up your ex and check about the new partner.
However many are not matured enough. They would relish calling the old team members to figure out how is it working with the new person and subtly fish for compliments as how things were so much better under him/her than now. Indispensability is the aphrodisiac for managers. There is unmatched joy in hearing about the ‘good old days…with him of course”. Subordinates are also smart because they understand the subtleties of this call and fuel it appropriately while praising how ‘meaningful/enjoyable etc” life was under the previous regime. Such managers damage the purpose of continuity in the teams those they had nourished and built, but more importantly they betray their own insecurities, which is up for display for those whom he had led with the assurances of high conduct only in the recent past. I feel sorry for them and then I ask myself if I had some something similar consciously or unconsciously ever. Suddenly I don’t like what I am writing and so I stop.