Why should appraisal only be top down?

People join or leave an organisation for its own sake or due to a boss. What do you think?

There is no right or wrong here. Each experience is unique. To generalise would be a fallacy.

The overall work culture in the company, how it looks after its employees, plays a big role in shaping tbe latter’s perspective towards the former. If the overall environment at work is not conducive or congenial, just having a good boss may not alleviate all the suffering. But it sure can buy time for the employee to give the organisation a chance, hoping things work out or get better.

There is one universal truth though. A good or bad boss has a significant bearing on how employees perceive the workplace. That is not to say that an employee wiĺl never quit if she has a good boss. A new opportunity, a chance to relocate to a place of choice, a promotion, a considerable salary hike, an offer from a great company or one which can’t be refused etc are good reasons to make the switch. But, the chances of leaving is minimised, if you have a boss who challenges, encourages, inspires, motivates, trusts or helps you evolve as a professional.

Likewise, a boss who is condescending, dishonest, insecure, suspicious, tyrannical or unfair paves the way for your exit. We have all heard stories how an arrogant, brash, cruel boss makes it impossible to function leaving you with no choice but to leave. Organisations need to pay heed to this. Often the boss determines the employee’s experience in a workplace.

It’s not only about leaving the job. This determines one’s motivation and level of engagement towards work. A good boss can keep you enthused, thereby increasing your productivity and boosting overall output of the team.

A periodic evaluation of leaders is imperative, not just by the reporting manager but also the team reporting into the leader. Managements would do well to ask their HR managers to institutionalise a mechanism where a team can rate the boss on several parameters. This could be anonymous or the voting choice of individual could be strictly confidential.

If one-third or more in a team feel the boss does not meet expectation, the management should go into the merits and consider if there’s a case for reprimanding or replacing the leader. A thorough evaluation is necessary before making an informed decision. This would bring in transparency and hold a leader accountable to the team.

It is almost impossible for any boss to have the entire team rooting for her. Every boss will have a few members in the team who are disgruntled. One key reason for this could be receiving a negative rating which is below the subordinate’s own self-assessment. Sometimes, the insecurity of losing one’s job due to a poor rating as part of the appraisal process, could cause an employee to provide adverse feedback about the boss. This could hold true for a few members in each team. It is for this reason, a threshold of one-third of the team’s strength as the cut-off for evaluation of the manager by the team, is a fair measure to begin with.

Organisations may change the threshold to one-fourth, if they so feel or as the process evolves over time. But at no stage should it fall below 20 percent of the team size. It will just give the truants an opportunity to make mischief. The team members who loathe being disciplined by a boss who is particular about it, may use this as  leverage to get rid of their boss.

It may not be easy to introduce this in a running organisation. One could argue that it could be misused by those with an axe to grind. And every organisation has a few such individuals. The reverse argument is the process discounts such troublemakers by choosing a threshold number. Every process has pros and cons. As long as the pros outweigh the cons, and it is in the interest of the organisation to continuously improve the workplace, it is worth adopting.

Such a bold move can only work if it is mandated by the top leadership and relentlessly driven by HR managers. Checks and balances need to be built in to make it more robust before laying down the process. It needs to be instituitionalised and embedded into the organisation’s culture to help it evolve towards being an admired company.

Companies that can follow this are likely to richly benefit. Such organisations potentially stand to be great places to work in. The big question is, how many will bite the bullet. If you were the MD, CEO or CHRO of your company, would you?

Elusive Rain

I grew up in a state bordering the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It rained at the drop of a hat. Monsoon was fun. Sometimes, the school would declare a holiday on account of incessant rains. There was a pond in the school compound which would overflow risking the safety of children. On other days, we would have to paddle through knee-deep water. As children, it brought in a sense of adventure. You never knew where your foot landed next, as you walked.

Playing football in the rain was so much fun. Slipping in the wet mud was a badge of honour. The dirt on your clothes and body after indulging in the beautuful game was seen, by others in the same age group, as a mark of an accomplished player.

Watching and hearing the rain fall can be relaxing and peaceful. As a child, I got used to that. It had a calming effect on the mind and momentarily relieved  other worries. It would rain for hours and sometimes for days.

Odisha is a green state. Growing up, there was no dearth of greenery wherever one went. The state lost its green cover almost entirely when the supercyclone of 1999 devastated the state.

I remember taking a bŕeak from my work in Delhi to visit home a few months after the state had been ravaged by the cyclone. The trees that lined up both sides of the highway during my childhood, had completely dissapeared. The Ashoka trees all round our house in Cuttack were gone. There was no shade, wind or privacy from neighbouring dwellings. But it all came back with time.

Odisha has witnessed many cyclones since then. 2021 is the third successive year when the state was hit by a cyclonic storm in the month of May. But none of these wrecked flora as much as 1999.

When I came to Delhi to live and work here, Delhi was suitably green. The roads were wide and the city looked lovely in the rains. I remember folding my trousers up to my kneè, carrying my shoes in hand, socks in the pocket on my way to work, as I tried to negotiate my way out of the lane near my rented accomodation after rains had lashed the city.

Over the years, rains have dwindled to such an extent that, except a couple of times, I can’t remember when else Delhi witnessed heavy rainfall in the last decade. It just does not happen. Summer temperatures have been moving northwards each year making it unbearable while the citizens pray for rain to cool the city. But rain, if at all, lasts for a few minutes leaving the city more humid.

I live in a relatively green zone in South Delhi. It used to be a forest before DLF developed the area more than half a century ago. One would expect substantial rainfall here but it hardly rains. Even when one hears of rain in other parts of the city, it mostly eludes the area around my home.

Sometimes the Delhi sky ignites hope and excitement by creating the environment for rain. The sky turns dark, brings in some breeze fleetingly and then a two minute sprinkle. Why tease with an attractive trailer if the movie has to fall far below expectations?

This year the Met department forecasted monsoon to arrive in the city two weeks before usual. It did not happen. The department had to revise its predictions a couple of times, unsuccesfully. The same department had got its act together in the last few years after a disappointing history of getting it wrong. It seemed that our weather forecastings systems had improved significantly in the last decade. And it did. Till a month ago.

Finally, the date has been set for today. Monsoon is expected to arrive as I write this. The city has been waiting for it with bated breath. Will it, won’t it, I can’t be sure. But one thing is certain, I miss the rain in my childhood, more than ever before.

A Leader should know when to let go

Hello Boss, when is a good time to speak to you for a few minutes?’

Most exit conversations start like this. Leaders are often tested when a subordinate broaches the issue of leaving the team. In such cases, there could be two types of exit. One, when a team member decides to quit. And two, when a request is made to transfer to a different team in the same company or another company within the same group.

There are several factors which come into play in the case of a request for transfer. Obviously, there needs to be a vacancy or opportunity in the desired team and its leader open to considering the candidate who is keen to move, for the open position.

In either case of exit or transfer, if the subordinate is efficient and reliable, the current team leader may be reluctant to let go of such a resource. The worry is two-fold: to find a good replacement may not be easy and the time taken to get the new recruit up to speed with the requirements of the job may take longer than necessary.

It is not uncommon to feel a sense of discomfort, in a leader, to follow this path. The process of finding and grooming a replacement cannot be taken for granted. It is dependent on extraneous factors. There could be a period of disruption at work once the team member leaves. Adjustments may need to be done in the team along with reallocation of roles. When status quo is altered, it does cause incovenience, particularly if things were going fine. The effort on the part of the leader, seen in many cases, is to try and retain the member in the same team.

In some cases, no sooner than the subordinate expresses a desire to leave, the boss views her or him as persona non grata. Such leaders take it personally.

‘How can you leave me and go? I have done so much for you. How could you even think of it?’

As silly as it may seem, in isolated cases, the boss may stop making eye-contact and tries to avoid meeting or speaking with the team member.

How often do leaders put themselves in the shoes of the subordinate who decides to move on? Is it good for her or him? How keen is she or he to make it happen? Why not let go rather than lose her or him to competition? This way, the company can continue to enjoy the service of a good resource. There is no point in trying to retain someone whose heart lies elsewhere. The passion will no longer be there to perform the job. Such situations help neither the team nor the member.

Mature leaders think as much about the team member, as they do about the team and organisation. If it is good for the team member in the long run, if she or he can grow more in the new role or is passionate about it, such leaders may even encourage the switch. If you wish well for your team members, think what is good for them.

The best leaders are known to guide the member who wants to switch and help to make the right decision. Sometimes, the subordinate may feel the switch is better for him or her, but in reality, it may not be so. At such times, the boss can discuss the pros and cons and help make sense. Not always is one best placed to decide for oneself. It is good to seek counsel from a more experienced professional. The boss should play this role.

How a boss handles a subordinate’s exit speaks a lot about her or his leadership. This has a lasting impact on the departing member as this forms the final impression not just about the boss but the organisation as well. Not being able to handle it well, on the part of the boss, is a huge disservice to the organisation. Because a leader in this case, is the brand ambassador of the organisation.

It is both incumbent and imperative for an organisation to prioritise and focus on this area. Very few actually do. If any of the chosen leaders are tarnishing its brand image by mishandling the exit experience, it is time to take corrective action. Often one hears of instances where recruits are welcomed with open arms and treated badly when they leave, which leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.

It’s not just the exit, the overall experience of an employee during the full length of service also matters a lot. The organisations who get this right become one of the best places to work in. Since leaders make an organisation, it is the quality of leadership which plays a big role in how the organisation is perceived.

How an ultimatum helped me overcome my handicap early in my career

Exactly 25 years ago, on April 18, 1996, I was selected to join NDTV in the news production team as a Production Assistant. My decision then had baffled a few near & dear ones. Why would a Correspondent (which I was in my previous job) leave the editorial space to join production? The reverse was known to happen but this was uncommon.

It was a no-brainer for me. I was getting an opportunity to join a team which produced ‘The World This Week’, a show known for its impeccable production values. I actually got to play a small part in the show before it went off-air and I am eternally grateful for it.

I had the privilege to watch and learn from my boss Shivani Jajodia, who had an examplary eye for detail and an innate sense of aesthetics. A strict disciplinarian, she would chide you for the slightest negligence and praise you if your work met her high standards. The news production floor, comprising a few boys and mostly girls in their early 20s, were petrified of her.

I was severely reprimanded only once when it came to her notice that I had frequently erred in my sound mixing responsibility in the production control room. In my case, there was no public rebuke. I was summoned to her room and clearly told if I made one more mistake, I would be removed from this coveted function in the PCR.

I had serious concentration issues. My mistakes were on account of not being able to focus. I remember being despondent after leaving her cabin in the newsroom. How do I ensure I do not make any more mistakes going forward given that I used to make at least one error a day? It was an impossible ask.

A colleague who anchored news bulletins noticed my plight and invited me to his home the following day. He told me he had a solution which could calm me down and help focus better. I was ready to try anything to help tide over the crisis.

The next day, the same colleague introduced me to chanting, the Buddhist way. I was a naive 22 year old and felt it would be against my Hindu religion. I did not pursue it after the trial.

However, I was committed not to lose my place in the accomplished club of audio mixers back then. The three other colleagues who mixed audio online for news bulletins were seasoned professionals. They were sympathetic but could not help much as it was not a problem of understanding or skill. It was because there was too much weighing down my mind at the same time, distracting me from the core task on hand.

The fear of losing my place as well falling short of my boss’s expectations jolted me enough to ensure it did not happen again. Seven years later, when the production team was bifurcated to cater to two channels, the first criteria was to select the two best in each function and place one in each channel. I became aware of this when I quizzed my boss why I was picked for the hindi channel when my hindi typing was below par. It was on account of my prowess in sound mixing, she said.

Looking back I am convinced it was the discipline imbibed in those formative years which helped me and my colleagues back then to approach work in right earnest in the years ahead. I remember a few not happy being admonished like children but it sure did help in the long run.

Had I not been served with an ultimatum, I may have continued to err which in turn would have impacted operations. But the fear of losing my seat in the coveted control room was enough to get me to pull up my socks. And I have Shivani to thank for that.

When Gods Seek Your Company

Source: Dr Surbhit’s Facebook profile picture

Life is strange. The best people you meet leave you early.

Dr Surbhit Choudhary is one such example. I knew him for only a couple of years. However, the duration of my association did not matter. Every time I met him, our bond strengthened. 

He was both a very skilled doctor and an outstanding human. At first, I consulted him for an allergy in my eye. A month and a half later, when my eye healed, I took my mom to consult Dr Surbhit for a retinal complication.

My mom embodies the personification of anxiety. Dr Surbhit began the treatment by first addressing her anxiety. He had a remarkable ability to calm her. After putting her mind at ease, he began the actual eye treatment.

My mom has a rare eye condition which requires an injection in the retina every month. It is a procedure which needs to be performed in the operation theatre and therefore requires due formalities like admission and discharge. The entire process takes between 4-5 hours but thanks to Dr Surbhit, he always did his best to keep it under four hours.

He was a workaholic and worked through the week without a break at least two weeks a month. I consulted him mostly on Sunday to avoid a clash with any professional engagement. I once saw his wife Dr Aarti accompany him on a Sunday and I remember asking him apolegetically how he managed to balance his work and life. He told me not to worry, he had promised her a sumptuous lunch at Oh Calcutta after attending to a surgery.

Not many doctors are forthcoming to share their hand phone numbers but Dr Surbhit passed it to me willingly at the first meeting and encouraged me to WhatsApp him if there’s ever any issue. He would always reply to each text with utmost politeness. Sometimes he would embarrass me with his polite response making me feel I should have phrased my text better.

I have the pleasure of knowing many good doctors but Dr Surbhit is special. My mom spent the last three years staying a few months each in three different cities. This arrangement required her to consult different doctors for the same ailment. If a doctor in another city had a different take from Dr Surbhit and I let him know this, it never upset or troubled him. He would stick to his line of treatment and never rubbish any other view.

I often recommended friends and colleagues to consult Dr Surbhit if they had any eye issue and they would always be thankful after consulting him. Dr Surbhit had the amazing habit of sharing every update on the progress of anyone I referred to him, even if I hadn’t requested for it.

To wake up one morning and find his picture in the newspaper announcing his demise was shocking. I still cannot believe he is no more. He was my eye doctor and I met him just once a month. If I can feel so bad, I shudder to think how his family, friends and the people associated with him on a daily basis would be coping with losing him forever.

I lost my dear cousin when he was a teenager. He was extraordinary. I still miss him. I remember being angry with God for taking him away so early. I know a few others who left well before their time and the common thread in each one was their remarkable ability to touch lives.

Perhaps, this explains why they are prematurely summoned to the other world. Because Gods seek their company as much as you and I do.

(This piece, first published on March 24, 2016, has been updated)

Post Script: Soon after the prayer meeting following Dr Surbhit’s eternal departure, his wife and professional partner Dr Aarti headed to the clinic to meet with fellow doctors, staff and reassured all she will carry on the good work she & Dr Surbhit had started together. Five years later, Dr Aarti continues to do so with vigour and passion. More power to her.

Talent Matters But….

When I am looking to hire, talent is a key requisite in the selection of a candidate. But I pay equal attention to other attributes such as team-playing ability, honesty, integrity and stability. 

If I have to decide between a smug super achiever full of vanity and a moderate achiever who is a dependable team player, I’d opt for the latter. Partly because the profession I work for is a complete team game where teamwork comes in great use.

But equally, I place a lot of emphasis on such traits which help in forming a culture of collaboration. As I do for innate values of trustworthiness and sincerity.

I also look for stability and therefore prefer those who will be invested in the organisation for a long-period. I must confess having let go some very talented applicants for a lesser talent with superior work ethic.

I often come across very ambitious job-seekers who switch jobs in a year or two to quickly scale the corporate ladder. And some of them are very competent. I wish them well and move on to the next candidate.

I have experienced first-hand having two talented members in my team who could not rise to the top despite their superior intellect. Both have a good eye for detail. Both express themselves better than most others. Both are very good in what they do. Both have a mighty sense of self-worth and at the same time underestimate the ability of others around them. Both struggle with inter-personal communication. Both rose exponentially for a few years before hitting a plateau.

I tried to counsel them several times and show them how they could flourish if they paid heed to my feedback. But their vanity takes over everything else. And it appears to be congenital which makes it tough to shed. Every such effort made me feel I am hitting a wall.

Every team needs at least one or two superstars. These are the big hitters who can change the game when they walk in to the crease. Once you have them, you don’t need to look for more such talent.

What you also need is a balanced team. You will need a couple of those who may not have the ability to score big but can tire out the bowlers in the opposition by standing their ground at one end.

You need great fielders who can save the certain boundaries and hit the wicket from the boundary line, running out the opponent batsman.

You need quick running batsmen who can steal a single even when there are six or more fielders within a 30 yard circle. And convert the singles into two, and doubles into three.

You need players who will sacrifice their wicket running to the danger end if they find their partner at the other end is better placed to win the game for the team.

The point I am making is you need all kinds to make a team. What you certainly need is for most, if not all to be complete team-players, who put the interest of their team above their own. You need the players to back-up for each other, take the pressure of one-another, play to each other’s strength etc. That’s why team work is at a premium.

You need those who you can trust, who are honest and sincere. Integrity is a virtue in very short supply. If you find it in a candidate, hire on-the-spot.

Not just while hiring, I have always considered these traits at par with talent during annual performance measurement, promotion and career growth.

I have also met a few who are self-aware of their amazing talent and feel that’s enough to carry their weight. And often, many organizations are okay with that. I differ. Unless I find someone who is God’s gift to the profession. In which case, I give some slack. But only some.

Published by RG

I see, I think. I hear, I think. I read, I think. Sometimes I write. Let me know what you think View more posts

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Living Positive

What is so damn positive about being Covid Positive? Then why call it positive? It should be negative, right? Only good things deserve the adjective positive. If you have the CoronaVirus in your body, there’s nothing positive about it

I Am Positive

Before you jump in to explain, I know the genesis of this nomenclature. The result of a clinical examination indicates ‘positive’ if the virus is detected. Like it was in my case. Now that you know I am Covid positive, you will hopefully understand and pardon my rant. This can happen to the best of us, even those who know well why such terminology is medically accepted universally. Human mind can work in complex ways, especially when confronted with adversity.

Don’t Let The News Break You

The news was broken to me by a senior HR team member who patched the Company doctor on the line. ‘Welcome to the Covid Club’, said the Dr in a half-humour manner of speech. I was not really seeking membership here, so I don’t know if I muttered anything under my breath. 25 years ago, when I started my professional journey in Delhi, I fancied a membership in the Delhi Gymkhana Club and a couple of other premier clubs in Lutyen’s Delhi. I soon abandoned the thought once I realised, the membership may come, if at all, many decades later when I may be too old to enjoy the benefits. Ever since, I have not sought access to membership in any club. Certainly not the Covid Club.

How Could You?

Now that I have briefly digressed, let me get back to the health crisis. Most families do not take the virus seriously unless it hits home. The moment a family member is infected, deep realization sets in. The first thought is disbelief. How could it happen to you? Are you sure? Hope they did not mix up the samples. These are not uncommon to hear from a loved one the moment they hear you are infected.

What Happens Next?

The next few hours are overtaken by a mixture of fear, anxiety and apprehension. What are the first things to do? It is not always easy for the ‘patient’ (I am using this term to distinguish the infected from the rest of the household) as he or she does not get the time to even process the news just broken to him or her. The patient’s phone starts ringing. From the health department to the DM’s office, the calls come one by one for verification. The Health Department representative visits your premises, checks your Pulse Oxymeter reading, inspects the household, lists out dos and don’ts and leaves after pasting a sticker outside your door cautioning that a Covid Positive patient lives here and mentioning the period of home isolation.

Don’t Let Stress Get To You

It is said that the Covid infected person should not stress as it can adversely affect the patient’s health. Say it to a newly-inducted member into the Covid family and chances are it may not resonate with him or her. Of course, it is human to worry when you find out the uninvited intruder has entered your body. It is also natural to stress about the health of your family members and all those who are at home till you are absolutely sure that they are spared of the virus. Till that happens, how do you keep away from worrying? It is easier said than done.
If the CoronaVirus does not kill you, constant questions about how you got it and how you are feeling may well do the damage. The moment your near and dear ones get to know, they will call you out of concern. It can be deeply disturbing and difficult to repeat the same lines over and over again. So how does one deal with it. Just send a message thanking all for their concern and requesting them not to call. Let them know you will update as and when there is an opportunity to.

In my case, I rarely spoke on the phone as it would tire me. Any conversation of a minute or more, I would frequently pause to catch my breath. My symptoms have remained pretty much the same for a week. I get fever once a day, usually late afternoon in the range of 99.4 – 99.8°F. I do feel tired while conversing. My doctor first prescribed Azithromycin 500 once a day for 5 days. This was before I got tested. When my test result arrived, I was given Bandy Plus, again once a day for 5 days. I have completed the course for both the antibiotics and have now been prescribed Microdox-LBS once a day for the next 5 days. I feel better today as for the first time in 10 days, no fever has been recorded. I share my Pulse Oxymeter and body temperature reading twice a day with my doctor and he was happy to note the first positive sign in a week and a half. It was a good enough reason to start writing.

I continue to remain isolated at home in a room where I live, read, exercise, eat, sleep and now write. And I continue to live positive – literally and figuratively.

Positive Tip

A word of caution: Do not take the CoronaVirus too lightly or too seriously. Both are risky and can endanger your life.

Strict or Liberal Boss: Who is more Effective?

Bosses come in all shapes, sizes and styles. But the majority fall in two categories – strict or liberal. The demeanour of the boss determines how the team conducts itself in the presence or absence of the boss. It also impacts the state of mind of the team and how it approaches its work. Last, but not the least, it affects the work output. Let’s dwell into both these styles and try to find out which one is more effective.

The Strict Boss

Between the two, perhaps the more commonly found is the strict boss. Teams are terrified of such bosses. The moment a strict boss enters the workplace, the team goes into rapt attention. When the boss is around, the team is always on its toes. The boss flares up if things go wrong at work and is quick to crack the whip. The boss is known for a fiery temper and no one wants to go anywhere near when the boss is in a foul mood. Members of the team heave a sigh of relief when the boss exits the office. The team wears a very different look when the boss is away. Such bosses demand total obedience and observance of rules. The team members are treated like school children and follow a set of strict rules and regulations. The team feels as if they are being watched at all times in the workplace.

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” 

Steve Jobs

The Liberal Boss

Bosses who are liberal are far more lenient in their demeanour with the team. They make few demands and allow their team enough flexibility in the way they manage their work. Once responsibilities are assigned, the liberal boss usually doesn’t interfere unless there are issues with the output or conduct of the team or some of its members. Members are expected to be diligent in the discharge of their duties. The team is at ease in the presence of the boss and feels free to speak up or even disagree with the boss. Liberal bosses usually forgive mistakes as long as they are not repeated or committed by a habitual offender. Repeat offenders however, are not pardoned and treated very differently from others. Liberal bosses are not known to lose their temper often but their patience should never be taken for granted. Such bosses usually trust their team more and expect them to be responsible and self-regulate.

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

 Theodore Roosevelt

Posturing or Different Personality Types?

Both the contrasting styles do not necessarily mean they are two opposite personality types. In some cases, the strict boss could be a different person outside work – warm, even jovial. Team members struggle to understand why the same person would behave so differently outside work. The answer lies in the belief that human beings are generally not good at self-regulation and tend to take it easy if they are not pressured to perform. 

Case for Strict Regulation

Bosses who practice the strict method feel teams work most effectively when the whip is cracked. They believe employees tend to drift in an environment where there is greater freedom and flexibility. Strict bosses argue that it is difficult to get the team to focus unless they feel the presence of constant surveillance at work. The fundamental premise of their argument is as follows: it is imperative for the team not to lose sight of the ball, to fully focus on the job at hand; which is unlikely to happen in the absence of strict regulation.

From the Employees’ Standpoint

Let’s view it from the perspective of team members. Do they like being treated like school children? How does it feel to be under constant surveillance? Do the team members look forward to be at work in office? Does it feel good to be in a workplace where your boss is constantly breathing down your neck or frequently letting off steam? You know the answer.

Merits of a Carefree Workplace

Bosses who foster a relatively less regulated work environment feel it enhances employee engagement and creates a more conducive workplace for creativity and innovation. Happy employees look forward to being at the workplace. They are known to walk the extra mile for the team when required, often volunteering to pitch in at work for a colleague who is confronted with a sudden emergency or even a planned activity. They don’t usually leave the organisation unless they find an opportunity which offers a very challenging role or a significant hike in salary.

Which method is more effective?

It is tough to say which of the two methods is more effective. Often, the strict environment produces higher output due to minimal wastage of man hours. And lesser mistakes because the team members are more careful, for fear of incurring the wrath of the boss. But such places usually see higher attrition. Employees in such an environment actively scout for job opportunities and are quick to leave when it comes. It is never easy to find talent and when you do, it takes time to train and get the recruit up to speed with the workflow and culture of the organisation. Precious time and effort goes waste if they leave after they are trained and ready for the job, usually prevalent in stressed workplaces.

The liberal workplace has relatively much lesser attrition and therefore less time is wasted in hiring and training. However, some employees do take it easy and while away their time. Freedom at work is a good thing, if used responsibly. Not everyone handles it well.

My Take

I have followed the liberal style but dealt firmly with the delinquents. My approach has been thus: why let the entire team endure a stressed work environment only because some rotten apples misuse their freedom? Take the offenders to task, read the riot act to them. Let them know there is zero tolerance for delinquency and repeat offences. Different types of people should be treated differently. Those who are responsible and sincere should be provided enough freedom and flexibility at work.

I don’t judge those who adopt the other method. It could well work for them. It surely enforces discipline, mostly out of fear. Such teams are always on guard and possibly commit lesser errors. They spend almost all their time at work on the job at hand because they know they are being watched. There are advantages in enforcing this method.

The first few years of my professional career were spent in such a work environment. I remember at that time my colleagues and I used to be offended for being treated like school children. Much later did we realise the value of being schooled that way. We were raw then, straight out of college, university or at the most had a few months of work experience. The discipline instilled in us continues to pay rich dividends for the rest of our career. It is a good way to start. However, it may not be conducive for mid-career professionals.

So, what’s the verdict? I believe there can be no generic answer. There are pros and cons for both methods. It depends on many factors. While I prefer the liberal approach, I understand why the proponents and practitioners of the opposite approach opt for it.

To each their own.

Two Ways to Prevent Disappointment in Relationships

Do you easily get disappointed in life?

Over the years, I have observed in many cases, the cause of disappointment in relationships is usually on account of either expectation or comparison. Or both. Can you avoid it? You only need to resist the lure of expectation and comparison. Let me explain.

1. No Expectation, No Cry

When you set expectations and the end result does not match those, you are upset. Growing up in our families, we are conditioned to expect from our near and dear ones. We have set goals for them in our mind, which they may or may not be fully aware of. When those goals are not met, we are unhappy.

If you love someone, let them be. Do not expect anything and you will see how much more you are at peace. It sounds too simple to be true, right? It really is.

In India, we tend to be extravagant with our expectations. Children take parents for granted and have expectations from them which they believe to be their birthright. Parents are equally to blame. They allow such expectations to be formed instead of nipping them in the bud. Parents expect from their children too. Then there are expectations between husband and wife. And in-laws. The list is endless. It can get exhausting living up to them. Why not throw them in the bin and live a life devoid of expectations? Life would be so much more carefree, wouldn’t it?

2. Avoid Comparison

The second recipe to prevent dissapointment is to avoid comparision. We compare ourselves with others who we feel are better off than us. We obsess about keeping up with the Joneses. It could be a bigger house, fancier car, higher paid job, better opportunity etc. It serves no good purpose. On the contrary, it induces depression.

We compare our loved ones with others who we feel are more privileged, successful or talented. Such comparisons rarely have positive consequences. They usually result in discomfort, discord or despair. Why indulge in a practice which serves no positive purpose only because it has passed on from one generation to another? Chances are you have seen your parents do it and felt wronged then. And now you have followed the practice with your next generation. Why? Shun it. And feel the difference.

If comparison is a habit you simple cannot give up, compare with the less privileged, less gifted, less accomplished than you and your loved ones. You will feel thankful for what you have. Gratitude will bring happiness.

Pros & Cons

Some will argue that expectation and comparison can be healthy if they are used for goal setting and may lead to improvement. Agreed. Those who feel encouraged or motivated to excel, by comparison and expectation, are welcome to do so. But few use it constructively to achieve positive results. The majority suffer because they can’t handle it properly. Many are known to be psychologically scarred on account of such constant comparisons. Friendships are ruined because of a deep sense of insecurity arising out of such comparisons. Overall, it hurts more people than it benefits.

Avoiding comparison and expectation may not be easy as they have become habits for us. But habits can be broken. I have, and greatly benefitted as a result. I recommend you try it. And share your experience.

When Confidence Masquerades as Competence

How many of us have been in a gathering or meeting where ideas are sought and amongst the first to speak up usually know the least about the subject?

Confidence not always equals competence

Irrespective of the quality of content, the confidence of the speaker is never in doubt. Right from school days we have always had that one fellow student who may not know what he or she is talking about but says it, nevertheless, with supreme confidence. It is the confidence which sometimes makes others believe in the knowledge of the speaker.

In contrast, you may not feel the need to speak unless you can add a whole new perspective to the discussion. Or you may know the subject well but lack the confidence displayed by the speaker who spoke before you.

Isn’t it a waste of time to speak in a meeting unless you have something to contribute which has not been tabled before? Or you need a clarification. Time is invaluable. One needs to respect time of others. There’s no point speaking just for the sake of being heard.

Why does it happen?

Often, your silence may be perceived by your teacher or the leader in your group as under-confidence or lack of understanding about the issue being discussed. It is to obviate such a concern which usually drives your confident classmate or colleague to speak up, though she or he may not have anything significant to add.

Those who speak up, without knowing enough about the subject of discussion, do so to leave an impression of being smart, capable, confident etc. Sometimes, your teacher or leader may see through it and realise the futility of what’s being said. But, more often than not, such confidence is misconstrued as competence. And decisions may be taken to allocate roles based on this erroneous assumption.

A former colleague who I sat next to in a meeting called by an industry body was the first to speak when suggestions were sought by the chair. She turned to me after making her point, smiled as if to indicate that her mission was accomplished. She then shared her secret with me, as a tip to try in future. ‘Be amongst the first to speak, while others are still gathering their thoughts. It has always served me well.’

To speak up or not?

Have you been in this position where you wondered if you should follow the same practice as your confident associate or colleague? Not doing so may risk missing an opportunity to be tasked with a key assignment or an important project. Or being lost in the crowd with strangers where you only have a few minutes to make an impression.

I have been in such situations many times. I choose to speak if I can bring something new to the table. Or if I feel very strongly about the issue being discussed. More often than not, I choose to hear and not speak. Have I missed chances or been judged as less competent than my more vocal companions? Possibly. It is tough to be certain about it. If I had to live my life all over again, would I change my approach? No. I have never let others’ judgement alter my basic character.

How about you?