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Friday, November 9, 2012

Presidents are Better Actors than the Actors

It is hard to imagine that the presidents, prime ministers and heads of states across the world are as genuine as they sound when one listens to their passionate speeches. One fact is true - most of them are great orators and public speakers. How much they really believe in what they so passionately and energetically talk about is anybody's guess though.

In a certain sense one can compare presidents, prime ministers and heads of states to actors. It is known that actors have separate reel lives and real lives. It appears so do the presidents et al. They have a public persona and a private persona where at times the disconnect may be so large as to cause a normal person (and it can be argued that presidents et al are probably not normal) to either go mad or never look settled.

Actors put on the mask temporarily while giving a shot whereas presidents et al have to keep the mask on for longer periods. Otherwise how can one explain presidents et al to talk so genuinely about poverty in a conference but not be bothered at the sight of poor people while on the way to the conference inside a super luxury car. Apparently presidents et are better actors than the actors themselves and know how to manage ambiguity in real life and display of genuineness with a finesse.

The other side of the picture is that if one really and genuinely feels for the poor, downtrodden and marginalized sections of  the society one would jump into concrete action and not bother about becoming president, prime minister and heads of state where one needs to be a great actor and great public speaker.

In fact if if one really and genuinely feels for the poor, downtrodden and marginalized sections of  the society then one won't be able to become president, prime minister and heads of state. Presidents et al leverage their extra-ordinary communication faculties to create a sense of hope and genuineness amongst the masses and may take some actions but are not probably as genuine as they sound.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Keeping One's Emotions at Check in the Workplace

For surviving the ups and downs at the workplace, keeping one's emotions at check is an essential skill. Many a times people loose control over their feelings and take actions for which they keep on blaming themselves for a long, long time. One might even be very unfortunate in certain situations where some of the actions could cause immense, irreparable damage to one's career.

Some situations which can cause one to blow the lid off are described below. However, these are also the situations where one should keep one's emotions in check. Life is not what happens in the workplace but also a lot that happens outside it. Forgetting this fact can lead one to think and act short term and hence cause self-damage.
  • One's manager's manager plants a member in one's team. This could be due to the fact that the "plant" is known or has an earlier relation with one's manager's manager or one's manager's manager is neither really a professional nor a believer of the concepts of meritocracy and competency. Sometimes it would difficult to comprehend the reason and rhyme for the desperation to get the "plant" inserted into a team since in most cases there is generally no rhyme or reason. In such cases one needs to be smart to manage the "plant" by one's manager's manager.
  • One's reporting manager is placed using artificial structure. This could be due to the fact that one's manager is a trusted solider of one's manager's manager. In such cases trust and relation wins hands down over talent, competency, etc. In such cases one's reporting manager has no technical expertise but still is the manager because of poor organizational design. One should probably move on to another organization as there is a glass ceiling that would come in the way of one's growth should one decide to stay in that organization.
  • One's manager's manager has a very hands-off approach to management. He or she doesn't review the execution with the kind of seriousness and rigor as would be an effective approach to manage the business operations. In such situations one should present the data and information in a smart manner so as not to ruffle the feathers of one's manager's manager.

Being a Manager of People is Tough

I think managers of people need to be good students of human psychology. Here are some reasons and situations which make being a manager of people tough.
  • When an exiting employee who was a poor performer when being invited for farewell lunch declines it and needs the manager to have a personal talk to covert the no to yes
  • When an exiting employee who did not cooperate in transition when being invited for farewell lunch declines it and needs the manager to have a personal talk to covert the no to yes
  • When a team member, who has already taken many leaves, when told to cancel leave due to a some business crisis reacts in a negative fashion
  • When a team member, who may not have been performing that great, when denied a promotion becomes  negative leading to deterioration in performance
  • When a team member takes leaves without informing the manager
  • When a team member who would leave at 2pm if he or she has to catch a train in the evening but is not willing in case he or she has to stay back for a critical activity that needs to be completed that day
  • When a team member doesn't respond to emails from the manager on time or responds only on being asked by the manager

Exiting an Organization Gracefully

Exiting an organization gracefully without burning the bridges is not only important for an employee's career but also the desired and expected professional behavior as well as a sign of maturity of the exiting employee. However, there are many instances of employees not respecting the golden rule that bridges should never be burnt while exiting.

What are the typical characteristics of situations where exits are not graceful. And what are the typical behaviors demonstrated by employees whose exit is not gracefully handled by them. Following are some thoughts on exits that are not graceful.
  • Exiting employee doesn't proactively prepare the transition plan and needs push from the manager to prepare and share it. In certain cases the manager has to lay down the first cut of the transition plan
  • Exiting employee starts pushing activities to other team members and especially those who will take over after their exit in an unusual hurry
  • Exiting employee detaches himself from the concerns of the organization and lowers productivity and contribution level (even though he or she is a part of the organization until the last working day and is being paid the full salary until then)
  • Exiting employee is in a hurry to leave and not willing to serve the full notice period
  • Exiting employee focuses on completing those activities that are of personal benefit to him or her like completing a certification and even though allowed to do so doesn't care about the organization's needs and concerns regarding completing the transition activities
  • Exiting employee is not flexible to adjust if the transition plan is changed to ensure the transition does indeed get completed
  • Exiting employee expects to be given leave (as a matter of right) for festivals and family functions but is not positive if told that the leave days will be adjusted in the notice period by extending it
  • Exiting employee spoils the goodwill created until then by pressurizing other team members to facilitate his or her exit without understanding the tough situation the organization might be in and in fact putting the organization in a tight spot
  • Exiting employee declines the courtesy extended to him of a farewell lunch (despite all of the above) 
What is amazing is that this happens even in cases where the employee has more than 3-5 years of experience and is expected to be mature and professional. Such exiting employees forget some basic points such as the follows.
  • The exiting employee may be forced to serve the full notice period and leave, if any granted, adjusted to the notice period by extending it
  • The relieving may become turbulent for the exiting employe
  • The reference of the exiting employee may be adversely impacted
  • The current manager and team the exiting employee is working may form an opinion about that employee being unprofessional and immature
  • The attitude demonstrated by the exiting employee in such situations may be a strong indicator that the employee will not be able to go higher up in the career

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