Making the Right Choices at the Workplace

Yesterday, my car was stuck in a traffic snarl. My fellow Bangaloreans would be baffled : ‘What’s so strange or remarkable about this that merits a webpage post?’ Instead, shouldn’t she start with something strange and remarkable like ‘Yesterday, my car zipped through empty Bangalore roads like a knife slicing soft butter…’

So, before I lose you, let me add : my car was trapped in a jam, right behind an open truck with the sign-board:

‘NLP Fisheries, Shop No 169, Russel Market. ‘

As I gagged on the stench, I wondered if this was same as, or worse than when my car was stuck behind the open garbage truck few weeks bac.

I moved at snail’s pace as I stared, vacantly, at grotesque pictures of all kinds of fish painted on the truck, the water droplets dripping off the edge, mixed with fish scales and sludge.

Then, my friend called me. Let’s call her Mamta (name changed, since her boss may be reading this). Her crib was:-

‘My career is stuck. I can’t move laterally, or ahead. The boss adds no value to me – just blocks my progress, line of sight and growth. At least, if I could learn from him, I would be ok being led by him…If I don’t get my promotion in this cycle, I am going to quit.’

Huh! Did I see a similarity or what?!

Now, dear young people, how many of you feel that way? And what are you doing about it?

Today’s workplace is full of opportunity. I have experienced it and firmly believe in it. It’s all about getting creative about figuring out what you want to learn, what you want to stand for, and what you want to grow into.

Here are some beliefs that keep me going: –

1.       Don’t get bogged down by short-term roadblocks.

2.       Don’t define success in terms of a good appraisal, a hike, or a promotion.

3.       Become a ‘Grounded Expert’ with a depth of technical/functional and general business knowledge.

4.       Be a change agent in the community around you – win people’s respect and trust.

5.       Follow your heart – do things you like to do: don’t postpone them for later.

 Couldn’t I use that time behind the fish-truck to:

1.       Plan the day

2.       Do my breathing exercise (with windows rolled up, in case you have forgotten about the fish)

3.       Tell the friendly lady in the adjacent car that her clothes look nice

4.       Read a book (at this point, let me introduce the fact that the driving is done by my driver)

5.       Call my mother to take her famous recipe for mutton kababs

Sanjeev says (name changed, since his boss is definitely reading this!!) it’s easy for me to say these things. He finds it that leaders who have grown to senior ranks and who earn a lot of money (I have deluded him to believe I am in that bracket) find it convenient to tell the junior folks that it’s not about the promotion or the appraisal.

I can understand his point of view. To me too, it was about the promotion and the appraisal some years back. I was inconsolable if I did not get what I, was confident, I deserved.

But, looking back today, I cannot even remember (no, it’s not Alzheimer’s) in which year or which appraisal cycle I felt terrible. Promotions and hikes came, sometimes matching and sometimes, lagging my expectations. I don’t really recall much about how much they lagged and in which year. However, I do remember which significant contribution I made, when a senior leader patted me on my back, when a co-worker found solace in my counseling, when I made someone laugh till she had tears in her eyes…..

As for growth and success, I can relate it to the concepts I mastered, the equity I could build, the results I achieved at the workplace. I don’t think I could have taken on more complex roles as I grew within organizations and from one organization to another, purely on the merit of a promotion or a hike.

I could sum it up in my choice of epitaph :

Here lies Rachna Singh – Warm and Loving. Creative and Sensitive. Brought up two remarkable kids. Helped a lot of people.

Instead of

Here lies Rachna Singh – Vice President, Very Important Company. Performance Rating: Highly Remarkable.