was going through the newspapers as usual when i spotted this article on Live Mint on how being a too-nice manager is equally bad; instead niceness make things worse. you can read the article here
this brought back reminiscences of my own time as a supervisor/manager.
the role of managing newbies came along with longer time of stay in the company. lemme tell you, staying for long was not at all an easy task in this company. there was a manager who played favorites. a colleague who was waiting to taste your blood at the slightest mistake as she was the manager’s favourite. the management was deaf and blind.
so as the manager needed someone to look after the expanding operations and the colleague was too much of a management’s favorite to take any more work (she was however ready to grab the credit for good work) the work of supervising the newbies came on to me.
it was quite a change of duty. writing took a backseat. somedays the schedule was tough with me fluttering from one floor to another, from one writer to another, hardly able to warm my own seat.
and it was quite a fun. some of them wrote such a crap. and all of it had to be edited to bring to be more presentable.
life wasn’t a fun for those who were to be supervised by the female colleague though (yes, she finally agreed to share some of the burden). a slightest mistake on the page meant a good scolding, that too in public. no efforts taken to edit any further. write again. this time i don’t want any mistake. this was the unsaid order that reigned on the other side.
life for those at my end was cool. i remember this dhingra guy. a spoilt brat indeed. wrote such crap. but believed that he has written the best piece ever. in spite of returning him his write-up with red marks in abundance, he showed no signs of improvement.
there was a bigger dilemma. some days he showed sparks of good writing, and just when you thought he is improving, he would come up with trash. just when i would decide to take action that he showed i must better wait. the company bore his burden for around six months until the colleague took the reigns and showed him the door.
there were good guys in my team as well. some of them were good from the start; some i helped polish their skills.
i was a cool manager, as my subordinates would say. because i let them do whatever they wanted. where i lagged-i did know things were not going right, but didn’t know how to how to correct it.
my attempts at becoming strict were not very successful. i had delegated a particular work to certain writers. the task was important, yet couldn’t mess up with their individual targets. this particular girl submitted the work half completed. instead of scolding her in public, i called her to the conference room. before i could have said a word, she was shedding tears.
the problem was also that i had little as authority in the company. although i made it clear with words, and the management made it clear with actions, the subordinates always expected some help from me. my initial attempts at helping them showed that their situation only worsened. the only thing i could have done was to keep them from the management’s prying eyes.
soon i learnt the best strategy was to leave everyone on their own. everyone must learn to survive on his own. Moreover, why do i make things difficult for me by interfering. my work ended once they were trained. after that they were as directly related to the management as i.
but i was much too prone to get into difficult situations. one such situation cannot be forgotten.
a girl was having affair with a boy, both working in the same office as me (let’s call them lata and raju).
things were running on fine until lata fell in favour of the manager. the manager was hell bent to get her out of the company – as a result of which raju too would leave.
since i joined the company along with this manager, we were friends. he was a shrewd politician – i learnt fast – and although we are still on good terms, i never really liked his ways.
during one of the coffee breaks, the manager confided in me that he will fire the couple for deteriorating the office atmosphere and bad performance. since i have always put greater importance to career over such issues as love affair, and as lata and raju were particularly close to me, i demanded permission to counsel them once.
we met at a local cafe – lata, raju and me. i told them clearly that the manager wants to fire them for deteriorating the office atmosphere. he tell that your performance too has gone down. all of us knew the underlying reason behind the move. the manager was planning a vendetta against the couple.
“why can’t you keep this love-shuv out of office”, i said. “you can do it after office hours”
they denied having anything as love between them.
“whatever. if he feels so, you will have to show that there is no such thing”, i said
lata was angry. “why do i have to involve him in my personal matters. i know he is planning a revenge against me and i will report this to the higher management.”
“will this help”, i asked. “who doesn’t know that the management is one in this with the manager”
after counselling her for over an hour, she finally agreed to not report about this to the seniors and to maintain some discipline in the office.
i returned home assured that i have saved the career of two people.
but the next day was awaiting the most embarassing situation for me.
lata called when i was commuting to office. she was hell bent now to report the problems she is facing to the seniors. “okay, if you want your way, go with it. but don’t involve me in this.”
at work, she messaged me once she mailed a letter to the management about the problems she is facing because of the manager.
i knew it will cause no harm to the manager who was a favorite of the management.
it was after lunch that i recieved this message. “please come to the conference room”
me? why? i wanted to shout.
i rushed to the conference room to find lata surrounded by the manager, VP, and another assistant manager. as soon as i had seated myself that the manager questioned,
“tell me a…., did i ever tell that i will fire lata or raju”
“yes, you had”, my heart said.
this however didn’t come out. i blurted a ‘no’ instead.
i was feeling guilty for acting traitor.
but was i in fact a traitor?
office politics is everywhere. you have to learn deal with it, not fight it.
and why shall i be brought in between. i always knew this would bring no problems for the manager. the manager would go out scot free. it will be the girl who would land into the problem. when in the tiger’s territory, it is the tiger’s word that rules.
suppose that i agreed that the manager said those words, would it have done any good for lata. she had still to prove that the manager was exploiting her. that would have also included me in the manager’s hit list. i was not begging for job. but also i was not ready to be on the centrestage.
lata was not fired for this act. However things became so difficult for her in the days to come that she herself gave resignation. the manager instantly accepted her resignation.
raju continued at the same company. he continued to have relationship with lata and bearing a strong dislike for the management, although not the company. they would be marrying soon this year.
i have long left that company. one good thing about this company is that there are no subordinates to manage. i still continue to have good relationships with most people from the last organisation – the manager (i did some freelancing for him), raju, the girl who cried (she regularly messages for help), that spoit brat (thankfully he left his writing career), and many more who couldn’t fit this long article. lata continued to bear remorse against me until we met at a get-together. none of us talked about that incident, yet we talked about everything.