May 15, 2009

Advani’s pride parade before his fall!

“I invite the PM for a TV debate as it happens in foreign countries…”
“No weaker PM has India seen before.. (referring to Manmohan Singh)
“Manmohan Singh has diminished the highest office of the high post of PM..”
“Singh is only a PM by accident. He’s a nominated PM, not elected”

Those were some of the statements highlighted by various media time and again before the elections verdict came out. Post that we saw the fall of Advani. The fact that makes his fall so very pitiful is the pompous parade in every media announcing that he was the strong leader. Post-elections, he had no face to show. There's no Advani in the news anymore, and at least I wish to see him no more!

The lesson for me here is the reinforcement of the teaching 'Pride goes before fall'. Evident that Advani now needs to learn a few qualities from what he terms as 'weak PM', though he may not be aspiring to a PM again. I thank God, that Advani was not elected. Given his background, his agendas, the people influencing him and the forces that drive him, it would've been a dark regime for India.

May 13, 2009

How to find a good boss?

One of my friends (in HR field) called up, and said she's quitting her job because of her incompetent boss, in a hope to find a better one.

A few months before, I had the laugh of my life, when a new joinee (a fresh graduate) approached me with a serious question. He very innocently and sincerely asks me: "Sir, I don't want my manager," and gave his list of reasons.

The quest for a good or better boss goes on.. There are all types of bosses - hard task-masters, passive, directionless, control-freaks, over-friendly ones, mentors, highly supportive ones, dishonest, boot-lickers and a long list of them..

One of my senior colleagues sympathetically explains to me, "Manohar, there are two things in life you can't choose - first, your parents; second, your boss."

I love the quote from Chetan Bhagat's novel 'One night at a Call center', where he puts it forth in a brutally honest expression - “A bad boss is like a disease of the soul. If you have one for long enough, you get convinced something is wrong with you. Even though you know your Boss is the real loser, you start doubting yourself. And that is when your confidence goes.”

Given that backdrop, if you have a tough boss - remember everyone cracks at some point in time under continued pressure of a bad boss, and we wish we didn't have such a boss, but, so does everyone. If you're a survivor, and given that you can't choose your boss - look at how you can make the best of what's been given to you - observe and learn ways of managing your boss. There's many books on that topic to get some gyan. Tough bosses also get the best out of you.. Try and add value to him, win his/her confidence, and you'd have done good. Be careful not to subscribe to the professional boot-lickers' club :)

As far as the question of incompetent bosses are concerned, it's a sorry situation as there's not much in there to learn under the guidance of your boss, and moreover, you start losing respect for the person who's allegedly leading you.. Certainly one may start looking for better leaders in better organizations (which still is not a surety); in the meanwhile, you may perhaps partner with your boss to do some new project / initiative, and add value to both of you. Surely, his experience may come of some use.

Finally, if you're on the search for a better boss, and attending interviews, make sure, you'd ask a few details from the recruiter about the reporting structure, the culture within teams, the reward system in the organization, policies about escalation and mechanism available for resolution of issues with your immediate reporting manager etc., Chances are that one may also be interviewed by their future managers. In such cases, you may ask that direct question, and also ask his level of interaction with the team, reporting styles, expectations, discuss your aspirations, if time permits some ideas that may help you understand more about your future boss etc., Caveat: during an interview, it's a sample of the best behavior and may not be true always.

In the end, I'd suggest the same explanation I received - there's not much choice when it comes to choosing a boss. So, make best of what you have!

Christian brothers, where is the love?

I just learnt of the news of our previous church member who's supposedly possessed by the spirit of a Pastor who passed away a year ago. Don't want to narrate the whole story and give names of people or the church, but, in short, this Pastor, given his limited means of income from the church, sought after short-cuts to make money. When the Patrons of the church and the Church committee members found out about it, they were so furious and outraged that they dialed out the police, got the pastor arrested, investigated all his belongings, house-arrested him and his family and harassed the pastor so much that he chose to give up his life voluntarily. He was survived by his wife and two children aged between 7-10 years. On his death, there was another news, that he was married to another woman and fathered her children as well, who are too young.

The person who's possessed by the Pastor's spirit is the son of the Patrons, who also had a role in harassing him leading to his suicide. I’m not judging anyone here. That God will.

What’s shameful of all about this incident is that the very people who profess ‘Love, Grace & Forgiveness’ have fallen short of it. The patrons and the committee members are all believers, ones who set example to others, and confess that Jesus forgave them their multitude of sins. Yet, they couldn’t show that love, mercy or forgiveness causing the death of a Pastor – a man ordained as servant of God.

Apostle Paul, in his epistles wrote in great length about love among believers, rebuking each other, forgiving each other and working toward gaining each other. We’ve even forgotten the greatest commandments of Jesus Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you.” God save us! May God have mercy on us for these our shortcomings which have such great bearing on others’ lives which may perhaps have a bearing on them for a generation or two.

We’re all human beings, none of us are perfect. I pray for mercy for the possessed brother that God will show mercy. I beseech all friends, acquaintance and all readers of this post, to be tolerant; show some love, have mercy and forgive anyone if they do some wrong against you, curse you, or sin against you and for their shortcomings. That’s not too much.. it's just human(e) behavior.

May 12, 2009

Whose side is HR on?

Often employees and sometimes senior management (if not in large organizations, in small organizations) pose this question to the HRD people - Whose side are you on? At least I've come across that question quite a few times from both the sides in an organization. Daily experiences make many a employee question that.
  • HRD is a Strategic partner for the management - which means it's a member in the chief board that makes strategic decisions.
  • HRD is a Communication Driver - taking things across the organization top-down and bottom-up to get people heard, management decisions communicated.
  • HRD is an Employee Champion - to champion the employees' needs and causes.
  • HRD is The Performance Enabler - to ensure the organizational productivity is maintained to meet the customer demands.
  • HRD is The Facilitator - which ensures and facilitates the daily issues of employees and management alike; a constant dialogue between employees and management; needful action thereon.
  • HRD is an Inventor - It invents and ensures the evolution of new and best practices that are mutually beneficial to the management and employees in the organization.

HRD is all those roles in one. To ask such a question is immaturity - It's but obvious.

May 10, 2009

Mothers are our destiny..

Watching Forrest Gump makes me feel good. But, today, being Mothers Day, the movie had left a different impression. Not that one wouldn't have known it before, but when the same words you know are uttered by someone into your ears, it certainly has some reinforcement, more impact perhaps!

Dying in her bed, Forrest Gump's mother says: "I didn't know it, I was destined to be your Mama, I did the best I could... You have to do the best with what God gave you..."

Our mothers were destined to be so. The best thing My Mother gave me, she says, is "to teach me the love and fear of God." She always said - "For me, you're good, but I may not know how you'd be out of the house and when you're out of our sight. But, remember God's watching you, and to Him you'll have to answer."

Her ways of teaching and discipline is what has brought me most closer to Jesus, my Savior and Lord. Those words from her is what had made all the difference to all my life and activities in and outside home, at work, with friends, anywhere I go. Thank you Mom!

(In the pic: Mom & Dad with my new born nephew - Blesson)

May 9, 2009

Let us gain each other through forgiveness

Every day, when I kneel to pray, for the smallest wrong I had done and for the biggest blunder, I ask for forgiveness from God with the assurance that I will receive it. For I know, God is love, and he wants me to get over my weakness and he won't deny me another chance to prove it to myself.

When we do something wrong - we are doing committing that sin towards two persons - primarily to God, and second to the person or group aimed at. Similarly, When we ask for forgiveness, God examines if our heart is as clean, and if we are as forgiving toward others who have offended us, as we want Him to be toward us. Given that we are mere human beings and God, the divine and sovereign power in the Universe, if we can't forgive someone for their wrong-doing or curses towards us, how can He forgive our offenses?

As a person, there are two things we oughta do:
  1. Forgive anyone who has offended us, even if they're not regretful about it. Perhaps, they don't see it then. They'll realize it soon. Forgiving is a step towards healing ourselves more than anything
  2. Ask for forgiveness from anyone who has offended us. It only requires a little humility and a heartfelt 'sorry'.
Any follower of Jesus Christ, ought to understand and strictly follow what the Bible clearly states: "God will deal with us likewise, if we do not forgive our brother." And I, for all selfish reasons do not want to miss out on God's forgiveness. Believe me, an unforgiving heart breeds hatred, and in that, we give the devil the throne of our hearts to rule over. It's only a path to doom for us.

Inasmuch as I may have wanted not to, I know that I have offended many, may be intentionally, sometimes not - To give names, there are many - for all such things, I earnestly seek each one of your forgiveness, hoping and assured, that in the kindness of your hearts, you will.

Especially people bearing the name of Christ are called to win over another by forgiving and removing from memory every negative feeling and every negative word that was uttered against you, your dear ones. You are all in all certainty good persons. Do not let any thought, or any act of the past withhold your forgiveness from each other.

I do understand that it is hard to put the past behind and forgive someone, but We do not gain anything by not forgiving our brothers. If we do forgive, we gain a brother. And, that, friends, is a godly act. Not just forgiving in your hearts, but also demonstrate it through your words and actions.

Let's talk, rebuke each other, and if one of us understands and repents, we have won to each to ourselves. I didn't want to sound preachy, but, this message had to shared with all of you since months. Couldn't put it away any longer.

Management indecisiveness costing employees!

As I read this week's Corporate Dossier (CD) (March 8, 09) of The Economic Times, it instantly connected with the thoughts going on in my head.. Here's few quotes from CDs main article 'Take the Lead'
As bad news flows in unabated and more and more management blunders come to light, it becomes amply clear that the leadership in many companies have been caught off guard. They are unprepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
This simply states that companies have been growing and only focusing on adding to their revenues. Well, they've been putting in enough investment towards identifying and mitigating risks, but perhaps the focus of the management or the risk teams was not complete enough. This is true especially of the large-sized organizations, which have got impacted most, and running around to catch-up.. in a, what's the word - 'Knee-jerk reaction'.
Their cluelessness is confusing their workforce even more. The scrapped projects, brutal layoffs, drastic pay-cuts, sudden top management reshuffles and unrealistic cost cuts all seem like knee-jerk reactions, not the proactive leadership that is the need of the hour.
Literally, if one has to look at the various management decisions that come through impacting every nook and corner of the organization, one would stand in awe witnessing the incompetence of their management to gauge and forecast with little accuracy about what may happen, what steps are to be taken. The incompetence displayed in forecasting is simply frustrating to employees. Though CEOs and Management pundits have been harping that 'the crisis is unprecedented' and 'times are uncertain', given the rapidity of the financial crisis that has struck corporate India, managements not being able to even see through a month or two if not a quarter, is perhaps sheer incompetence. I never though some journalist could be so blunt in mainstream media in their critique about the 'management boards' of Business India, but I was happy it came out. I only few days back wrote about this pattern of new decision a day and how it's impacting employees psyche at work everyday they step into their offices to work.

All the jing-bang around proactive leadership by top management is demonstrated at such times. Which is absolutely 'non-existent' in many organizations. Ha! What's expected from the lesser managers!?!
As Warren Buffet famously said, “It’s only when the tide ebbs, you find who is swimming naked”. Sadly, in this moment of crisis, many leaders have been found without the proverbial fig leaf to hide their shortcomings.
Just a few days ago, that I quoted this to someone. Well, as aptly as it's put here, the world is watching which are all the companies that were swimming naked. This crisis, if not anything, will make the genuinely strong corporations stronger, and the naked ones to disappear.

In all this game of talent, moolah and market share, unfortunately the management indecisiveness is costing employees dearly. As the saying goes, what you sow today, you will reap tomorrow. All such indecisive managements of business organizations better beware!

May 7, 2009

Sanitizing your recruitment process behaviorally!

Recruitment and Salesmen, I don’t find much difference between them considering the tactics they apply to get their targets achieved.

For an individual, a new hire to an organization, there’s a great deal of value he attaches to his recruiter. To him, the recruiter is the first-touch-point of the organization; and given that the initial interaction was to build a long-term relationship with the organization, and the nature of interaction is such, that all expectations are constructed right there.

In a rush to complete his targets for hiring, the recruiter make promises of which significant details communicated are half-truths. The one getting hired is at fault too, that in the excitement of an offer, they forget many a question to ask and get complete details, say about organization policies, pay structure, benefits, eligibility for benefits etc., and given the chance, recruiter is not also bothered to give complete information to the employee with the fear of losing a potential hire.

If the recruiter fails to explain the complexities or the dynamics of the industry / organization culture, it’s a sure shot forecast that the new hire will result in infant attrite. Take BPO industry for example, while this industry does attract a lot of employment with all the hype around the pay, facilities, benefits etc., But when it comes to operations and business dynamics, people stand confused and utterly disappointed and start making judgements about the company and the management. And from there the internal fight starts - within HR between recruitment and Generalist HR executives, and then it's Operations versus HR, and then who's to own up to the attrition?

It's not only frustrating, but a lot of cost involved in there - in recruitment, hiring, inducting, training, readying for operations.. phew.. all of it to lose because the recruiter was not involved / trained behaviorally to set expectations right and focus on a short-term target achievement but in brand-building through their interaction and targeting at a long-term association.

The best way to deal with this is to link up new hires attrition to individual recruiters' at least for a period of 6 months to a year on parameters decided by the management to make recruiters more responsible, and sanitize the recruitment process behaviorally. How else would the HR man impact employees positively and engage employees actively if not starting with recruitment?

May 4, 2009

Psychological impact of recession

I just ended a conversation with a friend from one of India's largest private banks. Totally frustrated, yet laughing throughout the conversation in a way of mockery, he gave vent to his frustration about the recent series of decisions announced within his organization and the communication styles adopted by his company. Surprisingly, he has nothing to hold against his managers. "What will the managers do? It's the company management's decision yaar," he says with certainty. His promotion which has been pending over a year was supposedly coming through with this new financial year has got stopped. Well, based on that maybe no increment or a marginal one going by the impact of global financial crisis. But, what he was not ready for, was the company not giving any of those, and on top of it, withholding his bonus as well.

An hour ago, I was at dinner with a manager from a ITeS company. His company is in the business of cost-saving for his clients, which has seen a slowdown but no negative impact. Of course, his company's ambitious targets were underachieved by a marginal percentage. Going by those standards, his org has had a phenomenal growth when compared to the industry standards. Still, there was crib about how erratically the company's management was responding to the 'uncertain future' of the industry by announcing a new decision every fortnight about a change in policy here, and of some new addition there. Companies are protecting their operating margins by ceasing all expenditure and cutting down on other luxuries that they could have afforded earlier, but that's not it.

Another media friend explains to me that as soon as the news of global slowdown was certain his company has gone for pay-cuts in its' employees salaries. Was the company impacted and how? The question remains unanswered.

Yet another friend from a small IT organization tells me about practices in his company - salary increments are happening on discretionary basis. Managers propose who they feel should be rewarded and the company does; end of story. Did they have a proven and reliable yardstick to measure that? Out of question for now.
Internally, within the organization, going by various management decisions it looks the managements and board of directors of various Indian business organizations have perhaps not yet accurately gauged the impact of global slowdown on their respective companies, nor are they even able to foresee the changes expecting ahead of next two quarters. The shadily funny side of it is, even if they're able to, a dim picture is projected most of the time; because of which, corporate decisions are announced in a very unplanned manner every week or fortnight, without assessing the risk of that communication. With another breaking news, there's a new decision - not any good news, of course! No wonder smiles are missing on the floors at workplace!

The decisions which are mostly negative vary from job cuts, employee relocation, pay cuts, to withholding of bonuses, individual incentives, stopping payout of variable compensation, heavy cut-down on employee welfare expenditure which may include benefits like transport allowances to even rewards and recognition budgets. While those form the main content of employee compensation, the other components include cutting down on any company provided benefits like mobile expenses, pick-and-drop facilities, club memberships, even curbing on snacks vending machines and coffee vending machines. The pursuit for cost-cutting doesn't end there. Every new day may throw up a new idea for cost cutting, even a penny, and the company management would announce a 'decision' on it. Is this what's called 'penny-wise, pound foolish'? Time will tell.

Notwithstanding the fact that global recession has hit a few industries real hard even in India, and that companies ought to take measures to sustain and stay ahead of competition, there are a few companies
(which haven't incurred losses, rather have seen growth) which have offered bonuses, given marginal (token) increments among other benefits. Given that an employee sees his growth aligned to that of the company's, expectations from a growing company are similarly calibrated. When those expectations are flushed away by a 'management decision', even though the company's slowed-down yet growing/profit-making the most important partners in the company's growth are disgruntled, and with more events happening around it, they're utterly dismayed.

When companies today want to focus on actively engaging employees with the organization, not disputing the fact that organizations are investing in their employees through training, work environment, resources etc., what they are missing out on is that the contextual elements surrounding the job and the employee at the workplace are getting so disturbed that there's more negativity that's getting into their heads and flowing out of it every day. Talk of positivity, it's almost missing!

From 'big' decisions like laying off employees, salary cuts to the 'small' decisions of not providing transport-reimbursements for business meetings, or removing vending machines in offices etc., employees are much negatively impacted day-in and day-out. With so much of negative mental / psychological impact of recession, it's surely gonna take sometime for impressions to look up! What say guys?

May 1, 2009

What is May Day?

The Historical Significance Of May Day Celebrations
Johannes T. Kangandjera
(Posted from an email forward)

This day is a commemoration of the historic struggle of the workers throughout the world against capitalism, exploitation, and for safe working conditions and respect for the dignity of workers. It came into being as a result of the successful demand, claims and demonstrations that was carried out under the umbrella of the Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions when it passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a day's work from May 1,1884.

The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the demand of eight hours, since legislative methods had failed to address the demand. Workers then were forced by greedy and power hungry capitalists to work ten, twelve and fourteen hours a day under conditions so terrible that most workers succumbed on duty due to ill health and other physiological and psychological ailments.

By April 1886 about 280 000 workers were involved in the May Day movement which demanded an eight hour work day.
Their slogans read as follows: "The only way to get an 8 hour day is by organising."

If you want an 8 hour day, we must make it ourselves!" and another: "We require 8 hours for work, 8 hours for repose, and 8 hours to do what we want and for our own instruction!" The main machinery of the movement was based in Chicago and organised mainly by the Anarchist International Working People's Association. The capitalist bourgeoisie and their cohorts, the State, were terrified by the united front that swept across the entire United States. They increased the Police and the Army in size and supplied them with new and powerful weapons.

The Chicago Commercial Club purchased a US$2000 -00 machinegun for the Illinois National Guard that was to be used against striking workers. On May 3, 1886 the City of Chicago was paralysed by the general strike; stockyards, railroads, factories and other businesses where forced to close. The police fired into a crowd of fleeing strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four and wounding many workers.

The Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the unnecessary brutality against unarmed workers. Angry workers began to call for armed retaliation. The mass meeting proceeded without any violent incident and when the last speaker was on the platform, the police numbering 180, arrived with a mandate from the State and the capitalist bourgeoisie to disperse the meeting.

As the speaker was climbing from the platform, a bomb was thrown in the midst of the police platoon, exploding, and killing one officer and wounding about seventy. The response by the police was typically that of brutality, firing randomly in the crowd of workers and injuring about 200 workers and killing many. With no clues as to the source of the bomb, the police arrested eight revolutionary leaders of the Union movement, seven of whom who had not even been present in Haymarket Square at the time of the explosion.

They where charged with amongst others; conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket Bomb blast, incitement and public disorder. They were all found guilty as charged despite the lack of evidence connecting them to the bomb. Only one was present at the meeting, and he was on the speaker's platform.

They were all sentenced to death.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel were hanged on November 11 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison, and the remaining three were pardoned in 1893. These comrades where arrested, tried and sentenced to death because of their political beliefs and because they fought for the rights of the worker. News of the trial electrified labour movements in the US and Europe.

Protests against the trial were held around the world.

The Socialist International declared May 1 as a day of demonstrations and since 1890 these have been held annually by labour movements and workers forcing official recognition of May Day as a paid public holiday.

In its attempt to destroy the significance of May Day, the United States government declared the May 1 'Loyalty Day'.