I was on cloud nine to be amongst the top 17 sales people out of 250 in the country at the company’s Annual Awards event. The euphoria, unfortunately, lasted barely a week when my manager arrived and snatched my short-lived happiness after reviewing the number of daily customer visits I was making. While I had an average of 7.5 meetings per day against the prescribed 10, he argued that if 7.5 could get me within the Top Twenty, imagine how easily I would hit the pinnacle with 10! I reluctantly picked up pace and within 6 months I had my activities and results in tow. It was not surprising that I received a promotion soon enough. The running paid off handsomely!
I have never stopped running since, in my corporate life. While I have changed employment and employers, the need to put in activities and adhere to tight deadlines and escalating expectations have become part of my DNA.
But it will be unfair to completely blame employers or managers as scientifically DNA can’t be changed or altered. For as long as I can recall, I have always been competitive and this goes back to my childhood days. There used to be this eerie silence at home when I scored anything less than the Number 1 spot and the only redemption was securing the coveted place in the next exam!
I grew up in a joint family in our village with 25+ of my paternal family members. Coffee was prepared only once in the morning. If we failed to wake up at 6am, hot coffee was not available. My granny’s logic was, ‘the womenfolk has to prepare breakfast for a large family and they can’t afford to be at the beck and call of the lazy ones!’ We had to strictly observe to bath and breakfast timings as there were 20 others who had to leave for work/school around the same time. I felt there was never a happy moment as most of the things we did were to meet the demands of time and logistics. We were more like a factory than a family. All of us ran our daily activities with clockwork precision!
I recalled an incident in school when my headmaster said that I had to score above 90% in English – something no other student in the school has achieved I remember asking (to myself, that is), “why me? I have always been the 2nd in class so why isn’t Sashi given the task?”
When I joined the recruitment industry, my aim was to clock out of work at 6pm sharp and lead a settled life (as I called it). My first morning meeting was a shocker. My enthusiastic colleagues were talking about the unemployment rate in Spain and Europe within the IT industry while my super boss told me that he reads a book a day; the guy who sat next to me spoke like a software programmer and not like an IT recruiter he was! On my 1st day too, I witnessed my boss interviewing the next hire in the auto while we were on our way to a client meeting!
“Goodness!” I thought to myself, “everyone is running!” I was sure I had landed on another runway.
It was a nightmare to go for client meetings with our MD – he would expect us to know the clients’ background like it was ours – from their grandfather’s name to the name of their tailors! There was no LinkedIn or any other social media platforms those days. The quest for knowledge was the name of the new race! On a similar note, how can I ever forget a senior colleague who used to send emails at 2.30 AM on a Sunday morning?
So what did I do? Sure enough, I put on my running shoes and joined the corporate treadmill.
The last time I was poached for an interview, the headhunter told me that I had to go through 4 hours of back to back assessment; I had to continuously role play during the 4 hours and make a presentation to the board. The role plays included firing a director; pitching to a customer; interviewing a successor; town hall with employees; press interviews; and a speech in a seminar. I said, “bring it on!”
Most of us would have ran similar journeys with no room to pause. Every time we seemed to have arrived, there will be somebody who will remind us about the next big role; latest mobile handset; must-have car; and that 100% appreciating apartment to be bought – and we promptly shift gears toward the next track. To make matters worse, we feel apologetic when we are not chasing something. I have rarely found people who say I am ok with what I am doing! Organizations dub them as people with no drive!
My rationalization is that my corporate treadmill offered me rewards like growth, great bosses, some fantastic colleagues, and financial stability. Needless to say, it keeps me fit to keep running (literally and figuratively).
I don’t know why we don’t have the time to look back and feel happy about the journey. Maybe we feel that if we were to look back, somebody else may get the better of us. In retrospect, I admit that I did not stop many-a-times when I should have. I hope you do pause and enjoy!
Getting off the Corporate treadmill ain’t easy!