Mission Impossible At Work

Mission Impossible At Work

800 371 Kamal Karanth

“Sirs, I can neither confirm nor deny a response to any of your questions till I have an approval from the Secretary” said one of the key characters in Mission Impossible 5 (mi5). I thought that remark would have been a perfect comeback from me to one of my DRs when she asked if the targets/budgets we were given for the year was something that was forced upon me as it looked unrealistic to her. “If only the movie was out then”, I murmured to myself, “I would have been in better position to give her a “tongue-in-cheek” response!” 🙂

Oh yes, I enjoyed watching Mission Impossible 5 last weekend as the hero predictably accomplishes every challenge which seemed desperately impossible to pull off and as the curtain fell, I couldn’t help but reflect on many such impossible battles at work, every day.

Let’s look at some of the more obvious ones:

1. Forcing a “yes” from the boss to your ideas
This is a no brainer considering it happens daily, everywhere. But more often than not, this is mission impossible depending on your supervisor and how he wants you to be evaluated.

2. Idealistic targets
Or should I use the word, “unlikely”? This is in reference to aiming for 110% of targets (for sales) and 90% retention (for HR)!

3. Constant consistency
Hmm…why am I using 2 words that mean the same? Well, being in the best position all the time is almost a redundant request, yet organisations expect it of us, time and again!

4. Shifting goal posts
Have you ever faced a change of targets and measurable midway through the year more so when you’re over-achieving your numbers?
Have you ever faced a change of targets and measurable midway through the year more so when you’re over-achieving your numbers?

“We will be profitable in a year,” announced my Super-Boss in an open forum to my unit on our performance. I had just taken over an overseas business unit which, ironically, has NOT been profitable for the past 8 years. Since there were 20 other people in the room and considering the fact that I was much younger then, I failed to gather the courage to defy him…or it could have been ego as I certainly did not want to appear weak in front of my peers by admitting that the task was impossible.

That very lack of courage went on to have adverse effects on my health – as the responsibility weighed down on me and I tried coping with the day to day challenges of a new environment compounded by demotivated colleagues and challenging market conditions. I landed in the hospital twice that year and not surprising the anxiety didn’t do me much good as it took the team 2.5 years to reach the desired goal. Was there a silver lining to this? I became more assertive when it came to committing to impossible turnaround times thereon!

One of my CFOs had this theory that if you aim high you will end up doing at least 80% of the target in view. And since he always proved right, he appeared wise in the eyes of many. My worry, however, is what if team mates are put off by dreadful goals, won’t they end up abandoning hopes to start work on those goals; let alone achieve them! Don’t you think that goals should be achievable to get off to a good start?

I’m also a culprit to setting (or rather, inflicting) impossible tasks to those who have worked with. Yet to my pleasant surprise, they went on to achieve the impossible more than once! Should I consider myself lucky? Truth be told, for all the forthcoming impossible missions thrown our way, I wish I had bit the bullet and said, “guys, what we did the last time was crazy! I don’t expect us to achieve the impossible all the time!” However, the demanding manager-in-me chooses to think that if I let my guard down, the team would get complacent. Such diabolical thinking! Grr…

Here are some more mission impossible scenarios:
Let’s look at some of the more obvious ones:

  • Getting senior colleagues to collaborate knowing fully well that seniority denotes lack of compliance! (blame it on ego or age?)
  • Persuading the business/operations teams NOT to find faults with HR (who else can volunteer to be the punching bag?)
  • Forcing the finance team to put on a smile :)! (common guys, you are not in sales nor are you in front office!)
  • Dreaming of achieving 10,000 hits with my 1st blog-post (my friend gave me a look which I succinctly summed up as “are you Bill Gates?!”)

So what other mission impossible scenarios have I missed out? Perhaps you can list yours for me?

Go watch Mission Impossible 5. It takes you to a world where everything’s possible in classic MI way. It made me forget the impossible at work for couple of hours!

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