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August 2017

Resigning

Resigning? Let me make it harder for you!

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The decision to leave an organisation is hard enough for any employee, so why do employers harass the person resigning? 

When I resigned from one of my employers, the acceptance, service, relieving letter and final cheque came in three tranches. The first two pointed out that for the next year I could not join the competition. It also said I could not indulge in any competitive activities as per my employment contract.

I had made it known to my bosses that I was joining a rival, but they put the HR guy in front of me with these reminders. I cheekily wrote back to HR that they should pay if I had to sit at home for a year to honour their agreement. They said it was their standard global template and went silent on the pay. I also reminded them that they too had hired me from a competing firm. They had forgotten that they made me break a few similar obligations to my previous employer.

Contracts Hurdle

Non-poaching agreements that organisations routinely enter into are another area of blatant integrity violations by employers. Often resigning employees join another firm on an interim basis for a few months to be hired eventually by the rival firm. Many employees after joining rival firms declare on LinkedIn that they have joined a “confidential” firm fearing the backlash.

I just looked up one of my past employment contracts. It is about 28 pages long and talks mostly about what I wasn’t supposed to do. As organisations continue to behave like feudal landlords of the past, employees have no choice but to innovate. So, should we blame the employees for breach of clauses in the contract which all favour the employer? The best part is most organisations don’t even follow up on violations of non-poaching or non-competing.  They cite the logistics of execution and only want those clauses as deterrents.

Consequences

So why do they have clauses like these? Everybody who creates and signs the agreements knows it’s next to impossible to implement this anti-trade clause, though they know it may work as a deterrent to employees and prospective employers. Every year organisations in India churn out millions of these anti-compete employment letters to recruit employees who break similar contracts with their employers to join them. It’s a shame that we continue to do this with the full knowledge that it’s not enforceable. Some of the organisations selectively send legal notices to their resigning employees purely as a vendetta.

Take one of my former colleagues who received a notice from her Fortune 500 employer that she should pay them 1 Million INR as in damages as, despite signing a non-solicitation agreement, she had approached their client. She promptly sent them a note reminding them of Section 27 of Indian Contract Act (Agreement in restraint of trade or exercising one’s lawful profession) after which they went quiet, but it did distract her from her work for a few days. I am sure that is the kind of kicks her former boss had hoped it would provide.

Resigning & Hiring

I had asked my legal head when I was leaving one of my former employers why companies still practised this. He said: “You never asked this when we were hiring people with these clauses when you were with us. Occasionally we send out legal notices to erring former employees to act as an example to existing employees.” He added that an organisation would have the resources to go after an employee. However, the person leaving would have to fight the case as an individual and pay for themselves. This again reveals the one-upmanship mentality with which organisations operate.

There are a couple of other things you need to fight when you announce your intention of joining a rival firm. Cynicism and hostility during the notice period by bosses and peers. Hostility comes from bosses in the form of extending notice periods They also give you additional jobs that stretch just to frustrate you and delay your leaving. We all know this behaviour does no good to their Glassdoor ratings. But should they really care about people who do not matter anymore?

I find it amusing that in the age of millennials organisations continue to come up with restrictive employee contracts. Its a world of shorter employee tenures, flexible working arrangements and freelancers. I wonder why we all are trying to be over-restrictive in our employee contracts. It’s difficult to protect organisation secrets in an invasive world. Any information a competitor wants to know can be obtained in no time. Why should we simply waste time increasing paperwork which has no meaning?

I have decided that in my entrepreneurial venture the offer letter will be a simple two-page note which radiates trust!

I am praying to get the strength to be grateful when my colleagues are resigning to join rival firms!

Nostalgia- How we live in the Past

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Nostalgia makes for great emotion. We tend to romanticise our childhood to our alumni employers and believe the best is behind us.

I attended a retro event recently to award some winners. There were over 300 people dressed up in their favorite Retro dress. The event had a retro impact on my mind, As the event unfolded, my mind took a nostalgic trip. I was trying to remember the favorite company I worked for or the best team I was part of!

The nostalgia of First Job

The trip started with an Offsite I once attended where all of us were asked who was the best employer we had worked for. The room was filled with people who had an average of 15 years of work experience. Guess what; nobody raised their hand that their current employer was the best organisation to work for.At that experience level, you can imagine that people would have reached reasonable senior positions in their careers. But the growth in position and money did not make them feel that they were working for their best yet. But when we all explained to the facilitator why, I deciphered the rational. Most of us had chosen our first or second employers as our best organisation so far. It seemed that we valued the skills we learnt in our first jobs and without exception, all of them were fortune 500 brands.

But in my view its human nature to go back to the past and feel happy; but the logic could be less coherent.

Time to Bond

Somewhere I believe that our own age (read youth) makes us a little more romantic about our first couple of employers. It’s quite likely that we wouldn’t have been quite occupied in our personal spaces during those stages in life; things like marriage, divorce, parenting, aged parents, round two of education etc etc. This enabled us to give more time to colleagues and work. We would have spent more time with them to socialise, be it dinners, movies, outstation trips and made them almost our friends. Being at the bottom of the pyramid of the organisation, we would have been part of more rewards/recognition programs and our own expectations from employers were different.

Sooner Or Later- The Thrill of being late

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It was 930 AM in Sydney and no sight of one of my colleagues in a global meeting. My boss was obviously distracted as many of his global senior colleagues were present in this crucial summit. He called my colleague to find that he was still sleeping. My colleague eventually came at 10 AM. I am sure both their mornings (boss and my peer) were unproductive thinking about the face loss; all of us had landed the previous day to ensure we were there from the start at 9 AM and still…

Nobody intends to come late to meetings especially when you have travelled long distances for off-sites. But still, we see people coming late stressing their reporting bosses and maybe embarrassing even their own reportees. Once when I confronted one of my serial late arriver on why I should be embarrassed in front of a large section of my colleagues frequently, he said, boss’ you think I really wanted to come late, late ho gaya’ sorry.’ I could only feel sorry for myself than appreciating his candour. Grrr!

Capture

I and my Boss

When I was a ‘first-time’ manager I just did not know how to manage latecomers. My reaction was not to talk to them or look at them in the meeting until lunch time. I used to feel that I was punishing them by doing so. But maybe they were thinking, he is a weak guy and can’t say it on the face. Pyar se koi samajhta hi nahi, Gentle reactions are never appreciated?

One of my bosses did a unique thing to us in the morning. After the cut off time for the meeting to start was over, he locked the door from inside leaving two people outside who I presume were still having breakfast or a shower. Ten minutes later we heard some heavy knocking and pushing of the door, our colleagues felt the door was jammed and were pushing it violently. The hotel staff stepped in and educated them that they were instructed to be locked out. Fifteen minutes later our colleagues were let in. We got our message in a rather intimidating way but nevertheless those colleagues never ever came late after that.

The boss had sent the message to us in a forceful way without giving us gyan on late comings.

Time Zone Blues

My own ‘late arrival” makes for interesting reflections. Once I had landed in Singapore the previous night and gone to bed in time to attend a 9 AM meeting the next day with my global colleagues. Guess what, I woke up at 855 AM. My alarm was set to India time 630, I had not changed the time zone after landing in Singapore. I was lucky that my boss had not put his mobile into silent mode yet. So, I called him and told him that I would be down by 930. I was there in the meeting by 925. All my colleagues gave me a rousing welcome by applauding my late entry.

Interviews- The best platform to gauge culture ?

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It’s been a while since I attended job interviews. But some of my friends and colleagues keep telling me about their interview experiences and choices in recent times. I do get to interview my new colleagues and my favorite question to everybody who wants to join us is “how do you choose your next employer “? Most people list the first four,

1. Role
2.Supervisor
3.Culture of the new organisation
4.Opportunities for growth
5.Money

Some in the passing insert the fifth. Are Interviews the right mediums to evaluate our next employers of Choice? It has an element of doubt/ risk and we need to back our instincts, luck on getting it right. I rather dissect the interviews through my baggages and see if it’s a worthwhile hypothesis.

Role

I don’t know how one can join an organisation based on the role description alone. In the joining desperation, it’s quite possible that everything about the role can sound convincing. Once, I hired a senior person for a role. I told him it was a tough and thankless role and there was a lot of crap he had to clean up. After he came on board he started to moan that it’s more complex than I had originally described. My battles with him to convince that we have discussed this before sounded in vain. Obviously, we eventually separated. On the other hand, hiring organisations can get very romantic about describing the role while hiring, especially if the role is newly created one. The romance may last like honeymoons in marriage and the reality will strike faster.

There might be too many caveats attached to the romantic part of the role leading to lack of eventual takeoffs. Most of these assumptions on roles happen during Interviews.

Supervisor

The supervisor’s angle is even more interesting. All of us have a unique way to represent ourselves in our first and second meetings. Some of us are blatantly transparent. If we are having trouble with our current boss, this aspect becomes very important to determine. My first interview during my entry to one of my employers is now worth remembering. Shaun my interviewer used to throw questions at me and when I start answering he would start working on his laptop. As irritated as I got with his behaviour I would continue to answer. The whole thirty minutes of the interview went about like that. Then he called me again a week later in short notice only to make me wait for an hour. But, I got interviewed by Charu who had no role in my assessment but was the filler as the ‘to be boss’ got busy.

Desperation

A month later I was working in another city when I got a frantic call saying I need to come the next day without fail to collect my offer. Taking leave from my employer I landed up in the office only to be told that I needed to meet one more person. In desperation, I ignored my interview experiences with my boss and joined the company after that round of interview. I realised later that this boss of mine was famous for not looking at reportees who stood in front of him for solutions unless they were from the opposite gender. He never had any time for reportees and was always busy with his so-called work and attended to us when his Boss visited us. I was lucky, soon enough he got promoted to have a new boss who turned the tables for me.

But, there were enough hints during the interview which I ignored which could have turned costly in a not so friendly job market those days.

Culture

This is equally fuzzy. In the era of lack of emails or mobiles, it was even more difficult to evaluate this, Glassdoor.com was unimaginable. My sad story started when I was without a job between my first and second job for three months. It was frustrating to attend many interviews (including 3M, Café Coffee Day) and not got selected.

Angry Colleagues – Finger On The Trigger

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It was one of those monsoons and I was planning my yearly monsoon break to enjoy the greenery in Karnataka. As per my holiday routines, I switched off my Hand-Phone and was getting into the groove, call it premonition’, I felt like switching on my cell in the afternoon. Just to reinforce my instinct, there were two missed calls from my boss and a message on the reason. Last four years, I have never got such SOS calls especially when I am on holiday. We had to deliver a project on time and we had missed to take off and also communicate it rightfully. My Boss was sweating some bullets from his stake holders and had called me for clarification. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me as this issue was being mismanaged for the ‘N’th time.

I was angry with myself as I had to log in to get back to work. The rage in me wanted to send nasty SMSes to ten of my team members, whom I believe had caused my weekend plans go awry. I sent one ‘nice’ SMS to one of my colleagues, shouted at my 4 year old for nothing and hit the gym to calm me down. Post Gym & amp; shower I went to the temple and came home.

Triggers

I now know why there are so many outbursts at workplaces via email, phone or in person. All offices do not have gyms or are next to places of worship. I mean there aren’t enough means to calm us down in a competitive world. The triggers take over us most of the times and we react. I am sure after angrily responding to an email you must have felt, you were better off not pressing the send button. I have felt many times that I have overreacted and used harsh words to express myself.

So what makes us angry at the workplace? Isn’t it just a job and aren’t we all employees of an organisation. Aren’t we all bound by the employer framework as soon as we step into our offices? Why can’t we get it into our head that our employers pay our salaries and there can be measured responses and not reactions? Why do we all react? In my view, some react to people whom they have baggages with and many on feeling challenged, marginalized or not given due credit. I react to all of them. I believe some of us are impulsive to any situation and that can be quite hazardous in the workplace.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/anger-management.htm/

Angry Colleagues

We were in the middle of an account review with a large IT Customer and the customer got angry and criticized the service levels. My account manager who had worked really hard to make this our top account got emotional. He got up with tears in his eyes and said” I can’t take this anymore” and walked out. The client looked at me in disbelief. I had not attended any training programs to manage this situation. I was shell shocked and continued to talk to the customer as though nothing had happened. After 30 plus minutes my colleague came back and apologized. But then he had already put the reputation of the organisation under duress.

Back Bite- The art of Conniving against your Colleagues

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I’ve never lost sleep over soccer. I’m also not a fan of Suarez, the famous Uruguay footballer. But, his infamous “bite” in the 2014 soccer world cup will be itched in peoples mind for years.

https://www.businessinsider.in/Here-Are-All-3-Times-Luis-Suarez-Has-Bitten-Opponents/articleshow/37138406.cms

Yes, it was hard to ignore Suarez’s bite as much as it is to ignore the Backbite at the workplace!

In the roles I juggle in life, it reminds me of the backbiting that takes place at work. Aha…I can clearly see the smile on your faces. We must acknowledge that no one is a saint. We have, at one point or another, indulged (and will continue to) in backbiting our colleagues in their absence for a host of reasons. Backbiting as a term is defined as “an unsporting attack from the rear from the blood sport of bearbaiting.” But then, do you really need a definition? We know what it is and how it works.

Inferiority Complex?

I used to view the habit of backbiting as a sign of inferiority complex. When you bite behind the scenes, it can never be called brave, for obvious reasons! There are times, however, that it could be an emotional moment of expression rather than planned intent. But today, I have realized that many of episodes of backbiting are nothing but an outpour of something we carry deep in our mind about our peers or friends or relatives. When I see my daughters and their friends enacting the “behind-the-scenes” talking, its huge entertainment value for me. I get this feeling that we must be picking up this habit from a very young age and it never leaves us. All said, in my view, the benefits of backbiting are limited beyond that of feeding the sadistic side of our personality!

Backbiting Flashback

Don’t get me wrong as I’m no stranger any more than you are to backbiting. Once, a long time ago, I recall telling my boss (in a closed-door meeting) about a few of my peers. I got so bitchy about my IT Head that I called him incompetent in frustration. Maybe I lost sight of a more politically correct word to explain his “incompetence”. I don’t know what my boss shared with the IT Head but all I knew for sure was that I never got the best in terms of IT system and support till the IT Head left the organisation. I’m sure, however, of either one of these two – he either knew the exact verbatim I had used on him or that I didn’t “love” him much.

Personal Development-Outsourced to Google?

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Have we become completely dependent on Google and other internet resources for our own development?

How do you collect your information on a regular basis?” I’m sure we have a personal pattern i.e. newspapers; magazines; electronic media; internet; and social networks. However, I was told that only 20% of us read newspapers by habit because we spend so much time travelling to our offices which are mostly in Mars & Jupiter. One of my colleagues told me that he only reads the dailies in the evenings. When I frowned, he said that with the advancement of technology, news that matter would have reached him either via speed mail; WhatsApp; Facebook; or LinkedIn; he went on to add that that time is far too precious to be spending reading everything in the newspaper.

Deliberate Ecosystem

In today’s world of work, our absorption of information and our personal outlook defines how we set up our ecosystem. Amongst the people you admire personally, I am sure there are people you have high regard for the length and breadth of their knowledge, communication and intellect amongst others. Their personal habits of acquiring a wealth of information must have undeniably influenced your admiration of them. On the other end of the spectrum, it is also very easy to fall into the trap of our surroundings in which most people we surround ourselves have similar backgrounds and the information we discuss/share with them arise from same/similar sources. Not all of them would be useful for our needs of today and tomorrow.

We all work in the consulting world; there is a need for us to be equipped with basic to sophisticated information from time to time to survive progress or excel.

Once, in a gathering of 200 people, we were asked as to how many countries are there in the world. With the exception of one person (not me), none knew the answer. Knowing the number of countries around the globe might be irrelevant to the business (recruitment) I’m in.  But, when we tell our customers that we are present in 40+ countries, we need to know how many countries exist! Now, how many hands went up while reading this?

Habit

We are all determined to be successful in our career and life. One of the key ingredients to success is how we think and this comes from our ability to collect and process varied and relevant information. To be more specific, what we read, hear, see, converse and practice make or breaks us.

The Eleventh Hour

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Sample Text

EMOTIONS

The Eleventh Hour

14 OCT , 2014
I start packing an hour before I leave home for my flights. And I do this every single time I need to travel, Domestic or International; I can safely say it’s become second nature to me. I can’t seem to remember how I got accustomed to this “great” habit of excelling in last minute start-ups but if my memory serves me right, it begun with my 10th public exams. Whatever I studied on the last day or at the very last minute would miraculously appear on the exam sheets and I was thrilled that it worked for me!

So I continued to use this ‘best practice’ till today. When I presented in some of the internal meetings, I could see the horror on the face of my assistants…while I know my slides were cool, 80% of the content of the presentations were changed at 5am on the morning of the presentations. Who’s to blame when my last minute brain always comes up with some new thoughts at the rush of the moment?

I’m never a great fan of reaching the airport ahead of flights. On the contrary, I’m ok with ‘heart in mouth’ travel to reach the airport; have been amongst the last few to board my flights more often than I can remember including the recent travel back to India last Saturday. It would be quite tragic to miss flights when you are away from home for weeks but I just don’t seem to learn. I have always rationalized internally that hey, I have never missed a bus, train or flight in my life, so it works for me. My friends, however, have cautioned me that the day of reckoning might come sooner than I imagine where I will miss a journey and that journey might be the most important to date! Well, there’s always a first for everything, right? Arrogance! 🙂

Leadership Transition- change is not welcome!

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Getting calls from past colleagues in quest of new jobs is a normal occurrence these days. I typically do ask the real drivers to such aspirations if it’s just another bad day in office. Some of these calls provide good intel if the calls are from competitor mates. One such call recently turned into an interesting insight. My ex-colleague explained the reason for his turmoil. He has a new CEO and I promptly asked: “how’s he?” My ex-colleague explained that the new CEO is attempting to change almost everything from people to structure to process to technology … his question was, “till recently we were the most happening company in this industry and it seems like in the last year or so nothing is good! How can things become so bad overnight?”

Collateral Damage

Organisations should budget for some collateral damage is expected with every leadership change. Few resignations have to be expected. After all, not everybody is going to like new leaders. In today’s work-world, most people change jobs every 2 years but can’t digest when new people are to lead them every two years in the same company. Our preferences seem to be to accept the way we work differently in a new place than having to adapt in the same place.

The new leader also has to go through the same change which he/she inflicts on others. S/he wouldn’t know when to press the button or to keep quiet. The first 90 days book subtly suggests being observant than action. It’s difficult being a leader when you are unwelcome which is quite common during turnaround situations. Once when I landed in a similar situation, I had a resignation that greeted me on day one.  Some of my reportees were pessimistic if anything can be changed even before I had arrived.

Insider Vs Outsider

In my view, leading turnarounds is a far easier task than succeeding a business which has had a successful track record. During turnaround situations, your bosses back you up as they are only interested in bottom-line results than collateral damage. In sustaining success, the organisation expects you to retain the goodness of the past (people, structure, culture, process) while delivering improved results. The logic is that if the previous guy could produce in the same context, why can’t you repeat/better the same. This gets compounded when the new leader comes from within the organisation.

Starting from “I was your peer”; “you took the lift when I was taking the stairs”; and “don’t you know my track record?”; to “let’s talk about how you will take care of my interests”; – the first few weeks are a bargaining battle. Lots of posturing happens and suddenly the leader feels lonely in a united successful team.

Leading a Succesful team

Once when my boss chose me to lead a successful team as a successor from within, I had a nightmarish beginning. It actually started with him giving the brief about the leaders I was going to lead. He started by saying “Rita has been with the company for ten years and she is the cat in her industry domain”; “Nathan is one of our finest sales leads, he actually does not need a job as he comes from an affluent background”; “Sirin is from NYU and she is the best HR person we’ve ever had”; “John, as you know, is the best Operations head we’ve had”.

He summed up the brief saying that my predecessor macro managed them and they are used to their space. I suddenly felt I was becoming a burden to these self-made leaders. When I asked in frustration what he expects me to do to earn my salary besides signing the attendance register. I was then rightly directed to the so-called easy to win battles — the market place.

Just Walk Away- Making Succession work

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My inspiration this time is the starting line of the famous ‘Ace of Base’ song – “Don’t Turn Around”. When we take new roles or promotions, can we just walk away than keep interfering with our ex-teams?

Whenever I go on new assignments within the same organisation, I put a few of my ex reportees in ‘misery’. Yes, I admit that I liked it when they called me and said they missed me. I liked it even more when they said that their new boss is not as amiable as me. Tell me, who doesn’t want to be appreciated and missed? We’re only human and I’m no different!

Just Walk Away

Some of my bosses just did that. However, there have been cases when some of my bosses behaved extraordinarily different in the light of either having been given an internal promotion or leaving an organization. There was one who “deserted” us as soon as he got promoted. He stopped joining us for our morning huddles; took an office two floors above ours in an attempt to not bump into us; and even went to the extent of altering his working hours as well as his lunch hour! We were startled and felt royally ignored. You see, we were used to seeing him every day; he was the most expressive and energetic boss we’ve ever had. We loved him so much that we hated his replacement from Day 1!

Yes! The previous boss had recruited, mentored and promoted many of us so we owed so much to him. We would constantly say “Joseph” used to do this”; “Joseph agreed to this always”; “Joseph used to have coffee or lunch with one of us every day”; and the list went on. In this situation, the new boss suffered as we never gave him an opportunity to settle (who cares!) and knowingly/unknowingly created misery for him (the new boss). And finally, all these happenings lead to an outburst we were hoping for. We ambushed our ex-boss 6 months into our new situation when he was having his lunch at a nearby hotel. He was told that we felt cheated that he has switched off from us. We asked what we had done to deserve his cold treatment towards us.

Making Succession Work

Till recently he was everything to us – he joined us for movies; family get together; and drinking sessions. In short, we had been through thick and thin with him. We told him how miserable we were and how non-coherent his successor turned out to be and blamed him (and the new boss) for the fact that some part of our performance at work had taken a turn for the worse!