Employer vs Employee

Employer Vs Employee during the Pandemic

800 371 Kamal Karanth

They say timing is everything and so is the context, Is it time to examine the employer vs. employee equation once again?

If you are an employee is this a good time to be unhappy with your employer for

1. Pressurizing you to do more?

2. Asking you to do a different role? Even if you did not like doing it or can’t do it?

3. Cutting your salary?

4. Laying off some of your colleagues

5. Not increasing your salary though you had a great year?

Let’s say you are the employer, You think it is justified now to

1. Blame your poor performers and put them on PIP

2. Ask your team to do a different role & expect them to be equally productive

3. Ask your employees to stretch even though they are in a new work atmosphere.

4. Do some layoffs as you built some flab during good times

5. Pressurize employees to come to the office even if they don’t feel safe about the exposure?

You think the above is silently being played out or rather openly? The unfortunate part is both are not sitting in front of each other and second-guessing via phone, zoom, WhatsApp!

Transparency and regular communication they say can eliminate some of these clouds in our Employee-Employer relationship.

However where you stand in this equation makes all the difference to how you think. In these challenging times, every act of the employer or manager while dealing with their employee or reportee needs to be thought through. Needless to say, both of them are in new territory and under scrutiny for different reasons.

It is an imperfect situation where the employer feels they are facing headwinds, and the employee feels undone by the new face of their employer!

Its once again Employer vs Employee, this time triggered by an invisible virus!

Spilling the Beans before Quitting!

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When you last decided to quit your job, who did you think of informing first at your organisation?  The obvious answer should be your supervisor. But is it anymore?

In some instances, would you have told your reportees and peers first? Isn’t that the new trend when we quit nowadays ?.

We can argue that it may not be the right thing to do. Yes, The reporting boss technically should be the first to know on such sensitive matters. Off late, haven’t we all been spending more time with our reportees, peers?

We also are socially bonding with many of them and we have even met up with their families, visited their homes, and now a special relationship has got built. Would it be awkward to look into their eye if you tell the boss first? Or even worse would be to wait for the formal announcement on quitting to come! Yes, it also depends on your relationship with your boss. It goes without saying that if the equation with the supervisor is much deeper, then the dilemma is lesser.

Fight with your Founder?

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If you have a ‘fight with your founder’ or a major difference of opinion with the CoFounders’ you work for, what could be the likely consequence? Most often, its an invitation to quit, isn’t it? The first time I saw my colleague fight with our CoFounder/CEO, I was terrified by the consequences. My colleague was fired on the spot and sent home with his cheque. At least the money part was addressed. But, when I look back now, I can imagine the shock and the mental scar that must have left on our ex-colleague.

The first time I had a major argument with my founder at another firm, I felt I might also need to quit the next day. This time I survived, because the context and the person were different. Founders are unique personalities, their passion; vision attracts us to them while they interview us. But, they can also instill a sense of insecurity when we work with them. If you are ‘opinionated’ types, should that make you an unlikely fit in an entrepreneurial setting? Does it depend on the founder or you? Both to an extent! However, it’s up to the Founder to make the first move. Now, as I reflect as an entrepreneur, I feel its a one-sided battle. If you are an employee and pick a fight with your Founder, you better know your Founder well. If s/he are people who like to hear their voice (like me😎), then god bless you! However, it’s impossible to work in any setting, let alone entrepreneurial firms without having a difference of opinion with your boss.

The question is how to deal with founders with whom you may land up in precipitating situations? I always felt the best approach is to negotiate with them as it allows things to go forward with them. The founders I worked with allowed dissent; they mostly held their ground but also allowed the ideas they did not like when pursued relentlessly. When I look back now, I can see a few reasons why those difficult situations passed without me or some of my peers having to leave.

Appraisal Discussions!

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Appraisal discussions are about our progress or about our peers? I think it’s a platform to convey on how ‘others are doing vs us’. Flashback… Boss: Why do you think we aren’t able to do our goal in your Biz Unit. Me: Our next 6 months pipeline is great. However, my peers are also not able to achieve. So, it’s not just me, other too” Boss: Why aren’t you able to scale up the team? Me: It’s difficult to hire, we need better branding to hire. Moreover, unlike me, my peers don’t refer good candidates to me, but, they don’t. Boss: Why do you think they don’t help you? Me: I don’t know, I always reach out to them, It takes two to tango. But so far only I have taken initiatives to reach out. Boss: But, I see others spending time with each other, lunches, dinner and coffees outside of the office. Me: They all stay close by, they can have time for all these. Boss: What about your development. Have your skills, technical prowess improved in the last one year? Me: I think so, But, the Project management course you sent me wasn’t good. Ajay went to that Blockchain course and I hear it was way better. Boss: Anything else? Me: I have completed 2 years in this department. Robert’s boss promoted him within 2 years in there. I don’t want to be stagnant!

Does it matter if you are the first or the backup?

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Have you ever accepted a promotion or a new role in spite of knowing that one of your colleagues has already refused it? How does it feel to be the second option? Personally, I never liked the idea of being a backup choice especially for a career growth role within my own organisation. I felt it was an ‘insult’ to fill a role for which ‘they’ originally had somebody else in mind. It felt even worse to know that that first choice had refused that role. If you are in a similar situation would you grab the growth that has come your way? Or, you are the “Curious George” types and ask why did the other person refuse the role or ‘why’ you weren’t the first choice? The first time I got an overseas opportunity I knew I wasn’t the first choice. But, I was excited and accepted it immediately and within 15 days was in a new country. A few months later I asked my peer who had originally declined the role for the reason. He smiled and said, “the salary was lower than my expectations, but HR said you had accepted the same offer”. That was the only day I felt bad about being the second choice 🙂 John Travolta refused to do Forest Gump and Hrithik was the first choice for Amir Khan’s role in Dil Chahta Hai. Does it matter if you are the first or the backup?

What’s your basis for asking hikes?

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“I need a 30% hike, ” said 2 of my colleagues who belonged to two different teams. They had contrasting performances. One was at 100% sales achievement and the other at about 60%. Interestingly they both had one commonality, They were the topmost performers in their team 🙂 The demand for their hike was stimulated by an external source. It seems both had recently received job offers from different employers with a 30% raise. The 100% achiever knew the dependency her supervisor had on her and maybe wanted a payback for her performance. The 60% person had nothing to lose as his benchmark was his prospective employer’s offer. I met both of them to understand their context. The first one implied that every year its difficult to achieve 100% and hence it’s important to feel recognized. The second person gave me an impression that “you can’t have a bad increment for one average performance and life needs to go forward with the immediate opportunities.” I am sure every year we get higher offers from other innocent, desperate employers who decide our value based on the 30 minutes interview time. And we decide their value based on the 30% they offer us. Mutually convenient? What’s your basis for asking hikes? Peers, EMIs, Marriage, Kids?

When you get a promotion do you thank your manager?

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When you get your salary increment or promotion do you thank your supervisor for it? Or by the time you have asked/threatened/negotiated the feel-good has already disappeared?  It’s rare to get a good raise or a dream promotion without having to fight for it. Yes, in our long career there are those unique moments of when we get recognized unexpectedly. I reckon its also difficult to be a consistent performer that you can expect magical raises and promotions frequently. But, when you do get that ‘raise’ even if its single-digit do you ‘offer’ that thank you? I never did, I felt everybody is doing their job including our boss who would have signed on that growth. I felt entitled every time I got a raise or a promotion. Maybe, also felt awkward thanking for something that I worked hard for and felt deserved. Yes, some of them were negotiated so I did not have the ‘face’ to thank them when they eventually came.  Come to think of it, every increment or promotion has the ‘discretion’ of the bosses, sometimes super boss and HR? Maybe, it’s worthwhile to note that discretion and thank them for taking that extra step?  I am sure you were and are better than I used to be 🙂

First Day at Work? What do you expect?

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at work? What do you get to see and hear?  If you are working with a large corporation you would be in midst of Powerpoints/videos on their corporate history. I am sure you would also be shown profiles of their senior leaders. There would be stories told about how their current leaders have grown through the ranks. This is intended to inspire newcomers on the career prospects. But, in today’s world, this loyalty/tenure driven growth story is a double-edged sword. Who thinks of long-term careers now? Every year is a new journey and the narrations from corporations to new joiners also needs to change. I am sure it has. How about presenting on Day1 what/how some of the talented new joiners have contributed to the organization? Why can’t they be the new poster boys and girls? Instead of trying to seduce new employees on the long-term growth story of their leaders (some could just be fossilized versions) a short-term milestone of recent joiners maybe more motivating? I just can’t erase the comment of a new joiner when we showed the growth story of one of our poster boys Director in an Induction presentation. In the tea break, he asked “15 years to become a Director? Can you tell me what I can do/achieve in the next 3 years”?

Working for a marquee brand?

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You work for a Marquee Brand? Don’t take yourself too seriously! You are only employed there, You don’t own the company 🙂  When we work for large brands, we get carried away, it shows in our behavior especially in external settings. We make people around us to feel “Don’t you know whom I work for”? In one of the common forums, I frequently used to meet leaders of competitors and it was fun to watch these behaviors at play.  Leaders who worked with so-called large brands were mostly aloof. They won’t talk to you unless you take the initiative to have a conversation. They like to be with their entourage or on their phone to cover their lack of intent to connect. Why come to an event if you don’t want to converse with others? Some of them hang around only with peers from large companies. Even if you end up speaking, you would quickly realize it to be a one-sided conversation. Many are not interested in talking to you but only about themselves and their big brand. I wonder how great opportunities to represent marquee brands in public forums are lost by gloating leaders. I wish their employers coached them to responsibly represent their brand. After all, we all only work only for a ‘finite’ time with our employers. Who knows where you will be tomorrow?

Living with the Mavericks-Entertainment or Embarrassment

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How do we put up with the oddballs at work who can neither be ignored nor paid too much attention 

When you think of Sidhu, Subramanyam Swamy, Mani Shankar Aiyar collectively what comes to your minds. Do you think of their achievements or oratory brilliance in the public space or their off the cuff remarks through which they sometimes embarrass their party men? I leave it to you to decide, depending on how you process them. It must be quite an ask for their well-behaved statesmen like colleagues to deal with them often. Let’s also not forget that there must be something unique about them that keeps them in their organization. How do their leaders internalize their consistently inconsistent behaviours which they need to defend frequently; or do their leaders continuously silently suffer?


Would that be the right description of our senior colleagues who put us in similar embarrassing situations by their behaviours or quotes? Their odd behaviours may occasionally be overlooked or need damage control. It is a catch 22 for HR or the CEOs as some of these watermouths are also exceptional talent and perform their job well. Yes, their expertise and track record would have brought them to their current glory. However, their tenure can be a ticking time bomb as their team wouldn’t know when the next obnoxious comment is coming. The social media platform can be an explosive stage for such oddballs who forget that they are representing their organization while shooting their mouth. On the positive side, we can call them the Mavericks or the adventurous who make the workplace more interesting?

Punching above the weight

That’s how one of my bosses used to describe me in my absence. However, he never mentioned this directly as I used to contribute to his revenues significantly. In my younger days in a benevolent organization, I think I used to shoot my mouth either out of overconfidence or arrogance. My excuse was it is in my DNA to say things as I see them. I don’t know if I have paid any price for those behaviours. But, some of my colleagues later told me that I was packed off to another assignment in the disguise of a promotion. It seems my boss was done having a prickly shirt in his team.

One of the CTOs who worked with us also used to give us creeps. He was a very knowledgeable technocrat but also famous for his controversial outbursts. Once in a town hall, our COO  launched a tech platform and asked for early adopters feedback, the CTO shot back saying only an ignorant will criticize it. On another occasion, he threw his blackberry in disgust as the CEO and a stunned executive team watched helplessly. He knew his role was critical and was confident of his unique techno skills, and maybe felt entitled to his boorish behavior. Soon the CEO made some structural changes to limit the CTO’s share of the limelight and the writing was on the wall. Predictably the CTO resigned and there was a massive sigh of relief than any worry about the future of technology. I have to admit that during his four years tenure the organization moved leaps and bounds in terms of technology though many of us cringed at the sight of him.

In the world of work, large corporations are less tolerant of maverick behaviors and take quick actions. The code of conduct or other indoctrinations produced by large organizations are an attempt to control these adventurous employees. Many of them don’t allow their leaders to participate in social media conversations fearing transgressions. When they can’t control these outbursts, employers often push these oddballs to parking roles to limit the damage.