Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Performance vs. Character

Someone close to me recently told me that her boss called her for a one-on-one meeting and told her, “From the time I’ve know you, you are someone who tries to please everyone. That does not work in real life. I expected you to change as a person but you haven’t. Please change that in you.” She was shocked by this comment and asked, “In what context are you saying this to me?” Her boss stayed mum. As far as her performance at work was concerned, nothing much was discussed. She expressed her dissatisfaction with me. I asked, “What gives your manager a right to comment upon your character? Isn’t it his job to help you with your performance instead?”

As a member of Toastmasters and as an evaluator of speeches, I’ve learnt that as an evaluator (which is also a part of being a leader) our job is to comment on the speeches and not the speaker. Thus, as a manager, I believe it is his or her responsibility to comment on our performance and not our character.

I would much appreciate my own boss if he gives me suggestion related to my work performance rather than suggestion related to how I should or should not be. I cannot change who I am for the sake of a job nor can anybody else. As managers and leaders, the responsibility of each person is to help others in improving their performance and changing them as a person. Perhaps as a mentor, one can drop few words of wisdom but no one has the rights to tell anyone “This is who you ought to be”.
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Telecommuting as a tool for productivity

The world has grown into a global village now. Thanks to computers and internet. But it’s not just our loved ones that the internet has been able to connect. It’s even the workers in organizations. Yet the benefits of this technology are not being utilized for purposes other than posting photos in Facebook. With the advent of the computer generation, change in work schedules and organizational structure has been possible. Yet at this part of the world, I don’t see these changes being adapted.

I work at an organization where one of my key works involves designing courses to be taught to school children. Now this work involves some thinking, some internet research and some book and article references. For this, I don’t need to be present at my workplace. I can do the work at home and submit the output with the click of a mouse. How much time does working from home save me? Two hours at least! These two hours is just the time for commute. There is also added time I need for rest due to the physical exhaustion I have to experience as a result of being a part of packed buses and be stuck for hours in traffic jams. Yet my workplace would consider me as working only if I am present at the workplace during office hours. What matters is that I remain within the office (even if I spend time in gossip) and not that I produce something worthwhile at my own time. Where are we heading with this mentality? Nowhere, I suppose because the focus is on whether the employees are giving their time to the organization or not for the salary they are paid each month. Zero focus is placed on productivity or output.

I know the justification for this could be the matter of trust of whether employees would honestly work from home or not. But if the work is made deadline based and result-oriented, then why does it matter at what time the employees work and at what time they choose to rest?

I believe that organizations need to trust their employees and make them more driven by focusing on results. I don’t think “The employees must give their time for the organization, even if they are idle, because we are paying them” is a positive attitude in part of organizations. Why not buy results or outputs from employees rather than their time?

There are jobs like that of administration, customer service or accounting that requires employees to remain at their work desk. That’s fine. But there are other kinds of work that may or may not require the employee to be within the periphery of the office all the time. And if social interactions are required, then what about a weekly get-together?

As an aid, why not make telecommuting a new basis of work design if the work is such that it can be performed from home? This way an organization is not just buying output but also granting the employees freedom to use their time at their will and showing trust upon their work commitments and capabilities.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Complain culture

Complaining has become a culture at our workplaces. But have we ever asked ourselves this question - what function does complain accomplish? Now complain can help in identifying or solving a problem. Complaints point out the weak areas management can focus on improving. But complaints can also be a way of exacerbating the intensity of our current problems. It is because when more people talk about what's dissatisfying, the problems occur to be bigger than they really are. In some cases, the complaint may not even be a problem in the first place. Yet the continuous discussion of what's not right makes a small glitch appear like a big devil.

Shiv Khera wrote in his book 'You can Win': "When you complain, 50% people don't care and 50% people are happy that you're dissatisfied, so why complain?" So honestly, complaining breeds no solution or results. What about being grateful instead? And, if there's nothing to be grateful about then, let us remember the Serenity Prayer:
"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change
to change the ones I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference."

When each person starts to apply this prayer in his or her life, complaints will certainly stop. Can I do something about what I'm complaining about? If the answer is 'yes' - then lets do it! If the answer is 'no', then lets learn to accept it. But here's also a third way out - if you can't change and if you can't accept, then quit. Why worry yourself and worry others with your constant complaints?

I believe that if we can shift from this 'complain culture' to 'solution culture', we are walking the path of progress. It's better to spend time finding solutions rather than complaining. But as long as we continue to complain and not do anything about it, we're stuck in a quicksand. It would really help if most of us remembered the serenity prayer. Perhaps the extra time spent in complaining can be devoted to the practice of developing 'serenity' and 'courage' in each of us.

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