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Posts Tagged ‘Human Values’

  1. Introduction

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of the work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for Inaction”. These are some of prominent verses of Shri Bhagavad Gita, which essentially convey the most significant human values that we must inculcate within us throughout this journey of life.

In this era of 21st century, where employees in the organizations are in a constant competitive space, trying to fulfil their individual and organizational goals, basic values which make up the human are often getting ignored. As Samuel Johnson, one of the prolific English writers quoted, ‘The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good’, explains the true quality that every human being should possess.

Values are basically the beliefs that refer to desirable goals that drive action. Our values are extremely important as they help us to grow and develop in the desired way. They help us to create the future we desire to experience. Every organization and the individuals working there are involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. These decisions are the reflection of our own values and beliefs and they are always directed towards a specific purpose. Thus, this purpose serves as the satisfaction of our individual or collective needs.

2. Present context in organizations

Technology is now ingrained at each and every step of our lives. Organizations have been keen on leveraging the maximum usage of these technological advancements and, thus, are looking out to a better diversification of their businesses. Start-ups have been rising at a tremendous pace, not only creating a competition to the established entities but also offering wide opportunities to the working employees’ segment. Thus, with such hustle and bustle in the outside world, most of the employees at any level or designation are today being compelled to only think about the results and achieving recognition in the market. While achieving the results is, undoubtedly significant, but focussing on processes is equally important. Today, in the quest of achieving more, higher managements can often be seen setting goals which seem impractical to achieve and employees while striving to achieve the same are seen as being being ruthless to their subordinates. According a study by Gallop across 27 million employees and over 2.5 million work units, it was seen that only 30% of the employees in US are actually engaged at work and only around 13% around the globe are engaged in the work at their workplaces.

3. Significance of Human Values in Organizations

Values are significant as they guide our beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. Realising, understanding, and staying true to our values is, therefore, one of the most important efforts that any human being can make. The same applies to our work places where the importance of values cannot be ignored.

When we say values in organizations, these can be perceived through two perspectives. One belongs to ‘Leadership Values’ which pertains to values possessed by the higher management in the organizations. The second one is the ‘Employee Values’ which is associated with the values possessed by the employees working in any organization.         

a. Leadership Values

i. Compassion and Patience

The higher management and managers in the organizations, today, should necessarily inculcate a sense of compassion and patience within them. Though the company’s goals and targets are equally important, at the same time, leaders must also realise that the employees working towards it should not get overburdened. A true leader must always have an understanding of employee capabilities and interests and thus taking these factors into account, one should shape one’s expectations from them accordingly.

Patience is another human value which gets ignored these days while getting the things get done. Leaders should precisely consider the work efforts required for a particular task and should also consider the employee constraints while working on it. Thus, having a perfect balance of compassion and patience, leaders in the organization will be able to achieve the results as desired without disturbing the employee morale.

ii. Self Confidence and Trust in Employees

In this rapidly changing technological environment, leaders often come across situations where they need to adopt or develop a completely new emerging application based on the requirements. In such cases, the leaders have to rely upon their past experience and have to find out ways in which the new application can be developed.

A sense of trust has to be built among the employees and higher management, where it is ensured that the employees do not feel exploited by the company. At the same time the management has to also ensure that they express their trust towards employees by offering them the required and expected rewards and entitlements.

b. Employee Values

i. Adaptability and Inclusivity

The value of adaptability can be seen as one of the most influencing factors in the organizations. The ability of any employee to adjust with his/her fellow colleagues drives not only that particular employee but also the overall team. Employees, when they join a new organization or a new team, often find it challenging to bond with the new colleagues. But the quality of ‘accepting people as they are’ is extremely necessary in such cases.

When it comes to solving the problems in the organizations, the value of inclusivity ensures every team member is given the required value and their opinions are equally respected. This provides a freedom for the employees to express their views and promotes the feeling of ‘every thought is precious.’

ii. Love, Care and Respect towards Subordinates

Staying competitive in business is obviously important. However, the value of loving, caring and respecting the subordinates is no less important and critical. Today, it can be seen that employees, either to mark their prominence, betray their subordinates by taking the credit or create hurdles for them in achieving their goals.

The values of love, care and respect for employees, will not only help their subordinates in achieving the goals, but in turn, they themselves will be benefitted in their work, as a sense of positivity will be running through their veins

4. Conclusion

As conveyed by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, ‘the human intent behind any act always matters’. It follows that employees should always posses the intent of accomplishing their tasks in the best possible way, while helping anyone whom they meet in their journey. Employees in the organizations, today, should not develop a sense of either “I am Everything’ or ‘I am Nothing’. Instead, they need to develop an attitude of ‘I am Something’, which induces the self-confidence within them and also at the same time reminds them that there is lot of scope for them to learn and grow.

Having these essential values makes the working environment very conducive to new ideas and innovations, where every employee does not only feel valued, but they work at their fullest potential in order to make their organizations reach newer heights. Thus, in this era of fierce competition, human values combined with right skills to work will not only make the organizations thrive and be successful, but also add much required strength to humanity and make this planet a much better place to live.

Introducing the Author:

Ankur Sharad Mahajan is 27 years young and is currently pursuing my MBA in Operations at K J Somaiya Institute of Management, Mumbai, India.

He is an Instrumentation Engineer and worked at Tata Consultancy Services before joining his MBA. His hobbies include writing articles and poems, chanting Sanskrit Hymns and playing cricket, table-tennis and chess. Participating in various article writing competitions has always been his core interest. He is happy to have availed the opportunity provided by SPANDAN of expressing his views on a topic that he believes is most relevant and important in the present context.

Notes:

  1. Permission of SPANDAN to reproduce this essay here is gratefully acknowledged.
  2. This essay is a winning entry in an Essay Contest organized by SPANDAN recently.

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“Carrots and sticks are well alive and well within the change canon, and some businesses forgo the carrots”

The dominant paradigm, particularly in today’s world, is that organizations are there to principally generate shareholder value and profit. When profit is threatened, laying off workers; and when profit is surplus and so is demand, then skill-scale-speed followed by HRs as an optimum variable in the recruitment, has become an uncontroversial norm. In both of these cases, human values take a backseat and that won’t do. While this archetype has been further reinforced by the pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to reevaluate the same while visiting some of the catastrophic consequences in the 20th century that coercion and neglect of human rights had on organizations and nations at large. While the unions and strikes against some marginalisation and enslavement based on extreme structures, like that of the US Plantation Economy or the Atlantic slave trade, have resulted in the enactment of labor laws, formulation of code of conduct and structuring the blueprint of corporates, methods inculcating humanistic values including self-actualization, dignity and purpose are still a far cry.

Organizations might have evolved around structure, policy, culture and technology but the need to centralize business through human intrinsic values still holds relevance. Now is the time that we start devising structural plans to align the present day organizations with human values and most importantly take cognisance of its relevance in all kinds of setups.

The stepping stone to understand the relevance and eventuate the same would revolve around redefining the role of HRs, understanding the core values that remains the same irrespective of the changes in organizational set up, the importance of adhering to the human values in the ever changing world around AI and envisioning the implications on stakeholders outside the organization while formulating any plan.

HR = Human Resilience

Industry stalwarts like Ajeet Bajaj are now defining resilience as an important attribute of HR. In this ever changing dynamic and diversity of the business world, employees are expected to emerge as a winner no matter what. They are expected to manage boundaries, conflicts, transitions, and deliver sustainable results. In short, they are expected to be resilient along with holding competence. However, more than physical and mental strength, resilience is a person’s emotional response to the situation, says Former MD & CEO of National Skills Development Corporation. And to harbour that level of emotional resilience, we can’t expect this term “HR” to be merely referred to as “Human Resources” but there is a need to redefine it as “Human Resilience”, there is a need to see humans as more than just well-oiled machines. HR is a profession that identifies the potential of people, nurtures the talent, facilitates self discovery and incentivises talent multiplication. And all of this is imperative to an organization’s success.

The pandemic however has made HRs respond reactively rather than proactively that further libeled them as “Termination Trays”. To break this notion, it would require organizations to diverge from “profit maximization to value maximization” and to bring about the change, HRs remaining at the very apex of it. This would involve HRs to undertake fundamental research about people in the context of governments, societies, corporate sector, villages, districts, talukas, so that they have a shared vision and value with humans coming from all walks of life. This, in turn, empathetically guides them towards the path of passion-purpose-positivity and revert back the setback brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic through a knack of bringing out the best in them amid crisis situations. And in this process, the resilience and adaptability fostered by human values remains innate as a key functionality in the ongoing digital revolution, an era that surely demands even more inclusivity, employee engagement and innovation. In short, it demands us to be more human.

THE CORE REMAINS THE SAME!

In recent times, we have seen massive changes in the corporate scenario which is an amalgamation of reconstruction driven by the digital revolution. Needless to say, the dimension and scope of hybrid culture, remote work, and most importantly startups gets much larger.

Having said that, there is a greater need for organizations to enhance competitiveness everyday. But, the core principle that makes an organization competitive remains the same regardless of the dimension and its setup. It is mostly a reflection of human characteristics such as adaptability, ethics and resilience.

The increased number of startups and ventures has made the stakeholders enamoured and obsessed with the products and services but the rate of success still revolves around business intent, customer connection, and employee experience. This requires us to make work more relational than transactional. When investors at times push a firm to professionalize and strive to fulfil market demands, companies tend to take a superficial approach and neglect what truly matters to the venture. But the successful examples of ventures like Nike, Netflix, Study Sapuri has taught us that the root of successful businesses can always be traced back to Employee Experience, customer satisfaction and organizational spirit.

The most consistent and flexible of them has been Netflix. It worked relentlessly to retain its soul of helping best content creators around the world get a wider audience and became the best global distributor. It epitomizes the concept of human values and organizational profit going hand in hand while perfectly complementing each other.

And some recent examples like that of the Google employees demanding the tech giant to shelve plans to stifle dissent in China in 2018 show that organizations and employees are still willing to place human values above profit even for the stakeholders outside the ambit of organization. And in today’s world of automation and digitization, we surely need more such examples to set precedents and instill a sense of oneness.

CHANGED MANAGEMENT (AUTOMATION AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE)

While the world is leapfrogging towards Artificial Intelligence and Automation, it is incumbent upon us to practice it with utmost care and for the service of humanity and not against it. Some of the notable uses of AI for wildlife conservation or climate change through unmanned aerial vehicles and Machine Learning informatics are truly praiseworthy. But, we need to exercise wariness when we bring AI to the organizational setup. Taking a human centric approach would help the use of AI and automation intelligibly and proportionately. For that, it’s important that we have open and inclusive discussions about human values across diverse communities so as to avoid reinforcing unfair bias and create more innovative and representative uses of AI.

CONCLUSION

All of the three stepping stones including redefinition of HR’s role, Core values, Changed Management and automation help us to delve into the deeper trenches of the relevance and applicability of human values in present day organizations. To further augment all the three, there is a need to democratize businesses in order to envision the implications of our decisions that the stakeholders even outside the immediate sphere of an organization face. This would help us reevaluate some of the disastrous decisions including patent policy, jacking up the prices of life saving drugs and working against environmental protections that the organizations took lately in the light of shareholders profit.

While a transition to this self realization is surely difficult, observers suggest the main deterrence to the transition is our own mindset which is informed by a set of global narrative of how business is supposed to be. It has deepened the narrative of “dog eats dog” as a successful model of business. But, successful models like”Twin win” and “human chain” can be the silver lining to the ever evolving relationship between an organization’s success and the human values it professes.

And let’s remember that business and organization are the places where experience and insights came first and theories later. And in order to keep evolving and formulating new successful theories it is important to treat the significance of human values as being foundational, so as to solidify the ever evolving superstructures including business models and organizational cultures.

REFERENCES

www.investopedia.com/insights/history-of-us-monopolies

Harvard Business Review : https://hbr.org/2019/07/the-soul-of-a-start-up

Uses of AI: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery

SHRM, South Asia,

https://blog.shrm.org/sasia/blog/resilience-an-attribute-important-to-hr

  • Human Dignity and Welfare Systems: Chicago University Press
  • Wilson, On human nature: Harvard University Press
  • Humanizing Business : EY
  • Kelly Sikkema-Medium.com

https://medium.com/swlh/have-we-overlooked-our-human-values-in-the-business-of-valu e-creation-dc52ef8ff26c

Introducing The Author:

Shreya is 21 years young and a 3rd year Chemistry (Hons) student from Patna women’s college, Bihar. She has been active in the field of debating and speaking and has won awards at both national and international levels.

Some of these are:

1. “international conventional debate, Nimbus, DU” 2020

2. Jashn e abhivyakti, National debate competition, Satyawati college 2021
3. JIMS Kalkaji National Debate, 2021 
4. Evaluation contest winner, Toastmasters International 2020

Besides, she is an avid reader, writer with experience in the field of management, education and writing. She aspires to form a community of like minded people while always striving to learn more. 

Notes:

  1. Permission of SPANDAN to reproduce this essay here is gratefully acknowledged.
  2. This essay is a winning entry in an Essay Contest organized by SPANDAN recently.

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UNDERSTANDING HUMAN VALUES

Values can be defined as abstract and conceptual beliefs which act as a guideline in the lives of humans and influence the ways in which people and events are evaluated. The values of honesty, integrity, love, and happiness are termed as destination values whereas the values of health, status, intelligence are path values which help attain destination values.

While the destination values remain constant and act as a guiding light towards higher order goals, the path values are temporary and help achieve lower-order goals for humans. Humans are a mix of both types of values which are reinforced by the culture and environment in which they grow.

Where Do Values come from?

Values cannot exist in isolation from society. Every value can be referred to as a ‘goodness’ that exists in one’s mind, which in turn, exists as a sociometer construct that guides both collective and individual action.

Values can be formed biologically, determined by human needs, wants, and desires, and following one’s birth, they are formed from particular social groups, whose core values are determined by its purpose.

HUMAN VALUES AND ORGANIZATIONS

One can hardly glance at the front page of a newspaper without being confronted by a story of misconduct or unethical behavior in organizations. With this world becoming more and more profit centered, the relevance of value-based lens in this world of materialism is getting blurred.

For a vehicle to perform efficiently, it needs both an engine for power and a steering system for guidance. A similar analogy can be applied to any organization as well; the purpose or vision is the engine that propels it forward and the human values act as the steering system which guides it.

Just as it is important to be able to identify with an organization’s purpose, it is also important to align with its values. Organizations that authentically define their values show employees how to align their behaviors with the things that matter to the organization.

MAKING VALUES EFFECTIVE

An organization’s core values only have power when – and to the extent that – the humans in and around the organization feel a connection to them. When human values and organizational values overlap for employees, that’s when they are truly connected to their workplace.

The three ingredients that actually make values effective in an organization setup can be termed as follows:

Make Values Operationalized: Every organization can come up with a fancy set of value system that they follow. However, in order to make it effective it is important that similar values are reflected in the way the organization, its departments, teams and individual employees’ work on a day to day basis, propelled by actions and decisions.

Start from the Top: Leadership group of every organization must live up to the values that they stand for. Developing such value driven organizations always flows from the actions and decisions at the top level. An employee always idolizes his boss, so it is important that people at the top level are able to practice what they preach.

Communicate Values: Using content to communicate one’s value helps to develop a virtuous cycle. The content connects the organization to its values, keeping the values at the top of the mind for each team member when they are making decisions or crafting processes as a part of their daily tasks.

HUMAN VALUES AND RELEVANCE FOR ORGANIZATION STAKEHOLDERS

Values are an indispensable component of a healthy workplace culture. These provide a framework within which the organization can test its decisions, accomplish tasks, and interact with outside stakeholders.

Values and Organization: When organizations explicitly define their values and beliefs, they provide immediate clarity for decision making. Upholding human values helps create boundaries that show staff and clients where the organization is headed to.

A recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum highlighted how the organizations that nurtured a value system making it a part of their brand appeal without being single-mindedly focused on profit making were the ones which actually generated the most value and attained market leadership position.

The best example within the Indian context is that of the Tata Group. The guiding principles of the TATA group evolve from its rich value system and traditions of trusteeship as a way to redistribute the wealth created by the industrial society kept aside exclusively for the benefit of people at large.

Values and Leadership: Many leading thinkers and business practitioners advocate that true leadership is best expressed through the lens of values and beliefs of an organisation’s senior management, which serve to mould the broader organisation’s core identity and mindset. Values distinguish an able leader from a mere instructor.

As per the definition given by Busch and Murdock (2014), value-based leadership is considered as goal-setting, language-creating, problem-solving, and value-developing interaction, which is an integral part of any organization’s human values and very high ethical standards.

Following a value-driven path not only brings about clarity but also facilitates better decision making and goal accomplishment on the part of a leader. Value-driven decision making makes the leader standout and leave an everlasting imprint.

Values and Employees: Any business is as value-driven as the value systems of its individual employees. Value-driven employees not only turn into a long-term asset for the organization but also end up doing well in their lives and careers.

According to Maslow’s Need Hierarchy theory, human needs can be broadly categorized under five categories. Of these, Self Actualization needs come at the top of the pyramid. This clearly highlights how an employee – being a social animal – wants much more than monetary satisfaction.

Various studies show how employees are positively impacted when involved in CSR initiatives or when they follow their value system, rather than when driven by greed. Human values can act as a guiding light towards a better professional and personal life for an employee.

FINAL REMARKS

Business Ethics is a recent buzzword in modern organizations which constitutes the different human values and goes much beyond the materialistic business objective of profitability and growth. As most of the organization decisions are based upon values, the long-term sustenance of any organization is not possible without a robust value system.

With the increasing needs of different stakeholders, the modern organizations demand a more value-based approach of decision making. Value alignment not only helps in better decision making but also help organizations develop a feeling of trust with external stakeholders – like customers – ultimately leading to improved business performance.

Human Values can be considered as the soul of any modern organization. These act like the binding thread that integrates the organization with individual employees leading to holistic growth of the organization and the associated stakeholders.

Introducing the Author:

Vasu Garg (22 Years) is a 2nd-year student at MDI Gurgaon specializing in the field of Finance and Marketing. Prior to this, he completed his B.com (Hons) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi.

Despite no past experience in a corporate environment as a full-time employee, he has gained a certain level of exposure to the corporate world through a range of internships with organizations like Nomura, PharmEasy, UrbanCompany, IIFL, etc.

In terms of hobbies, he is passionate about participating in social work and playing cricket.

Notes:

  1. Permission of SPANDAN to reproduce this essay here is gratefully acknowledged.
  2. This essay is the top winning entry in an Essay Contest organized by SPANDAN recently.

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Winners were recently announced in respect of a pan-India essay competition on Human Values in Present Day Organizations. The competition was organized by Spandan, a NGO which aims to spread the criticality of human values in management.

Vasu Garg of the Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurugram, Shreya Kumari of Patna Women’s College and Ankur Mahajan of KJ Somaiya Institute of Management, Mumbai, were declared winners of the first three positions, respectively.

Spandan: A Brief Note

Spandan Foundation for Human Values in Management and Society (Spandan in short) originated as a result of the academic and research interest of Prof G P Rao. It had been formed about two decades back. It is supported by a small group of industrial organizations, management institutions and individuals.

The word Spandan is drawn from the Sanskrit language. It means heartbeat, vibration, pulsation and echo. As a concept, the term is meant to convey that faith in the basic goodness and intrinsic altruism of human beings have both always been the driving force for human existence, growth and development.

The Mission

Propagation and inculcation of human values in education, management and society.

The Vision

‘Humanising self through a communion of hearts’.

The Belief

Businesses deliver suboptimal results when their ‘Results’ are viewed as being at odds to their ‘Relations’ with different stakeholders. An optimal balance between ‘Results’ and ‘Relations’ needs to be struck; this alone can enable an organization to achieve its goals effectively and efficiently on a sustainable basis.

The team at Spandan strongly feels that the need of the hour is to create Functionally Humane Organizations – a committed group of human beings doing their best in the interests of various stakeholders.

The Essay Contest (2021-22)

The contest was steered by Satish Sekhri, a senior management professional. Scholars and students from more than 100 management institutes were invited to participate. Fifty-eight entries from different institutes were received for the competition.  

Of these, fourteen entries were short-listed and referred to a jury comprising Prof. Varun Arya, Founder Director of Aravali School of Ignited Minds, and Ashok Bhatia, a management thinker and author. The jury zeroed in onto five finalists. The criteria for evaluation were: The emphasis on human values, language and approach to the subject, and the practicality of the suggestions made.

The five short-listed essays were finally evaluated by Mr. Virender Singh, a former Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. Thereafter, the three winners mentioned above were announced at a virtual event in the presence of Chief Justice Mr. Virender Singh, Jagesh Khaitan, who is the chairman of Kuantum Papers and of  Spandan, and Anil Kohli, the NGO’s honorary secretary.

The winners were given cash rewards of ₹50,000, ₹30,000 and ₹20,000 respectively.   

Future Activities

A series of lectures by eminent experts in the field of human values are on the anvil. As and when the dates are finalized, necessary details would be available at the Spandan website: spandanfhv.com.

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Can an organization’s human resource policies be so designed as to facilitate a bottoms-up approach to leadership? In other words, can it encourage and enable people at the lower rung to automatically assume a leadership role without anyone else egging them on to give their best?

It is well known that leadership is a function of at least two factors. The individual traits of an employee surely play a role. Another is the situation which could be such as to produce a leader. But for all the employees to spontaneously respond to a situation in an empathic manner in the face of an unforeseen crisis goes on to show that a share of the credit must also go to the design and implementation of conscious human resource policies.     

Consider the Mumbai Taj Hotel terror attack on the 26th of November, 2008. Not even a single Taj employee abandoned the hotel and ran away, but stayed right through the attack. They helped the guests escape. In the process, many employees died.

Eventually, this became an important psychology case study at Harvard. The result was a deep insight into the way in which the company’s recruitment policies had been designed. Three of the major factors which stood out have been as follows:

1) Taj did not recruit from big cities; instead, they recruited from smaller cities where traditional culture values still holds strong.

2) They did not recruit toppers; they spoke to school masters to find out who were most respectful of their parents, elders, teachers and others.

3) They taught their employees to be ambassadors of their guests to the organization, not ambassadors of the company to their guests.

For some details of what transpired during the terror attack and the Harvard study, please check out the following:

“The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj Hotel: Rohit Deshpande at TEDxNewEngland.”

The Tata group is well known for the values, integrity, transparency and fairness it practices while dealing with various stakeholders across all its business verticals. The response of its employees to the terror attack is merely one of the many manifestations of its enlightened human resource policies.  

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While etching out some of the feline and canine characters, P G Wodehouse never fails to amuse, entertain and educate. Many of you may agree that even when he decides to capture the spirit of a hearty brawl among different members of these species, he excels himself.

Consider these fight scenes captured by him.  

‘The unpleasantness opened with a low gurgling sound, answered by another a shade louder and possibly more querulous. A momentary silence was followed by a long-drawn note, like rising wind, cut off abruptly and succeeded by a grumbling mutter. The response to this was a couple of sharp howls. Both parties to the contest then indulged in a discontented whining, growing louder and louder until the air was full of electric menace. And then, after another sharp silence, came war, noisy and overwhelming.

Standing at Master Waffles’ side, you could follow almost every movement of that intricate fray, and mark how now one and now the other of the battlers gained a short-lived advantage. It was a great fight. Shrewd blows were taken and given, and in the eye of the imagination you could see the air thick with flying fur. Louder and louder grew the din; and then, at its height, it ceased in one crescendo of tumult, and all was still, save for a faint, angry moaning.’

(Something Fresh)

‘There is about any dog fight a wild, gusty fury which affects the average mortal with something of the helplessness induced by some vast clashing of the elements. It seems so outside one’s jurisdiction. One is oppressed with a sense of the futility of interference. And this was no ordinary dog fight. It was a stunning mêlée, which would have excited favourable comment even among the blasé residents of a negro quarter or the not easily-pleased critics of a Lancashire mining-village. From all over the beach dogs of every size, breed, and colour were racing to the scene: and while some of these merely remained in the ringside seats and barked, a considerable proportion immediately started fighting one another on general principles, well content to be in action without bothering about first causes. The terrier had got the poodle by the left hind-leg and was restating his war-aims. The raffish mongrel was apparently endeavouring to fletcherize a complete stranger of the Sealyham family.

The only reason why dog fights do not go on forever is that Providence has decided that on each such occasion there shall always be among those present one Master Mind; one wizard who, whatever his shortcomings in other battles of life, is in this single particular sphere competent and dominating.

At Roville-sur-Mer it was the red-haired young man. His dark companion might have turned from him in disgust: his services might not have seemed worth retaining by the haughty Scrymgeour: he might be a pain in the neck to “the family”; but he did know how to stop a dog fight. From the first moment of his intervention calm began to steal over the scene. He had the same effect on the almost inextricably entwined belligerents as, in mediaeval legend, the Holy Grail, sliding down the sunbeam, used to have on battling knights. He did not look like a dove of peace, but the most captious could not have denied that he brought home the goods. There was a magic in his soothing hands, a spell in his voice: and in a shorter time than one would have believed possible dog after dog had been sorted out and calmed down; until presently all that was left of Armageddon was one solitary small Scotch terrier, thoughtfully licking a chewed leg. The rest of the combatants, once more in their right mind and wondering what all the fuss was about, had been captured and hauled away in a whirl of recrimination by voluble owners.

(The Adventures of Sally)

Homo sapiens pride themselves on being superior to other species. But the scenarios described above, do these not remind us of bitter fights in our board rooms or even at our homes? The need for a dynamic leader is also brought home so very clearly.

Some introspection would lead us to conclude that when raw anger and impotent rage takes us over, there is little difference between members of different species. In fact, human beings have refined the art far better. We go a step ahead and start fighting others at the mental level, deliberately twisting facts and doing and saying things which would torment the souls of the party of the other part. Avarice and greed overcome our prudence. Human values get thrown out of the window. As to grudges against others, we carry these within us for a very long time, ruining our own health.     

This might well explain why the likes of Augustus and Bartholomew often treat us with a sense of dignified detachment and cast supercilious gazes at us, the lesser mortals.   

(Note: With due respects to Plum, passages quoted above have been slightly edited, so as to focus only on the fight part.)

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On the first anniversary of the strict lockdown imposed in India on this day, a year back!

ashokbhatia

The 24th of March, 2020 dawned upon us as any other normal day. Denizens of India were going about their daily chores with as much zombiness as they could muster. Flowers were in bloom. Birds and bees were going about doing whatever they normally do. Trees were swaying in the gentle breeze coming in from the Bay of Bengal. In other words, God was in heaven and all was well with the world.

However, by 2030 hours in the evening, our world had turned upside down. The Indian government imposed a comprehensive lockdown across a country comprising 1.3 billion persons. The Prime Minister himself appeared on our TV screens and announced this decision. By the time he finished, a mere three and a half hours were remaining for the decision to take effect.

This sudden whammy left all of us twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out as to…

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Earlier on, we had touched upon the importance of brand equity. One can undervalue the criticality of this attribute only at one’s own risk and peril.

Corporate Brands

Companies benefit immensely from making conscious efforts to keep their brand images shimmering. If asked to quantify the resultant financial uplift though, their CFOs would be found twiddling their thumbs. But it is not difficult to see the kind of benefits which accrue from having a shimmering image, whether in matters of human resources, sourcing or marketing, besides in such grey areas as liaison and government dealings.

Several instances can be quoted from my own stints with the Tata group.

When a INR 5 crore modern leather processing factory was established at Dewas in 1975, the plant was commissioned without any delay, with all necessary government approvals in place. No government officials had to be appeased, whether in cash or in kind. In fact, the then government of Madhya Pradesh went all out to support the complex being set up.

In another case, a senior manager deputed to the headquarters of the Electricity Board to secure power connection for a small manufacturing unit ended up assuring a demanding government officer that a measly amount would be paid upon the issue of the necessary permission. A 50% advance paid to the officer concerned was shown in the manager’s travel expenses claim. A furious general manager called in the manager and gave him a severe dressing down. Yours truly was called in and asked to resolve the issue. My visit to the place cost the company five times the amount demanded. Somehow, I could secure the permission without any further underhand payment and got back to my desk with a feeling of triumph and pride at what had been accomplished. The senior manager soon left the company and moved on to a greener pasture.

Tatas are well known for their sound values and systems. They have a unique way of handling under-the-table demands by all and sundry. When it comes to compliance, the emphasis is on avoidance and not on evasion. As to corporate governance, their 150 year old record is blemish free.

Tatas repersent a fine example of what Alan Wallner is apt to call a Conscious Brand. As one of the thought leaders who happen to be a part of the Conscious Enterprises Network, he believes that branding is not just about physical attributes; rather, it is about the inner presence of a person and of the team that creates the brand of a business – it’s the way we treat other people and work together to create something remarkable.

A Mighty Responsibility

To keep a brand duly buffed up and shining is no mean task. Besides management back-up, a positive culture and clear policies which facilitate an ethical approach to business dealings, it needs extensive training at the front level of any organization.

Experiences of Customer Delight

Sometime during the late 1980s, I once had a problem with a Kodak camera I had bought just about a few months back. Somehow, I had not been careful enough to save a copy of the purchase proof with me. I contacted the shop from where I had bought it and he refused to entertain me in the absence of either a bill or a receipt. But when I contacted the Kodak office in person, they made no fuss. A technician checked my camera and within twenty minutes, I walked out with a brand new fresh camera in my hands.

As a lay customer, I once had a problem with my TataSky direct-to-home service account. When nothing satisfactory happened for a week, I gave a piece of mind to the next person I could manage to speak to. Within a day, not only was the problem addressed but even a senior person called me up to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Such first-hand experiences restore one’s faith in a brand, thereby giving it a unique advantage – that of free word to mouth publicity!

Converting Ex-employees into Brand Amassadors

At HCL Infosystems, another large company, a separation with a disgruntled star performer was handled very delicately. The outcome was that he ended up being an ambassador for the company, referring candidates for several other key positions in the following years.

Even a massive plant closure involving over 1,000 persons was handled so very decently that there were no protests and red flags of any kind, nor any interference from the local politicians or communities. Key personnel who could not be accommodated were assisted in securing alternative career opportunities, with the Human Resources Department playing a key role.

Caring for the Delicately Nurtured

Unilever recently stated having introduced a policy with zero tolerance towards domestic violence.

 

A ten-year stint of mine with Tatas matched well with my own upbringing. However, by the time the episode touched upon by me earlier occurred, I was in a bubble at the other end of the spectrum of values. I had perhaps permitted my honest visage and sincere disposition to be put to nefarious uses. Sure enough, the fault of accepting a situation of this kind lay somewhere within me.

Personal Brand Equity

It stands to reason that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

Professionals need to step back every once in a while and check if their brand image is bright and shining. Keeping one’s brand value burnished helps in career progression. It is also an immensely satisfying slice of life which promotes self-worth and boosts self-confidence.

My experience tells me that these are the kind of inputs which go into keeping a professional’s brand value burnished.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Being aware of our core strengths as well as limitations helps us to assess our chances of success in delivering on a project. By ensuring that we commit conservatively but deliver zealously, we build up a reputation of reliability. There are indeed times when a polite ‘no’ could save us from denting our reputation.

Honesty and openness in relationships

Our colleagues and team members are equally smart. They are quick to sense a touch of opacity on our part. They detest a lack of transparency in us. Dealing with those around us with honesty ensures that they repose their faith and trust in us. As a result, our capability of getting things done improves.

Being a friend, philosopher and guide

All of us have some expertise which may not be directly relevant to our Key Result Area. It could be an insight into the realm of alternative therapies which a colleague can use for one of her family members. It could be about handling rebellious teenagers at home. If we put such expertise to use by helping others around us, word goes around and others rush in to seek our counsel. We might have the image of a tough task master, but this softer aspect of our personality helps us to build a unique brand for ourselves.

Networking

Whether within the organization or outside, networking goes a long way in building up our reputation. The trick, however, is in avoiding those with a negative outlook, while promoting ties with those who have positive vibes.

Keep learning

Keeping the saw sharpened always helps. By refreshing our knowledge pool continuously, we remain a leader in more ways than one. Often, a dash of humility is all it needs to remain ahead of the curve.

Being genuine

By being ourselves, we enhance our dependability. Others feel reassured and refreshed after each encounter with us. They do not mind confiding in us. In turn, this helps us to understand and address their anxiety and concerns better. Our ability to deliver improves.

A brand is all about reliability and dependability. It offers good value for money. So do professionals who work on the basis of deliverables. Smart ones realize that an image cannot be built up purely based on optics and communication. It needs to be backed by real inputs so one’s brand value remains intact and is kept shimmering at all times.

One of the key factors in building a brand and sustaining its image is the kind of value system it represents; moreover, the purpose which guides it.

 

(Illustration: Keller’s Brand Equity Model)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/building-up-the-employee-brand-value-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law)

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(Non-statutory warning: Reading the article below could be injurious to readers’ mental health and leave them a wee bit depressed. Caution is advised.

The author is reasonably certain that this article is not an outcome of the kind of wholesome pessimism which is believed to envelope one in advancing age.)

There is a mood of despondency which descends upon my frail grey cells once in a while. Dark clouds which have gathered upon me are accompanied by sinister rumblings. Lightning streaks of a menacing kind keep lighting up the sky, duly followed by thunderous howls which pierce my ears. One peers into the future and one shudders to think of the kind of world one would leave behind for our progeny to live in. Tectonic plates of our society appear to be shifting, causing major upheavals.

No, one does not allude to the pandemic stalking us these days. Nor does one refer to such universal problems like global warming, economic disparities, widespread poverty and illiteracy etc. Instead, one refers here to tectonic plates of a different kind – the ones which impact our value systems, human values, social harmony, honesty, fairness and justice, norms of democracy, absence of truthful and factual information, materialistic progress, and the like.

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

Businesses continue to be driven by greed and avarice alone. Hapless CEOs have no other option but to keep delivering results from one quarter to the next.

There are no guarantees that Volkswagen will not soon come up with yet another technical trick to befool the regulators and its customers. Boeing may yet again secure approvals for launching a model which might put air passengers’ lives at risk. Financial scams will keep tumbling out of corporate closets at a standard frequency which might put an atomic clock to shame.

Think of rising inequalities. Consider a report presented by Oxfam at the January 2021 World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. It says that the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months of 2020, whereas the world’s poorest could take up to a decade to recover from the pandemic induced setback. I am certain that philanthropic initiatives of the richest have not suddenly seen a proportionately higher uptick.

So, every crisis that humanity faces turns out to be an opportunity for the well endowed to amass greater wealth. Is this the kind of Materialistic and Unconscious Business model that we wish to continue following? Our answer would of course depend based on whether we are from the ‘haves’ side or the ‘have-nots’ side of the society.

The Monkey Business Called Politics

Probity and decency in the public life of our leaders is long since buried. Gone are the days when vibrant democracies needed a strong opposition to thrive. These days, even the President of a country can himself turn against the hallowed portals of democracy and send rampaging mobs braying for the blood of those out to declare him defeated in an election. In other words, it is one of those promotional offers – you vote in a President and get another one for free!

The aforesaid top boss’ term has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Even before he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol and the legislative branch of government, he ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all the while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business.

In yet another country, the main adversary runs the risk of not only being poisoned but also getting imprisoned on some ground or the other, while those in power brutally suppress dissent marked by men’s underwear and gold-painted toilet cleaning brushes.

World over, there is no dearth of leaders who have dictatorial ambitions but mask these well with democratic credentials. Speak of transparent political funding and all one gets is the silence of a tomb.

In yet another country, lies, obfuscation of facts and clever data management seem to have become a norm. Photo-ops, positive optics and feel-good media feed by devout followers keep the entire nation in thrall. Attempts to stifle dissent and to paint anyone not toeing the rulers’ line as unpatriotic continue unchecked. Getting offended by comments made by those living thousands of miles away appears to have become a national pastime. When a stand-up comedian speaks up, our clairvoyant nature allows us to guess what offending remark he is yet to make. Prompt legal action gets taken, nipping the intended mischief in the bud.

Building physical infrastructure is simply great. So is the drive to embrace technology to make life of a common man simpler. But when this comes at the cost of demolishing social harmony and making a democratic country free of any kind of opposition worth its while, the long term price of a ‘progress’ of this kind is rather high. I am not an economist, but I wonder if an economy can grow while the society itself is getting fragmented.

World over, quite a few governments have even used the pandemic as a cover to suppress dissent and cut short processes to introduce laws of an unpopular kind. In the process, their soft power is bound to dive down.

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

During 2020, in India, when our northern neighbour had encroached upon our land, and when the media should have been doling out useful health tips for people to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, the only ‘breaking news’ was the suspected suicide of a Bollywood actor and the activities of his girl friend.

Social media, duly backed by smart algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, keeps shaping our thought processes, our choices, our preferences, our perceptions and our beliefs. We are already living in a fish bowl where the law makers as well as the private players are hands in glove to sell detailed information about us to the highest bidder. Privacy concerns and personal liberties be damned. Pretty soon, it may happen that government support is available only to those who have a pro-government presence on various media platforms.

The whole idea is perhaps to help a lay person evolve into a dumb chum of the first order, unable to use his own judgement in matters of public importance; essentially, to numb the person’s grey cells. In other words, we all become zombies (or jack asses, if you prefer) of the first order.

Little do we realize that there are no free lunches in life. Any service available to us free of cost over the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves only means that ‘We, the People’ are the product on sale!

If our social media czars do not come up with a realistic code of conduct for themselves soon enough, governments, to salvage their public image, may soon have to start dishing out harsher laws.

Perhaps, one of the czars will soon set up an academy to groom many of our whizz kids into becoming ethical hackers and algorithm developers.

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

If they stay at home, their contribution to society is never even acknowledged. Rather, it is taken for granted. If they venture out of their home and hearth, lustful gazes disrobe them mentally. If they get violated, they only have to take the rap. In war zones, they are the instruments used to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the other.

Yes, I refer to the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured. They are the ones upon whom Mother Nature has conferred the unique capacity of keeping our civilization alive and ticking. They may be as tough as nails and proving themselves to be better than the so-called sterner sex in all fields of human endeavour. A fact which was reinforced yet again when a deadly pandemic arrived at our doorsteps. In public, they may get put on a pedestal and revered. But in private, they often get treated like a doormat, treated as mere objects, only to be used and abused.

Doting lover boys, upon metamorphosing into husbands, often shed their chivalrous masks and start behaving like dictators. If a family breaks up owing to mistreatment, ridicule, abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands, it is the lady of the house alone who gets the entire blame – for being obstinate and uncompromising. The general view is that she is a gold digger of sorts.

Such a patriarchal mindset is not an exclusive prerogative of the poor alone. Nor does it respect geographical boundaries. Education levels also do not make much of a difference. Take couples across different countries, economic status and education level and one is apt to find this to be a universal phenomenon. The Chivalry Quotient may vary across all these parameters, but a singular shortage of preux chevaliers is felt all over our planet. Religious beliefs and even some spiritual tenets reinforce such derogatory views.

In respect of the legal framework, our experience in India has been a mixed one. The females have learnt the art of terrorizing their husbands and their families by foisting cases of imagined harassment, with the sole aim of securing better settlements while seeking divorce. Surely, the training in chivalry truly begins at home – either in the kitchen or at the dining table. Laws can play only a limited role.

The tectonic shift taking place here is that of divorce rates going up and couples preferring to remain friends with perks. Upwardly mobile wives who can stand on their own feet detest drawing husbands who refuse to wear skirts and help out with domestic chores. Once the family structure crumbles, there is a higher probability of the value system of the next generation going for a toss.

The Silence of the Lambs

In many of the issues brought out above, are we ourselves not responsible for the mess that we are in? The silence of our intellectuals, the self-centredness and public apathy of the middle class which more or less upholds values in society and the mute surrender of the common man – are these not some of the factors which have enabled this situation to have come about?

Many years back, I vaguely recall having read a satirical story in Hindi, written by a well known humourist in the language, Hari Shankar Parsai. A herd of lambs is made to believe that few wily foxes alone can solve all their problems. Pretty soon, foxes get voted in. One fine day, a ruling comes that to save the ruling foxes, some sheep should voluntarily surrender to be sacrificed each day so the patriotic fervour is kept alive and the nation is run effectively!

I am not a political science buff. Thus, I am not qualified to say if democracy as a model of governance is failing us. But one of its enabling factors is the presence of conscious leaders who are not shameless and still have traces of humility, empathy, decency and a concern for genuine overall good.

With No Malice towards Anyone  

Educated youth who have no means of earning a living, will they not have a raw anger simmering within them? Will the poorer lot not take a jaundiced view of grand government schemes the benefits of which do not reach them?

Perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness within them. Perhaps they have dollops of patience.  May be they realize that they are too small to bring about any change and feel it is better to accept things as they are and continue wallowing in misery and self-pity, blaming God for all their troubles.

But is a meek acceptance of murkier developments in the world around us a better approach? Can we not dissipate the seething anger within by at least saying what we find to be reproachable? Can we not break our silence of the lambs and speak up?

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

Are we ourselves not a part of the problem? Why have we, reasonably educated and rather wise people, decided to outsource our thinking processes and have instead opted to become zombies?!

Do we not keep patronizing companies even when we know that they have been cheating in the past? Are we not the ones who get swayed by propaganda and cast a vote for a particular party or a particular leader? Do we ever boycott a media outlet which acts as a mouth piece of those in power?

If we are addicted to, say, WhatsApp or Facebook, can we really blame their inventors for the issues that we face? Don’t we find it convenient to remain in touch with our friends and family members through these platforms?

When we notice a female being harassed, are we not likely to look the other way? Is the onus of ‘adjusting’ not always put on the female? Can we take a pause before we make a victim the facilitator of a crime?

Overall, by remaining a mute spectator and witness to acts of corruption, misinformation, lies and half-truths, do we not become accomplices to such misdeeds?

It is not wise to altogether point a finger at others only. A knife kind of a tool is given to us. Let us use it to prepare a juicy dish and not to hurt someone. The choice of usage is with us.

Our endeavour therefore should be to stand up, be courageous and outspoken. This alone can get us counted. Even if there is one sane voice amongst all the noise and din, it would resonate with other like-minded individuals out there.

Our salute needs to reach out not only to those who are already raising their voices but also to the decision makers who might eventually get around to listening to us.

Some Silver Linings

All this is not to say that there are no silver linings in the dark clouds hovering above us. As P G Wodehouse puts it, even when the air is pregnant with V or W-shaped depressions, there are always silver linings on the clouds. We shall do well never to repine, never to despair, but to work upon our own selves and on others in our sphere of influence. It is good to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

There are business houses which keep following good values and ethics in their day to day operations. There are leaders who respond well to challenges like social disharmony and stalking pandemics with a dash of human values. They treat dissent as a valuable input for their decision making processes. We also have very few social media and gig economy barons who are being forced by their own employees to either shape up or ship out.

Lawmakers and pressure groups in USA are already reported to be thinking of ways to bring in a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics, laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-Watergate era.

Perhaps, eminent legal eagles in India can also take a leaf out of the USA experience. As a country, we had experienced suppression of dissent even during the 1970s, when an emergency was declared. Can some more constitutional safeguards be brought in so that a popular mandate does not give the executive the right to ride rough shod over other arms of the government, thereby increasing the probability of the country being taken in a direction which is not the same as what our founding fathers had envisioned?

Above all, it is the man on the street, busy keeping his body and soul together, eking out a living for his family and even helping others in distress. When the scales from his eyes fall and he wakes up to a life threatening situation at hand, he reacts. The farmers in India are already showing their resolve following the strategy of peaceful protests and civic disobedience used by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago.

Then we have lone wolf professional bodies. World Without Corruption in Belgium gives businesses a voice in fighting corrupt practices. The Conscious Enterprises Network in UK speaks of conscious leaders leading their enterprises in a holistic value-based manner in all spheres of human enterprise. The Center for Business Ethics & Compliance in Russia is focused on best practices in the realm of ethics and compliance.

Likewise, in India, Spandan Foundation is passionate about human values in organizations and even plans to set up a centre dedicated to the cause. Shakti Leadership highlights the importance of using feminine traits like empathy and compassion in decision making and assists individuals and organizations in their quest for conscious evolution. The Association for Democratic Reforms keeps relevant political issues alive and kicking in public eye.

I am sure there are many others scattered over other continents. Their attempt is to bring like-minded people together and keep the embers of a pious fire aglow, focused on values and ethics.

The Mighty Churning

The society is always in a flux. These days, it appears to be undergoing a mightier churning which reminds one of the episode of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea) in Indian scriptures. The churning throws up poison as well as the nectar which grants immortality. Those who believe in following the path of righteousness end up securing the latter.

It is easy to see that we have a leadership crisis on our hands. Since a situation also produces a leader, one hopes that more and more conscious leaders keep emerging, nudging us in the right direction.

Admittedly, the silver linings appear to be like a pale parabola of joy, to borrow an expression from P G Wodehouse. This will remain so till the time a bevy of conscious leaders – whether in business or in politics – do not appear on the scene and convert this into a shimmering parabola of bliss.

The solution is not to keep sweeping issues like hunger, poverty, economic non-inclusion, global warming and prejudicial animosity under the carpet. Nor is it to raise the existing walls, whether political, commercial, attitudinal or religious. It lies instead in a truly global view based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam: The World is One Family.

Being a born optimist who believes in having a chin-up attitude, I do hope that some of these tectonic shifts can at least get retarded, if not altogether reversed, in the years to come.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/why-the-wren-is-a-patriot-and-not-a-nationalist-guest-post-by-prof-badri-raina

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement)

 

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Life is not necessarily fair. Once in a while, when one’s Guardian Angels appear to have gone off on a long furlough, it appears to derive a sadistic pleasure in hurling huge rocks at one, leaving the clueless soul twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out as to what it has done to deserve the honour. ‘Why me’ is invariably the query which reverberates in one’s consciousness.

The encounter with an arm of the law described earlier was surely not the only nasty experience yours truly has had. There have been few other incidents as well which squarely fall in the category of a ‘harsh chiselling’ of mine. Many others would surely have undergone far more traumatic experiences. Yet, it is worthwhile to touch upon some of these here, so we may unravel the precious lessons each such experience brought in.

Some Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Experiences

A Low Point in the Career

While working in a company which was steadily going downhill due to very high overheads and also an unhealthy level of internal bickering and politics, a highly embarrassed moment had to be faced. In a meeting of all senior managers, yours truly was somehow singled out my boss and publicly lynched for much of what was going wrong with the operations. The unfairness of it, and that too delivered in wide public view, left me shaken to my core. Whereas all those who know me personally can vouchsafe for my chin-up attitude towards life, on this particular occasion, I confess that suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Always appreciated for my work and sincerity, this was indeed the lowest point in my career.

Late evening, though, my boss offered his sincere apologies. Thoughts of a spiritual nature and a dash of equanimity helped me to regain my mental balance, so to say. A few months down the road, I moved on to a much better position in another outfit.

The Kidnapping Fiasco

While working in a very senior position with a company located in a small town in India, on one fateful night, I and my son were kidnapped by a gang of four and kept in captivity overnight. They were under the impression that I was the owner of the business I was employed by at the time. They had a ransom demand which I would never have been able to meet.

While held in captivity, I could imagine the sequence of events if they decided to bump me off and dump the body at a desolate location. Concerns about my son’s safety reigned supreme. But tact and imagination, coupled with a dash of faith in a higher power helped. Despite a language barrier, I could explain my financial constraints to them. We could eventually manage to get released without much physical harm by the time the next day dawned. No money was ever paid.

Swift police action followed. Based on my cell phone records, the miscreants were identified and nabbed. Support from the law enforcement agencies was timely and effective. But it took me a very long time to mentally recover from the trauma suffered. For quite a few weeks, I could not manage to sleep in my own home.

Some Deadly Glass Bottles

Due to financial and administrative reasons, a small factory within the ambit of a large business conglomerate had to be shut down. Some operators who were of a violent nature decided to vent their ire over me and a colleague of mine. An expatriate customer who had visited us on the previous day was treated with soft drinks. Some empty glass bottles in the office cabin came in handy for the agitated workers to beat us up mercilessly.

The company took prompt care but the personal trauma lasted a few months.

Confronting Jealousy

I was one of the better students throughout my academic forays. Teachers and lecturers invariably liked me. The result was perhaps a general feeling of jealousy amongst other students, something I realized very late in my life. I would often be the butt of jokes – theoretical as well as practical – in the class. On one occasion, I was even bashed up by a class fellow, for reasons unknown to me till date!

Some Precious Lessons

I confess that after each of these incidents, the brow was indeed furrowed. The heart was leaden. Chirpiness, if any, was missing. Shoulders were drooping a wee bit more. The usual spark in the eyes was sorely absent. At the time, one may easily have been appointed the Honorary President of a Global Morons’ Club.

But with the benefit of a 20/20 hindsight, one could subsequently analyze and identify the crucial lessons learnt from each of these experiences.

If the low point in career could be handled with the help of humility, equanimity and one’s own job knowledge, skills and attitude, the kidnapping incident could be overcome with faith, tact and resource. The importance of networking with law enforcement agencies was effectively brought home. As to the glass bottles episode, it brought home the point that consequences of all kinds need to be weighed in and pre-emptive steps taken before a crucial decision gets implemented. Not being humane in decision making could lead to adverse consequences.

If the first mentioned experience here went against the basic rule that one must praise in public and reprimand only in private, the glass bottles one highlighted the need to always put our people first in our managerial decision making processes. The last mentioned one could not be helped, but perhaps indicated the need to be humble, especially when being successful at something.

A Cat with Too Many Whiskers?!

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,’ says Nelson Mandela.

Let me hasten to assure you that it is not that I have faced only negative situations in my life or career! Although some dark clouds may hover above us and some rain may fall in our lives, bright sunshine is sure to follow. But before we take the narrative in that direction and the author run the risk of being perceived to be blowing his own trumpet, let us consider a basic thread running through whatever he has shared so far.

The 2020 Corona Trauma

If Homo sapiens were astounded, shocked and awed during the first half of the year 2020 by the sudden arrival of this pandemic, hope was the key sentiment expressed by all and sundry by the time they hit 2021. Many jobs were lost. Many careers went for a toss. Many businesses went bust. But then there was a resurgence of positivity. Wheels of commerce started moving, howsoever grudgingly. Large businesses with deep pockets still laughed all the way to their banks. Pharmaceutical companies reactivated their corporate grey cells and saw an upsurge in their fortunes. Governments with a streak of dictatorship in their character pushed through unsavoury laws, clipping the wings of dissenters and ‘undesirable’ elements in the society.

The basic nature of human beings has this unique plasticity or resilience in it. Add to this the spirit of innovation and flexibility to adapt, and we get a winning situation at hand. We may be down for some time, but never out.

So, if I survived the harsh slings and arrows of life, there was nothing spectacular about it. It was true to form. Perhaps, in the process, I acquired some hard-earned wisdom!

 

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness)

 

 

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