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Posts Tagged ‘White-collar productivity’

All of us encounter angry bosses – whether at our places of work or at our homes. Permit me to re-share some thoughts on this subject with you.

ashokbhatia

Quite often, life gives us a roller-coaster ride. We get pulled and pushed by forces beyond our control. Then, we suddenly discover someone on whom we can work off our pent-up feelings. In the house, it could be the unsuspecting spouse who ends up absorbing the shock. In an office setting, we ourselves could be at the receiving end. If so, we quickly find a scapegoat onto whom our own brand of vitriol could be off-loaded.

Consider this. The CEO, when things are going wrong, takes it out on the VP. The VP goes and ticks off the General Manager. The GM, the unpleasant OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOMEinteraction concluded, immediately proceeds to crucify the Manager. The Manager loses no time in giving a piece of his mind to the hapless Executive. While the Manager sits down to have a cup of coffee in an attempt to cool off, the fuming Executive takes the…

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Quite often, life gives us a roller-coaster ride. We get pulled and pushed by forces beyond our control. Then, we suddenly discover someone on whom we can work off our pent-up feelings. In the house, it could be the unsuspecting spouse who ends up absorbing the shock. In an office setting, we ourselves could be at the receiving end. If so, we quickly find a scapegoat onto whom our own brand of vitriol could be off-loaded.

Consider this. The CEO, when things are going wrong, takes it out on the VP. The VP goes and ticks off the General Manager. The GM, the unpleasant OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOMEinteraction concluded, immediately proceeds to crucify the Manager. The Manager loses no time in giving a piece of his mind to the hapless Executive. While the Manager sits down to have a cup of coffee in an attempt to cool off, the fuming Executive takes the office boy to task. The office boy delivers a stunning kick to the dog. The dog, realizing that this is surely not his day, steps out in the street to bark at the cat. The cat starts scouring the drains for a mouse which deserves to be at least rebuked, if not devoured.

Note that down the line, each one is unhappy. Each one is looking for someone else to whom the baggage of anger can be passed on. It is like a relay race, where the torch of anger is being kept ablaze. As the day progresses, we find that the place is replete with dull faces, bent backs and slouching shoulders. People go around with a highly constipated look on their faces. Possibly the only people left suppressing a chuckle are the ones who serve tea and coffee at the tables of the high and mighty. For the better part of the day, white-collar productivity goes for a toss.

When Anger Becomes Predictable and Routine

Many bosses have honed their skills of managing and controlling affairs by using what they consider to be the most deadly weapon they have at their disposal – anger. A public display of anger leaves those around them shaking and shivering. This gives them a feeling of having overpowered their hapless subjects. However, when this becomes a predictable and a routine affair, several things happen.

One, the blame game starts. I did not do it, sir. It was she who forgot to ship the material on time, sir. Thus, the power of human ingenuity gets used up in inventing new excuses.

Two, the quick-fix approach comes into play. People get used to seeking look-good short-term fixes. The long-term implications are forgotten.

Three, some people develop resistance to it. Next bout of shouting and one could see them merely shuffling their feet and trying to put on a melancholy mask so as to hide their chuckles. In other words, there is no attempt at a genuine improvement in the situation.

Four, the boss willy-nilly acquires a reputation of someone who apportions blame without a fair hearing being given to all the parties concerned. All employees detest this disservice to the principles of natural justice. The respect for a senior is no longer real; it is feigned. A culture of hypocrisy gets perpetuated. Eventually, operational efficiency nosedives.

In such outfits, when the boss enters the work place, a frenzy of activity starts. Electrified at the boss’ presence, the employees run around like headless chickens. Physical presence and activity gets interpreted as a sign of efficiency. Those who can think quickly on their feet suddenly remember a very crucial issue for which they need to seek valuable guidance from the boss.

Five, seniors supporting the boss end up having to spend a great deal of time on mollifying the hurt souls. Invariably, they have an extra box of tissue papers readily available, just in case the tormented souls need to wipe off their tears. No senior is comfortable having to work with a sulking manager who might otherwise be a star performer. Many of them end up donning the extra hat of being Chief Listening Officers of the company. Seniors’ contribution towards company’s goals faces a real risk of getting diluted.

Handling Anger – Countering vs. Conditioning

Admittedly, there are juniors who feel they have been wronged and do not hesitate the register a protest. They have the guts to look the boss in the eye JOB LABELSand make him/her beat a hasty retreat, much like a hunter with a shotgun who, while taking a stroll in the corporate jungle, suddenly encounters a lioness who has just had a fight with her soul mate.

In one such situation, the telephone operator, a sprightly and spirited soul from amongst the delicately nurtured species, failed to transfer a customer’s overseas phone call because the top boss’ extension was busy with another call. The customer got through finally on her third attempt to call up the boss. All hell broke loose as the boss lost no time in court martialling the hapless operator, with the head of administration and the head of HR also getting ticked off in the process. Drawing herself to her full height, the operator stood her ground. Eventually, the boss realized that it was his own secretary who had kept the extension busy and was responsible for the delay. The operator got a well-earned reprieve. In due course of time, she even ended up being promoted as a secretary to the boss!

In such organizations, one could often run into morose executives. When prodded as to the reasons for their despondency, they are quite likely to come up with the explanation that they were yet to get the daily ‘quota’ of shouting from the boss! Pavlov would have been delighted to include this form of conditioning as well in his research work.

Of Oceans and Immersed Volcanoes

Once, when I asked one such CEO what he thought of his frequent display of anger, he gave me a rather harsh look and said ‘Do you think I like doing this? To be frank, it ruins a few hours of my day. But what to do? These people are so very stupid…etc, etc.’ I ended up pitying the fellow. He was working on a wrong premise – that anger alone can resolve issues – and was causing long-term damage to his own health.

Anger is highly contagious, much like negative news is. Mankind can perhaps be divided into two kinds. There are the ‘ocean’ types – those who are turbulent on the surface but calm deeper inside. Then there are the ‘immersed volcano’ types – the vast lake may look very placid on the surface but could be seething with anger within. It is this kind which causes maximum damage to its own well-being.

Selective Use of Anger

There are no easy solutions to controlling one’s anger. One has to first learn to accept oneself and feel happy and contented inside. One also needs to empathize with others and accept them as they are. Then alone does one stand a chance of guiding others around oneself in rectifying the mistake and in ensuring that it does not recur. The basic quality one needs to have is the capacity of observing oneself at all times, and following a strict self-discipline as to when a display of anger is done and when it is not.

Soothing music surely helps. Agitated nerves can get calmed down by a bout of meditation. A ‘laughter break’ with a colleague who has a sunny outlook towards life could bring some relief. Getting busy with another challenge for the day is another anti-dote to anger.

Yes, I also happen to know bosses who have perfected the art of displaying anger selectively, while not feeling it within themselves. But they do so once in a while, when a situation really demands a show of temper. I admire them for their wisdom and sagacity.

How do you deal with anger at the work place?

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The other day, I was surprised to run into a friend of mine. He seemed to have suddenly advanced in age. With drooping shoulders, he offered a rather limp handshake, a far cry from his ebullient self and the firm grip I had experienced all along. We sat down to enjoy a cup of tea. It did not take me long to figure out that his long working hours, devoid of any relaxation and exercise, had possibly led to a gradual decline in his well-being. If urgent steps were not taken, he would be soon courting trouble with his heart, a contingency which is best avoided.

Some Corporate Maxims

In the rush of living life in the fast lane, most managers today hardly find time for themselves. A high-octane careerSTRESS would often demand very long working hours at the work place. This is especially true in India, where the feudal mindset still prevails. As per some of the popular corporate maxims prevalent in this part of the world:

(1)                          A manager’s efficiency and effectiveness on the job is directly proportional to the number of hours put in at the work station,

(2)                          Promotions depend upon one’s commitment to company’s goals, where the level of commitment is in reverse proportion to the amount of leave taken,

(3)                          The company culture is designed to enforce a check-in time in the office, but the check-out time is invariably left open. After all, there is a strong belief in the old adage that those who watch the clock merely remain the hands!

(4)                          The manager has no life outside the place of work. More odd the hours at which mails emanate from him, especially those between the stroke of midnight and till about 4 AM, the more committed he/she is!

For those in the senior echelons, the communication revolution has made the task of “switching off” even more challenging. Laptops and cell phones are invariably present, even though they may be supposedly on leave with their near and dear ones. It is fashionable to answer a critical mail while on a vacation. We now have an entire generation of managers and executives who have developed an addiction to the latest gizmos. 24 by 7 connectivity is the buzz word. If you are not in the e-rat race, you just do not count!

The path of Least Resistance

The result is an early burn-out for most managers. With no time to spend with the family, let alone any quality time,WORK-LIFE BALANCE stress builds up pretty fast. Hobbies and extra-curricular activities get relegated to the background. If at all any health issue crops up, there is no time to see a doctor. Finally, when the visit to a medical specialist does fructify, a brief spell of pill popping provides instant relief and, voila, the problem is solved! A wise doctor would always work on a mix of drugs, diet, relaxation and exercise. But, as a patient, a manager is happy to find his own path of least resistance – focusing only on drugs but totally neglecting diet, relaxation and exercise.  

As to physical exercise, a “busy” manager could not care less. The physical bodies are taken for granted. If a gym is joined, the work-out keeps getting deferred on one pretext or the other. After all, the body is a sturdy one, so why pay any attention to it? On a daily basis, it is imagined that one is doing one’s duty by performing the morning ablutions, by providing the run down body with nourishment which could well be junk food, and by allowing oneself some sleep, howsoever disturbed it might be.

Recharging our batteries

It is rightly said that we are what we eat. If alone we were to focus on developing correct eating habits, with a large dose of fruits and vegetables, good results would ensue. When we eat junk food, do we realize that the same amount of money would allow us to buy fruits which we would not be able to consume in one go? When we continue to flush our digestive system with acidic foods, we cause irreparable damage to our delicate organs. Meals could also be irregular, depending upon the pressure of work at hand. The result is heartburn, upset stomach, ulcer, pancreatic malfunction and, in extreme cases, even cancer.

Why do we detest physical activity? In some cases, sheer lethargy, lack of time management skills and an over-ridingYoga Dhanurasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-Mel addiction to desk work prompts us to lead sedentary lifestyles. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases soon follow. Quite a few of us end up facing the surgeon’s scalpel, with dietary restrictions and exercising regimen which we are then forced to follow.

Undoubtedly, managers perform under tremendous pressure. But what is more important is as to how they take the pressure. For a thick-skinned manager, the going may be relatively easier; for a thin-skinned one, the same assignment could involve a high degree of stress. Possibly, the solution lies in transforming one from with-in, so as to change the way a manager perceives stress because of the circumstances with-out. Regular meditation, a healthy diet and a positive frame of mind could work wonders in the long run, keeping the manager always charged up!

Need for innovative HR policies

Far-sighted managements would surely take notice and fine tune their HR policies to ensure that a healthy work-life balance is maintained for all senior employees. In one of the evolved companies I happened to be associated with some time back, an annual master health check-up was made mandatory for all those above the age of 45. The top guy resolved not to disturb his team members on weekends, unless absolutely unavoidable. A planned annual leave of 15 continuous days was made compulsory – the experiment demonstrated that the company did not collapse during the 15 days’ period! Managers learnt to plan in advance and also delegate their tasks better. Every six months, an in-house yoga camp was held. Two years down the road, employee satisfaction levels had improved, and so had white-collar productivity!

To quote Stephen Covey from his much celebrated book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: The physical dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body – eating the right kinds of foods, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercising on a regular basis. (7th Habit, page 289).

The Divine has granted us this life and given us a body to live it through. The soul strives to evolve by gaining newer experiences in this life time of ours. But it can do so only through the medium of our physical body. Should we not respect it, take care of it and remain physically fit? Just like our vehicles and household gadgets need preventive maintenance, our bodies also need to be looked after well, so as to fulfill their purpose – that of supporting our soul, the Divine presence within us, to experience what this wonderful gift of life has on offer for us.

Surely, we can summon our will power and plan as well as execute a plan to achieve this worthy goal?

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/of-offices-and-vacations

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/achieving-work-life-harmony)

 

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