It’s Your Fault

Client getting you down with their unrealistic expectations and vague goals? Find yourself being overworked and underappreciated as they continue to demand completion of a task they told you about two hours ago? Well, my friend, it’s plain to see: The client’s perfectly right. It’s YOUR FAULT! 

  • Do you find yourself working long hours without a break? It’s YOUR FAULT! Why couldn’t you have managed your time better?
  • Are you close to tears because you finally got that horrendous two month task completed but your client took all the credit? It’s YOUR FAULT! Don’t you know there’s no ‘I’ in team work?
  • Down with the cough, cold and flu yet need to make sure that deliverable gets there on time because your client is mercilessly demanding it? It’s YOUR FAULT! Surely you can manage things well given that project management falls well within your scope of service and catching colds isn’t?

So stop fretting about how mean and terrible your CD lead is. Just get on your with your work. ‘Coz if you are unhappy, always remember that it’s YOUR FAULT!

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Picking your battles

Today, my company rolled out a productivity tool globally. This tool is going to capture every minute of every day that we are chained to our desks, determine the length of our pee breaks, flush out excessively long lunches and put an end, as they feel, to unproductive time spent at work.

The old me would have jumped furiously at this news. The me of yesteryear would have foamed at the mouth railing against corporate policy and about how big brother was breathing down our necks again. The old me would have begun looking for another job.

But today, there was nary a peep out of me. In fact, I welcomed the news with (pardon the rhyme) glee. Let me tell you why.

You see, in the past I was consumed with this overarching desire to rebel against everything in sight. Jeans only on Fridays you say? Well I’ll pull on my jeans on a Monday and let’s say what you have to say about that. Internal quality programme for us to ‘go green’? The only green I can see is all the grass this herd is content to be chewing. You get my drift.

Over the years, there has been a tempering down of this rebellious me. I find this term ‘picking one’s battles’ to be very suitable to a rebel stuck in a suit. So what if my boss enjoys cracking misogynist jokes? He isn’t a creep, and he has been a pillar of strength during my recent misery. So I’m not going to report his ridiculous sense of humour even though I will have a word with him about it the next time we exchange notes on the latest US series that has caught our interest.

Me. Friends with a boss of my own volition. That’s a first.

So what if my team has this annoying habit of picking the same folk over and over again for inter team activities so that it’s really the same bunch of people getting the glory for everything? This is the same team that helped me get rid of my borderline psychopathic client of three years so that I could move to a bigger and better client group where I can learn so much more.

Even though it’s really the same shit everyday.

I’m not denying that these things still bother me; they do. But I’m learning to take the good with the bad. Yes, I’m going to fight management on the partiality and the sexism. Eventually. But I’m going to do that while I’m on their side instead of going against them with my cardboard sword.

I sound pathetic to myself. But eventually even rebels need to grow up.

My Boss Told Me

Today my mediocre boss told me
How much he detests mediocrity

He said it with much pomp and vigour
And all the team went into a flutter

Adulation and praise for their demi god
For proving to all that he’s a snob

They’re going to beg him on Tuesday
To give them insults masked as play

Using Inclusive Language at the Workplace

As an LGBT ally, it gives me no end of grief to hear people use expressions or jokes that automatically assume that the person they are speaking to/about is ‘straight’. For instance, at a workshop we were at with an NGO that caters to sexual minorities, as part of a CSR initiative, one of our colleagues used the expression ‘Ladies first’ when prompting a member of the group, who outwardly appeared feminine, to speak ahead of another, who outwardly appeared male. This rubbed the latter the wrong way, as this person identified themselves as female. While the person was nice enough to explain patiently to us why they felt sidelined, this incident did bring to us a sudden realization that we make mistakes like this in our daily interactions with our coworkers, many of whom may not have had the good fortune to ‘come out of the closet’ yet.

We’ve got a lot of things right, to be sure; the workplace today is far more inclusive of sexual minorities than it was, say, twenty years ago. Organisational communications today use vocabulary that is gender neutral and that promotes diversity. That’s a huge step up from the mailers that assumed everyone reading it was male, and heterosexual, at that. In many regions, however, this improvement has not been as evident in verbal speech. Many of us have been conditioned to speak in nonpolitically correct terms, so it will take a lot of unlearning before we can learn to speak in a way that embraces our colleagues of other genders. Admittedly, although the third pronoun has not yet found wide acceptance yet, I still believe that it is easy enough to communicate in an inclusive way provided we realize and avoid the following assumptions when we address our colleague:

  • Not everyone above the age of 20+ is married. If they aren’t married, it’s probably best to refrain from asking why they haven’t gotten hitched yet. Unless this coworker is a personal friend, and this conversation is taking place in a private setting, it is unfair to assume that marriage is a necessary part of life, especially when in countries or states where same sex marriages are not legally recognized. If you know the person is involved with someone, refer to their mate as a ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’ or ‘significant other’; do not automatically assume that a man has a girlfriend and vice versa.
  • Not everyone will enjoy misogynistic jokes. Misogynistic jokes seem fun, at least to the majority of people; but they’re not necessarily found funny by all (To be fair, there are several misandrist jokes out there, as well, which aren’t funny either). While humour is a lovely thing at the workplace, blatant sexually discriminatory jokes should be avoided at all costs. Quips that may cause offence to your colleague, such as: ‘How are you surviving your wife’s driving?’ inappropriately imply that a woman is a bad driver simply because of her gender. We cannot stoop to gender stereotypes; not when we are trying to foster an inclusive, diverse professional environment that recognizes people based on their ability, regardless of their orientation.
  • It’s ok for a woman to act ‘mannish’ and a man to exhibit feminine traits. This is perhaps the most important concept that we need to unlearn. Right from school, we’ve been taught that girls should behave ladylike and that ‘boys will be boys’ and have been allowed to laugh at those who broke these norms. It’s not ok to ask your female colleague why she wears trousers all the time instead of ‘more feminine clothing’, just as it’s not ok to joke about that male boss who ‘behaves queer’. Remarks of this sort are what cause LGBT employees to remain fearful and not disclose their orientation and this may lead to stress or discomfort, just as how racial discrimination inhibited workers from reaching their maximum potential, way back then.
  • Yes, invisible minorities do exist. Not everyone at work, or even outside of work, finds it necessary to disclose their sexual orientation; many view this as an intrusion of privacy. Unless an employee chooses to reveal their orientation/preference, proceed with engaging with them in a way that is healthy and courteous. Just as you wouldn’t talk about a person’s religious beliefs if they have not chosen to share their religious preferences with you, refrain from assuming that all persons are heterosexual, and don’t presume to guess at their sexuality unless they have disclosed it.

Up until now, the burden has lain with the sexual minorities to ‘prove’ their professional abilities or to compromise on several aspects of who they are as a person, simply to be accepted better. They were encouraged to not take gender specific expressions and jokes too personally and may have been overlooked for a promotion due to a maternity leave, etc. In today’s world, we have to move beyond such considerations to keep up with the pace of our own evolving society. High performers come in all colours and sexualities; if you want to succeed as a team or a company, make your colleague feel comfortable with themselves and in the knowledge that they are accepted for who they are. This leads to higher job satisfaction and higher engagement, as would any other positive interaction or incentive targeted at employee motivation.

Ignored Indians

One of the perks of being a whipped corporate kiss ass is being able to view shocking displays of inhumanity guised as leadership traits. The perk being that you can laugh as long as it’s happening to someone other than yourself.

I’ve noticed that on internal corporate social networks in a global set up, the Indians tend to be ignored. It is believed without a shadow of a doubt that any Indian in a consultant-on-down role is bound to be spewing unnecessary garbage that has nothing to do with the workplace and can therefore safely be ignored. However, a question or post by a Caucasian will garner 100 views and at least one leadership comment within an hour of posting. Talk about virtual discrimination.

Therefore, like neglected children, the Indians tend to focus on collaborating with one another. Which tends to diminish the whole idea of a ‘global’ network and localises it instead. Soon you will find hundreds of Indians commenting on and liking a post created by a fellow Indian within minutes of posting. Then, since corporate disallows posts created for the ‘sake’ of likes, and suspecting that a localised network of people liking and commenting on a post must be just doing it so that their real-world friend gets publicity, is quick to take it down so as to ensure adherence to social media guidelines.

So, in the end, what have we achieved? Another little humourless situation that a curmudgeon can give a sarcastic smile to and justify her misanthropic outlook.

The Importance of Working from Home

In India, and I suspect in a lot of countries, perception is everything. If people perceive that what you do is unimportant, you will feel a distinct lack of acknowledgement of your role as an important member of society.

When BPO first came out in India, all those years ago, it was all about call centres and night shifts for the Indians working to support US customers. To help keep these young people awake, and to attract more people to the job (in a country where we value our good night’s sleep!) companies would come up with various strategies to introduce fun at work, allowing people to dress casually, throwing parties and giving them a number of perks. As a result of these well intentioned endeavours, BPO employees came to be seen as people who had ‘easy’ jobs that were all about ‘fun’ and ‘wearing jeans to work’; landlords hesitated to rent out apartments to BPO employees who ‘partied all the time’; IT employers hesitated to employ a former BPO employee mentioning that the work they did was more somber than ‘what you’re probably used to’ (true story). Now that BPO has evolved to include more than just night shifts and call centres, society is more accepting of us, even if our company’s rigid Tech policies aren’t (you know what they are)!

Today, it’s telecommuters who face societal misperceptions. In India, anyone who sits at home all day is a jobless homemaker. Period. And if you happen to be someone who sits at home all day on a laptop, you are doomed to have your aging relatives comment on how you spend all day chatting and doing nothing. All your protests and your displays of complex Excel reports go in vain; at the very best, you will get a sympathetic nod from the relative (or parent), similar to the one a mental patient receives when they protest: But I’m not mad! As a result, it is difficult to persuade the neighbours of your apartment society that their kids need to be quiet as they play in the corridors, or the plumber that he needs to be quiet while you’re on your call. You will only get annoyed looks from people who are probably telling each other – not only does she Facebook all day, she needs peace and quiet to do it!

We hope that with time, this misconception too shall pass. Until then, it’s back to ignoring calls from your Dad who doesn’t understand what you mean when you say you have a call to attend (“So can’t you just ask them to wait and pick mine up in between?”).