Today I can’t imagine myself or any manager getting away with such acts in public. It might even land us in jail under some IPC section.
The year was in late eighty’s.
It was 6-00 in the evening and I took a break and walked around the unit. It was a great sight all around – the papers were strewn on the work-tables and manuals left open on whichever page. All signs of the premises being vacated in a tearing hurry like there was a fire.
So in the following morning, the entire unit had assembled as I launched into another of those raving and ranting session:’ blah blah…Guys, I hate to tell you this – your parents seemed to have given you birth and forgotten all about it and now it for us to teach you basics of hygiene…blah blah…’ Graveyard silence, one or two feet shuffled. No wise-cracks or angry remonstrations. In a little while usual camaraderie returned and all forgotten until the next repeat in a few days and then again…
Fast forward by a few years.
I was in a short-term course at IIM, Ahmedabad. The Professor – unfortunately I’m unable to recall her name – was presenting her analysis of an acute problem the software industry was facing then – attrition of software professionals.
Guys were jumping jobs faster than a frog on hot tin. And the industry did not have a clue on how this could be managed.
And the talk veered around to the (then) youngsters and the esteemed Professor made a few insightful observations:
* The kids all along have been pushed and pushed by the parents to achieve great results in their academics. And when they come into the industry, they are told to slow down: ‘Well, you are too young to become a team-lead,’ ‘You must have at least 5 years of experience in handling…’ etc. etc. They can’t understand this kind of push-back.
* And as a corollary, they’ve missed their childhood fun. When they come into a job, they let their hair down and catch up on the fun they had missed out. The strain of the years of a professional course also tells (Once a kid watched me for a while and asked me how could I possibly enjoy reading a (technical) book at my age). This explains, for instance, why the kid does not report to office on a Monday morning with no prior intimation whatsoever. No point in bursting a few blood-vessels over it.
* Lastly, the only language they understand is one of performance. And use this language to get most out of them. Appealing to ‘feudal’ values like allegiance to the org, values and culture, etc. etc. do not make a significant impression. And this is where most managers fail by merely tasking these kids routinely and unimaginatively without an eye on their performance or drown them in some impersonal high-level metric. This is a subject for a later post.
She did not stop at a passive explanation of the phenomenon. She concluded by saying our leadership style must get appropriately tweaked to pique the interest and performance of these young professionals pouring into the industry year after year. And, of course, save yourself from a stroke or two!
What a colossal waste not doing this! And we bemoan their mediocrity and lack of application. At the risk of displeasing my friends in HR, in most cases I must say they’re entirely innocent of the happenings-on in these quarters. Thankfully for the industry, a small number of youngsters continue to perform very well despite uninspiring and inept leadership.
These observations have not lost their relevance even today as the practices unfortunately have not changed much from what I observe. I suspect the scene may not be very different in other industries.
At least for me, the wisdom had dawned and the rants thereafter dropped off quite significantly – rants of this kind excepted!
Am I tarring them all black? No, not by a long shot. I have known, worked with and gained much from some lucky-to-be-with senior professionals in software and in HR who are an absolute antithesis of what is profiled above. My regret is they are in a minority.