Dumbing Down – PART I

Been meaning to write this for nearly a week now but so many other issues took precedence.  This evening a casual chat with a friend compelled me to complete what i started.

I have in my past posts touched upon the importance of finding the right organizational fit when you move or decide to make a move.

But how do you deal with a changed circumstance that comes unannounced or happens before you are ready for it ?

Take this instance of Girija. This fresh-out-of-college youngster decided to move from a BPO outfit to a place with normal work timings. The BPO had all that she wanted – a work culture that was an extension of her college canteen. A fun boss who took the gang out to pizza, the girls and guys were one happy gang, the canteen served yummy food, constant challenges were thrown her way and the boss was supportive of her growth and mentored her out of her weak points. Only drawback, you guessed right. Work Timings. Periodic changes in shift were not doing her any good. Endless graveyard shifts were killing too and not going too well with the folks back home. After much introspection, she decided her health won out against all the camaraderie and challenging work. She moved to a more sedate place of work.

The new organization offered her sane timings, a home drop and a decent pay. Though work didn’t seem challenging it offset the disadvantages she had in the previous firm. Three months ennui set in, and she decided to move to another department within the same organization. The new department was within the same sedate firm. This was not college anymore. People were serious about their work and it was not very easy being the new kid on the block.

Since she had told HR she was moving out because the division did not offer her enough challenges, the senior management at the new division thrust her into the middle of a project and assigned her mentors.

Every one seemed to know the process but her. Suggestions were not accepted with openness and, at times, sarcastically turned down. All at once, she seemed to alienate people where at one time she was this vivacious girl full of bonhomie. Very soon, Girija lost her confidence. Constantly dumbed down she felt she was no longer up to a job, which at one point-in-time didn’t seem challenging enough. Her constant refrain:

I am not good enough

They do it so fast but I’m unable to get the hang of it

I can’t talk to them without getting a sarcastic smile

I tried to approach a senior with an idea but was told off and asked not to change a system that has taken years to hone

I can’t do it

Depression got to her and some time later she was not even able to think about getting in to work without a sickening feeling in her stomach.

Where do you think she went wrong? What can she do to get out of this situation?


10 thoughts on “Dumbing Down – PART I

  1. I see several problems here… as in most organisations…
    A new joinee in the team is not given the time/training to get along with the pace of the remainder of the team. More importantly than that… initial assessment/match of skills/capabilities and interest of the individual to perform the duties which the team is set to perform, is not done… leaving a huge skills/interest gap.
    In some cases, a team member is treated to be just another number, a resource, a head count… that creates a very distant relationship within the management and the team members… leaving a very bad taste!
    It also does not help if the individual is not given the opportunity/encouragement to speak up and be heard!

    The BPO, on the other hand creates a very tight knit group, usually having the “boss” and the team members in almost the same age group. Having realised the challenges and the age factor of the working population… they strive to create a so-called carefree environment!

    Having a proper roadmap defined and expectations set @ the time of hiring, clears up most of these challenges!
    Now this is an ideal situation…. how many of you are really into creating this situation? I can confidently say… “I do” 🙂

    • @bk. right on. you seem to have nailed several at one go. couldn’t have put it better myself. Unfortunately, not everyone has the drive and determination to survive that roadmap and say “I do” … Kudos to your kind.

  2. i have faced it myself. you didn’t mention in your post a crucial info in your post. the BPO must be having a western culture. the day job must be indian.
    the difference is startling. offices that have western culture and is focussed on the west has got that easy-going college culture. the work, at best, is easy but they take every bit of it very seriously. they will make you a hero if you stapple the paper properly, if that is in their agenda.
    coming to indian companies: the culture is pathetic and you don’t get rewarded even if you break the mountain. there is no place for an inexperienced guy unless he or she surrenders him/herself to a mentor. most of the indian bosses by culture are abusive. but they can be extremely good teacher and reay to sacrifice if you turn a disciple. it’s no godfather type but indians like and respct the idea of guru shishya.
    the girl you mentioned will not find it easy because she showed her aggression. aggression is an asset in american organisation, liability in indian one.

    • @ghetu. always insightful, and you are right in both instances. she has decided to fight it out and prove herself. now my question is does she want to prove herself to herself or a bunch of ignoramus?!

  3. 🙂
    this is a trick question.
    i would say she doesn’t need to prove herself to herself. she has already tasted success in her first organisation that has made her confident. she doesn’t need to prove herself to the present guys too. because they won’t acknowledge anything she does. unfortunately, if she is surrounded by morons, she will get sidelined pretty soon if she works real smart and hard. but, and this is true, if there is a good guy around, she will be taken under his/her fold pretty soon if she is sincere. trust me, she will never go back to a shallow american culture.
    for everything negative about indians, remember one thing — indian bosses are kind where it matters. they think about your family, your career and your life before they give you the pink slip. american organisations are cruel — they can party with you all night and come to office to hand you the pink slip. indians have heart, others lack that.
    tell her not to fight with anybody but do her work silently. if she is sincere, one day people will realise she is ‘indispensible.’ trust me, her office will become her family. an american company or culture can be ‘fun to hang out with’ but can never be a ‘family.’ yes, i love my family here.

    • @ghetu. Your candor in differentiating the American and Indian BPO culture is very insightful, and comes with experience eh 😉
      That said, I don’t agree with your remarks about shallow American culture or kind Indian bosses. If you have come across the latter you are one of the lucky few, and if you have come across the former than it is more generalisation than the truth. I do not worship American corporatisation but there are quite a few notes that can be borrowed and NEED to be borrowed by Indian firms. Humility (and I do not refer to the NRN kind) but humility to accept a mistake graciously and accept feedback/suggestions heartily are just a few qualities; not to mention genuine appreciation for a younger employee’s potential and smarts!!

  4. I do not know about American work culture in a BPO. I do know a thing or two about the Indian work culture.

    Americans are professionals when it comes to pink slips. Lets face it. Indian companies have never faced a crisis like the one that the American companies had to face. When an Indian company goes bankrupt, most likely scenario would that the company would shut its doors overnight, leaving the employees in a lurch (to put it mildly).

    One should never look to making a family out of your bosses and colleagues. One at home is more than enough.

    Indian work culture all over India is the same with a few exceptions. It is synonymous with the phrase “Holding the bucket” (translated from Kannada).

    • @Rocksta. Indian companies are certainly getting more professional but there is a long way to go. Even now, most mid-sized and smaller firms follow the HUF structure of working. Like you rightly pointed out and something I have often heard, “I’m not here to make friends” just about sums it up. It is always better to have professional conduct and a professional outlook instead of being pally or seek family, which is not what a corporate set up is for.

  5. hi preeti,
    It was beautifully put across how our Indian organizations encourage the youth so perfectly… I hope u know I am being sarcastic.. As of girija, I guess the right thing for her to do is to cope up with the present situation where she is… Compared to the indian culture, yes! Western professional life is very much organized and well ahead of us… But for girija, she has no option and has to face the filthy Indian organization since this is the place she is living in and needs to adapt. As for me, she needs to show up her capabilities and prove herself right. whici i know she will….

    • @divya. thanks for reading the post and writing back. yes, girija has the spunk to survive and given time, probably thrive- to a larger or smaller extent depends on her.

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