If only I knew

So this was my first managerial job and I got selected after a heated discussion in which I lost my cool, being the hothead I was. First day on the job I realised I had two senior people to manage along with a fresher and two peers – all of them new to the company just like I was. Intimidating since I knew some of them by reputation and felt these guys probably knew more about the job than I did. A series of high level meetings with managers from other regions and the top honchos left me with a complete understanding of the company’s vision, mission and future road map.

Back at base I called my team together and passed on my company’s mission statement and what our goals were. I made a huge poster and slapped it on the wall for everyone to remember it. I had one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand why they took on their role, what really interested them and tried understanding their motivation. I insisted on the following:

a)Daily brainstorming meetings before we began the day’s work so each member of the team knew what the other was up to

b)The team had to be reachable on phone

c) Work would wind up by 5 every evening

d)I would deal with the top management while the team focused on getting their work done

First month into the job and we were already battle scarred! Two of the team members could barely get along and wanted the same roles & responsibilities. I was busy trying to resolve their conflicts and ensuring the team was on the ball I never got around to interacting with managers and team members from other regions. I was busy ensuring my team had a solid rep that I fought their battles with top management slowly ingraining a Us vs Them culture. I wanted to be their friend resulting in people taking leave quite often and lower productivity. I did not want to get involved in office politics so I seldom met with the administrative or sales staff.

Eight months later I was up to my neck with conflicts within the team; senior members directly interacted with top management and I was given the impression during a review meeting that I did not run a tight ship and a junior team member resigned since the conflicts demotivated her. I quit shortly afterwards, miserable and low on confidence.

Of course, I had several managerial stints later during my career but they were riddled with challenges such as these. Now I only wish I had found a mentor much earlier in my career who would have warned me of the pitfalls of getting too close, too soon; of not interacting with peers in other departments; of not looking for developmental mentors; etc, etc…

Recently, I read Lineback and Hillman’s Being A Boss and it was an eye opener. The book is filled with valuable insights on tips and tricks for first-time managers to practice avoiding the snake pits of a corporate life. The authors recognize the role of the Boss in shaping the outcome of teams and organisations through their power to influence others and using the power of the network to grow.

According to the authors, the three imperatives of Being a Boss:

  • Manage Yourself
  • Manage Your Network
  • Manage Your Team

Hill and Lineback’s model of managing self, network and team is a great way for new managers to break the overwhelming task of management. The purpose of this book is to help a manager understand how to be an instrument to get work done and contribute to the organization. At the core, this book seeks to answer one crucial question: How to Exert Influence?

Influence is at the key of persuading your team to work towards organizational goals or achieving a business outcome. Many managers think their lack of knowledge, experience or skill especially ability to manage time becomes a hindrance to becoming an effective manager.

Imperative One: Learn that management isn’t about getting things done yourself. It’s about accomplishing things through others.

Imperative Two: Understand how power and influence work in your organization and build a network of mutually beneficial relationships to navigate your company’s complex political environment.

Imperative Three: Build a high-performing team out of all the individuals who report to you.

If you are serious about evolving into a good manager from a greenhorn and becoming a great manager who leads through example this is just the book for you.

I only wish I had read this much earlier……

 

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Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.

 

Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.

Mentor.

 

 

 

Coping with Back Pain

Well like almost everybody I know I’m paying the price for leading an unhealthy lifestyle=long working hours, junk food, minimal to no exercise, no fresh air or sunlight and stress.

Here’s how:

Getting jiggy with it

Getting jiggy with it

The red circle indicates the full-blown disc prolapse on the lower spine, lumbar spine to be exact, and the green circle represents a fledgling one at the crick of the neck.

And that beautiful black and white visual you see is mine own beautiful spine.

The beginning:

Oh wow, my back really hurts doc. I can hardly walk. A fortnight of bed rest along with some pain killers were given. The customary x-ray had shown a small ligament tear. Nothing to worry about said the good doc. I was happy since this gave me a break from chasing headlines and corporate head honchos for afore-mentioned headlines. A cotton mattress was made to order along with matching pillows by a very worried mum. I loved the pampering and all the books I got to catch up on.

A fortnight later I was started off on physio, which at that time (mark you this was a decade back) was stretching exercises.  A week later I was back at my desk complete with desktop, the Collins Advanced Dictionary, Rogets Thesaurus, the Brittanica Encyclopedia, some editions of Time and Newsweek (filched from a colleague) and our inhouse brands (Frontline, Sports Star). Ahem, I did mention this was a decade back, didn’t I?! Back to chasing deadlines, long walks to and from conferences, food at sundry hours but an enjoyable time (had by all including yours truly)

The Middle:

Switching jobs and cities meant catching the very precise trains at Wadala, Church Street, Bandra, Vashi, Church Street…you get the drift. This was Mumbai in the early part of the decade past. Food was at even more sundrier hours, when I could afford it that is unless it was the Vada Pav with its mircha that gave prime time sustenance. Chasing deadlines meant traversing lines across the city and beyond. But note, very active life it was. Stress aplenty but the sprightly version of me managed all of this with a smile and a snarl. Eve teasing was prevalent but not as much as Bangalore. The office was a place you went to park your weary butt and key in a story that had nearly formed in the recesses of your head. The outside beckoned. Endless Cutting chai, walks around Marine Drive admiring the Queen’s Necklace and rounds of shared puffs ended most days.

The Beginning of the End or the Middling-End:

Job switches to take up the role of plumber and carpenter. Like one of my brilliant colleagues said by way of introduction to the new way of journalism. “Forget about writing stories, what we do here is make Tables.”

So there it was. “Table in File” yelled a hundred times and more by fifty vociferous voices and chorused by another fifty. I no longer chased CHs for headlines, which came to me on an engine powered by the Internet. It wasn’t about thinking hard to get that great story peg but acting fast to grab the header and make it the headline. Running across town for stories got replaced by running to the File Head, who usually sat a strike away from you, and food was no longer an issue. Well stocked canteen meant you ate during dinner and had breakfast the next day if on the night shift and ate breakfast at home and lunch as well if you were in one of the odd hour shifts. It was no longer so easy to be sprightly but a gym strategically placed in the office and plenty of nubile nymphets made you conscious if ever the sprightliness was lost.

Brain fatigue at a brain dead job set in since being a first-rate carpenter had never been my lasting ambition so a call to set up a start-up wanting to make it big in a cluttered finance market beckoned. Of course, it’s another matter that a year down the line the start up remained just that but I got out of warming seats for 9 hours as I went back to chasing exclusives and reporters who gave aforementioned exclusives.

A new line beckoned yet again but little did I know that this would be the beginning of the very-near end. Instead of writing I started monitoring what others wrote. 9 hours beholden to the desk, 2.5 hours of travelling across the city on pot-holed roads, 1.5 hours of after-office duties trying to monitor what competitors were up to and of course all this while carrying an extra appendage on the back – the shiny, sparkly laptop. All exciting at first till I started to feel slight cramps in my back. Motion became a problem and I started piling on the pounds.

Nearly 2 years later heavier by a few pounds I switched over to what I thought would be an exciting new line of work. Chasing executives to write their biopics, chasing marketing heads to write their dreams helping them sell more products and make ‘valuable’ contribution to the company’s top and bottom line. I was hooked on to the great career jumboree for in my head I was near the summit of excellence as  I got rewarded for hard work=being on the speed dial of my boss(s), attending all the important meetings, my laptop was my best friend followed by the exec admins of my boss(s), trips overseas and yes more pounds.

The cramped back became a bad back pain. A few day’s of rest alleviated the pain. Visiting an orthopedic never occured, after all there were plenty of people in my team and outside of it who had back pain but still did 72-hour days and beyond with never a complaint. Why couldn’t I?

The pain became chronic. It would start with a dull ache in the center of my back and slowly spread to a 3 inch band. I would lie forward on my desk waiting for it to subside while surreptitiously placing the laptop, where else but on my lap. A visit to the GP after an acute case of back pain meant more anti-inflammatory and pain killers.

One fine morning of an all important trip I could not get out of bed. Sleeping on a cotton mattress had not helped and neither had a hot water bag. A SOS call and stronger pain killers prescribed. I pulled out my lumbo-sacral belt that had gathered dust (remember the beginning and the ligament tear) and wore it around  my waist. Aren’t I a trooper after all?

I finished my meeting but the day after I returned I called up a friend, who was going through something similar and I got my ears chewed out from the long distance belting.

WTF hadn’t I consulted an orthopedic?

WTF had I waited this long to cry out for medical attention?

……and so on and so forth.

New sets of x-ray and prolonged rest recommended. I was back on my feet, and very  strictly advised not to put any pressure on the lower back. ANY PRESSURE.

So I get better, and I’m back to carrying the laptop to work; slouching over the laptop for endless hours; giving the Indian yogi and the India rubberman a run for their money with my unearthly poses; no sunlight; no exercise; unhealthy diet….you get the drift.

Arghhhhhh, aaaaah, ouch, nnnnnnnnnnnghhhhhhhhhhh….one fine morning.

I message my boss : In pain, unable to get out of bed due to severe back pain.

My sympathetic boss messaged the number of his orthopedic. I was ferried to this clinic which was a 40-minute drive and I realised what hell is. Bangalore roads suck!!!

Every single crevice, pothole, speed breaker, cow on the road, kids crossing, bikers trying to cut in…I could feel all of them from my lower back down.

I gritted my teeth, cursed the Gods, cursed the poor ferrier, cursed myself and remembered all the Mumbaiya slang I had forgotten from a life past.

I hobbled to the clinic holding on to my kind ferrier BB, my nails have left marks that are visible to this day and slipped into a chair just as a eel slips into the crevice. Tears streaming down my eyes I limped into his cabin. Lie down, he says and lifts my right leg. Surprisingly I can lift it like a gymnast, supple and firm. His hand reaches out to the left leg and I wince, and an inch more and I cry out loud only stopping myself in the nick of time from cursing him to kingdom come (Good upbringing tells, or didn’t you know).

Bed rest prescribed and this time it meant the only time I could get out was to have a wash and attend to the daily ablutions. Nothing else. A week later when the pain subsided, the MRI was taken. (Another post on this…).

What you have is a surgical disc, he says. Huh, what?!

So essentially, years of bad posture and heavy weight lifting and being indifferent to my poor spine has resulted in the discs between L3,L4,L5 bulging out and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve endings that go to my left leg. I could either opt for surgery or opt for prolonged bed rest and physio. It usually takes between 6 weeks-3 months for normalcy of any sort to return.

As of now my dear readers, for those who care I have opted for the latter. You see, my threshold of pain is rather high and though my left leg is numb with pain caused by the sciatic nerve I still have 2.5 weeks to go before the pain frame runs its course.

Here’s how I’m coping:

  1. PATIENCE (more than enough to cope with churlish remarks about laziness or boorish remarks about being a cripple)
  2. Lying down on my side with my knees slightly curled
  3. Omron Heating Pad, Moov Heating Pad
  4. LS Belt when I walk
  5. Cushioned flipflops/chappals
  6. Quick Meals
  7. Anti-inflammatory
  8. FAITH

No getting up unless it is to the loo

Tried the cotton mattress on a hard floor but getting up put pressure on my leg, so struck it out

On good days: bathe

I have good days now when I can move about and walk around for a bit and even sit for ten minutes or so before I ease into the bed. But at nights, when I lay awake feeling this ceaseless throbbing pain travel down my left glute, hamstring, the knee, calf and finally forming a thorny band around my ankles. Nights when I would like to take an axe to my calf and just lop the leg down because my feet burns and the pain increases to new intensities I never imagined it could touch. At times like these I’m almost tempted to give in and opt for surgery.

But hey, I’m a trooper remember, and so I’m waiting it out!!

Must-haves – POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS MADE EASY

No, this post isn’t about must-have accessories or footwear or clothes that you wear as opposed to ‘what not to wear’ that flop actress turned fashionista Soha Ali Khan hosts on one of the lifestyle channels.

This post instead is focused on life skills.

POWER POINTS

If you thought you are done with power points after your basic computer classes, think again. The corporate sector thrives on it. There is nothing  and nowhere that .ppt or .pptx (depending on which version you use) doesn’t exist. Power points are sacrosanct be it creative, communications, IT or any other department you can think about. So PRACTICE AND PRACTICE. Perfect those skills.  But before you start to jazz up your presos with animations, remember:

Have a story board in place before you start to put together a slide

Remember, your slides are just helping you tell a story and is Not the story itself

Keep it Simple Silly (As in everything else, keep it simple)

  1. No more than 3 major  bullet points
  2. Do not clutter your slides with text . (You do not want your slide to look like the standard disclaimer that insurance/banking firms throw your way)
  3. Go easy with the colors. Keep to  the standard color palette that goes with the template you have chosen
  4. Keep to 2 fonts all through (Corporates usually prefer Arial and Calibri; Cambria and Book Antiqua) and don’t use fancy fonts like Wing Dings 😉

Go Visual

  1. A single picture is equal to a 1000 words
  2. Power Point has a nifty tool called Smart Art which helps you represent relationships – pyramid, matrix, etc
  3. Template layouts also allow you to craft a slide to make story telling easy
  4. Go on the web to get graphics that allow you to use visuals more effectively. Eg: Graphic below can be used for sales network, ecosystem partnership, etc..
    (Courtesy: Google images)

Easy-to-understand CONTENT

  1. Keep the language simple
  2. Since text is usually in bullet points you can go easy on article usage but good grammar is still a must
  3. Do a spell check, fact check
  4. Avoid acronyms: More often than not companies think that the audience understands acronyms which are industry or company specific

AND REMEMBER…

  1. Light text on light background do not work, same goes for dark text on dark background
  2. To Go easy with animations and builds, they are distracting and can take away from what  could have been a great presentation
  3. To Check for formatting. Eg; alignments of boxes and grids (Power Point 2010 makes it easy to ensure proper formatting as there is an inbuilt grid that helps to keep all the boxes, graphics, texts, photos, etc… in place)
  4. Different locations require different formats. Eg; 16:9 is great if you plan to show the presentation in a large room & big screen but if you plan to play your slides in a small room go with a 4:3 set up

What you say stays!!

It isn’t for anything that we have proverbs and fables!!

Ever heard of, Words flung from mouth and arrows from a bow can never be taken back.

WHY this proverb and now??

Well, for the past hour and a half I have been browsing my entire stack of posts to laboriously trace comments made by a regular reader and friend to delete all of it permanently.

Now this gentleman is a regular reader of this blog and held forth his opinions quite strong and loud.

Imagine to his surprise when he was quizzed about his opinions on certain topics expressed in this blog during an interview. And he actually fared poorly despite the right qualifications due to his views.

What does this mean and why does it give me a strange foreboding??

Not only do we have moral policing but we now have social policing as well?!

Tell me dear readers, is this right or do we fight???

 

So what?!

So I find myself becoming a prolific writer. So what?!

So it means..

i’m in my angst mode

i don’t have much to do

i’m introspecting more than i usually do

i think people bother reading what i write

i’m experiencing new situations and finding new solutions

……

actually yes to all of these but there is more…

this fortuitous article seems heaven sent but it got me browsing through the site and a few others i had lost track of. it also got me talking to people around, ‘why do you work for someone, so long when you can work for yourself.’ ‘Why do you work for an org for so many years when you could skip jobs and earn a lot more.’

gratification at seeing the monthly paycheck even if not so many zer0-s as you would like it to have; gratification at not having to beg/borrow/steal/murder for the few rupees that will tide you through the month; gratification that you know the processes and the people and  can steer your way through all the potholes and stink; gratification that you are looked up and not down since you have mastered, well nearly, all that there has to/etc..etc…//YOU GET THE DRIFT

now, what i was also offered were 2 different perspectives:

‘Would you leave your family because you got bored after 2 years? No, you stay on and you learn and you find new things that strengthen the bond. You buy a house, build a fence, plant a garden and whatever else that nurtures the team or rather, we are family spirit. You do the same thing at work. You don’t have a task list that you tick off daily but a slightly bigger picture that tells you what needs to be achieved over 3 months/6 months/whatever works.’

‘You learn all you can in 2 years but after 2 years you apply that learning. You give back, you nurture and you are confident of having mentored/groomed something or someone. Than look around there must be something else within the organisation, perhaps, a different department that has something of interest. Be open and be willing.’

Anecdote: A gentleman has been working with a leading hardware firm for 20 years with the same designation but progressively higher pay (I’m hoping). After 20 years when he was asked he said, ‘I don’t care about the designation it is all that I got to learn and all that i have to learn that motivates me. I find that even after 20 years in this organisation there is still something(s) that can be done better or improvised.’

Hmmmmm… Really…. Wow,  I thought to myself. I googled the gentleman’s name and he is a remarkably prolific patent holder. WOW!!

Tall order indeed.

Now, I have probably read hundreds of articles and self-help books on staying happy and motivated at work to go back to the same office and same faces day in and day out. I’m sure so have you. None of those help (ed) me since I find myself at the crossroads sooner rather than later.

These chance conversations and this write up gave me food for thought.

I realise and finally accept that familiarity is a deal breaker. Perhaps, that is why I stayed on with journalism for more than a decade, which too me is a rather lengthy time. I met new people, explored new topics, mentored and got mentored, probed and analysed…there was always a story around the corner.

Ask yourself, what gets you going…. you will realise you are closer than you think to finding what you want.

 

Neoexistential crisis…huh, what?!

This is truly a first for me.

How much is too much? and When is too much ENOUGH…

I didn’t mean to be cryptic but thought of letting these questions buzzing in my head out there in the open! Now what’s the deal, eh??

Here goes: I finally found a job that I like working in a place I like for a boss I respect with people I share a good rapport with, the usual stuff notwithstanding, and I get paid a decent sum, which maybe indecent by some standards but heh, whose complaining.

So what’s my gripe you ask..

The problem, and don’t laugh here, is I like my job so much that the world outside has ceased to exist. I wake up at 1 in the morning to check my mails. I respond to mails in such a jiffy that at times I do not read the mail through and end up sending addendums. I’m trying to be the go-to person. I alert my boss to whatever I think is important, even if it means calling him at 10 in the evening (yea yea it is night but in my work-filled haze it is but the start of a pleasant evening when I start working on documents and organising my mail).

I volunteer for work outside my defined profile and JD, and at times end up taking on more than I can chew..and boy, believe me, never knew leather was that tuff…ugh!!

Now I find myself unconsciously donning the role of admin assistant (nowhere near my JD), fairy godmother (you get my drift :-(( ), one-woman army (huh, since when) and doormat.

Yes, and before I forget there are a team of similar drones all over the organisation whom I found ludicrously endearing and leg-stomping hilarious but now…..

HELP….

 

How do you hit the jackpot

After more than a decade of working, mostly being part of the print media I have come across less than a handful of people who I look up to. While one was a great mentor the other two were great managers who knew when to pull the leash in and when to leave it loose.

Most of the people who were in the supervisory or higher-up roles were routinely bad, pathetic in fact. Reasons varied from:

  • Indifference to creating a motivational environment for the team to work with
  • Lack of mentoring skills
  • Scheming to serve one’s own ends; even using subordinates/co-workers as pawn
  • Inability to foster a spirit of bonding & build team work
  • Discouraging youngsters/co-workers from trying new ideas/methods
  • Having a MY WAY or THE HIGHWAY attitude
  • Defeatist when confronted with a problem/new situation/challenge

and so on and so forth…While I’m trying to understand what makes a person stay on with the same organisation for reasons other than job security & not wanting to get out of a comfort zone; what I’m also trying to understand is why do people, especially youngsters job hop. Surely, monetary benefits can’t be the only reason since a pay hike of 1000-2500 rupees really doesn’t matter. Would be great to get your thoughts on both counts.

Meanwhile, here is my pick of the lot for being a REALLY COOL boss.

  • Give your employee the end-goal and allow them to navigate their way towards that goal
  • Create a sense of working towards a purpose as a TEAM
  • Make each member of the TEAM accountable for their responsibilities, actions and achievements
  • Applaud good work in public and reprimand bad moves in private
  • Mentor the team or put a buddy system in place
  • Be a friend but only when asked for
  • The Boss is the (wo)man with a vision so be CLEAR in all communications & set expectations

I’m working with one such……

 

Hold On

Most of us go through life chasing that elusive dream, the pot at the end of a never-ending rainbow, the will-o-the-wisp, the genie of the lamp and what-have-you. Sometimes we find it within our grasp and poof it’s gone before you can say Buddha hoga tera baap.

I have done the same as well. Whether it was in a personal relationship or in the professional sphere I have chased a non-existent ideal state of being. After a handful of jobs and more than a handful of relationships I realised it is better to accept life the way it is and make it ideal at least for that point in time till time passed for another set of circumstances and another phase of life to set in.

Too much philosophy. But Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha explains this the best.He finds his nirvana with Vasudeva, the boatman, who listens to the silence and speech of the river.

And all this introspection was brought on by a newly married friend who said, “I always keep everyone happy but no one recognises me when I’m alone.”

Further prompted when an acquaintance reflected that it was difficult to work for a demanding boss and the constant pressure to perform, to excel, to multitask, to take responsibility and be accountable was making resignation a  recurring thought.

In both cases the frustration was understandable but the other side to this story. Both these people were not willing to reach out and ask for help or support or understanding. They had erected a self-imposed barricade.

The newly wed: Why should I have to tell them I feel lonely? Can’t they understand that when a usually boisterous person clams up? Why can’t they come and ask me what is wrong? Whether I need a hug or a shoulder to lean on? Don’t I understand their needs?”

The troubled-at-work acquaintance: “I constantly feel they are comparing my performance to their predecessor. I have not received any negative feedback but all the same I feel like an outsider. I don’t want to ask for help since it will prove what they think of me, that I’m incompetent.”

What’s the solution??

Angst

A pow-wow over breakfast is healthy and stimulates you to be sharper on your feet, more than breakfast itself. Now I’m sure most people would disagree with this and argue the merits of having a healthy breakfast for healthy living. But that is not the topic of this post. And perhaps this post won’t really strike a chord with male readers, but here it is.

This particular morning our pow-wow digressed from corporate life and gossip to women and the lack of support there of in every aspect of living the day-to-day. Whether it was middle age angst or .. leave it for you to decide.

“All I want at times is for some one to get me a cup of coffee when I go home. I do not want someone telling me you – don’t need to work- I’m here for you- or take up all my burdens for me- just that thoughtful gesture will give me the strength to wake up to another day of struggle,” said this lady.

Feisty, driven, caring mother of a teen, considerate and duti-bound daughter of two aging parents (80+) this lady is the one we look to for support and direction when we get lost in the corporate quagmire of processes/politics/what-have-you. To have her voice such a thought seemed ludicrous. After all wasn’t she a super-woman?

Before anyone could react another lady chipped in, “I know what you mean. Every day I wake up to a day of chores and I have no complaints coz this is what I have been doing every since I can remember. But there are times when all I want is for someone to say thank you or just show they care or appreciate my efforts.”

And these thoughts found an echo in all of the women. Which brings me to this post?

None of the women are whiners. They shoulder more than their fare share of responsibilities. Each one is accomplished and successful, both on the professional and personal front. Their wants to be appreciated was not directed at the male sex but were generic.

Leading me to wonder :

  • Why women are not as quick to claim credit for anything they do
  • Why are uncomfortable at praise or complments showered on them
  • Why societal approval is still important
  • Why aren’t women as good at vocalising concerns compared with men
  • Why women are still hesitant in reaching out