Har office ki Kahani

Someone forwarded the following mail to me which was supposedly sent by Narayan Murthy to all Infosys staff.

”It’s half past 8 in the office but the lights are still on…
PCs still running, coffee machines still buzzing…
And who’s at work? Most of them??? Take a closer look…
All or most specimens are??
Something male species of the human race…
Look closer… again all or most of them are bachelors…
And why are they sitting late? Working hard? No way!!!
Any guesses???
Let’s ask one of them…
Here’s what he says… “What’s there 2 do after going home…Here we get to surf, AC, phone, food, coffee that is why I am working late.
Importantly no bossssssss!!!!!!!!!!!”

This is the scene in most research centers and software companies and other off-shore offices. Bachelors “Time-passing” during late hours in the office just bcoz they say they’ve nothing else to do…
Now what r the consequences…

“Working” (for the record only) late hours soon becomes part of the institute or company culture. With bosses more than eager to provide support to those “working” late the form of taxi vouchers, food vouchers and of course good feedback, (oh, he’s a hard worker… goes home only to change..!!). They aren’t helping things too…

To hell with bosses who don’t understand the difference between “sitting” late and “working” late!!! Very soon, the boss start expecting all employees to put in extra working hours.

So, My dear Bachelors let me tell you, life changes when u get married and start having a family… office is no longer a priority, family is… and

That’s when the problem starts… b’coz u start having commitments at home too. For your boss, the earlier “hardworking” guy suddenly seems to become a “early leaver” even if u leave an hour after regular time… after doing the same amount of work.
People leaving on time after doing their tasks for the day are labeled as work-shirkers…
Girls who thankfully always (its changing nowadays… though) leave on time are labeled as “not up to it”. All the while, the bachelors pat their own backs and carry on “working” not realizing that they r spoiling the work culture at their own place and never realize that they wuld have to regret at one point of time.

So what’s the moral of the story??
Very clear, LEAVE ON TIME!!!
Never put in extra time “unless really needed”
Don’t stay back un-necessarily and spoil your company work culture which will in turn cause inconvenience to you and your colleagues.

There are hundred other things to do in the evening..
Learn music…
Learn a foreign language…
Try a sport… TT, cricket………

Importantly Get a girl friend or boy friend, take him/her around town…
And for heaven’s sake net cafe rates have dropped to an all-time low (plus, no fire-walls) and try cooking for a change.
Take a tip from the Smirnoff ad: “Life’s calling, where are you??”

Please pass on this message to all those colleagues And please do it before leaving time, don’t stay back till midnight to forward this!!!

It’s a typical indian mentality that working for long hours means very hard working & 100% commitment etc. *
People who regularly sit late in the office don’t know to manage their time. Simple *!

Narayan Murthy or whoever wrote this email may have primarily been addressing young bachelor IT professionals but it is true of practically every business executive that I meet today. Second, the email seems to be blaming the young bachelors for spoiling the culture of the organization which is incorrect. If the management of the company is so concerned about people working late and maintaining the integrity of their culture, I have a simple solution for them. Just shut off all the lights and close the office half an hour after the official closing time which will force everyone to leave office. If the company was not interested in making people work late, they would not be providing free food and transport. I can bet Infosys will not do what I am suggesting as it will hurt their bottom line. Third, the email suggests that whoever is working late does not know how to manage time. This is just bullshit. When the management overloads an employee with work and unreasonable deadlines, he has no choice but to work late. You show me an executive who knows how to manage time and I will indirectly force him to sit late by overloading him with work and giving him unreasonable deadlines. I think all of us have heard our bosses say, “I don’t know how but I need you to complete the work on time.” Lastly, I am surprised that the email does not talk about a new phenomenon which I call “Everything done yesterday” which is causing a lot of stress at every level of management.
Late working

Practically, everybody is now expected to work late. I see this happening to my son. He leaves at 8AM while I am having my bath and returns late when I am sleeping. Sometimes, I don’t even see my son for a couple of days. And sometimes when my son leaves office on time after taking the permission from his boss, his boss keeps calling him a number of times to ask some question or the other or to ask where he can find something or the other. After receiving so many calls after leaving office on time, my son feels that it would have been better if he would have just worked late. As the above email mentions, my son’s company also provides free food and free transport as an incentive for people to work late.
Recently, an executive from a very large company visited my office to buy our management posters. We started talking. His story was the same. They have a five day week but most of the time he ends up working 6 days and sometimes even 7 days. He added that last week he was so fed with work pressure on one side and his wife’s demand for quality time that he chucked his mobile phone in despair.

Everything done yesterday

There is so much pressure that everybody wants everything done before they even say it. In simple words what they want in the present, they expect to have been already done in the past. This makes everything urgent. This is another reason why executives have to work late.

I think bosses intentionally create an atmosphere of urgency so that they can indirectly force employees to work late. They benefit as more work gets done without any increase in employee costs.

In another case, a new client was adamant that I give her a time line for the project even before she gave me the material that I needed to get the work done. She wanted the work to be done in 4/5 days as she told me that she was under a tremendous pressure to release the report. I told her that I will give her a delivery schedule after I have reviewed the material. She promised to send me the material within 2 days. However, I received the material after 2 weeks. So, what happened to the deadline and the pressure? It just disappeared. After she sent the material, she again had her assistant pursue me to give a deadline for delivery.

It was just a report that they were uploading on their website. Nothing earth shattering would have happened if the uploading of the report was delayed by 1 or 2 days. I could not really understand why she was so pressured about or why she was being pressured so much that she and her assistant had to waist time and money on phone calls to pursue me to get a deadline. She even called me on Sundays and sent me SMSs wanting to know the date and time after each correction she asked us to make.

Unreseasonable expectations

Also, at each level, each boss keeps his margin in terms of numbers or deadline schedule. This results in unreasonable expectation and pressure being added at each level unnecessarily. Nobody seems to be reasonable. Recently, one of my clients wanted a 800 page directory printed in 3 days time which is physically impossible. Bosses at this organization were not even willing to understand. After considering the nature of the document, I didn’t see the need for such urgency. Then, why was unnecessary pressure being exerted? One of my clients called me a few days back and complained that he was not able to contact me at 11PM because I had turned off my mobile phone. I told him that even if he had been able to contact me at that hour, it would have served no purpose because I would not have been able to do anything to resolve whatever problem he had. He cooled down but what I am surprised is that he even raised this issue with me. Obviously, he was pressurized by his seniors to do something in the middle of the night which would have served no purpose at all.

In spite of a large number of time saving devices like cell phones, video conferencing and computers, why are executives not able to strike a balance between personal and work life? Why is everybody working late? Why is every executive under stress? Why is everything becoming urgent? Where has all the regular work disappeared?

The problem – top management

If you ask me the problem lies with the top management of companies. Let me explain my thoughts with the help of an example. While I was writing this article, I read an article in Economic Times dated October 8, 2010 about what was happening at Axis Bank which clearly supported my view that it was the top management of the company which is responsible for increasing the stress of employees at all levels unnecessarily. Even though, Axis bank had performed well last fiscal with 39% growth in profitability and having one of the highest profitability with net interest margins at more than 4%, it seems that the management was not satisfied. As such, the bank is introducing provisions to terminate employment for non-performance and tie promotions to output.

It is obvious that the above will introduce a sense of fear and uncertainty in the mind of all its employees. Now where was the need to take such a step in spite of the fact that the bank has performed quite well. Some say that Ms. Sharma is bringing the high pressure culture of ICICI Bank to Axis Bank. ICICI Bank’s culture of speed and scale at any cost is going to make the life of employees at Axis Bank hell.

It is the top management which wants to achieve high growth fast without considering what will be the effect of its decision on thousands of its employees. Let us see what effect this will have on the employees of the Axis bank.

First, without a doubt, all the employees will be scared of losing their jobs and practically all their effort will be focused on saving their job.

Second, the moral of the employees will take a serious downturn. This in turn will bring down productivity.

Third, they will show their loyalty and hard work by sitting late. By working late, their objective would to pre-empt their boss from firing them later on the excuse that they were not working hard enough. We all know that “working hard” has become synonymous with “working late.”

Fourth, working late will become part of the company’s culture. Very soon, the boss will expect all the employees to put in extra working hours. People will not leave early even though their job is finished because they do not want to labeled as an “early leaver” or a “work-shirker.”

Fifth, all the employees will start suffering from what I call “Action Myopia.” That is, they will focus on actions to achieve short-term results rather than the long-term goals of the organization.

Sixth, short-cuts will be adopted to achieve unrealistic targets. I think this also happened at ICICI bank and that is why now ICICI Bank is not as aggressive as it used to be in retail financing sector.

I remember the managing director of one of the largest timeshare company in India telling me what the sales people of his company were doing to achieve targets. He hold me that the salesmen were telling the customer that the timeshare property that they were selling had a swimming pool whereas it didn’t. They even gave this in writing to the customer in order to make a sale which later became a problem for the company to handle. He was blaming the salespeople whereas I thought he was to be blamed for what was happening. He was the person who had established unrealistic targets and offered high incentives for achieving those targets.

It is the unrealistic expectation of the higher management that is making the life of the executives hell these days. I also think that bosses at every level are becoming unreasonable because the unreasonableness is being driven from the top. What executives are hearing is, “I just want it done. How you do it is not my concern?”

Now one can understand that if once a month or once in two weeks there is an urgency and the executives have to work late but when this happens everyday then something is wrong. This means that the organization is trying to save costs by overloading the employee.

The above also raises some concern about the business model of the organization as well as whether what businesses are doing is ethical or not. Does our business model assume that the employee is supposed to work 8 hours a day or more? Also, when we hire employees we are hiring them on the basis of an 8 hour work day but we are indirectly forcing them to work for longer hours. Is it ethical to do so? Is this exploitation of the workforce? Will this trend ultimately lead to unionization of even the executives?

I hope you guys agree with me. Do let me have your thoughts.

Avinash Narula

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Comments

Sir ji, nice.

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vir sen jain Reply:

nobody is to be blamed for this type of problem, it is the western culure in all felds of life which we are all following

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ALWAYS LEAVE OFFICE ON TIME!
Love your job but don’t love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you.

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