Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Set a Good Example v/s Listen to your Mind!

I began this post about 2 years back, but only completed it now. It has therefore changed much in nature, content, tense, heading & perspective.

Set a Good Example...

One of the chief challenges that has plagued Industry through the decades is Attrition. Not a new phenomenon, but the levels it has reached in the BPO (despite us trying to do far more for our employees than other indutries in India) does make one wonder.

Although the start of my career was peppered with 7 month stints in various low paying *ales jobs for small organizations, once I broke into the mega-business of BPO, the structured approach & management methods gave me enough reason to hang around.

Initially this was only due to my early track record being questioned & held against me; but recently even the prospect of a job change makes me cringe, unless I have put in a decent amount of time & contributed to the betterment of my process. Conditioning I think...

Why I began writing this is because I had received a call from one of my ex-bosses with an extremely tempting offer (even if you do not consider the fact that my stint at my then workplace had been less than thoroughly satisfying). However, I found myself turning the offer down. And the reasons were as follow:
When this organization had hired me, they gave me everything that I had asked for at the time:

- Designation, Quoted Salary (well almost), a good hiring experience.

- In the initial months, they were considerate to my personal needs.

- Employee Loyalty isn't something that this industry is known for, but at that time I felt that my taking up this presumably better offer would be tantamount to ditching the organization. I'm not saying I'm indispensable. I'm just saying that it would've put them through the unnecessary trouble of looking for a replacement. Most importantly, it would have set an extremely bad example on my floor. I had been stressing the importance of staying with an organization for long periods of time in order to reap the benefits of displaying loyalty & performance; and if I were to quit, it could potentially permanently shatter the belief of the people who currently work for me. This had led to a drop in attrition rates & I didn't want to jeopardize that performance for the company.

- Additionally I wanted to believe (as I was trained to) that whatever was lacking may in part be due to my not asking firmly enough.

Therefore, I did what I thought was at that time, the right thing. I shared my concerns with my manager and stayed there until things improved or until I thought that I had contributed & learnt enough to warrant moving on.
I definitely didn't want to contribute to intensifying the hurt this industry feels by quitting randomly.
I wanted to set a good example.


Listen to your Mind...

What happened after I shared my concerns & the details of the new offer with my boss was this:
My boss convinced me that things were on the up & that we will shortly overcome all the challenges. I felt better that I had spoken to him & that I was staying back.

During this time, my General Manager who had hired me quit. My VP had quit around the same time. Another existing GM was moved in to replace the earlier one. This GM had rejected my candidature a few years back and I was obviously uncomfortable with that fact. Additionally I had heard horror stories about this new GM from my colleagues & subordinates. About his political games, his lack of people focus etc. But I decided to ignore all hearsay (as per my training again!) and give it a fair shot.

Shortly after his moving in, my immediate boss was quietly & suddenly moved out into another area. We wouldn't even have heard if it wasn't a stray email mistakenly marked to us, made it's way into our inboxes!
I immediately called up my boss & asked him what was going on. He gave me some roundabout explanation. Then I asked him what I should be doing at this point. He said (again in a very roundabout way) that I should disappear. Why he hadn't told me when I had an offer in hand, I'll never figure out. Except that he got caught by as much surprise.

Expectedly, the very next day, this new GM (henceforth Giga-Monster) asked for a meeting with me and began by throwing stuff in my direction meant solely to intimidate me. There was a new DGM-HR who I hadn't met before in the room as well, sitting unsmilingly at me. Whatever I was saying in defence of my performance was being brushed off as insignificant or simply not enough. I quickly realized that my time here was limited. I left the room terribly shaken.

I quickly called up all my contacts, trying to secure another suitable position, fully aware that it would be next to impossible to find a desirable job in the limited time I had.

Anyway, like all things, it worked out OK in the end. The side-effects of this entire exercise, however, were felt by me for almost the next 2 years! I had realized that despite your loyalty & performance, things can still go awry at work. There was a constant sense of pressure (from the baggage I was carrying) even at the new job. Coupled with the fact that my work had been my sense of identity, this episode made me question a little bit of that identity, it had jolted my self-confidence. It took me very long to realize that the episode had very little to do with me. It had more to do with the giga-monsters biases & machinations. And of course with the fact that they had to look for 2 scapegoats (my boss & I) in order to save the process. The good news is that they lost the process anyway! I wonder if the GM looks like a fool right now. I sure hope he does!

What this brings me to is this set of questions:
  • If this is the reward for employee loyalty, does it make any sense for an employee to hang around despite having better offers?
  • Should one go by someone's reputation?
  • Should one go by gut-feel and listen to one's Mind, instead of doing the apparent "right thing"?
  • And therefore, is all corporate training meant to mould employee thinking to suit the organization instead of genuinely making the employee smarter?
More on all of that in the next post.