Sometimes when people say they’ve had an epiphany, I always thought it was one of those things where if you pretended you had one long enough, you included, everyone around you would believe it.
It’s like being optimistic or even being happy. At least in the beginning you have to fake it. Pretend all is well and slowly things start to look different and you realise that all that was standing in your way was the way you looked at the situation. But no, that wasn’t my epiphany.
At work, I needed to interact with different trainers across India and the world, for one particular requirement of ours. So I went through trainers and more trainers and then some more. I got good at quickly gauging whether or not they would fit what we were looking for.
Then dawned this day. I had no idea how much my thinking was going to change after that. A gentlemen from Holland (Mr M) was down in Mumbai to promote his company’s newly opened India division, and was coming to meet us.
Our meeting was, as such, uneventful. My boss was stuck on how their price wouldn’t suit us at all and Mr M kept insisting price was secondary, if the solution matched what we wanted.
Mr M and my boss only had 30 minutes each and everyone had other agendas, in different corners of the city. It was a hot, hot blazing day of May in Mumbai. Just as I thought we were wrapping up the meeting, he turned to look at me.
And asked my boss, what was the biggest problem he faced in course of his work. My boss had a pat reply, getting people efficient and well-versed in their jobs.
“So how do you remedy that?,” asked Mr M.
“Well, I try and bring the people I want up to the mark I want. I constantly try to improve them,” said my boss.
In my head, I play out our various conversations where he constantly gave me stuff I did not want to do (or could not do and knew it, rather) and suffered grandly. I never understood why would he do that. Make me do stuff am not good at and then point out how I was not doing it properly. I know!
Then came Mr M’s rationale: Why do we obscure things with so many qualitie and its quantifiers? Why are so determined to make every employee identical to the next one? He mentioned many fleeting terms like KRAs and other numbers, all of which, according to his company’s philosophy, tried to make all employees identical to each other, in traits, skills and levels.
Why, was all he asked.
And I could almost see a halo around his head by this time.
Why, indeed. I had never stopped to think, assuming someone in the entire chain knew why the company wanted an almost identical workforce.
He went to talk about philosophies that they used in their coaching. This is a primarily OD-focused company and they were the first I came across who did not have ‘ready-made modules that could be customised’.
Mr M spoke about how companyies need to move past these ‘narrow’ ways of engaging and improving the employee. They need to help employees first improve their existing skills, use them to the fullest and then perhaps start with ‘improvement areas’.
Companies need to break out of the KRA mould, in order to be a great company. It would help companies much more if it learned how to inspire completely unique individuals to achieve the same company goal and vision. He said. I am paraphrasing.
That, to me, made perfect sense. So quickly. That I did not understand why companies could not see it. Why my company could not see it.
As years go by, I have come to realise March-April-May are typically wrought for me. I don’t remember a single apppraisal going well. And it cannot all be the company’s fault, much as I would want to believe that. If I study patterns, I have always quit my jobs in this period itself, some with another job in hand, some without.
I have always gone through them either defensively or offensively, but never stopped to think, am I conveying what I need to and want to do? Or stopped to think, why I am not doing this particular task well? I never justified what I was saying and always assumed appraisals would go bad.
This year, too, as expected they did not go well. But this time I was prepared. I had my reasons, achievements listed. I even had my list of complaints that I had raised from time to time, but weren’t addressed, with me.
I don’t know if it went better or not but I know that in a huff, I did not immediately start looking for a job. I conveyed my displeasure without losing my bearing.
Because every time I started to get upset, I would think of Mr M and his smiling face saying, how no one could truly be like another. And that was the best part of employees.
On an embarassing note, when Mr M was leaving, I almost refused to let his hand go. I was almost certain I wanted to walk out with him then and become his pretend baggage and go back to Dutch land and just listen to him talk. And yes, of course, get paid for it.