Friday, January 24, 2014

Office: Office – Leadership Development programme

Sun, sand, the sea and two days of bliss. Well, not exactly. It’s more is like Five star hotel pool, business center, good looking chicks and food cooked by a real chef (not a cook pretending otherwise).  Of course, all of this plus your travel paid for by the company. That in a few words summarizes what leadership development programmes mean for the majority of corporate junta. No wonder everyone wants to get nominated for such a programme.

(Image Courtesy:

So how do you get a ticket to attend this? You earn it. Or at least pretend to have earned it.

Start by having a career discussion with your manager and mention how you are an aspiring leader. Ask him/her is there is anything specific you can do from your side to build on those skills. Most managers will ask you to do one of three things, which you should ignore for obvious reasons:

a)  Observe them at work (to pick up their non-existent leadership skills? hah!);

b)   Read books on leadership (didn’t you try to do that to show off to your MBA classmates and then realized you had read only the foreword online and mistook it for the whole book?); and

c)  Take greater responsibility at work (yeah right! Ever seen a leader do any work??).

Instead you can pretend to have considered all the options by doing all of this:

a)  Send weekly mails to your boss about how you observed the fact that he doesn’t say much during presentations and wondered if that was a leadership skill? Less cheeky your tone, the better chances you have at that paid trip (programme, I mean).

b)  Raid the second hand bookshop near your house and stock up your work desk with leadership books. If you are Gen Y, then do the equivalent on your smart phone. Do up your cubicle with post-it notes having “famous leadership quotes”. (Yeah, about time you took down those Goa and McLeodganj photos from your softboard).

c)  Volunteer to “support” all projects your team is working on (but do not define how you will actually do that). Send your boss a monthly summary of how you influenced the outcomes of several team meetings (obviously refrain from getting into details like how you got the team to agree with your idea because you bought them cupcakes and coffee, or the time you fixed the projector or printed handouts for the 1:1 meeting..).

Once you have done this for a quarter, ask your boss if this is helping shape your “skills” and would a leadership development programme help you better? If your boss doesn’t choke on his saliva, then you stand a chance. Else, go and befriend that balding uncle in the learning and development team to find out if there is any way you can get nominated. Of course, you will pay for drinks at Madhuloka for a month, along with chips and “snakes” (snacks. Like you didn’t know!) and maybe drop him home after these “enlightening” sessions.

Result Day: The Boss’ bum chum has been "carefully" picked to attend the leadership development programme. He heads two divisions in the company and attended last year’s programme too, you find out.

How do you cope? Well, you may not be able to have Five Star amenities, but who says you can’t have the Madhuloka experience?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Office: Office – Interview

Tis’ the season when companies loosen their belts and spend that last bit of budget available to them. The dumber ones will focus on splurging it on booze parties, team jackets, bags and other goodies. The smarter ones will focus on getting good candidates inducted into the company (so that the cocky team members fear for their existence in the next quarter and don’t care about their appraisal or bonus).

The most important part of candidate selection is the interview. The more important part, of course, is the feeling of security (some would mistakenly assume this is “power”) that you are on the other side of the table. In my limited experience, there are several types of interviews that are prevalent in the corporate world today. For those wanting to give interviews, what you see below could be like seeing a copy of the question paper the night before the exam.

(Image Courtesy:

a)  “Know who’s the boss” interview - If you have ever faced an interviewer who had no time for scrutinizing your outfit, your resume or anything remotely concerned with you, then you have faced this monster. The type will only have ears, eyes and a voice for talking about his/her role in the company. He/she will ration out exactly 5 minutes for you to speak and that too only ask close ended questions.  As you leave the interview you will have only one question on your mind - who was being interviewed? The only way to tackle this is to chip in at the third minute from the start and ask those questions whose answers will be meaningful to you. Try taming the monster and you will realize how wasted your appearance and attitude is.

      b) “Errr…Ummm. Hmmm” interview – While you might mistake this interviewer for a case of ‘I’m substituting for you interviewer because he got sick,’ it is far from the truth.  Ever knew a chap whose idea of communication was giving confused looks and saying nothing more than “Hmmm”? Now, imagine if he was forced to interview candidates. How would he behave? Exactly like what your candidate-phobic interviewer is behaving. Chances are you might mistake the company for being filled with duffers and ruin that suit you wore to the interview in rage. Instead, do a role reversal. Ask questions and seek answers – preferably do both yourself. If nothing, you would have completed one mock interview session to boost confidence.

      c)  The pessimistic interview – These are the times you seek the ray of sunshine through the cold AC room. This is less of an interview and more of an audition for scary movie 14. Everything that you say will be used to position the role as unsuitable for you. It’s worse if you don’t say anything. Hygiene factors in the office are the some of the commonly exaggerated claims made by the interviewer – you will have to work 14 hours a day seven days a week, our canteen has watery dal that gives loose motions, forget work-life balance, you’ll have no life, officially you will be made assistant manager, but practically your role would be that of a Group Head. What the interviewer is desperately hoping for is that you ask him/her– “Oh! Wow. How do you manage all this? You must be awesome.” Once you ask that question, you have cracked the interview (and the interviewer).

If the interviews you have experienced fall in none of these categories, then you either have a boring role or work for a boring industry. After all what’s the fun in attending serious, predictable interviews?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Office:Office – Corporate New Year Resolution

If you have overcome the holiday hangover, you will realize that a brand new year lies ahead of you. Happy New Year! So what’s your resolution for this year?

(Image courtesy - The Evil Twin)

 “Resolutions are so Generation X,” you say. Your friends and family probably know of your history with resolutions. But how do you tell your colleagues that, when your boss’ last email encouraged everyone “to introspect and set personal goals for the New Year”? (Never mind that the line was a rip off of a popular speech and came packaged as an e-Card featuring shiny golden balls lying on the snow. It’s the sentiment that matters, you know, even borrowed sentiments).  

Hmm.. how does walking 2 km everyday sound? Or eating healthy meals? Okay, Okay, you will add “alcohol-only-over-the –weekend” to that. Sounds like a good resolution to flaunt to colleagues? Wrong. What the boss wants is not a “personal” personal goal. His email actually translates to “take up a goal that can’t be included in your performance management system, yet will remain key to your performance”. Much like BB cream, push-up-bras, and the BMW bike in Dhoom 3, you need a corporate New Year resolution that will make you look good.

To help you pick one that most closely addresses your need, I have identified some common types.

a)      Resolutions the boss will like: A resolution in this category can project you as a sycophant, but who cares? It is better to be a sycophant than pretend to be one. Anything that reduces the boss’ work load is a good resolution. If you can take over the job of the house keeping person and the secretary at no extra salary, then you have nailed it. You have not only demonstrated ambition (by offering to multi-task) but also ensured that you are highly visible to the boss. If that is too ambitious, try these options that have a much lesser success rate though  –read the newspaper your boss reads and send him an email summary of select news at 6:00 am every day; ensure your boss’ car is bird-shit proof by bribing the parking lot helper to clean it every 2 hours; move your seat close to the boss’ where he can’t miss you; play the sport your boss loves and bribe your friends to lose (after all boss needs to look no further for a great player on his team).

b)      Resolutions the boss will hate, but the colleagues will like: This is a tricky area because you can’t satisfy all the people all the time. And boss will get that message sooner or later. For starters organize a secret banta (its actually “banter” with an accent) focused on your colleagues’ sentiments about your boss. Since it is secret, no one will know who wrote the nasty stuff. Your job is to collect all the banta, sugar coat it and deliver it to the boss in an office event. Between feeling overwhelmed and grateful, he/she won’t have the time to actually read what you have shared. Less interesting options include – Volunteer to become the employee engagement champion and have fortnightly booze sessions over lunch that is billed to the company or your boss (if he holds that budget). Of course, the bill should say “45 Deluxe Rajasthani Thalis”- two per employee, because it was a limited menu, you know. You can also call for ethnic day celebrations every quarter, followed by an antakshari contest that makes it mandatory for all bosses to participate. The twist in the show is that the guy who comes last is the winner – just to ensure your boss doesn’t see this as revenge or insult.

c)       Resolutions that will help you find a new boss: You really want to do this? Okay. Start with doing your job better than the best colleague. Think, speak, execute and project “excellence” in everything you do. Remember Karate Kid? The Mr. Miyagi version where he says “Karate – here, here, here” and points to his head, heart and stomach (or was it his gut?). Excellence should be your karate. Make elaborate project management lists and display them in and around your seat. Use Macro-filled documents. That way if your boss doesn’t know how to open them, you can show him/her. Set alarms for everything, including pee breaks and make sure you let others hear it ring. Subscribe to magazines and have them delivered at your seat. Same goes for management books bought on Flipkart at 67% discount. Never admit to liking Dilbert or Facebook.  At the end of the year one of two things will happen: Your boss will be happy to recommend you for a bigger role. Or you will be happy to recommend your replacement to the boss.

Still can’t find the corporate resolution for this year? Good for you, the weekend is here. Before you know, most people would have outgrown their resolutions.