(mis)Management through nostalgia!

It’s performance appraisal time and a bunch of middle management folks are sitting around talking while working on the normalisation – the tedious job of fitting individual performances to a bell curve.

“The chaps today just aren’t like we were at their age. We worked 15 hour days, we held ourselves fully accountable for everything, we turned up for all the meetings – man, these days folks need to be spoon-fed. And their attitude – lax is an understatement. I wonder how long it will take these guys to become managers like us” and so it goes. It’s a sad conversation over some insipid coffee. Hearing them talk almost gets you worried about the future.

And that’s when a colleague – an eternal optimist – pulls a chair across and beams at me. “These manager folks dragging down your spirits with their bell curve stories huh?’ She asks.

We decide we will take a fresh stock of the situ from a data standpoint (out of say 400 freshers a decade back, these 4 have graduated to become managers) – so what does this tell us – we see not one but four possible scenarios:

1. That the managers are right, they are super men/ women. The current batch needs to step up if they want to emulate their managers’ performance. But there may have been others who were just as smart and hardworking and yet didn’t make it – so there could be a survivor bias at work here that these guys should be cautious about!

2. The managers simply lucked out! Four out of four hundred (actually fewer considering people who would have quit etc) would have anyway made it to this role – it just happened to be these folks and they are now fitting a narrative to explain their success

3. Maybe they actually un-lucked out! The rest of their batch are probably doing things they believe in/ are relevant for the future (startup’s, social work, playing tech/ business/ client roles) and these four are a few of those left behind on old-age roles – it’s just that they don’t recognise it yet!

4. Effectiveness vs busyness – there’s a difference. In today’s world perhaps the new folks are tending to effectiveness as opposed to looking busy. Maybe the managers need some reverse mentoring – it’s they who need to adjust!

We both break into a smile. The more you think about it, it’s not the world that’s getting worse – it’s only our world-views that need updates. And once our frame of reference changes, the world appears in all its glory!

Would you agree?

Narrow world-views?

Sensitivity to our surroundings is an amazing thing – at its best, its what I guess the buddha called awareness – an ability to look and more importantly appreciate things for what they are as opposed to what we think they are (or should be) based on our limited world-view.

I get this thought as I reflect upon an interesting little news item in the day’s paper of a woman thanking the ongoing T20 World Cup organisers for opening her eyes. It turns out that her husband had gone to watch a match and caught up in all the passion and celebration on the field broke out into a dance. She’d never seen him dance – or looking so happy – and she was expressing her gratitude to the organisers of this game for having enabled her to see her husband in all his natural playfulness – perhaps for the first time!

Here’s the thing – since “world-views” are thrust upon us all the time, the world-views become almost natural and it takes immense clarity for us to strip ourselves of this lens – looking at simplicity becomes very complex huh!

For starters, there are the “roles” we are expected to adhere to in everyday life. The roles come with their own set of attires, languages, acceptable social circles, acceptable behaviours and so on. If we don’t believe this, all it takes is a rewind to our school or college days (or first intern days) and contrast our behavior’s of today with those. Strip out the conditioned behaviour of both times (the suits of today and the excesses of youth!) – and what will remain is character – the person we were, the friends we kept, the passions in our lives. If you have managed to hold on to the unbridled joy from those years you are indeed an happy man or woman.

Which brings me to another quote from the day’s papers (some good coffee prompted me to stay with papers for a long, long time!). A music composer, whose quirky video on the pains of a “monday morning” have gone viral expresses how difficult it was for him to make that video. “We wanted to make the song funky and stylish and since people like us hardly know how terrible waking up to a monday feels like, we gathered the sentiments of our office-going friends, and then translated their expressed frustrations into music”. Really? You are a lucky man and that’s one cool video dude!

On which note, we can bring this blog to a closure with just one more crib on the “very necessary but evil” aspects of this “world-view” business. Some wise guy decided that since Feynman was a physicist, all his books belonged in the science section. To many of our fellow humans, science = plague, the only blemish in an otherwise fun childhood – and this worldview keeps the book out of their hands for ever. And if you haven’t read his books, they are gems – try this one – it expresses the joy of curiosity, of finding things out, a rare vision into a humorous character whose view is so much better than the “worlds”. And there cannot be a bigger tragedy than not enjoying such “sheer awesomeness” because someone with a more limited world view chose to pigeon-hole them elsewhere. You agree?