While all of us are worrying about increments and petrol reimbursements, is anyone thinking about this?
“What are we as a society doing to help prepare our children for the many perils that await them in the workplace?”
And when I say our children, I mean your children. Because I do not have any children. (It is a question of priorities. Right now I need an iPad first. Besides, I am hopeful for a future where I can download well-behaved 10th-pass, IIT-coaching-ready adolescents from the Internet. That day is not far. Venture capitalists please expedite.)
I raise this issue with great concern because, earlier this week, a relative told me how one of her sons had been awarded a prize during his school annual day.
I immediately congratulated her. Annual day prizes, of any kind, are harbingers of future greatness in children. (I was “Potential Mr Thrissur 2002” in class VII. This prediction was spot on.)
“Oh thanks, but it is no big deal,” she said.
“Why not? Did he get it for 100% attendance? Even that is commendable...”
“The thing is everyone in his class got a prize...”
“Every single student??”
“Yes. Every child got an individual prize for something or the other.”
I was flabbergasted.
Back in the days when I went to school, the annual day prize process was a carefully created social construct. One of its primary motives was to humiliate the under-achievers into hard work and improvement. Or, indeed, to get them to transfer to another school where they could do no harm to our school’s 100% pass record.
My relative explained to me that many schools had started doing this, as they felt that rewarding only a few children would demotivate the others and drive them into depression. Her son had won a prize for most enthusiastic sharer of lunch box or some such token achievement.
This trend is going to destroy your children by the time they leave school, graduate from college, and finally make it to offices.
Having been subject to this constant appreciation and mollycoddling from a very young age, these children will walk into the cauldron of the modern office and melt into depressed little puddles of anguish. One performance appraisal and one grade of “Laughably Failed To Meet Expectations” later, their illusion of a fair life will come crashing down.
Alternatively, God forbid, the office might begin to replicate the school. Already I have just been informed that staff members of a Gurgaon call centre were recently taken to an off-site where everyone, all 50 or so, received an award.
This is madness. What will you do if you have 40 people in your team? What are you going to award the absolute worst of the lot?
“Most photogenic smile in warehouse department night-shift staff. (Second Quarter 2010).”
Change must begin now. Perhaps with this column. These are five ways in which you can prepare your children for the offices waiting for them in 2030:
1. Give them individual swipe cards and make them swipe it at the kitchen door each morning before breakfast. Latecomers go to school hungry. For an even better impact, don’t say anything for weeks, and then one day declare they were late on 17 days and refuse to feed them for that period.
2. All hot beverages served at home, such as Horlicks or Complan, must be dispensed through a machine. This machine must be kept in a hard-to-reach location. Maybe the neighbour’s balcony. Keep paper cups available only on some days. Randomly add and remove drinks, till one day you have nothing coming out except hot water. Print “Out Of Order” on a sheet of A4 size paper and stick it on the machine. Replace this sheet every week.
3. Promise your children very expensive gifts if they do well in school. For instance, a PS3 if they top in Social Studies. As they are going into the exam hall, show them big, full-colour photos of the PS3. When they come out of the exam looking thrilled, tell them that the Greek economy has tanked, this has ruined the markets, and give them a shuttlecock and a hug instead. (Older children can be taught frustration by giving this PS3 to a random, undeserving classmate.)
4. Teach your children how to use email and the Internet. Sign them up for fun newsletters and exciting games. Addiction is recommended. Then, one day, without warning, format their computers and delete all the data. Tell them an IT fellow from Gurgaon will repair the machine. Give the children his telephone number. This must be a fake number. But always give them hope.
5. Promise children extravagant pocket money. Much more than their classmates and housing colony friends. Let them even brag about it to others. Then when the time comes to pay, tell them that the original amount promised was a “Cost To Family” figure. Deduct rent of bedroom and cost of food and electricity before paying.
I hope parents will implement these steps right away. Let us all help build a realistic, prepared corporate India in the future. Love, Mr Thrissur 2002.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com