On Thursday I spent my working day (11 am to 12:15 pm) slaving away on my computer, with a live feed of Lok Sabha proceedings streaming away in the background. Things of grave national importance were afoot, and I wanted to have something to say when my grandchildren ask me years from now: “Grandpa, where were you when we passed the landmark legislation that eradicated corruption from our glorious fatherland?”
I kid of course. Who knows how legislation turns out? For all you know the Lokpal Bill and the Food Security Bill may be the two pieces of legislation that fundamentally change the course of Indian history. Either way, as anyone who has had Andhra food just before a long, non-stop bus journey knows, there is no point in pre-empting an unpassed motion.
Parliaments can be brutal, unforgiving places. In fact, there is a Wikipedia entry entirely dedicated to the concept of ‘legislative violence’. If you look at the history of man, we have had legislative violence pretty much ever since we have had legislatures. Julius Caesar, you will recall, was stabbed to death by a group of Roman senators.
In more recent times, legislative violence has become even more bizarre. One discussion in the Ukrainian legislature, Wikipedia tells us, “descended into a mass brawl, involving smoke bombs, eggs and general fighting among members. The speaker had to be escorted from the chamber, covered by umbrellas.”
But even here there are lessons to be learnt for the ambitious, career-focused cubiclist. Within the often chaotic functioning of these august legislative bodies, there are numerous management tools for the young manager. Especially in that most dreaded of scenarios: the passive-aggressive, rarely productive and dripping-with-tension team meetings.
This might seem surprising. Bear with me. I have done the analysis, calculated the figures, corrected a minor error of $9.4 billion in inflated export data, and reduced it to a simple process. The next time you are sitting in a large meeting of any kind, and are faced with a crisis, ask yourself this:
What would an MP do?
You will be surprised at the power and efficiency of this simple strategy. Suddenly the mists of confusion clear away and you know exactly what your next steps are to be. But first, you may have to invest in a few hours of watching Lok Sabha TV. To get you started, let me illustrate with a few case studies.
Case Study 1: The meeting has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. The sales guys are now showing the CEO data to indicate that revenue has plummeted by 78% because of poor marketing. As marketing manager, you are in a spot. The CEO looks at you for an explanation.
What would an MP do? Stand up, look indignant, walk up to the CEO, remove your Rolex and throw it on the table. And then look at the sales manager and scream: “HOW DARE YOU TRY TO BRIBE ME WITH THIS WATCH JUST BEFORE THIS MEETING IN THE CORRIDOR OUTSIDE SO THAT I WOULD AGREE TO TAKE THE HEAT OFF YOU FOR YOUR PATHETIC INABILITY TO SELL ANYTHING YOU FIEND! I HAVE THE ENTIRE CONVERSATION RECORDED ON MY IPHONE WHICH YOU CAN SEND TO THE FORENSIC LAB IN CHANDIGARH.” Then go back and sit down. Enjoy.
Case Study 2: That gollum from finance has unfortunately latched on to your secret scheme—using a loophole in the perks policy to get monthly reimbursements for 17 newspapers and 22 magazine subscriptions. At the weekly leadership meeting, he begins a speech on the widespread misuse of perks. You know where this is going. Downhill.
What would an MP do? Get up, throw up your hands, and say that you have more important things to do than listen to a speech about something as irrelevant as perks and expenses. Ask the CEO to give you a ring when the meeting turns to serious matters such as top or bottom lines. “Now excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, while I go generate some revenue.” Walk out, as the applause fades behind you.
Case study 3: The CEO has a brilliant new plan to merge the HR and admin departments. This will save costs, reduce headcount and simplify day-to-day operations. However, the admin manager has 17 years more experience than you, the HR manager. Your team is afraid HR will get smothered. Also, the admin manager is married to the CEO. Damn.
What would an MP do? Compliment the CEO and say that you completely approve of the merger. However, you would like 47.3% of jobs in the new department to be reserved for members of the erstwhile HR team. Of this, 30% will be based on seniority, 30% based on performance, and 30% from the sports quota, with one Anglo-Indian nominated directly. When chaos ensues, offer to set up an empowered working standing committee to have another look at the plan in the monsoon session.
What do you think of my new MP strategy? The ayes have it. The ayes have it. The ayes have it. Please sit down. Please.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life.Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also Read | Sidin Vadukut’s earlier columns