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The family angle 2.0

The family angle 2.0
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First Published: Thu, Mar 03 2011. 09 00 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Mar 03 2011. 09 00 PM IST
Hello there. How does it feel to live in a perfect world where there is no crime or violence, everyone has food to eat and clean water to drink, all wars have ended, all governments are liberal democracies and there isn’t a single madcap dictator in sight? No, not even if the country is a pro-American oil producer.
And lo and behold, everyone’s Body Mass Index now hovers between 18.5 and 25.
What do you mean I am being delusional? But I thought the iPad 2 was launched on Wednesday! Weren’t our lives supposed to change forever? Isn’t today supposed to be the second day of a new beginning?
OK, like Apple and Steve Jobs, I may have exaggerated things a little bit there. Still I am always amazed, and impressed, by how much attention and analysis every Apple launch garners. I was able to attend a simultaneous broadcast of Wednesday’s launch in San Francisco that was beamed into a TV studio in West London. Every seat in the sizeable auditorium was taken at least 45 minutes in advance of the presentation.
Now I don’t need to tell you what transpired at the event. Steve Jobs did make an appearance and he did announce several things.
But right towards the end of the launch, which went on for a little over an hour, Jobs did something interesting. He asked all the people involved with the iPad 2, across several functions from sales and marketing to engineering, to stand up for a round of applause.
And then he thanked their families. He said something to the effect that he was grateful to the families of all these people for allowing them to be so passionate about their work. Without the support of “this extended family”, as he called it, these products would never be realized.
This was the first Apple event I’ve ever attended. And I have no idea if he does this all the time. In any case I was intrigued by this little hat-tip from Jobs.
Steve Jobs is well known for being a very hard man to work for. I think what he means by that statement is that he makes his people work so hard, that they often have to choose their work over spending time with their families. They maybe working late, taking work home, travelling extensively and so on.
Thank you, he seems to be saying to their families, for letting your husband or wife spend all their time making these new iPads.
The thing is, I find this kind of gesture extremely disconcerting. Why must people be expected to choose between their passion for work, and their passion for family?
Why can’t those two things coexist?
But, most worrying of all, why should they be appreciated for making, what I think, is the wrong choice?
Over the years I’ve met a few managers and some CEOs who seem to have achieved this balance. They are either off the radar on weekends or always leave the office at a certain time of the day. Or they will at least plan a break or two every year to travel somewhere with spouse and kids in tow. And these guys are usually very proud of their sense of balance.
Yet the real alpha-corporate dog is the manager or leader who surfaces from work only to breathe. They work so hard that soon they give rise to mythical stories of 22-hour days, 15 plane journeys per week, and office laptops that explode in flames because the device can’t keep up with his/her maniacal typing and clicking.
These are the managers, with this brutal aura around them, that eventually become legends, appear on magazine covers and have movies made about them.
I am sure most people reading this column agree that family is important. But what are the work habits of your favourite CEO or corporate leader? Chances are that family comes second.
Let me tell you a brief anecdote I was told by an investment banker a year or so ago, which I think is both funny, and tremendously sad. So my banker friend is in a meeting at work when suddenly his boss gets a call from home. Everyone squirms while the man is clearly having an argument. After the call he announces that he has to go home and have sex with his wife right now, or she is filing for a divorce. An hour-and-a-half later the boss comes back to office and rejoins the meeting. And everyone carries on as usual.
So funny. So sad.
Having said that I am not entirely averse to the new iPad 2. So what if Steve Jobs has an underground dungeon at the Apple head office where he chains his managers to the wall. Where he walks around with a whip screaming: “FASTER! CRACK! LIGHTER! CRACK! THINNER! CRACK! NOW NOW! CRACK! CRACK!”
But the iPad 2 is so shiny and slim!
If only all you readers got together and donated a few dollars each… Maybe if you think of me as family.
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Mar 03 2011. 09 00 PM IST