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Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  The myth and reality of office life
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The myth and reality of office life

In this new book, you can understand all that goes into decisions at the workplace, from promotions to perception, and the slim line between favourites and favouritism

Every manager has favourites, but that should not affect interaction with the team.Premium
Every manager has favourites, but that should not affect interaction with the team.

NEW DELHI:

Q&A | Utkarsh Rai

photoYour manager promoted your colleague over you: This can either kill your self-confidence if you believe you are not good enough, or it could simply mean that the manager is trying to prevent some attrition that may leave a bigger impact on the organization. 101 Myths & Realities @ The Office tackles 101 such situations, giving a broader view of how things at work play out. Each situation spells out the myth, the possible reality behind the situation, and then discusses the solution in detail from the perspective of both the employee and the manager. It covers various aspects, starting from promotions, appraisals, colleagues, subordinates, to the management ladder and more.

101 Myths & Realities @ The Office is Utkarsh Rai’s third book after Offshoring Secrets: Building and Running a Successful India Operation and Life in a Cubicle (an eBook). Rai is the managing director of the India operations of Infinera, a company that makes optical networking products. Before this, he worked at Motorola in Bangalore.

101 Myths & Realities @ The Office is written in an easy-to-read format, and since Rai gives an employee’s as well as a manager’s takeaway from each situation, the book is comprehensive. In an email interview, Rai tells us how to read things better and navigate the ground realities at work. Edited excerpts:

How does the book’s format of myth and reality help readers?

I wanted to write a practical book on people management which can deal with various common occurring issues at the workplace in a simple, honest, direct and jargon-free way. Nowadays, the attention span on any given topic has shrunk significantly and people don’t have the patience to read pages to figure out what the message is! Therefore I have chosen this format where each “myth" and its corresponding “reality" are mentioned together at the beginning of the chapter itself. If that myth is applicable, one can than go ahead and read in detail. Any given person might not be experiencing all 101 myths, and might be interested to read only 25-30, but in due course of time, I am sure a person will face a majority of them.

As coveted as a promotion is, in a chapter you tell us it may not be what it looks like.

photoUnder the Promotion section, I have covered many myths, like why a person will not be promoted, when one chooses to hire from outside and not to promote from within, or why it is important to acquire skills before a promotion rather than asking for it just because one has clocked a certain (number of) years of experience. Yes, one of the myths is that “every promotion is attractive". However, in that chapter I explained that sometime the delta benefits that a promotion provides are far fewer than the baggage of issues which one has to deal with and in such cases, people can say “No" to it.

We live in a time when everything —theories and work practices—are constantly changing. How did you keep this book relevant?

This book is not based on any company’s policy, rule or regulation. Policies can change, promotion criteria can change, the way we do appraisals can change, but the fundamentals of people management remain the same. People want to be promoted, they want to get a good salary, they will always be appraised. There will always be managers, colleagues and subordinates to deal with and therefore there will always be myths around them which need to be busted. This book is relevant across industries, across countries and across cultures.

According to me, the need for this book will still remain when the teams will be fully virtual, where the manager and employee need not have to come together often to do videoconferencing to discuss issues.

In one of the chapters, you mention that it is fine for a manager to have favourites...

photoOften the first person to be blamed for any problem in an organization is the manager, so this section certainly deserves a good space. Yes, it is true that every manager has their own favourites and there are factors on which these favourites are decided. The most important factor is the complementary skill which that person brings in to help the manager. However, the problem happens when a manager crosses the thin line between favourite and favouritism. The latter is not acceptable. Favouritism can be of tangible form—compensation, promotion, project allocation—or intangible too, like not acting tough or not facing the same consequences. Favouritism might make the receiving person happy, but it leaves a bad taste in other team members and adversely impacts teaming.

Perception plays an important role in appraisals. And once formed, it is tough to change a person’s perception of you. How can an employee deal with that?

One needs to understand that it takes time to build a perception, whether good or bad, and once formed, it takes more time and effort to rectify it if one is not happy with that perception. An employee should directly ask the manager about any perception formed about him. If incorrect, the employee can seek tips and advice from the manager and look out for opportunities to work towards changing it. It is also important to identify and prioritize a few important areas, and work towards them with patience and zeal. An employee should make sure that future interactions at work should be towards changing that perception.

komal.sharma@livemint.com

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Published: 02 Sep 2012, 07:40 PM IST
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