Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friends with colleagues

While discussing the corrective steps for a friend's project, I noticed a shade of sorrow on his face. The schedule of the project was a long one, and they were just warming up. So I didn't understand the cause for concern. Your planning may go wrong, and that is the reason for a retrospective. I continued to cheer him up, and then he confessed. "I am too friendly with the team. I have entangled my professional and personal life. Now, I am suffering".

On hearing this, I felt more sorrowful than my friend. There aren't any rules in any book saying you can't be friends with your colleagues. I have a lot of friends from the workplace.  There are cases of people leaving the organization because it has become big and there is no personal touch anymore. I admonished my friend. "You are harsh to yourself." Developing friendships at work helps to reduce stress at the workplace. That is my stand in summary.

While you ponder my point, here is the other side of the problem. Yesterday, I was trying to reach a colleague. After sending a couple of texts and a few calls later, I was not sure what to do. As there was a fire breathing dragon who was chasing me, I needed the help of this person to counter the danger. In my defense, I had used all my powerful spells without any success.  It was Friday evening. All this time, I was trying to reach his work phone. This fact dawned on me Saturday morning.  So what did I do? I messaged him on Facebook. An hour later, he was attending an important meeting.

As for me, I am not sure if any of my colleagues are going to send me invites over Facebook to connect. Neither am I sure about their joy in accepting my invites.  I might have crossed to the dark side entirely. But that is me. As the wise, there is a good side and a bad side for anything.


Picture Courtesy: tomvdh1

Friday, February 10, 2017

The CoCa factor

A few days back, I found a group of my colleagues huddled around a laptop. They were staring at an email. When governments are increasingly becoming protectionist and isolationists, the workplaces are adopting an opposite approach. They are embracing inclusion and cultural tolerance. As a result, we cannot take emails at their face value but have to apply the cultural background of the person who wrote the email. I have stared at emails trying to fathom the intricacies of the mind of the sender. 

I checked the email. It was a response to an issue. The sender has suggested a few steps. After the completion of these proposed steps, he called everyone for a CoCa. Now, what is this CoCa? This question was haunting the caucus that formed around the laptop. Does this have a specific meaning in the sender's native tongue? Did he misspell cocoa? Is he proposing coffee? The coffee is a good idea. But there is a large landmass separating the sender, and the receiver after discounting the immigration formalities will pose as a deterrent.

The jury might be out on the question of which one is better - a single brain, or the collective brain. But in this particular case, the collective brain won the argument. Someone pointed out. CoCa stands for Conference Call.



Photo Courtesy: GraceOda

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pappettan explains the mystery of vanishing managers

A few weeks earlier, I bumped into an old acquaintance. I was with Pappettan when this chance meeting took place. Although I was happy to see my friend, he did not reciprocate the feeling. I was pretty sure it has nothing to do with me. I suspected the circumstance and hence pursued my line of inquiry.

Me: *concerned* What happened? You don't look happy!

My friend: *apologetic* I am sorry. It is this situation at my workplace which makes me unhappy.

Me: *cautiously* All of us has a bad story to tell about the workplace. *after a brief pause* If talking helps, we are ready to reason. *thereby making Pappettan also a partner in crime*

My friend: *with sadness and frustration* I have been associated with a project for almost two years. In this period, I had three managers. Everyone vanishes in a short time.

On hearing this, I turned silent and sympathetic. When your boss changes frequently, then there is less chance of advancing in the career. As I couldn't think any appropriate comment to energize my desolate friend, I decided not to open my mouth. That is when Pappettan decided to intervene.

Pappettan: *with a smile* I don't see any reason for you to worry.

My friend: *confused*

Pappettan: *still smiling* It is your boss who should be worrying.

My friend: * more confused*

Pappettan: *imparts wisdom calmly* They are the ones who is getting replaced. They should be afraid to be your boss.


Picture Courtesy: K2D2vaca

Monday, November 21, 2016

Change at the zenith of success

There are many things to be learned from successful chefs. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Massimo Bottura making a new dish out of a mistake. Now I have come across Francis Mallmann. The documentary provided a good view of his home in a Patagonian island and cooking in the open in this beautiful landscape. It makes you long for this kind of life. Then the reality of daily humdrum of life hits you. Coming back to where we started, what is that make successful chefs full of wisdom? It may be a harder subject to follow. So I will restrict myself to his pearls of wisdom.

One of the advice from Francis Mallmann is actually a no-brainer. Tell the truth without fear. Don't we know this principle already? But Mallman also admits this is not an easy task. You gain the courage to speak the truth with careful consideration without malice as you age. All of us want to quicken this process. Don't we?  It is the second lesson which is far more important. Cooking is teamwork. So he has to rely on his team members a lot. But he also changes his team members frequently. The change is not because the team member is incompetent. He changes when they become successful and have established their comfort zone in the team. According to Mallmann, the relationship can only go downhill from this point. So it is better to change the person. Somebody else on the team will step up to fill the void.

How many of us are courageous to change the composition of a successful team? Most of are quick to change but only when the relationship starts to deteriorate. So the change happens when the relationship is sliding down the slope and when it is at its zenith. I have witnessed resistance to modifying the composition of the winning team.  On the other hand, I have also seen cases where the change was inevitable to salvage the team albeit late. But I have not noticed people shaking hands and parting when the going was good. This act requires a lot of courage. Although this sounds like a wise advice, will we be able to break the shackles of our bad habits to adopt it?


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Books: The Rosie Project

In his own words, Graeme Simsion was an IT consultant. Since he is also the author of this book, Graeme has switched profession. Since I also belong to the same field, I was naturally curious to know how interesting the book is and how fortunate is Graeme's switch. For the first book, he creates Don Tillman, a genetics professor in Melbourne. He has never been able to find a partner and hence wants to use science to identify the perfect match for him. So Tillman builds an elaborate questionnaire which will help him eliminate the time wasters. As you can see, the premise is absurd and captivating on account of its absurdity.

The books rest on several key things which are familiar to us. Sometimes what we seek is closer to us than we think it is. Opposites attract. Those are many of the things which will come into our mind as we read the book. But these are just revelations. What makes us laugh all through the book is the simplicity of Tillman's thinking. He is a nice person who doesn't understand sarcasm and is very inept at social behavior. So when Graeme describes Tillman's scientific approach to matters of the heart, it accentuates the impracticability and hence provides excellent fodder for a comedy. Tillman starts with the Wife Project but it soon get diverted into the Rosie Project.

There are talks on making this book into a movie. If you believe the various tidbits on the net, Graeme intended this as a screenplay. He decided on the novel to gain popularity. If you examine, most of the plot twists are cinematic, but we overlook this factor because Tillman's reactions to these twists are explained by the author. However, if this is a movie, how will an actor translate the workings of a mind into acting? As a book, it is enthralling. But as a movie, it is a risky business. If you are looking for a light-hearted read, pick this one up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The rise and fall of a laddu

Women. An enigma wrapped in a riddle. Or is it the other way? Before you start accusing me of becoming a poet, I didn't say it. I am paraphrasing a friend. Why is he coming out with such revelations? It started with an innocent SMS which had far deeper connotations.

Are you there?

That is how it started. My friend's heart skipped a beat when this message arrived out of nowhere from a friend. What was weirder was the sender of the message, a member of fairer sex, had drifted into his thoughts a few days before. They were talking to each other almost every day and then suddenly everything had gone cold. So the sudden message caught him off guard.

I saw someone who reminded me of you.

Another message followed immediately. This time, my friend reminisced into every minute detail of her. He could envisage her smile and all those little things that made him crazy about her. He was excited because this seems to be the beginning of a new beginning.

Remembered laddu?

He replied, no longer being able to contain himself. She had always called him a laddu. He never asked her why. He has never been called a food item by anyone. So when she first called her laddu, he quickly succumbed and let his imaginations run wild.

Yes yes. He is short and round like you. Laddu...

My friend concluded the story. Women! They raise you all the way up and drop you like a hot potato. In this case, like a hot laddu.


Photo Courtesy: Lyrical Lemongrass

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What should we share?

In the recent interview with NPR, Charlie Brooker the writer of the show "Black Mirror" articulates an interesting hypothesis. According to him, we are not black and white. We possess different characteristics. We exhibit these character traits based on the situations and the people involved in the case. Social media are making us a monochromatic organism. I have oversimplified the concept. Charlie Brooker has eloquently put forward this reasoning in his own words

Social media has made it as - you know, and the internet and technology in general has sharpened all of those things. I guess they've always been there, that performative nature of life has always been there that you sort of perform, you know, to everyone to an extent, don't you? You sort of perform your personality, I guess, to everyone on some level. It's just that I think it's more - well, my little theory is that we've got - that - I remember - my theory is that we've got - that we used to have several personalities, and now we're encouraged to have one online. So - but by which I mean I remember once having a having a birthday party - or was it a book launch? - something - anyway, a party. 
And people from different aspects of my life showed up. So there were work colleagues who showed up and there were people I'd known since, like, college who showed up and there were people I'd only just met who showed up. And I behaved differently with all of these people in the real world. But once they were all together in one space and they were all mingled in in one group, if I walked over to them, I suddenly didn't know how to speak, do you know what I mean? Because, like, with some of them I'd be - I tried to be all intellectual and erudite and with others I'd just swear and curse and be an idiot. And suddenly, when they're all in one space, I don't know who I am. 
And I kind of feel like the one sort of thing is that online you're encouraged to perform one personality for everyone. And I wonder if that's one of the things that's feeding into the kind of polarization that seems to be going on is that you're - I think that lends itself to groupthink in some way or some kind of lack of authenticity. I wonder if we're better - better equipped to deal with having slightly different

When you think deeper, aren't we wary about what we post on the social media? Sometimes we loosen up and then we end up in trouble. Consider the case of my friend who has been assigned a project which takes him to different countries in what is considered widely as an unexplored yet blessed continent. He works there for two weeks and travels back to his base. So what do you do on the weekend sandwiched between the two weeks? He explores the area. As a result, there are a lot of pictures which finds his way into the social networking sites. Very soon, a comment popped up on his stream. The author jokingly queried if he was having too much fun and too little work. In a closed room, this comment would have evoked a chuckle. Instead, the situation turned tense before it was defused.

Who is to be blamed in this case? The person who posts the pictures or the person who commented? It poses a conundrum. If you ask me, I don't have the answer. But I am all in for posting pictures. Life is too short to see all the places. When someone posts a picture, two things are happening. The first is we are happy to know that they are alive and kicking. The second we get to experience these beautiful sights with our eyes and become part of their happiness.

You may remember the old adage. Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. But in some cases, sharing doubles the pain. Take another instance. A good friend of mine went suddenly silent on the social media. As he was very active on social media before his disappearance, the absence was very conspicuous. When I reached him, the reason for the abstinence was due to a job search. The recruiters were checking the social media for more information on the prospective employees. As a result, he wanted to go off the radar.


Photo Courtesy: Chris Jone
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