Of All The Bard’s Men…

We in the K-World do not deal with technologies or engineering abilities. We do not build, invent, design, devise or create. We get things done in the strictest sense of this silly simple first line explanation of the word “management”.  We do not hire ‘talent’ in the strictest sense  even though we pass around the term more than anyone else in power meetings. We hire people. We train them. Anyone who speaks English, provides a text book definition of net profit margin, has a neat excuse for the gap year in his resume and wears decent togs to work.  KPOs are some of the most people centric and people intense industries. People see, process and deliver. People are the machines of this Machine…not computers.

People management is therefore a major part of any manager’s daily chore. They call it ‘people skills’ (we are a jargon Disneyland, mind you) or more simple inter-personal skills (go figure!). It is a psycho thing that took off somewhere from that Parent–Adult-Child States thing that Eric Berne so fondly postulated. We are supposed to be experts at it. The whole thing is about how you manage the mickies that afflict your subordinates that make them jump ship. They suddenly feel like a human being in a crowded, stuffy city bus on a hot day. We should always be reading their minds, act ‘proactively’ (yeah this is what always denies us managers the raise and promo!) to address their insecurities and turn them back into the machines they were. Matrix Relapsed! It could be the silly job that they suddenly realise they are doing. It could be their classmates who are earning bigger paychecks doing considerably lesser elsewhere. It is mostly the night shifts that suddenly after 5 months seem unfair, inhuman and taxing. It could be the next door team that gets paid a wee bit more. It could even be the poor computers they were fobbed off with, stuffy little room they sit in, ratty team mates or even the colour schema of the decor (blue is not exactly cheering me!)

So job satisfaction is one big issue or so it seems. End of the day it is all about “Show me the Money!” like Cuba Gooding Jr in Jerry Maguire, but they rather prefer to call it something else. “I see no growth in this role.” Or, I work hard but hardly recognized”. The last remark is a major excuse; one that is always directed at you the manager and everything that supercedes you. Anything that you Mr. Manager do or not do will be held against you. My boss always measured my “people’s skills” rather critically. It always seemed I never encouraged anyone. That crafty Soviet Politburo styled thing called “skip-level meetings” that are a part of this set up always came out with my shortcomings as a boss.  My boss meets the team and keeps me out of it. later in the appraisals – “So, when was the last time you said ‘Good job. Keep it up?’ to your subord?” It is a different matter that I had never done this to my dog. He never fetched the ball anyway. But I am expected to pat the backs, ruffle the fur and say “Good Boy!” to the little puppies under me every time they fetch the ball – do a good deed. Well I had more long term methods and less puppy love tricks to show my appreciation. I preferred to provide recognition through more responsibility supported by more power and independence. Fair deal, except you are supposed to be Hitler II without the “Thank you for the great work” cards.

I always had this feeling that Shakespeare was a great psychoanalyst. From Lear and Prospero to Shylock and Othello, his characters had it all. They were intense and fleshed out with passion by the bard. Take Julius Caesar as a study. The Senate was made up of ambitious men. They found Caesar standing between them and their ambition. Fuelled by envy they used the excuse of Caesar turning into an undisputable autocrat emperor to kill him. They led everyone to believe that they were doing it to restore the Republic. Mark Antony was deliberately kept away from Rome so that Caesar is bereft of his power and judgment. His popular speech upon returning to Rome is manipulative enough to provoke the minds of the plebs and turn them against the Senators. I heard it a hundred times in high school oratory competitions where everyone safely put their bets in this speech as a means to see themselves through the event (into which they were forced) and get back to their bleeding Irodov problems in General Physics. But the following lines are of significance here:

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answered it.

The good managers who take the fall due to their people management skills are like Caesar. They are put into the soup with the responsibility of service levels. They have to do with whatever talent is provided to them to get things done. They have to groom talent, manage timelines, maintain quality standards, ensure process control, deal with attrition, excuses, poor inputs, knowledge management…whoa time out! Somewhere in this, they fail to read the minds and play the parent adult child game. The subords are not ambitious like the senators. But much like them, they need a reason to vent their feelings. The real reason could be anything from incompetence to immaturity. It could be a genuine rant that they cannot articulate. It could be a mid career crisis, insecurity, monotony or a nasty peer’s seemingly innocent gossip about the state of affairs or even a case of envy. They cannot push it down. So they push it up. To the manager and all that supercedes him. The good manager is where the buck starts and stops. The good he has done goes underground. What remains is Hitler II. Appraisal time and the team managers come out dry cleaned. And grievously hath Caesar answered it.

It was when I went a level upwards and had managers under me that I realized the rules of the game I never saw before. My immediate subordinates were team managers now and took the shit . They understand what it means to be a boss and hence have better rapport with me than what their subords have with them. But I can always expect them to wake up like Neo any day and realize that someone above is treating them like a Duracell. The rise up the level also meant that I had a ringside view of the team vs. team lead. I had a personal sneak preview into each of their compulsions. I had an equal measure of both. I could now see the need for recognition, the thank you cards and all that little gestures that mattered to the masses. I also had a good understanding of what the poor team leads went through. But the trick was in balancing both. Having faced my boss complaining about my people’s skills, I did my best not to do a biased people skill measurement. After all we are not psychoanalysts. Eric Berne the psychiatrist who created transactional analysis had undergone two bitter divorces. So much for his whole parent adult child crap, he could not deal with two women! I use other methods but will not discuss it here. I leave it here for each of you to figure it out if you are in the same situation as I.

If you are a team leader, read Shakespeare. All the bard’s men have something to tell you. If you are planning to kick your manager’s posterior:

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once, not without cause:

What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason! Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.


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