Caution, Girl At Work!

June 15, 2009

The Monkey Wrench In Your Career….

Filed under: Uncategorized — cautiongirlatwork @ 8:23 pm
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There is this tale I have heard about Spider Monkeys. 

It is a tale of greed and short sightedness, which often results in the monkey’s capture.

Apparently, all that a hunter has to do to capture a wild spider monkey is to carve narrow hand sized holes into tree trunks and leave nuts in it as bait. The monkey shoves its fist in to grab the nuts and lo presto, the closed fist locks the beast to the tree trunk. And results in its capture.

Another version of the tale has the hunter place narrow necked jars, filled with nuts. The rest, of course, is history for the poor monkey.

Now, I am not entirely sure if the tale is true because monkeys, as a breed, are intelligent. And extremely so.

However, it is also possible that they can be as greedy and short-sighted as their human cousins.

I am often reminded of this tale at work, when I see people close their fists to encase ‘peanuts’ in a vice grip. And, remain locked in the exact same spot for an eternity.

The peanuts I speak of are not monetary in nature. 

It can be anything that a working man (or woman) perceives as ‘his’ or hers’ at the work place. I talk not about the people who take position, perks, benefits and aids at the workplace in their stride, but of those who are possessive and tend to define their existence through the peanuts.

Look around you. And you will see what I am talking about. 

Careerists getting possessive about the people on one’s team, perceived loyalists, areas of responsibility, work spaces, designations, ideas, the way things are done at work and, heck, even parking spaces!!!

At first, I assumed that the ‘Peanuts’ syndrome was an affliction of the managerial tribe. But over the years, I have come to realise that the syndrome respects no structure, and can find victims even in a simple gardener who trims, shapes and maintains the corporate green spaces or the C.E.O’s office boy!!!

It is amazing just how many promising careerists tend to be territorial. While one can afford to shrug off their attachments to the frivolous symbols of power like laptops, parking spaces, work cubicles, so on and so forth, it is a cause for alarm when the territory expands to include people, processes and ideas. 

How many of us have seen managers and seniors take offence at their subordinates hobnobbing with their rival’s  team? Of  good ideas being subordinated to a senior’s ego?  Or worse, of tasks not being delegated because the team leader is wired to oversee down to the minutest detail?

Such managers, no matter how promising or brilliant they are, retard the organisation’s growth. And sadly, most do not realise that an over-attachment to their ‘posessions’ at work is not just detrimental to the organisation’s growth, but, can hurt their careers as well.

Their careers, you ask?

Well, yes.

The adage, Love is Blind, pretty much hits the nail on the head.

When people are in love with the symbols of their power, they run the risk of holding on to these symbols at any cost. And often, these costs find shape in opportunities for advancement.

To advance up the ladder, you has to let go of the unimportant and travel light. It is only when the mind is free of distractions, that one can see clearly ahead. And, if a careerist squanders his energies and brain power in safe-guarding the frills and froth at work, then the chances are, he is going to remain exactly where he is, doing the same tasks, for a long long time.

Pretty much like the spider monkeys, in the tale, who either died or lived out the rest of their lives in a cage!

So, peanuts anyone?

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June 11, 2009

KISS Your Way Ahead!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cautiongirlatwork @ 9:51 pm
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One of the first things I learnt at work was to KISS.

Now before you jump to conclusions, allow me to clarify. 

The acronym KISS expands into Keep It Short and Simple – A  principle which was dinned into my young, impressionable head as a fundamental requisite of great advertising. 

I must say that I was one of the lucky ones.   No, not to have discovered the joys of KISSing at a young age.

But for having the good fortune of having schooled under a boss who did not favour the more popular and denigrating version of  the KISS namely Keep It Simple, Stupid!!!   Over the years, I have heard peers shudder as they recanted tales from their rookie days. Almost all of these tales had, in common, furious bosses stomping about red-faced, screeching “ Have I not told you to keep it simple? That is the golden rule, you fool..You have to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!!!”

Either way, the KISS worked brilliantly. Not just in creating above average content. But, also as a navigational aid in the corporate jungle, as I was to find out later on.

Yes, indeed. KISSing helps simplify life at work.

People work for a variety of reasons. Most do so to earn a living.  Some, to fulfil their dreams of greatness, affluence and being relevant. And then, there are those who work because it fulfills them. 

However,no matter what the motivating factor may be, the truth is that very many of us plunge into our careers pretty much the way we would into any other social environment. With our best foot forward, eager to make an impression, anxious to be popular and admired, and yes, wanting to make friends. And often forgetting that, work is not the place for socialising.   

Let’s face it. Life in the corporate world is competitive to the point of being cut-throat. 

Think Corporate and chances are, the first words to pop into your mind are: deadlines, kissing arse, politics, stress, back biting and games. 

Work is where hundreds and thousands of rats, big and small, converge to run the greatest race of their lives.  

For some, it is the ONLY race that matters.

Every rat’s perception of the finishing line, and the trophy he hopes to take home, varies from the rodent in the next lane. But, it does not make him any less fearful of losing his coveted trophy, which in turn, renders him insecure, competitive and often, ruthless.

Like it or not, the need to work is rooted in selfishness. Which is why there is limited scope for socialising at work, and, ample room for the KISS principle to function.

So, what is KISS in real life all about?

It is about focusing on work, and, never losing sight of the goals you have set for yourself.  Whatever the goal may be – greater responsibility, a mind-blowing pay-packet, house and pension at retirement, promotions galore, power unlimited, the freedom to experiment and create – the fact is that it is work and only work which is going to make your dreams come true. 

Seek and you shall find, says the holy book.

And, it is true indeed.

Focus on your career goals throws up ways to achieve it. Shift your attention elsewhere, and, you will be left wondering what went wrong.

But sadly, a large chunk of the working population tends to lose sight of this simple truth, once they are officially in the rat race.  

And, the amount of time and energy they squander, while at work, is incredible! On petty gossip, in day dreaming, in catching up with personal chores and correspondence, and above all, in watching and maligning what they think is competition. 

Such distractions can put blinkers over your eyes, before you know it, and lead you towards a dead end. 

It saps you of the time and energy you need to work , often resulting in last minute panic, missed deadlines and shoddy work.  It can make you less of a team player. And, it makes you forget just what it is that separates the achievers from the masses.

Winners, leaders and achievers – call them what you will – are clear about their goals, and, dedicate their time and energy pursuing them. 

Winners never ever look over their shoulders. Or, even sideways,for that matter.

They look ahead, to a golden future, and keep KISSing their way onwards!

June 4, 2009

No Baby, No Promotion!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cautiongirlatwork @ 2:39 pm
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Look what I found on the world wide web today!!!

An article from the Daily Mail titled Childless Women ‘Villified By Bosses’: Why NOT Having A Family Could Ruin Your Career.

I am speechless…..

Just when did the paradigm shift? 

When I last checked, working mothers were taking the flack for being undependable, unfocussed, and, for not being all there at work.

Fiddle Faddle, I agree. 

There are a bunch of women who are doing a marvellous job of juggling work, home and babies. And then, there are those who go to pieces under pressure. 

But sadly, irrespective of whether you are superwoman or not, moms at work have already been given an image, which hangs over their necks like the legendary Sword of Damocles. The image often ignores reality and makes them the butt of snide office jokes, or, worse, diverts a well deserved promotion or a plum assigment away from their career path.

As much as I have felt for working moms, I must confess that the sympathy was tinged with a certain amount of gratitude. No, not for not being a mom. But, for not being in the position of being judged on the basis of a stereotype. 

And, now it appears that I may have escaped being one stereotype, only to run the risk of becoming another!!!

As I said, I am speechless. And, stumped.

While I can see the boss’s reasons for worrying about babies affecting the performance of his women employees, it beats me as to how NOT having a baby can make a woman less efficient or productive at work. 

I beleive the exact words of  Dr Caroline Gatrell, upon whose research material this article is based, were ‘Women who explicitly choose career over kids are often vilified at work and face enormously unjust treatment.’  Bosses believe they are ‘cold, odd and somehow emotionally deficient in an almost dangerous way that leads to them being excluded from promotions that would place them in charge’

I still don’t see the problem!

To have a baby or not  is a personal choice. Just as marriage is.

Being single or a non-parent does not make a woman cold, odd or emotionally unbalanced. 

Are nuns and women of the cloth in other religions viewed as cold and dangerous beings?  No, right? 

So, why would single and baby-less women who follow any other vocation be considered differently?

As far as any organisation or boss is concerned, the only factor of importance is the effectiveness of his employee.  Be it a man or a woman. Marriage & motherhood, or the lack of both states, are choices for which a woman should not be judged for, or, be called upon to justify, not even to the powers that are. 

There is a ray of hope embedded in the article in the form of Dr Catherine Hakim who said, and I quote,  ‘I carried out a survey for the Economic and Social Research Council on childlessness in Europe, and found that a high proportion of women in higher-grade occupations are child-free or childless.”

But, despite the silver lining, the very existence of the article, and the research on which is it based, only proves that  the rumours one hears about the invisible glass ceiling, does exist as far as women are concerned. Even so, this is a very novel, and somewhat desperate, approach to keep the ceiling in place.

Have a baby, and, you become an underperformer, and, even high maintainence. 

Don’t have a baby, and, you are an emotionless monster.

Damned if you do…Damned if you don’t.

Do we have any hopes of winning this war?

June 3, 2009

Working From Home – Utopia or Harakiri?

Filed under: Uncategorized — cautiongirlatwork @ 12:12 am

People often tell me that I am lucky to be able to work from home…..Whenever I am not travelling, that is.

I am not entirely sure if I agree.

Oh yes, working from home does mean that my BP stays under control and is not sky-rocketing every morning.  

It means no rushing through the tedious rigmarole of maid supervision, preparation of meals, fights for the bathroom, and racing to clock  my presence at work on time. It means no exhausting commutes or traffic woes. And, it also means that I find myself with more time on my hands, for thinking, reading and writing.  

However, what one forgets is that, at home, a girl can never switch off and focus solely on work. As one does in an office. 

There are just far too many distractions, and, disturbances!

Mothers-in-law, mothers, friends, and well-meaning relatives calling, just to chat. 

Dawdling maid servants, power cuts and meals to prepare. 

Not to mention the steady stream of bell ringers at the door  – tenacious door-to-door sales men, ignorant courier boys, wanna-be sages and rude beggars.

And, this is just the tip of the ice-berg.

On a more serious note, working from the house can take its toll on one’s career, if one is not watchful.

For starters, it condemns you to an island like existence. Sans people. Sans teams. And, sans the  office grapevine and water cooler politics. It, basically, disconnects you from the office environment. Quite disasterous for a woman, especially in a world where she has to work twice as hard to be deemed an effective manager.

Secondly, working from the house keeps you in a state of constant justification. The powers that be, can never really assess the quantum of work that you manage to achieve. Truth be told, it is far easier to assume that you are slacking. All’s well when you have clearly set deliverables. But, what happens when there are no measurable deliverables? Or, a lean period at work?

And lastly, working from the house can shrink your spheres of influence at work, without you even knowing it. This, I consider, to be the most dangerous. If you have no circles of influence, you virtually do not exist . Except as a ghost. It becomes next to impossible to implement your ideas….You find yourself off sucessful teams. ….People become non-cooperative, and, sometimes, even hostile….You may even find your competition sticking their fingers into your pies!

 Let’s face it.

As far as a careerist is concerened, an office is an office is an office. And, there is no escaping it.

Working from home is an Utopian situation. Only that, Utopia does not exist outside the realms of human imagination.

Which brings me to the matter of how I cope with my Utopia.

I confess, it is tough.

I find myself thinking up more ideas for work….and being ultra sensitive to the vibes at work, when I do go to work.

It calls for extended spells of travel, greater discipline and energy, and, more intense efforts at networking.

Fortunately, I have technology on my side in the form of my trusty blackberry, which is more of a scratchberry, thanks to the nicks and cuts it has sustained through its innumerable falls. 

And, when all else fails, I have the option of bringing my alter-ego – the uptight bitch  – out of the closet.

🙂

June 2, 2009

Wake Up & Smell The Lipstick!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cautiongirlatwork @ 1:25 pm
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Every morning, I have a ‘wakeup to the world around you’ moment.

It is that moment, when, the last traces of drowsiness vanishes and, an adrenaline surge kick-starts my senses to the world around me. 

Normally, the big ‘wake up’ moment hits me as I drain the morning’s second cup of coffee.

But, today was different.

The alarm call came in the form of a post I found on make-up and the working girl. 

As topics go, make-up for the working girl is interesting…. Even though, it does sound frivolous.

Most of us hard core careerists would not dream of closing the door behind us, without a smidgen of lip stick and mascara on our lashes. And, most definitely, not without our war paint basics in our bags. 

However, the post I read was an effort to refute a Cosmo article about the greater earning power of women who wear make-up. Now, if the article was indeed based on the theory that the sole criteria to earn significantly more is to wear more make-up, then, it is indeed balderdash. Even though I confess, it is difficult to imagine Cosmo publishing anything as blatantly imbecilic as make-up being the sole factor for women earning more!

I have not read the article. Nor, have any intentions of doing so. And, therefore, will refrain from making any further references to it.

However,  the audacity of the post amazed me.

Truth be told, it sadened me as well.

There is a tribe of women who sit within their ivory towers, oblivious to the stark realities of life,  and, hold forth on subjects they have no inkling about. They are quick to judge, and ever ready to air their opinions to all and sundry, without as much as making an effort to understand facts for what they are.

Talk is always cheap, for this particular tribe. And sadly, their barbs and vehement arguments, sometimes, do find victims in the young, the weak and the undecided.

Well, what I say next, is as much for this deluded tribe, as for any girl on the threshold of her career. 

Make-up is not about slathering on the war paint. It is about making the best of your face and body, while underplaying the flaws. While war paint, on its own, will not result in a fatter pay-packet. It still remains an integral element of good grooming, which, does contribute to a person’s success. 

You may not need to wear make-up or be well groomed to interact with the local grocer, to go shopping or to hang out with people.  That, my friends,  is a personal choice. I have myself trudged out for shopping in my sweats , hung out with friends in PJs with a fresh scrubbed face, and hit the malls with the ‘Jane from the Jungle’ eyebrows.

The corporate world , however, is a whole different ball game.

You may get away with bad grooming, and, no make-up as a rookie. But, as one advances up the corporate ladder, it no longer remains a matter of choice. One is judged as much by good grooming, presentability, manners, as by merit, skills and capabilities. I know of instances where new women executives have been gently nudged towards their make-up case. And, have heard hints echo in the office hallways, in the guise of solicitous questions. 

‘You don’t look too well..everything ok?’ 

‘Not sleeping well?’ 

‘Would you like to freshen up before we go in for the meeting?’ 

It isn’t just about looking good.

It is about just how much you care. And, how much you are willing to put out, at your work desk.

A sloppy person is perceived to be a sloppy worker. After all, to quote my friend Sunita, if you cannot be bothered about yourself, then, why would anyone beleive you would handle work responsibilities well? 

Impressions matter.

Not just the first one.

But, the second, the third, and every single one you make all through your career. 

Any pro in the business will tell you this!

So, wake up girls.

Wake up & smell the lipstick!!!

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