What goes around, comes around…

Posted: December 16, 2009 in internships, journalism, journalist, office politics

When I hear the whining that goes on about lousy internships, boring lectures, bad teachers etc etc. I wonder what these kids will do when they start to earn a salary and run into unsavoury situations, such as those that occur every other day at their workplace.

What will they do when they run into a senior who asks them to do most of the job and then takes the credit? Will they burst into tears and run off to mummy or make it a status message on Facebook or Orkut – “Help, I just got screwed by a shitty boss.”

It’s natural to crib about the environment in your workplace and against your manager. Everyone does so and there’s nothing one can do about it. But it’s one thing to crib about it to a friend or a few close friends, but an entirely different thing to do so on a public forum – unless of course, you have the appointment letter of another company in your pocket! Even then it’s a bad idea.

Come to think about it, most of these kids are getting into various streams of the media and will enter workplaces where vindictive behaviour, narcissism and bitching, (and that’s just a few of the milder forms of harassment) are as common as breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Heck, I know of one newspaper where almost the entire editorial staff went to the Press Club and got happily drunk because the Editor had been told to pack his bags and go back to where he came from – for reasons that had nothing to do with his performance as an editor.

I also know of an editor who deliberately asked a senior journalist to do a story on a subject that the management had issued instructions against doing, and which would have cost him his job. Since he had just joined and was still not too well acquainted with the dos and don’ts of the organisation, he wrote the story.

He escaped the noose only because another senior editor realised what the game was and scrapped the story. He even warned the journalist to be on his guard in the future. Strangely, when the journalist told his editor that he would not be submitting the report, there were no questions asked.

And that’s just one of the milder forms of nastiness that journalists exhibit. Of course, such behavior is not uncommon at other workplaces. Even the holy cow of the Indian industry – Info Tech – has it in plenty. This nastiness also goes under another euphemism – office politics.

When I hear some of the kids complaining about their managers and superiors, I feel like telling them that what they are going through at present (and most of it is their doing), is just a fraction of what they’ll receive when they enter the corporate world. There it’s a dog-eat-dog world, with your best friend planning your execution even as he raises a toast to your life and success, over a dinner that his wife prepared, especially for “her husband’s best friend and wife”! It gives an entirely new connotation to the expression “you’re toast”!

In such situations these kids have two choices – stay there and fight, or pack their bags and move to a new job – till it happens again… and again…and again. There is also a third way – keep quiet. I’ve learnt, that people who are vindictive and sadistic, usually get rattled when you don’t react. And the more you dig your heels in and refuse to react the more rattled they get.

In my previous company, I had the misfortune of working with one such gentleman, who believed that being nasty and abusive to his juniors was actually a positive trait. He would proudly tell me how he bullied employees with threats and warnings. And the poor employees would bear it silently because, after all, everyone needs a job. Needless to say that it was a matter of time before people began to look for jobs elsewhere. The company all but folded up and the imaginative CEO’s dream went up in smoke and his bank balance down quite a few million dollars. And mind you, he was a really nice guy. He just didn’t know how to control his relatives and their friends.

I’m sure there will be people who worked under me who might also think I was lousy boss, and like them I too have had my share of crappy bosses. But I’ll tell you about them when I retire – or better still when I write a book post-retirement! After the one that I finished recently (and sent to the publisher) sees the light of the day, and the one I am writing gets past the first chapter, where it is presently stuck!

  1. Anonymous says:

    The way you write, Mr. Sinha, it is as if you have a personal vendetta against this generation. It is, almost as if, you are the angel who never did anything wrong and thus sitting up on that high throne of yours, you can criticise this entire generation who probably have more issues and problems in these times than you had in your entire life!This is perhaps a personal comment, and I had no wish to do that. I love your writing, when it's on something good and constructive(especially the one about Chandu Borde and the Babri Masjid). But, when you always slip in that air of condescension, that's when it goes all wrong. The generation today has issues, just don't always dismiss it as cribbing. Maybe, try and lend a helping ear, even show some sensitivity, if that is in your dictionary? I do not know whether you will allow this comment to be posted, but I do hope you read this.

  2. Ayesha says:

    Sir, what's your book called and when do we get to buy it?

  3. Pradeep says:

    I worked for a couple of years before joining the SIMC course. When I started working initially, I was really disgusted by the politics that go on. However, after a while, I realized that the best way to work is to measure yourself today only with respect to what you were yesterday. I learned that one should look at one's own work, and just keep trying to improve one's quality, conduct, professionalism. Everything else can just be tossed out through the window. Because ultimately, when you go to sleep at night, you are alone. Instead of cribbing about people, bosses and work, if one just thinks about doing the best job they can, regardless of what happens, one can get a good night's sleep. Of course, one's family and friends are always there whenever one needs a pressure release valve. I'm not sure if this is the right approach, but it worked for me in a job that was always high-pressure, high-risk (since it involved huge amounts of other peoples' money), and with returns skewed completely in the opposite direction compared to the inputs. Still I can confidently say that professional life was one of the best things that happened to me, apart from the 20-odd kilos that I gained working for two years in front of a computer screen!

  4. Mohan says:

    Anonymous,I am assuming you are a student of mine. If I had a personal vendetta against this generation, I wouldn't be teaching them.My attitude should have been "wtf, why should I give a shit what happens to them? Once I leave the class, what happens to these kids is really not any of my business. Right?" I am no angel, never claimed to be. I call myself a reformed rake! Someone who pulled himself back from the brink in the nick of time. When I see kids going a little off-track I think it's only right that I tell them. The rest is up to them. As a kid I too was like any other youngster, hot-headed, impulsive and impetuous. I realise today, that I made big mistakes – the kind that I hope none of these kids ever end up making. If only, I had handled my career and my life better, I don't know where I would have reached. When I say what I say, it's with the benefit of hindsight. Like when our elders and seniors told us things we should and should not do, and then left the decision to us. Sometimes we listened, sometimes we didn't. And just like me, you too have the right to listen or not to listen. It's your life.

  5. Joe Pinto says:

    Thank you, Sinha, for bringing an important issue out into the open: petty office politics. And it does not matter if any one cowardly anonymous from the present generation takes it as a "personal vendetta". What is more important is that they "take it", which-ever way they prefer it.I too have my blog, "Against the Tide", which is for those of my good students who want to resist and rise above the tide of petty office politics.Pradeep has got it correct in his own way: "Instead of cribbing about people, bosses and work, if one just thinks about doing the best job they can, regardless of what happens, one can get a good night's sleep."But why dissipate our energies? Let us be done with the villains in the classroom or at the workplace.Look for the precious few, the good and great teachers and bosses; the ones you will rush across the road to meet when you spot them on the other side, after years; the ones you will go up to at a party and say, "Remember me, sir or ma'am? I was your student. I worked with you."Seek out such teachers and bosses. They will make your day and your life. And no matter what the cowardly anonymouses of the world may say, dear Sinha, you have it in you to be a fine teacher and, with a little sincere effort, … a fine boss.Peace and love,- Joe.

  6. Naman Saraiya says:

    Well Sir.I'm not going to comment much about the previous comments, that have been made.I just have two things to say.1. It's strange how I never got around to talking to you, beyond class. Maybe I will catch up on first year, now.2. I'm glad I read this.:)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you Mohan but also feel that people of our generation, who are parents today, are to blame. We mollycoddle our kids too much and to a large extent encourage this kind of behaviour.- Niteesh Krishnamurti

  8. Mohan says:

    Pradeep, Your approach is the perfect oneJoe, ThanksNaman, I am sure we'll catch up soonNiteesh, You're so right. When our kids say smart things at age 5 or 6, we say "what a smart kid". The same smart kid becomes a "terribly impertinent kid" by the time he or she is 12, for the same answer!Ayesha, It's still with the publisher. When he decides to do something about it, I'll let you know!

  9. Sana says:

    Good one..:) 🙂

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