Sunday, 3 February 2013

Humanising Business Relationships

There is something about the world of business that dehumanises relationships. The other is seen usually as a competitor to be trampled, or a boss to be hated, or a subordinate to be kicked or a peer to be beaten. We often gripe at everybody and anybody around the water cooler/coffee machine/whatever. Office parties are largely gossip sessions where everybody trashes everybody.
 
I met her not so very long ago. She is a confident, consummate professional, very competent in her job. She is poised, articulate, easy to work with and with a ready smile. So it was easy to picture the typical upwardly mobile, confident business executive and deal with her exactly in that manner.
 
Quite by accident, I came to know of the tragedies she had been, and is, going  through.  Tragedies you would not wish on your worst enemy. But you could never ever guess from any of the professional interactions. She is, as I said, poised, articulate, easy to work with. But now that I know, I can relate to the small things, I should have noticed before, but didn't. Yes, she was, and is,  bearing it all with a courage I can only marvel at.
 
People who go through difficulties and tragedies have a remarkably different view of the business world. They are far more tolerant. They are not easily tempted by greed, jealously, impatience and anger - vices that are in small or large measure, endemic in corporate life.  They take victory with equanimity and defeat with grace. They seem to have an altogether different view of the world - a more mature and wiser view, if I dare suggest.
Those of us who are crushed by petty office defeats or exhilarated by a pyrrhic promotion would do well to pause and reflect. Does any of this matter in the larger scheme of things ? Why have we let our lives, and even our very being, be defined by the necessary, but mundane, goings on in the office. In ten years time, or even five, would anybody care ? 
 
This post is a plea to view others we come into contact in the business world as human beings. There is a human heart beating with emotions, with hopes, with sorrows,  and with all those cauldron of feelings that define us as a race. That is not Employee No XX Or Supplier YY we are talking to. That's a member of the homo sapiens species. They may have had a great day. Maybe they are at the peak of joy. Or maybe they are troubled. Maybe there is sorrow being borne.  Whatever; it would do us good to try and understand. Maybe just be that little bit kinder.
 
Meanwhile, I am rooting for the lady to win. Win with a capital W. But then she defines "winning" differently. I should really be rooting for her to win in the truly important things in life, and "win" where , and how, she would want to.

13 comments:

  1. I, too, am rooting for that person to win, and win big.

    We quite often tend to forget that ultimately it is fellow-humans that we are serving, whatever it is the profession that we are in. I am guessing that readers of this blog know that already and, to some extent, we will all be preaching to that same choir. I wonder how we might be able to get that idea across to the "non-believers"

    Last Thursday, I was talking with a student, "K." It turns out that she has been working ever since she was 15. Now, she works 25 hours a week, attends college fulltime. In her work, she supervises a staff of six. And, btw, she has to be the transport provider for her mother because her mother cannot drive.

    My responses made it clear to her that I was way, way, blown away. Her response humbled me even more: "I know people whose lives are truly difficult, and mine is nothing compared to them."

    I am convinced that the world is ok only because of people like "K."

    So, yes, as you note, there is no "Employee XX" or "Student YY" or "Customer ZZ"

    By the same token, I had my students read an essay about an American dude's experiences in Gurgaon in a call center, not for long. The students' comments were that now they have a better appreciation for the work that goes on in call centers all the way across on the other side.

    I think you caught me at the right time with this post--been thinking about these issues for a while. Will write even more, but this is already way too long.

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  2. Beautifully said sriram. I wish you just kept on writing and never stopped !

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  3. Nice post Ramesh. Pretty early in my career working for the soap/tea company, I realised that there is a persona associated with your title and a persona associated with you. Often times I've seen managers getting intoxicated by the false sense of power that a title/chair bestows upon them. Outside the office building you are just another bloke/sheila who has an equal chance of getting run over by a city bus like any one else! On another note, the self imposed exile to far away lands (they call it Aotearoa, Paradise, NZ and by several other names) is to practice my philosophy of getting out of the rat race. Remember, even if you win the rat race you are by definition still a rat!

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  4. This coming from anybody else, I wouldnt have taken so seriously. But I have seen you walk the talk first hand and thats what makes this post more effective and hard hitting for me!

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  5. Well said Deepa. There is an uncanny resemblence to Ramesh's approach to being a manager and what Robert Greanleaf said in his book Servant Leadership. An interesting read that book is!

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  6. Anonymous4/2/13

    Ramesh - I am so touched by this article and so appropriate. Completely in awe of you and adore you - wish the world had more such Home Sapiens!Mahrukh

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  7. Such a humbling humane post!

    So nice to read such positive posts.
    BTW, my prayers for the lady to WIN happiness and God bless you for sending such good vibes to your readers.



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  8. @kiwi - Very true. If this was drilled into in business school, we would have been wiser earlier on. Or maybe you need grey hair, or no hair, to appreciate this !

    By the way, you are having the best of both worlds. A career doing what you like, in "paradise" ! Although anything that cold and blustery would not be paradise in my book :)

    @Deepa, Kiwi - No No No; that's not true, but I am deeply humbled by the kind words

    @Mahrukh - Hey ; wonderful to see you here. Delighted to read your comment, but completely floored by the totally undeserving words.

    @Asha - Thanks very much. Our prayers make a difference.

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  9. Such a beautiful post Ramesh...I couldn't agree more. Just yesterday an old lady[neighbour's mother] walked into my house with an agenda...to preach HER version of the word of God to me. We sat in my living room and she started off strongly about the way we[as in the rest of the Christians other than her tribe] were wrong in our ways, etc, etc.
    To avoid getting into an argument I gently led the discussion away from the topic into her past. It was a revelation...the hardships she endured, how she lost her daughter thru a brain hemorrhage, how her family came close to death in the 2001 Kuchch earthquake. I listened to her quietly...stories, opinions, judgements everything. And then she left happily.
    It was ok really...I was glad I didnt show my displeasure in any way. Like who am I to judge her on her opinions or actions.
    I know u were talking abt interactions the business world but my business world is my home;-P...this incident came to mind when I read you so I shared:-).

    I too hope the lady in your post makes it all happen, she deserves every bit of happiness that comes her way.

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  10. Loved the human touch and reality this post brought forth.

    In the business world, its so easy to get carried away by the competition that your co-workers can bring on, adherence to processes that we need to stick to,deadlines, benchmarks, our own career growth, the complexities of uncertainities of the market and add to all this our EGO & selfishness it becomes a deadly mixture - we can easily get blinded to the emotions and sensitivities of other human beings who co-habit our workplace.

    It did take some time ( more than a decade)for me to shake myself out of this mad race and have clear priorities in place and have different view of the business world. As you rightly said we need to go through expereinces in life that mellow you down or I would say go through your posts like this to get that input. These days before I get excited about anything at work I ask myself this question "Will this matter to me, five years from now?"

    From what you have explained about the lady, she has her way laid out in her mind and whether or not we all root for her, she will WIN. Nevertheless, my wishes too for her to Win in what she wants to.

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  11. if thalai is rooting for someone..they can't manage to loose..aana apdi ethula compete panraanga avanga? thot i missed the part and reread the post..u mean in life?

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  12. Wonderful to read, Ramesh! a big thank you for reminding us of the great values in such way only you could perhaps!

    All my sentiments are echoed by what Vincy has said. In this mad rat race, it is worth taking out a moment and pondering over the fact that God has been real kind and only kindness can foster peace and joy.

    PS - Quotable quote by TMM :) "Remember, even if you win the rat race you are by definition still a rat!" just kept ringing in the mind for sometime :)

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  13. @Reflections - Touching story. i sometimes wonder why God chooses to be hard on some people.

    @Vincy - Well said Vincy. Maybe the realisation dawns on us as we get older, but I see so many in the business world, close to retirement, being exactly the way they were when they started out.

    @Gils - Yes Gils - for her to win in life

    @Vishal - Its a wonderful quote, isn't it :)

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