Monday, May 24, 2010

The fallacy of hard work

The English Teacher at school once told me when there is darkness around you, don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle and you will illuminate the room for every one around you”. I at that time thought that it was the ultimate altruism little realising that hidden behind those words was a bigger truth – when you light the candle, every one in the room realises that you were the one to light the candle.

I did not realise the bigger truth till I entered the rat race in the true sense of the word. In all my youthful exuberance and innocence I had believed that illuminating the world around me was the mantra to success and happiness.

Then the first year appraisals happened when I thought that I had done an exemplary job at both what was expected of a young executive and also in contributing to the overall performance of my company. Imagine the rude shock when there was about a 50 percentile difference between my self assessment and that of my appraiser. I learnt that I had not fulfilled my KRA’s, that my Soft Target achievement was abysmal, I was seriously lacking in professionalism, I lacked in Client focus and result orientation, my team orientation was poor and to top it all I had performed poorly in my corporate citizenship role.

You can imagine what a traumatic experience it must have been for me. I neither understood what I had done wrong nor what was expected of me. As a true blue Arien I quit my job immediately and told my appraiser to continue living in darkness as I believed I had the power to illuminate thanks to my English teacher.

I joined the top competitor of my erstwhile company with a silent oath to myself that I will make the erring appraiser eat humble pie. I can even remember the pride with which I had told the gentleman who had interviewed me in the competitor company that my sole objective in life was to contribute meaningfully in bringing my erstwhile company to its senses. What I really meant was that I as the new Sachin Tendulkar of this company will single handedly defeat the opposing company with 16 overs to spare in a 20-20 game, After all I was the ILLUMINATOR.

A complete year of hard work, sweat and toil later I was again faced with the now familiar appraisal day. Confident me walked into face the appraiser to have my worst nightmare replayed. KRA, Soft Targets, Professionalism, Client Focus, Result Orientation, etc etc.

Options were either to quit and go to competitor number 3 or to understand what this corporate jargon meant. I chose the later and given below is the distillate of my understanding of the above arrived upon by being on both sides of the table across two decades.

KRA – Read Key Responsibility Area – Decoded as anything and every thing which anybody else in the system connected however remotely to you fails to deliver on his or her responsibility.( Interestingly as I have grown older I have realised that this is the difference between great organisations and mediocre ones and hence is a great concept). Marx had explained it as collective responsibility but somehow KRA sounds almost like an accusation.

Soft Target – In case you achieve all targets given to you and still the management decides to shaft you, the night before the appraisal they hold a meeting to decide how to. Whatever is the chosen route falls under the broad head of soft targets. It can range from number of new clients met to how many client birthdays you remembered…..or much further..

Professionalism – How close was your dressing, demeanour, mannerisms were to your boss. If you are not a clone then you will lose out.

Client Focus – As long as the boss man does not get a client call you are client focussed. If he gets it does not matter beyond that.

Result Orientation – Did the payment come on time? If so yes and if not NO.

Corporate Citizenship – Am still working at figuring this one out.

Till then let every one else know that you lit the candle.

Written by : Sujay Misra


  1. Hi Sir ... people feel insecure around 'illuminators' because they cannot understand why they act differently & why they cannot stay within bounds.

    So the trick is to make the boss think HE / SHE is the 'illuminator'! After all, who wants the credit? It's good fun to keep it a secret :-)

  2. And I am sure Preethi thinks that after Lord buddha she is the biggest illuminator around. When she calls you Sir / Madam, it is so obvious that she thinks she is making you feel that you are the illuminator. Even if she didn't clarify, i think most people know this.

  3. As some "illuminator" had recently said "It is difficult to fool someone who is simply too smart at playing dumb"

  4. Anubhav, I am insecure of the illuminator because the illuminator is so bright and cannot stay within bounds. You?

  5. Not just insecure but terrified too... because such bright light out of bounds can be harmful (FIRE, FIRE!!!) - need rains :)

  6. No matter how many times I read this article, it says something new every time ... please write more, sir.