Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

These days communication is an important aspect of life. It was always a very important aspect of professional life but it does play a huge role in personal life as well. Not only communication, but effective communication is something that is very important, as bad communication or no communication can be disastrous at times.

I have a good example to explain this situation, when a bad communication and later no communication led up to a very embarrassing situation, for both me and my friends. This made me realize that one cannot and should take things for granted unless they are being explicitly conveyed.

It happened on a Sunday a couple of weeks back. Two of my friends (Tejsweeta and Tejaswini) wanted to visit the army shop to buy a few things. I had to accompany them so that they would be allowed to enter the Army shopping premises. So they had informed me about this well in advance. An evening before this they even confirmed with me of this, and I too fixed up the meeting time (it was for 10 o’ clock in the morning if I remember), and asked them to give me a call once before leaving from their place.  

Unfortunately, a got an urgent call late in night and I had to rush to my friends place in the wee hours of the morning. A lot of time went by at my friends place getting things in order; I did not realize that the shopping time was approaching. In the meanwhile due to all the stress since morning I almost forgot about this shopping plan. I realized that only around when it was around 10:30 that day. I thought of informing my friends to delay this shopping idea for a couple of hours as I would get late as I was engaged in some high priority work. But it is at that time I realized that run out of my mobile battery. My phone was not working, which meant that I could not communicate my situation to them anyway. I was in a little disarray, but then I felt that even they cannot contact me anyhow, and in such a situation they would not have left their place. That thought did relax me a little, and after sometime I headed back home. I reached home around 12 o’clock, and it is at that time a saw many missed calls from Tejsweeta on my other number.

Even after looking that I was not really disturbed as I believed that probably she has been trying to contact me since morning to confirm about this trip. But it is only when I contacted her I feel into a state of shock when she informed me that she along with Tejaswini were waiting for me at the decided place for the more than two hours. Not that really disturbed me a lot, and I was not in a state to respond at all, as anyways it was late to go out for shopping (as the army shops generally close by noon on Sundays). I probably had no words to speak at that time, as to some extent I had goofed up this plan. But as time has passed by since then, there has not really been much to worry about that day except a little embarrassment I got into because of that miscommunication or rather no communication.

To be honest, I been particularly thinking about this incident for the past two weeks and even analyzing it, and I almost every time I come up to a conclusion that whatever happened that day was hardly my fault. To a major extent it was the miscommunication and wrong assumptions made more from my friends rather than me.

To speak a few of them firstly, I believe they should have called me up before leaving. I believe they tried to, but since I did not respond to any of their calls they should have left at the first place. My not  picking up their call should have been an obvious indication that I am stuck up somewhere and should have waited for me to respond, I think they should have been intelligent enough to understand this sign or lapse of communication. As it is always better to wait at home rather than wait at some unknown place in scorching heat.

Secondly, what was the point in waiting at the place for over two hours is something I don’t understand. I can still somehow agree (contrary to my first point), they felt that something must have gone wrong and wanted to stick to the plan. But in that too, I really don’t see a point in waiting for 2-3 hours. I think it makes sense to probably wait for someone for only half an hour, definitely not more than that unless you have some sought of communication going on. I don’t know what exactly was going through their minds which made them wait for so long, get more and more frustrated as time passed by and then probably take out all of that on me the next day. I am very precise with my timings, I hardly get 5-10 minutes late, so probably even 30 minutes was a lot of time taking me into consideration (and they being my good friends and knowing me well should have taken this point into consideration).

To be honest, I really cannot figure what I did wrong, but for sure something was there. All in the end I can say that probably it was a day when quite a few things went wrong. What I am actually sad about that it kind of effected my image and probably even caused a small dent for no mistake of mine (at least I have not been able to figure out any). That is why I planned to write this here as maybe I might be able to get my side of story clear to people and also this will help me get some feedback as well. Maybe I must have gone wrong somewhere, something that I have still not considered.

And the most crucial part is that this, a very simple incident of a common day life can explain the disastrous outcomes of a bad or no communication or as we call it “MISCOMMUNICATION”. Also, this does explain in a way how important it is to interpret the communication correctly as well.

Disclaimer: I am not really sure whether what I have thought of writing and have ended up writing in the blog post actually fits under this heading. After completing this blog post I am really confused of what I actually intended to write and what have actually written down. However, I feel that the content is still good enough (though not structured as well as I would have liked) to be posted. Also, I now feel that however most of the content is from my experiences and more of my perception at the topic, still this is very much debatable and I would be very happy if I do get such debates happening for the post here.

The Concept

I have been hearing this every now and then about good and bad managers, and to be honest mainly about bad managers. Also, now days the term “manager” itself is meant or probably is replaced conveniently for bad managers. Everyone talks about managers – bad managers, they all say they aren’t any good managers, all a manager is, is bad.

I am not sure if this is really true, as so far my experience has been, I would actually go on an exactly different story about managers. In a short career of about 3 years, I have worked with 7-8 managers and surprisingly all have been good somewhat, or I can say is definitely none of them would come under the BAD category. I don’t know how has this happened, maybe I have been very lucky, or maybe my way of looking at things and judging them has been different. Certainly one of the two has to be correct. Also, I feel that these days everyone has a perception that the managers are bad, and then they start judging people, and probably so they end up having differences with the manager and them term them as bad. I believe that having a perception and then judging someone is not correct. If we believe that the manager should think about our situation and then judge us, then the other way round should also hold good certainly. It has been really disappointing to hear everyone speak negatively about their managers, and especially when I don’t have much to say bad about a few of them, definitely makes me a little wary of either my thinking or my of that of my friends.

Because of this I have been thinking on writing something on this for a long time, but I was not able to create enough content that could or should go in here. But after attending a lecture on leadership, that included the McGregor’s theory X and Y, I got motivated to definitely write something on this. As per the wikipedia, here is an explanation of both the theories:

Theory X

In this theory, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practice, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can. According to Michael J. Papa, if the organizational goals are to be met, theory X managers rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain their employee’s compliance. Beliefs of this theory lead to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, and a punitive atmosphere. The Theory X manager tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective employees are only out for themselves. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X manager believes that his or her employees do not really want to work, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the manager’s job to structure the work and energize the employee. One major flaw of this management style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale in large businesses.

Theory Y

In this theory, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. According to Papa, to them work is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y managers believe that employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed. A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about workers. A close reading of The Human Side of Enterprise reveals that McGregor simply argues for managers to be open to a more positive view of workers and the possibilities that this creates. He thinks that Theory Y managers are more likely than Theory X managers to develop the climate of trust with an employee that is required for human resource development. It’s human resource development that is a crucial aspect of any organization. This would include managers communicating openly with subordinates, minimizing the difference between superior-subordinate relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which subordinates can develop and use their abilities. This climate would include the sharing of decision making so that subordinates have say in decisions that influence them. This theory is a positive view to the employees, meaning that the employer is under a lot less pressure than someone who is to be influenced by a theory X management style.

My Take at the Concept

Why exactly I have explained both of these management styles is so that I can draw equivalence between theories and the current day managers. If I have to conclude on the two theories then I can say is the manager with theory X is the one who follows Autocratic style, and demands respect (or more respect than he hardly deserves). On the other hand the manager with theory Y is the one who follows a Democratic style, commands respect (rather than demanding it), and definitely fits into the scales of a good leader.

But to be honest having managers of these styles is more of a concept than practicality, and I believe today’s managers are more of a combination of both the theories than following just one of them. It is only the percentage they follow each of the theory is what makes them different from others. Now if we have to make a consensus then I would say that having more traits of theory Y makes a manager good and more of theory X makes him bad. So if this is to be believed, then I can say that most of my friends have managers who tend to have a lot more traits of theory X than that of theory Y. But this does not mean that they do not have or exhibit some traits from the theory X, it is only the viewpoint of others who cannot see this aspect of theirs clearly (or at all).

I am not sure if anything else apart from these two is required to make it to the list of qualities of a good manager. I don’t know what it is but there is certainly something else too that is required, and this I am talking from my personal experiences with my managers. I have worked under quite a few managers, to name a few they would be: Anisha, Bharati, Aman, Neel, Aditya, Qais, and Antara. To be honest I hardly had any issues with anyone, and this is what surprises me the most. Especially since all of them were different form each other in nature.

My Experiences

My first manager with whom I worked was Anisha, she was certainly a good manager, and had good balance of both theory X and Y. She knew how to get things done, apart from that she was very caring and supportive, something that definitely qualifies her to be a good manager. I never had any issues with her, honestly under her I knew if I do my assigned work in time, and then surely all would be well. She would never put any unwanted pressure to get things done.

Bharati was my second manager. I worked with her closely for a long time (initially she being the lead and then later graduated to become the project manager). To be honest she commanded a lot of respect, and not only from me but from the entire team that worked with her. I believe she was much inclined towards the theory Y, which definitely makes her a good manager if not an exceptional one. I believe her graduating to a manager level worked in both positive and negative way for her. Positive, since before becoming a manager itself, she commanded a lot of respect due to her technical knowledge and helpful and an understanding behavior, which made her job a little easier as she moved to the next level. The negative thing would be that a few times we unknowingly or inadvertently took some liberties under her (though to be honest at that time they certainly did not qualify as liberties, but now after having worked with a lot more people I feel that they could go under them). But she never censured, because I think that those things hardly affected our productivity at work. But to add all I can say is that those were still early days for her as a manager, and with time surely she would become a little stricter (something that is required as a manager), and maybe even strike the perfect balance of both the theories that is required.

My latest manager Antara is also on the same lines of that of Bharati, another very helpful and a very understanding manager. She too has risen to the position of a manager recently and so she too is in that period of transition as I had explained about Bharati. After working with her I realized, that team members actually don’t take managers like her and Bharati very seriously early on (luckily I am not one of them) as they were peers and leads not long ago. But I am very happy that neither of the two had tried to impose their seniority on the others as that could have easily damaged a few relations. It is very good that they are giving everything time, and surely they would be able to acquire the command, respect, and to some extent the fear of manager that a manager needs to have in very less time.  I have written about both of them together because I don’t know why but I can definitely draw a lot of parallels between the two. On second thoughts, I would like to add is probably they are only missing on the fear of manager as of now. To be honest, this quality definitely should exist otherwise manager will not be able to manage really very efficiently (I will surely talk about this a little later).

Now I would like to talk a little about Qais, definitely the most dignifying manager amongst the ones I have worked with. I believe he has all the qualities (have managerial skills, good decision making, command respect, technical knowledge, and also command fear of manager) in him. Though I would add that he does really possess the perfect blend of both the theories (he tends to be more towards theory Y, which is good for a manger), but still qualifies to be the best amongst all, given his attitude towards things and the way he solves issues. Why I say that he does not have the perfect blend of theories is that I have seen people sometimes take the undue advantage of his kindness and liberties, but surely he is good since he does not allow anybody to really go overboard on that. I guess working under him has really changed my perception on various things in a professional career. Though, I could not work with him for a long time, yet in those few days his comportment has been a good lesson to be learnt from. He surely fits into a role model as how a manager should actually be. On similar lines to Qais was another manager, Neel. Though again I got to work with her just for a few days, but that experience was definitely awe-inspiring.

With all of the managers one common thing was the comfort level. I believe you need to have someone who can actually tell you, “It’s okay, don’t worry about this, but try not to repeat the mistake again”, when your task assigned can go horribly wrong for the first time. I guess, especially as young team members one needs to have such managers around you. Because I believe one cannot really learn until they make mistakes (but yes one cannot keep on repeating the mistakes), and that’s where the managers need to be strict and draw the line. I think I have been very lucky with this aspect, as almost all the managers I have got were of this kind. And I guess, probably most of my friends have not had the luck to have worked under such managers and so they have been cribbing.

Now this is all about the good managers, what about the bad ones? I am sure there are plenty of them in the industry; it is only that I have been very fortunate not to have worked any such one. But yes, under this maybe as a greyish part I would like to talk about one manager I worked with, Aditya. Though to be honest, he surely does not fit into the bad category, but almost every other person in the team had a different perception of him than that of mine, so I decided to write about him separately. To start with Aditya did not mix with people easily (though he did become friendly with people once he had worked with them considerably). Secondly, it was very difficult to explain him your point of view, even if it was correct. He had his own perceptions at things, and to some extent was adamant on them. And if one did succeed in explaining his point of view, he would suddenly change priorities to suit that viewpoint (sometimes that too becomes an overload). Apart from all of this, after working with him for a few months I realized that he did not really possess very good technical skills. However, his HR- team management skills were great. He was very caring, kind and supportive, few aspects of his I don’t think many people have seen other than me. But then his technical perspective (as that hurt the project as a whole) negated that quality of his to some extent. Other than that, he had his own gimmicks to deal with the clients, which were appreciated (surprisingly) by the client but did not go well with his seniors and also landed his team in a few serious issues. To write it in short, I would say he had decent “managing skills”, but lacked on the technical perspective, unfortunately which did not make him a good manager amongst his team members. He definitely acted as a leader for the team, took decisions (I believe, decision making is very important aspect of a manager) , responded well and quickly, but unfortunately for him, all that generally back-fired. Probably these are the reasons why he was not popular in the team.

Even I had issues with him early on, but then managed to get along with him very well in the later stages (and because of this point I have actually written his description in a little detail). From this I wanted to raise a discussion that even we need to manage our managers effectively. Sometimes, we need to change in order to settle down with a manager. This is something I learnt while working with Aditya. Initially it was difficult adjusting to his style of work, but then things smoothened up with time. I think this is also an important aspect that one should take into the picture when we talk about manager’s attitude towards us. To cite another example, I have seen another colleague of mine having problems with his manager. Now other members of the project also had issues with the manager, but they somehow were in decent terms with her. But this friend of mine was having tremendous issues with manager, and the problem had reached to such an extent that he was ready to leave his job, even at the terms of his career for that matter. This example of mine corroborated my thought that some effort needs to be applied by us as well, we too need to understand the situation of the other side, instead of expecting everything to be done by the manager.

Manager vs Leader

Now another concept I wanted to talk about is the difference between Managers and Leaders. Now ideally all managers should be leaders, though practically it is not possible. But I do feel that somehow every manager is a leader at times, it is only that good managers have a lot of following while the bad ones will hardly have a few of them. I believe that managers are not leaders only when, they don’t take any initiatives, they always blame the team members for each and every fault, and probably also are not good at all in decision making.

To summarize I can say is that I believe that the issues people have with managers is more because of the perception rather than the actual attitude. Though I do agree that definitely many bad managers may exist, but it certainly is not true that most of them are bad. Also, it is important that we cite their good aspects, and maybe that would help us bond with them better and make working much easier. Apart from that I believe a perfect manager should have managerial skills, good decision making, command respect, technical knowledge, and also command fear of manager.

A Thank You Note to a Manager

I come from an Army background and have studied my college life in an institution run by army people. Because of this I always believed that a senior always remains a senior throughout life. And I entered the IT industry with the same perception, and since then I always felt that a manager is a senior and they cannot really be friends and definitely some distance must be maintained with the manager. Here I would like to thank Qais a lot. I learnt a lot under him on this perspective as well. Working with him I actually realized that managers are seniors and yet can be friends. The barrier that I always believed existed between a manager and a resource is not really that huge (maybe it does not exist also sometimes). This has worked very much in my favor as suddenly there is a huge change in interpersonal skills and the way I handle things at work. And definitely Qais (maybe unknowingly) has played a huge role in this, because I feel those two-three months I worked with him brought in a huge change in my attitude at work (again if I have to relate to the topic then, it was my perception about managers which was eventually broken, so having a perception on things can actually be dangerous). Also, now I feel that I actually could have become friends to my earlier managers as surely that would have been of a great help to everyone (me, the manager, and the project as well, as I think that would have increased my productivity to some extent). So I would really like to thank him for the change he brought in me (if he does manage to read my post).

Here I would also like to thank Anisha’s and Bharati’s efforts, especially initially when I had joined the team they really tried hard to help me break free, become friendlier with everyone in the team around. Unfortunately I could not respond to their efforts. Had I done the situation could have been much better. So here I would really like to thank both of them for their efforts in helping me break free (hopefully they too will be able to read this sometime).