Is Money EVERYTHING?

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance with any reality is purely coincidental. Any resemblance to any person, country, or incident is purely a matter of chance. The writer is not responsible for it.

Although, it is quite possible that many may identify with this write-up.

My name is John (although it could be Bob, Micheal, Arun, Jose or Platini). I am, thanks to my hard work and luck, now a CXO level officer in a large multi-national company. I started my career at the lowermost level in the organization and by sheer dint of my consistent performance reached the level I had always dreamed of.

A CXO level executive.

Today, working from home, my mind is torn between what I am asked to do and what I believe should be done….my conscious is killing me, the pain is written all over my face. Should I or Should I not…..the muddle in my mind is become deeper and deeper and deeper….more of that in a bit.

Here is what happened:

John’s phone rang. It was the companies CEO. He said we need to talk, is this a good time? One thing John had learnt in his working life was that when the CEO calls, it is always a good time.

As expected, he said “Yes Boss”.

“John, I will not waste my time in pleasantries because there is nothing pleasant about what I have to tell you. The Board has decided that to tackle the drop in business, due to corona, we have to lay off at least 25 % of our employees and cut the salaries of the remaining employees by 10 to 20 %”.

John was shocked into silence. His biggest fear was coming true. John always believed in the power of good employees. He always believed that the success of an organization depends on the quality of its employees. He believed, that he has been successful in his career because he always chose a great team to work for him. He clearly communicated the objectives to them, monitored regularly, provided mentoring and guidance whenever required and boom….the success happened.

This approach has worked for him, time and again. And now this. His mind went in overdrive.

John called the CFO of the company; he was keen to know the financial situation of the company. He could call the CFO because he and Bob (the CFO) were school friends.

He mentioned about the call he has received and asked Bob, “Are we in that bad a shape? I thought we were doing well. At least, that is what I have been reading in the press”.

Bob’s loud sigh could be heard over the phone.

Bob said in a quiet tone, “So it has started finally. Well, no we are not in a bad shape. We are sitting on enough cash to last out more than a year”.

John exclaimed, “then why”??

Bob responded in a de-moralised tone, “John, this debate has been going on in the Board for the last 3 days, all of us including the CEO have been trying their level best to convince the Board that we can and we must be more patient. Let’s at least sit tight for next 3 months and if we see Covid coming under control and if we see that a vaccine is around the corner then we may not need to take any drastic action otherwise we can pull out our swords at that time.

John “Makes sense, so then?”

Bob “We failed. As you know John, the Board is run and dominated by the owners of the company. From their perspective, waiting for 3 months is throwing cash away. They want the money NOW.

John, an employee-oriented CXO was disappointed, his mind’s whirl became even worst…

John, having worked in the industry for a long time, knew that sometimes the power and desire of money/ambition clashes with the requirements of being a good and sensible human being. And sometimes one has to do such things to save the jobs of other employees, ensure the longevity of the business and for the “larger” good of the other stakeholders….But should the same priorities apply in case of pandemics like this? Knowing that employees laid off will not be able to find jobs these days.

Companies spend a lot of money on Corporate Social Responsibility. In such a situation, should not the charity begin at home? Or CSR is only done because companies get tax exemption??

John’s mind went towards another issue, the average age of the company’s employee is 27 years (termed these days as “millennial”). For some reason, they don’t understand the seriousness of the situation. They are still working hard, they are upbeat about the company, they believe that they are working for a successful company which works in cutting edge technologies and they are proud of the work they do and the company they work for.

Hi, This is me Manoj Tandon; back again……

please look at the above situation from a distance and give you thoughts and opinions on the following questions:

1. How do you picture the Board’s decision? And what do you think they should have done?

2. What do you think about the reaction of the top leaders? What can they do or should do to make the situation better?

3. Read the above as if you are an employee of the company and tell what you think would be the right answer to this puzzle.

Here are my answers (due to shortage of space, I will try to be as succinct as possible):

1. Boards, for obvious reasons, tend to look at things in money, market, margins etc. kind of terms. Since they don’t have to meet the employees daily, share the pleasures of success and pains of failure with them they mostly tend to become impersonal in their decision making and behaviour.

2. Reactions of top leaders are more understandable, for two reasons. One, that since they are dealing with the human side of an organization (it tends to be almost 50 % of their daily work), they feel more the pain of the people who work for them (compared to a typical Board). In this case, however, there is one big weakness that is coming to the fore. If the young employees are not feeling the sense of trouble looming then it is the fault of top leaders. It is their job to communicate with the employees regularly. If the employees are living in their world, clearly the Top Management, while people-oriented, is not leading properly.

3. If I look at it from an employee perspective, I have all the reasons to be a bit upset. A bit, because while my company has been doing well but due to the prevalent situation across the world, I must have my antenna’s up to know that something like this can happen and I need to start thinking and preparing my Plan B.

Now, what should John do? Again my recommendation (would love to hear you):

On the Board and Senior Side:

1. Taking the matter to the board or seniors with just the human side will not help. They will all express sympathies but will not change their decision

2. If any change of decision is possible, John needs to build a business case out of it.

a. What is the impact on the company’s ability to deliver now and in the future if people are laid off?

b. Will some revenue remain unrealised? If there are less or demotivated people, once you lay off a substantial amount of people, whether one likes or justifies it whichever way, the morale does always go down.

c. Many companies (those who can afford it and this company seem to be able to), are using this time and availability of resources to create new IP, new Post Covid 19 offerings depending on how the market is expected to change. John has to ask himself this question that can the extra workforce be utilised for creating IP or a group of IP’s in a short period of time judiciously using the people. If yes, then make some very specific and focussed plan for it and present that to the board.

On the employee side:

1. Start orienting them towards the fact the business is down. Not because the company is not doing a good job but because of Covid 19. Draw parallels between other companies facing the same problem.

2. Urge them to think of ways they can contribute more

3. Maybe form task groups to come up with ideas about how they can contribute directly or indirectly to increase companies business.

Some more thoughts from my side:

1. Most specialists are reasonably confident that a solution will be found soon. Vaccines are under preparation and are being tested in various labs all around the world, and very competent doctors and scientists are working around the clock to find a solution.

2. Although overall the world is in a state of high alert, however lurking somewhere in everyone’s mind is confidence that given the amount of effort, energy and money being put in to find a cure/vaccine, the solution will inevitably be found. It may take some time, but it will happen sooner rather than later. Medical science has advanced too much to not be able to find the solution.

Will it take 3 months, 6 months, 1 year or more? No one knows.

You may be wondering why I have authored this article?

Simple:

· this situation is currently happening in many places

· is being thought about at many places and

· if you follow the news closely, it has already happened in many places all across the world. It is REAL.

So the question is — Is money EVERYTHING? Are their situations where “employee welfare” tops “money for the business”? Please do remember, as I had said before, there is enough cash in the company to last more than a year.

As always, please do like, share and comment below. More opinions, better thinking, better judgement.

Meanwhile, stay safe and God bless you.

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This is your God speaking…..

My dear Humans….

This is your God speaking…..

How are you doing today?

Scared, Worried Mentally disturbed….and why not you don’t know when will this Corona go away, when will your normal life return, when will you be able to spend time with your friends, have fun, go to malls, movies and enjoy life as you used to……

Missing it? Well you should.

The same way other species, that I created, have been missing their normal habitats. The same way a Deer, a Tiger and other animals have been missing their normal days since the time your species decided that you are the “most intelligent”, “most capable” species and you have been destined to “rule” the earth.

Fishes, Birds and so many other species have been happily surviving and enjoying living on this earth for more than a billion years (I am quoting your own data J), but you guys (you prefer to call yourself Homo Sapiens) came on this earth just 100,000 years back and look what you have done.

You have denuded the forests, made so many other fellow species extinct (because you enjoyed hunting and eating other species), you have created so much pollution in Air, Water and Land that today even the Ozone layer has got depleted, you have created a drinking water crisis and the list goes on…..

And you did not even stop at destroying others and the environment around you; you have worked hard to destroy each other in name of world domination, religion, colour, money and what all. You fought innumerable wars, killed each other in the name of God (I am still confused about it, on one side you say I am one that why label me differently).

I created Earth in all its beauty and glory, but I made a small error (Yes, God also makes mistakes), while I created an intelligent, potentially capable species but forgot to remove arrogance, selfishness and greed from it. And look what happened.

I was thinking and then I decided to start showing you some glimpses of my powers and tell you what can happen if you don’t learn.

Since you people believe (and rightly so) that everything that happens, happens because of me and also for the good. Let me tell you, Cororna Virus is also my creation.

I decided to show you a…..what do you people call it…..a trailer, a glimpse of my powers. Like a parent who uses bit of a punishment when Children start going haywire. A small grounding, admonishment, a stick sometimes goes a long way in nipping a potential problem in the bud.

That is why I created a small weapon, the Corona Virus. This weapon is so small that the naked eye cannot even see it.

Since you consider yourself intelligent (and I know you are, because I created you), now think, if you are so scared, so disturbed and so helpless against a micro-organism what will happen if I start bringing out my main and real weapons….

And why will I do it (after all you people consider me to be your protector, guardian, caretaker), the answer is simple…..I am not only your guardian but I am also the guardian of all that exists. Every species, every planet, everything is under my guardianship.

I will not allow one of my creations to usurp and destroy my other creations.

How do you guys say it…..after all they also have rights!!!

Trust me, this Corona will go away. You are handling it well. Few more months and things will be back to normal….

But remember, I have just showed you a trailer……

Learn to live better, learn to live with others (humans and other species), learn to stop trying to dominate the world thru your religious beliefs, money, lust for power and one upmanship, above all learn to control your greed, selfishness and arrogance. In 100,000 years of your existence you have created more havoc, disturbance than millions and millions of years of other species.

You must know, that I will not allow one of my creations to become subjugated to one species at the cost of others. If you won’t learn I will bring out and unleash my real weapons.

If I have created you, I can destroy you also.

Taking cue from your own language….This is for your Information and necessary action please (FYIA).

This is your God speaking…..over and out….

For the time being…..

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The Third World War has begun — Naicha Dominates! Rest of the Hearth struggling…

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance with any reality is purely coincidental. Any resemblance to any person, country, or incident is purely a matter of chance. The writer is not responsible for it.

Bored Stiff, you should be, I am for sure. Sitting at home, twiddling our thumbs. After all for how long can we watch TV, work our laptops, sleep, wake up, and eat. Beyond a point, life is beginning to become a blur.

To pass your time, let me tell you a story (as stories go, this is a flight of imagination), it will help you pass your time and also give you some food for thought…..So, wear your wing of imagination….here goes….

· Year: 2518

· Location: A planet located in a galaxy near the Andromeda galaxy.

· Planet Characteristics: Mostly water, rest fertile land, inhabited by millions of species. Dominated by one species called Sapiens. They have an organ called the brain. Brain depending upon how it is used can do a lot of good or come up with most devious of schemes.

Niacha, is looking for any means to dominate the planet. It comes up with an amazing plan and strategy. It starts what can be called the Third World War. Third, because Sapiens have already fought 2 of them earlier.

The Third War, which started around December of 2517, seems to have started the same way the 2nd world war did. Like the country (Hermany) run by the evil dictator in World War 2, Naicha is making tremendous headways in the world. It has brought the entire world to its knees.

It’s recently developed; state of the art weapon called Novid 16 has effectively paralysed the world.

In particular, its arch enemies the allies (Dunite and Western part of Europa) is struggling to keep pace with the fighting. As per the latest information received the numbers of injured (sick) have crossed a million mark and killed in action (dead) more than 100,000.

By any standards of warfare, this is tremendous success within 5 months of the start of a war.

In fact, not even in the 2nd world war (the biggest war Sapines ever fought) these numbers of causalities had not happened in first 5–6 months of the war.

This weapon was first tested by Naicha in its city of Broohan. While most of the weapons of war do not succeed in their initial tests and require lots of improvements before they become battle-worthy, in this case, the weapon showed tremendous results in Broohan.

The test was conducted with such expertise that no other town in Naicha were impacted.

Truly with these tests, Naicheese Department of Warfare has shown that they have arrived.

Once these tests were successful, Naicheese war machine swung into action. Quietly Novid 16 was shipped to countries all over the world, primarily Western Europa and Dunited via people to people contact via tourists (you could call them human carrier pigeons)-brilliant use of a very old method of warfare except pigeon being replaced by Humans.

The beauty or deviousness of this weapon is that it starts very slowly and surreptitiously, makes it base in 1 then 2, 4, 8 and so on till one day the enemy realises that huge part of its population has been impacted.

Naicha, in spreading this weapon globally, also understood the dynamics of politics and politicians in Democratic countries.

They knew that before any drastic action is taken by any country; a lot of time will be wasted in debates, discussion, points, and counterpoints.

Wasted time, the most important parameter, to ensure maximum damage to the opponent.

Wasted that will enable Novid 16 to spread uncontrolled.

And what a brilliant strategy……within 5 months the whole world is reeling under the onslaught of a weapon of mass destruction. No one has any answer except social distancing and lockdown.

Some people still believe that the kill ratio of this virus is not higher than common flu hence why panic, sooner or later it will go away….

How naïve they are….

Finally, when most of the nations of planet Hearth woke up and realised the extent of damage the virus can cause, it was too late to stop its spread naturally. So, they came up with another plan. Plan which they thought is a very smart move but in reality, they were walking into a trap.

This was anticipated by the leaders of Naicha and they wanted it to happen. The people of Hearth were unleashing a weapon upon themselves….

Shutting down of their economy…

How do you ensure social distancing, don’t allow people to come out. And how does one do that? Shut down offices, factories and all other such areas. What do these areas do under normal circumstances, they keep the economy of a country going, they contribute to the GDP, they produce goods, they employ people, they pay salaries, and they make a country grow.

So what happens when you shut them down…….?? !! You are encouraging yourself to commit suicide….

And now, came the third and most hidden weapon of this war…..

Hearth was reeling under the virus and economic shutdown. Sapiens were suffering. They needed the basics for survival. Basics like Food and Medicine.

Naicha’s brain trust had already foreseen this. They were beautifully positioned to provide this to the citizens of Hearth.

In fact, they were one of the largest exporters of bulk drugs and drug intermediaries in the world. Countries above them were too busy fighting with the virus and managing the adversity of the economic impact. In fact, Naicha’s arch natural enemy Ndia imports close to 2/3rd of its drug intermediaries from Naicha, according to some estimates, even the pharma manufacturing units are operating at less than half their capacity due to large scale exodus of their labour.

In case all the above is confusing you a bit, let me summarise it for you:

· Naicha develops a virus which damages but does not kill (because if it kills all the impacted, there will be fear of retaliation from the majorly impacted countries).

· Tests it on its population, find it to meet the objectives

· Releases it on to the world specially countries which are its biggest foes via unsuspecting tourists etc.

· As expected the countries react by shutting down their economic engine to prevent human to human contact

· They now need more product and services to keep things going

· Naicha is the largest producers of medicine intermediaries, masks, food items.

· The same enemy countries come on its door asking for items required for their survival.

· Naicha establishes itself as the Supreme Power of the World.

The third world war is over….done and dusted…in less than a year….the world has changed, the power structures have changed….the leader to the free world has been toppled…..forever…

Some leaders of the Sapiens did not believe in it. They questioned this premise.

A meeting of all-powerful nations of the world is called. The topic being…Are there any options left for the western world? For the Free world? Is there a counter-strategy?

They come up with a counter-strategy….

· Once again, use the lesson from the 2nd World War — Retreat, Consolidate, re-strategize, prepare, then counterattack (remember D Day invasion) and then take the war back into the enemy territory. Let’s translate this to the current situation…

· Do whatever you have to do to last out this crisis. Beg, borrow and steal. Do lockdown, research on vaccines, control the pandemic

· When the country starts to come back on its feet to revive your economy, take the following drastic steps (all is fair in love and war):

o Make a law in your own country that no business registered in your country can have any manufacturing plant or facility in Naicha

o In source everything.

o Move all supply chains back into your own country

o The above will ensure the following:

§ Unemployment will go down; people will have jobs, income. This will also fuel demand (the oxygen of any economy).

§ Naicha’s economy, largely dependent on exports will suffer badly. Their internal demand is not enough to sustain the size of their economy.

§ In other words, ostracise Naicha economically (after all today’s wars are fought more economically than by conventional means).

· Does this mean the end of globalization? Not really.

· Earlier there used to be blocks of countries which had similar ideologies, aligned political interests and they used to work together to achieve the common objectives. Do cross border globalization within those symmetrical political blocks. At least, hopefully, no one will play games. They gave these trade blocks a name…. “Common Globalised Block (CGB)”.

Gradually, Hearth is limping back to normal. The Hearth Order has been restored. Free World has won. Naicha has been left licking their wounds.

Hope you liked this story….hope you were able to pass sometime…..even if I could keep you entertained for 5–7 minutes, I am happy.

If you like this, please hit the fan/like button, give comments and please please share as much as you can….

Till then, Ta Ta….

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental

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Should employers be watching over the shoulder of their employees during “Work From Home”

Oh yes, today I am getting into a completely new area, an area which I have never written about.

Though writing about the corporate world is not in my area of interest (despite being in the corporates for my entire working life, 35 years to be precise), however, when I read about this, I felt that given that the impact of such seemingly small thing is huge, and it is something which is and will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, I changed my mind and decided to write about it.

Hence the sudden interest to write…so as always, please do read, like (hopefully), give your comments and share….. 

Let me first set the stage, one of the consequences of Covid 19 has been that there has been a worldwide lockdown.  Offices have closed but since the business cannot stop, employees have been asked to “Work from Home” (WFH).

Sounds quite harmless…but this simple small looking thing has many many issues hidden under it.

So, here goes:

If you are the employer or the boss your response to the topic, most likely, will be sort of as follows:

Of course, I pay them money…shouldn’t I am allowed to know what are they up to and in my experience, if I don’t watch and monitor them they will have a grand time doing nothing and collecting fat paycheques.

On the other hand, if you are an employee or the junior, your stance would be:

I hate it, I feel used, bl……. Hell….as if my boss does not waste his time at all

Recently, I was reading somewhere that one of the big fours has been in the news due to their installing of software on their employee machines for not only monitoring their employees but even recording their videos.

BTW (for people who are not very tech Savy), there is software available, which, once installed, can track what websites employees are visiting, measure mouse movements, and even monitor keystrokes.

Nowadays companies are even using software’s which take continuous screenshots of employees’ computers, producing a video of everything they’re doing, they also monitor for specific keywords on employees’ screens, to check if they are looking for a job, mishandling confidential information etc.

It’s like the Big Brother is watching you, not only during the working hours but during non-working hours also if you happen to use the company laptop etc.

Let’s first try to understand why this happening:

  • For managers who are used to walking past their employees’ desks, monitoring software restores some access to what their workers are up to.
  • An average Manager tends to manage his/her team by inputs things like, how much time did the employee spent in the office, out of that how much time did the employee spent working and how much away from desk etc.
  • The situation has come to a stage where software’s are being used to give scores to employees on a daily basis.
  • The root cause here is that a lot of managers are deeply insecure about whether employees are going to rip them off if they stop swinging the whip (these software are the feeder to the whip)

While the discussion has been on for many many years that is input based management the right way to manage or output/result based managed the right way. For whatever reason, when it comes to discussions more and more managers have started to agree that output-based management is the right way but when it comes to doing it in practice they still prefer input based command and controls. Even when it comes to appraisals and their structure very heavy focus is on inputs rather than outputs or results.

While this discussion used to come and go and somehow never became very serious but, like many other things, have become very serious in this era of Work from Home (WFH) and Covid 19.

The fact that the employees are not in front of the Manager’s eyes is a reality. They are also not with their peers is also a fact. Therefore to some extent, this feeling of insecurity is understandable and justified.

However, this approach has some serious implications. Many pieces of research, in the past, and done recently have begun to show the downsides of this approach of continuously looking over the shoulder of the employees.

The reason why Managers do that because most of them have still not learnt to do output or result-based management.

Let’s have a look at the other side of the coin:

  • Researches are clearly showing that this approach is highly counterproductive, it is showing to be causing the sinking of employee morale
  • Although there are a few managers who may only be interested in information in broad strokes but there are quite a few (as we have bad employees, we also have bad managers) who use the information gathered to take advantage of the employees.
  • A manager that’s only able to monitor inputs is incompetent. Good managers measure outputs, whether that happens from the office or home.
  • Employees start feeling that they are being treated with suspicion by default. There is nothing worse than that.

Evidence is beginning to show, that surveillance software is beginning to cause:

  • Likelihood of quitting their jobs
  • Greater employee tension and less job satisfaction
  • Higher turnover intent.
  • Reduction in their intrinsic work motivation, which in turn could harm creativity.
  • More importantly, employees are less willing to go above and beyond for the company when they start losing trust and motivation.

On one side, there is the very real issue of how does one monitor an employees work when you can’t see him, can’t meet him and he is at home. On the other side are the issues of motivation, initiative and feel-good feeling.

The reason why one needs to think is because:

  • It is such an important issue that if not handled well can result in seriously damaging a company’s ability to sustain itself (it’s all about people after all).
  • This Covid 19 situation has developed so fast that no one got time to plan, think and prepare for how to manage it…delicately and effectively.
  • It is also expected that this situation will last for a long time (till the time vaccine comes, becomes available everywhere and people are inoculated). We are talking about WFH continuing for more than a year at least (if not more)
  • Since suddenly businesses have realised that this is a great way to build cost efficiencies into the business (by cutting rentals, real estate and administrative costs) many may like to see this continuing, at least partially.

However, things cannot go on like it is happening today (the big brother approach).

Where is the balancing line? Here are my recommendations (would love to hear yours):

  • Discourage out of working hours including weekend working (give confidence to the employees)
  • Do understand the employees are human and not machines. Many studies have shown that in any working day, typically people work (billable or productive work) for not more than 70 to 75 % of the time. It is impossible to work beyond that I would hazard to say that is in-human to expect people to work beyond that.
  • Treat them well, don’t start by doubting everyone. Remember they are not working from home by their choice, the business or the circumstances have forced them into it. In other words, stop the Managers should STOP thinking; oh they are having a “good” time due to this WFH. Remember, they didn’t choose it. The Manager (due to the company policy) asked them to.
  • The Manager may choose to watch some people more than others based on performance and results and NOT because they are WFH.
  • Management by Objectives was a buzz word long time back, and then it lost its sheen. It’s time for it to make a comeback in a modified version. Set goals of everyone from top to bottom (measurable) and measure their work against them.
  • Learn and train your Managers to look at the quality and quantity of work that your employees are putting out rather than watching every keystroke on the computer and the time spent in front of the computer.

Of course, not every company cares about treating their employees well and compensating them fairly—in which case, surveillance software is just a symptom of larger problems. I am not talking about such companies here.

Over time, though, companies would be wise to wean themselves off the Big Brother approach and find ways to measure employee performance in other ways.  

It might seem difficult at first, but there’s always a way.

If you start with the premise that you don’t trust people, then you have already lost the battle

Well, those were my thoughts and solutions. Please do give yours, I like to learn from diverse opinions. 

And yes, please like, share and popularise it amongst your contacts and friends…. God Bless you.

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