Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Proof

There is no love, only proofs of love, I read somewhere. And, this is V’s favorite tool of offense when I tell him complicated stuff like “You have never sent me roses.”

However, over time, I have realized that the statement can be adapted to more than just roses. 

We need wins, constant odes to the worthiness of our existence, appreciation and rewards to goad us on. We strive for excellence in the hopes of success. Where it was marks and grad school admits, now it is promotions and bonuses. If our excellence does not translate into personal success, we categorize it as failure. And, most of us are not evolved to a ‘Zen level’ where we can accept excellence just for the sake of knowledge and betterment of the world at large.

Of late, I have been getting into a number of “what motivates an individual at work” discussions with colleagues and friends. During one such conversation, we were left wondering for some time about our irrational obsession with promotions. Mri told us about how her organization, a multi-national, continuously incentivizes individuals, despite having a flat structure. The signaling that someone is valuable to the organization is done in more ways than one – inter-departmental transfers, intra- and inter-regional transfers, project work allocation per one’s choice and skill sets etc. All this is linked with the individual’s long term career path in the organization and is not restricted to one or two years of service.

I recounted an incident from one of my projects where the CEO of an Indian company was bent on including a number of designations stacking up to VP. When I objected saying it was making the structure too hierarchical, he told me, “Kavitha, this is India. Every other person in the family wants to know what your designation is. I cannot apply global standards of four levels to the top, and give promotions once in five years. That will leave me with many unhappy employees and a very high attrition rate.”

I cannot talk for other countries, but in India, we have been trained to work for wins since childhood. Even hobbies have been encouraged with an eye on the first prize. Perhaps, that is where our obsession stems from, and that is what our organizations have built into their structures. While the drive to win is still an acceptable devil and can be tackled through hikes and performance linked incentives, I have started to increasingly feel the void we have in terms of career development. Our fixation on moving up the ranks despite not knowing whether that is what we really want to and can do is reason enough for that void. And, it seems to be driven largely by our need to prove a point, because that is the only way we think we can prove a point to the rest of the world. It is a well-known but rarely acknowledged truth that someone who is exemplary at number-crunching may not necessarily feel happy about being elevated to a people management role.

I have felt the pressure to prove a point for a long time now, because I have always been groomed to do that. While V keeps reminding me about the value I am adding to the rest of the world and how I should be proud of it, it still remains a difficult task for me to let go of the need to prove a point, look forward to a signal. Perhaps, we need to work hard as a society to groom our next generation towards meaningful existences, with happiness linked to excellence more than success.


Pooja Mittal said...

Nice post..
Would you like to follow each other.!!
Keep in touch

Shreya said...

I agree that excellence should be the motivating force and it is for me. However excellence should be linked to the output of the job and not how much effort you put into getting it done. If that is the case, then you will be rewarded and if that is not the case, you need to review whether a paradigm shift is needed in the way you view your work.

King Vishy said...

Hmmm.. Nice point.. Feels very true..
And the point about nurturing hobbies to win the first prize hit hard!
But to think of it - do we do this at home? Probably not.. We don't consciously think of a 'personal path' along the same lines of a career path.. Yes, we do tend to have aspirations and goals but they are more often about material things than anything else.. And we don't get too fixed about them as we would at work.. Nor do we keep looking for a note of appreciation from near and dear ones - or any other such signals of our 'excellence' at home..
Maybe we look at home as a place to just be.. to just live.. Whereas work is where you go with a strong purpose - to earn.. The more signals (and subsequently - money) you get, the better you feel you are at work..
What say?

Kavity said...

@Pooja: Thanks for stopping by. Do keep in touch.

@Shreya: Yeah, of course.

@King Vishy: You know what, I couldn't get this comment out of my head for a couple of days. Do we perhaps need signals in the home front too? To improve happiness (as against money in office), especially given how our lifestyles have changed and so we don't have a routine where we do equal justice to time at home and with family? Perhaps, we don't need to do it, because we have no competition at home, unless and until someone is gonna compare us to the next door neighbor, which someone who loves us shouldn't. I don't know. Going all over the place now!