The idea is to forget about coming across as a bad guy and doing the obvious,It saves time,effort and believe you me,money !
The idea is to get into action and do the obvious instead of agonizing about doing the absolutely right thing
Recently, an old friend who I had worked with for almost 8 years in the IT industry gave me a call. After the usual banter, jokes and laughing about the antics of a few people we had worked with together, he came to the point. My friend had hired an expensive and senior delivery head from a multinational who was very good at his job. This gentleman was suave and sophisticated. Customers ate out of his hand and his team loved him. Accounts, on the verge of being lost had been reinstated, his profitability was growing; in short, the sun shone brightly and the birds were perpetually on song.
‘So where’s the catch bro?’ I asked, chewing on that rubbery tomato and celery ‘health’ sandwich, the cook insists on filling my dabba with. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he came to the point. The gentleman (or Clark Kent) seemed to be getting a little too close for comfort with couple of women employees in the team.
I sat up and asked him to be specific.
After a while, my friend explained; the gentleman in question, had asked one of his lady team members to lunch outside the office and this was met with a sense of discomfort by the lady.
I asked for more specificities; language used, any personal comments, anything that can be construed as offensive, or as harassment. Nothing. He had not used any such language.
My friend was in a dilemma, as a senior HR professional, he did not know what to do. On one hand he did not wish to upset Mr. Sophisticated and on the other hand, he was not keen to upset his lady colleagues. So he sought out my views on this.
More on that later… but first let us examine the scenario;
A gentleman at work asks one of his lady team members to lunch, which is met with some discomfort by her. He does not make any undue comments or act in a manner which can be misconstrued as harassment.
So what does it mean? Exactly, what it says above. So what should be the remedy?
Simple. Speak to him. Tell him that while you understand that he has not used any untoward communication, yet his action has caused discomfort and he should refrain from doing it. This needs to be followed up by facilitating a meeting with the parties involved where the air is clarified and the matter is given an appropriate closure. If there are specific rules on socializing at the workplace then that needs to be brought to the person’s notice and an appropriate communication on the same is to be made. The truth is that the lady employee did not make a complaint, she did not wish for any action to be taken. She has expressed a discomfort, for which she needs to be made to feel that the management values her social comfort at the workplace and will ensure the same.
You see, it is all about doing the obvious. Yet, why did my friend hesitate? Why has he wasted a precious 3 weeks, before picking up the phone and seeking my opinion on it?
Now, this is something that I have seen continuously at the workplace. Highly educated and senior people will sit and ponder over matters, analyze them till the cows come home, but will not do the obvious.
My friend Chetan Walia of the 5th Quadrant has a saying, ‘If the solution to a problem is not an embarrassingly simple one, it is not a solution at all.’
I am increasingly beginning to believe him. The idea is get into action and do the obvious (which is staring at you in the face) instead of agonizing about doing the absolutely right thing and spending loads of time in finding out what is not obvious.
The other issues I find that afflicts people like my friend, is the need, to not come across as the bad guy, or the harbinger of bad news.
The approach taken is more like this, ‘Look, I do not have an issue with you doing this, but other people are not really happy with you...’
Believe me, it does not work. It is about authentically stating the problem and outlining the action that needs to be taken. The whole conversation should not have ‘blame’ in it.
When we do the obvious, believe me, the parties involved will secretly thank you. You are actually saving them from a potentially dangerous situation, which can have far reaching consequences. The idea is to forget about coming across as a bad guy and doing the obvious. It saves time, effort and believe you me; money!
We are blessed with one thing from birth; instinct! That ‘gut feel’ that tells us to quickly get into action. Yes, it is the same gut feel that makes us see what is obvious. However, years of our education and delving into data analysis has made us ignore that instinct. So while our trained MBA oriented minds make us sift through data and seek empirical evidence or engage expensive consultants who will do the same thing for us, we willingly ignore that instinct that tells us what is very obvious. So, I feel that the time is now to do what is obvious and get into action.
Getting to do the obvious, does not mean jumping into a pool where there is no water! It’s actually something else; it is more like…the pool is full of stagnant water and it needs to drained..so what do I do? Management science will say,
1. Measure the amount of water there is.
2. Calculate the time it will take to drain it.
3. Divide that by the number of people you require to drain it.
4. Calculate their cost
5. Ask HR to find them
6. Once they are found, reject them because HR found them too fast
7. After 3 months, begin the work.
8. Then stop midway and make the drainers present on how they are doing it
9. Hire a world famous consulting group to tell you how to do it better
10. Once they are done with their research, you find that yes, using their method you can drain it 0.0000001236% better.
11. Make sure you have featured the cost over runs in your budget
12. Start draining…
You will be done by the time you are 102.
Or you can follow your gut instinct, which said, dive into the water and unplug the drain at the bottom of the pool.
You get the drift…
Gut feel tells you that there is a very simple option out there. While our education tells us that the simple option won’t work because it is not intellectual enough! So we start spending a lot of time agonizing about how to do it…that takes away time and energy. Ever feel completely de energized in a day when you are creating a presentation? And yet feel highly energized when actually executing what is required?
Well, now you know…
So, the advice I gave my friend is, talk to him and tell him authentically that his invitation made the lady feel uncomfortable and he should not do it again.’ My friend did that and I believe the birds are singing again in his Offshore Development Center.
Shantanu leads the HR team of Dalmia Bharat Enterprises’ Cement business and is also the author of the best selling novel; The Company RED which is being made into a film.