Feb 26, 2009

Rants of an uncertain manager

My manager at P&G once said, "We all spend 9 hours, 5 days a week, in office. That is most of the time we are awake. We deserve to be happy during this time. As do all of our technicians" (the audience comprised of managers, and all techs reported to us). While my relationship with him turned very sour, very soon, this statement got etched in my head.

As a manager, I believe I have some responsibilities to my people. These include:
  • Providing a cheerful environment. Pressure at work is inevitable, but it should be minimized as far as possible.
  • Providing opportunities, and guidance, for them to learn and grow as much as they can, as quickly as possible.
  • Being reasonable and transparent. I realize I have some 'power' over them, but I try to never abuse it, and always ensure they understand and agree with my decisions - even when the decisions might appear tough.
  • Appreciating and rewarding good work and good behavior - with salaries, bonuses, promotions, position within the team - whatever means are at my disposal.
I always assure my people that their concern should only be to perform well, within the boundaries defined for their roles, meeting and exceeding expetatations that have been shared with them, and NOT worrying about things they can not control. I've always told them that it is my job to provide them the opportunities to perform, and that I would take care of their growth aspirations as long as they delivered results.

Till a short while back, I felt invincible professionally. The past week or two have been a humbling experience. For the first time, I was faced with problems to which there were no clear-cut solutions. Basically, our business doesn't look like its going to grow much in the next year, given the glum economic scenario, and we have people whose capabilities, experience and aspirations have grown - and will continue to grow. Clearly, some people are not going to get the opportunities they deserve, and are going to suffer for no fault of their own. I (and a few peers) have the unenviable task of allocating the pain.

We had a tough time working out a plan, that we thought would minimize the damage. What had been a few hours exercise in past years, took weeks this time. We knew there would be problems, but we thought we could manage them. Till we heard the first reaction from one of the people affected.

The reason I'm feeling very guilty right now - is that I am currently responsible for the person we got the first reaction from. This person has not only been a great performer in every way, they have been unconditionally devoted to their job, while we have pretty much made of mess of their role/job over the last year. Even if tough decisions need to be taken, this is one of the few people who definitely deserve better. We realized that. But, in the midst of all the chaos we were dealing with, we just failed to pay enough attention. I had made some promises to this person, but forgotten about it when faced with a big problem. After the reaction, I think we've fixed most of their problem, but I shouldn't have let them down in the first place. And I'm not the only one who should feel guilty about this.

While this problem may be solved for now, I know there are going to be others - and in some of those cases, I know solutions will not be possible. It's going to be a very tough few weeks ahead, and I'm sure I haven't yet realized just how tough they will be.

I don't know if I blogged about this, but I have been feeling for a while - that India's young working adults have been growing too fast. In my company, that is definitely the case. In good times, we may feel all smug and unstoppable. But now we are about to find out just how tough things can be for managers with no grey hair...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nikunj,

    Came across your blog today and was going through the posts. This one caught my attention as this is a topic close to my heart - people management (not at all because i am any good at it though :-) ).

    I completely agree with you on your last point - a need for grey hair.. However, I think these mistakes are bound to happen and i think they should be just used as learning lessons and we should not carry the guilt of it.

    Having said that I do think there is reason to ponder about the fast growth. I personally feel slow and steady is how we should play the game and that will ensure there is depth in the years of experience we accumulate. But of course I think I dont represent the majority here.