Problem with Employees’ Stability

Recently, we had our corporate annual function. One item on the agenda was honoring long serving employees who had worked for ten years or more. Happily, the list was fairly long, comprising of a fair percentage of staff.

I have seen the ritual in other companies. In one of the multinational companies I worked for, you got a gold medal upon completion of ten years service. On a lighter note, it might have been a medal for bravery for surviving under difficult conditions.

Long service, of which the governments are pioneers and ‘perpetrators’ may be classified under two main heads.

  1. Long Service with minimal growth
    1. Minimal growth due to job nature
    2. Minimal growth due to performance
  2. Long Service with consistent growth

I have come to realize that the above situations affect the employees and organization in a vastly different manner.

Where a job does not inherently offer growth track, the ones who are ambitious, willing to learn and strive to grow leave rather early; within 3 years. Those who are unable to leave or do not plan to leave, cast themselves in a frame of mind where they accept the reality of growing at a snail’s pace. They may be a happy or unhappy lot.

Position of office assistant in any department is a good example. The position will always be around though the incumbents may keep changing. Personal/departmental secretaries are another example. If someone joins on these positions knowing fully what they are getting into, she/he is contented and keep doing a good job day after day. They are usually neither dissatisfied nor discontented. We have seen secretaries and assistants performing greatly and consistently year after year. It is important that only appropriate people should be hired for these positions.

Long service employees with consistent growth and job enrichment history are positively energetic. They are true asset and must be preserved and nurtured.

Then there are positions which have a definite growth track. Those who perform keep growing while those who are unable to perform keep complaining (of politics, favoritism, policies, measuring parameters, opportunities and lot more). They do not leave and go elsewhere due mainly to inherent lethargy and insecurity. It is this lot that is the focus of this article.

Long serving, not growing employees are the main, and the biggest source of toxicity, negativity and inefficiency in any organization. They are the fiercest opponents to change and will do everything to derail the process. They discourage and demoralize new hires, tell everyone not to do any extra work, criticize policies, spread general discontent, issue doomsday prophecies and waste enormous amounts of time and energies; theirs and others. They also excel in politicking, silo making and putting up barriers to smooth functioning. These (mostly) guys believe that the organization (and some seniors) are wholly responsible for their failures and therefore they consider it legitimate to take every option for revenge. They work (or pretend to work) enough to keep surviving and hence block the possibility of replacing them with better ones. As they grow in age, they stick even harder, become more venomous and more lethal.

Everyone says people are your asset and long serving employees are a huge asset. It is true but after putting certain conditions on it.

I have no doubt that the biggest challenge for an organization is to keep moving people, upwards, sideways, even out. I also solemnly believe that without this effort, the organization will not achieve excellence.

I suggest three steps to do this.

  1. Put maximum (not just minimum) time limit on staying at a position: Normally an employee is required to spend a minimum time in years before becoming eligible for moving to the next one. It is important for seasoning; however a maximum time limit should also be applied for staying on the same position. Those who fail to have any growth may be replaced.
  2. Improve performance management: Behavioral aspects should be included in the performance management system. Anyone scoring poorly on these should be penalized quickly and visibly. Presently, this is the most neglected area. Given the seriousness of the matter, it should be immediately addressed.
  3. Push people to move: Enrich jobs, give additional responsibilities, rotate jobs, switch departments where possible, train, coach and give opportunity to grow. The fate of those who are incapable or unwilling or both must be decided urgently.

Employees’ career is like water. If it keeps moving, it remains clean and healthy and life promoting. If it stagnates, it becomes dark, it rots and gives life to mosquitoes on the surface and frogs below the surface. Employee stability in itself is incomplete unless it is put in perspective and then assessed for what it is worth for.

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Weary of Election – Already

Weary of Election – Already.

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Weary of Election – Already

Today, 15 days have passed since the polling day. The excitement of Election Day changed into the hype about rigging, mandate hijacking, accusations and counter-accusations. Every day, the worthy anchors sit down with the worthy politicians and alternatively do the mourning and celebration, in the same breath, in the same program.
There were some common features.
First was finding ballot papers. These were found in garbage dumps, dustbins, Election bags, out of bags etc. it seemed everyone had a bunch of these with him to show. Question: Were the people who stole ballot papers so naïve that they immediately threw these on the public places? Couldn’t they keep them in safe custody somewhere for a few days? Couldn’t they destroy these in a more sensible way? These are questions that are still searching answers.
Then there was hue and cry over rigging. Everyone who lost said his election was rigged. The parties took the same position; clean where they won, rigged where they lost. Everyone said he had proofs. It is understandable that this uproar was necessary to get public attention, to get media coverage and to make the point. However, cases are not won through media trials. All cases have to go to appropriate forums and be pursued in proper, legal way to get relief. Drum beating alone will not bring tangible relief. Sometimes it appears that aggrieved parties do not really have enough evidence to sustain their case in courts.
And finally, there is the famous ‘dharna’. Whether we like it or not, we cannot ignore the power of dharna. Even if ten people sit at a public crossing, main road, highway, they can block the entire life there. For public, every dharna is sinister, bad and ill-intentioned. Its only purpose is to create chaos and terrible inconvenience for public at large. Dharna-ites may have their own discomfort but they have no right to cause such terrible discomfort to people who neither caused this to happen nor are in a position to resolve it.
Politics is business; with all the good and evil of any other business. It is neither a mission nor a holy crusade. Politicians are big time businessmen who are in it as their full time commitment. Please do not tell us you are here to serve us. Please spare us from your holier-than-thou sermons, your fake promises and never-to-be-fulfilled commitments. True that Election 2013 saw a better turnout of younger people who wanted to bring much needed change. What they forgot was that they were again playing in the hands of the same old mindset. The time is not far when public will really pull everyone down to ground and do the street accountability.
I suggest to winners and losers to stop showing off/ whining and move forward. Please think about what you have to deliver and start working towards it. There is a time for complaining and there is a time for working. The time now is for working.

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Three Nasty Things That Come Out Of The Nasty Fall

Imran Khan fell from the lifter last night and had some bad injuries. We pray for his full and speedy recovery.
The following three things became apparent with this incident and these are as nasty as the fall itself, if not more.
Poor Arrangements
Imran Khan had been on a whirlwind tour, doing 62 ‘jalsas’ in 10 days. It is a great performance by any standard considering the travel, weather, stress and the need to maintain a ‘high’. However, there has never been any standardization of arrangement. The local organizers, mostly untrained and unorganized, just try to put up the show somehow. Even the vendors such as providers of tents, chairs, sound system etc are busy big time. The analogy can be drawn with Eid ul Azha when anyone who can hold a knife comes out with the claim to slaughter sacrificial animals. The stages are set in most precarious fashion and everything else is left on its own. This is not specific to PTI; it is true for all parties. The only exception seems to be MQM who manage to put up a highly organized show every time. There is a definite need to draw up event organizing guidelines, build organizing committees and assign proper roles to members.
It is critically important to save the leaders and participants from avoidable accidents, injuries and losses.
Poor Protocol Detail
The chief of national political party is a VIP. He/She has to be supported with the same kind of protocol detail that is accorded to a VIP. This includes personal security, movement routing and vehicles and emergency handling. Everything from A to Z is either missing or badly done. Look at the two guards standing with Imran Khan on the lifter and holding not him but on to him, a third one trying to climb in from the front and a fourth one trying acrobatics from behind. Look closely at the faces of the two closest guards who do not display the kind of activeness and vigil security personnel are known for. These poor souls are more like rag-tag army which is ill-trained and ill-equipped. A more horrifying fact is that these 3-4 guards were probably the only line of defense. As everyone fell, Imran was fully exposed to any harm from any side. The sympathizers who took him from arms and legs were horribly ignorant. They had no idea what kind of injury there might have been and they must have added to the seriousness of back injury with their rough handling.
It is also critically important that all national leaders be considered important and a proper detail be arranged for them by their own parties. Included in this must be professional guidance and trained people.
Poor Core Group Response
Imran Khan’s fall was followed by confusion, silence and gibberish talk even from the most senior members. They did not know what happened and was happening; they had no control over events and they did not even know how to carry themselves in such a situation. Unfortunately great majority of media correspondents are completely untrained for the job and many of newscasters are the same. In their street type frenzy and zealousness to say something, they say anything that comes to their mouth (mind is usually absent). Along with the media, the party hierarchy is equally responsible for creating or sustaining the confusion. One leader said Imran was in Jinnah Hospital, the other said he was being taken to Shaukat Khanum while a third said he was in Gulberg. Similar unqualified statements were issued about the nature of injuries.
The most alarming indicator was that no one from party knew what to do next. It could be due to highly centralized style of leadership or no long term policies or dissension among hierarchy; in any case it raises huge concern.
Imran Khan’s accident must be an eye-opener for all big leaders and their party hierarchy. It is imperative that all concerned take note and take action.

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Election 2013 – Need to Act

A colleague commented on my yesterday’s blog “Election 2013 – A Common Man’s Perspective” by inferring that I shall not vote because I do not consider anyone better than the other. Another gentleman asked what should be done? I intended to write this blog anyway and shall address these comments also.
Let us look objectively at what is happening around us.
The Election 2013 itself is under severe threat. Several forces, known and unknown are bent upon disrupting the election activity in any way they can. The campaigns and offices are attacked; explosives are blasting around us; the government is invisible; the fear of what-will-happen-on-polling-day is mounting and the debate on the futility of the whole thing is gathering momentum.
I wish there were neat and simple solutions to these problems. There are none however, given the complex and chronic nature of the issues. These are not going to go away just like that.
We, the common people, are truest and the biggest sufferers and we appear to be the most helpless. We are utterly unprotected and fully exposed. Our leaders and champions have the luxury of having ‘foolproof’ security around them. If I may be allowed a little digression, what is this ‘foolproof’? Is it trying to ‘proof’ a ‘fool’ or ‘proofing’ from anyone trying to be a ‘fool’?
‘The masses must rise’, ‘people are the ultimate power’, ‘people shall decide the fate’ are slogans raised by those who neither want masses to rise (or even arise) nor wish to give them any power and certainly shall never allow them to decide.
What can we do?
What should we do?
Given the fact that it takes consistent and persistent efforts to bring even small changes to social-economic-political system, I propose the following vis-à-vis Election 2013. These are not ultimate solutions but they may lead to more debate, thinking, and soul-searching and may move us forward.
• Educate: Those who know more must educate others on what should be done to bring improvement and how it will be done.
• Spread the Word: Talk, tweet, post on facebook, use social media to fullest to spread the good word and rally large support.
• Must Vote: All eligible voters must vote.
• Who to Vote? Do consider credentials but give an equal weight to personal credentials. If a person is better in several respects like education, maturity, steadfastness and commitment, he/she is to be voted even if we do not agree with the party line. Similarly, it is not necessary to vote for the same party in center and province.
• Form Pressure Groups: we must form small pressure groups in constituencies to make ourselves heard and to get the actions mobilized.
• Extract Firm Action: Aspiring candidate must be asked to open a personal, public office now in the constituency. If they win, this office will continue and they will make themselves available periodically and regularly. If they lose, the office may be closed if they so desire. Anyone not doing it now but promising for future should be discarded immediately.
• Focal Point for Action: The incumbent office must be used as a focal point for raising issues. Local issues must be sorted out along with lobbying for policy issues.
• Follow Up: The key to bringing change is constant follow up. Once elected, politicians try to hide behind engagements and avoid seeing people. We need to break this pattern and local committees and groups must keep following up relentlessly.
It is my earnest belief that no political party has the ability to do much alone, even if they intend to, without our support. We must keep political parties focused, on track and on-the-go to bring positive changes in society, economy, politics and governance.

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Election 2013 – A Common Man’s Perspective

Elections 2013 are less than three weeks away. The party horns are tooting louder and rhetoric is getting stronger. Party manifestos are out but no one is really looking at them. TV is becoming increasingly popular for advertising by the parties; apparently huge sums are being spent on this activity. So far, the political advertisements have become as ubiquitous as cell phone/ mobile service providers’ ads; looks like they will take over these in the next few days. TV channels are inviting political leaders and offering them opportunity to present their cases to public, which is true public service.
As a common citizen, non-partisan, I look at this circus and keep thinking. Economy, energy crisis, terrorism, crime, inflation, injustice and religious extremism are everyday concerns but I shall not talk about them. I shall rather talk about the insensitivity, lack of understanding and lack of preparedness that all parties have shown to address these serious issues. It is evident that no party has bothered to do the homework and is therefore clueless. They are all waiting for the results. If they get into power, they will see what can be done; if they don’t get into power, they wouldn’t need to do anything anyway. This approach is natural and may not be too bad in normal circumstances. The trouble is we are not living in ordinary circumstances.
I do not see any change in the attitude of political leaders with regards to hoodwinking people. Politics is a loud game and big noise must be made to rally people in order to get the desired results. Becoming detached from reality and promising unbelievable things is fraudulent and criminal but popular and commonplace at present.
It is a not a criticism of any particular political party; it is a criticism of all those who are involved in political power play. When political analysts and pundits tell us that politics is maturing in Pakistan, it is a blatant lie. What is actually maturing is the ability to connive in a more modern manner.
It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that no party, I repeat, no party has any serious plan to address key issues. To make matters worse, everyone is promising things which have no relation to ground realities and their own manifestos.
PTI says they will end corruption in 90 days or less with a simplistic formula of having and honest PM and cabinet. This is naïveté at its best. Corruption is a way of life in Pakistan and not a disease which can be eradicated. Changing the way of life is a job that even holy prophets found hard to do.
PML(N) says they will bring motorways and bullet trains but they forget that the world has changed a lot since 1999. The priorities now are different from what they previously were.
PPPP, PML(Q), JUI, JI and all others have no particular program that could be commented upon. They have a mix of ideas which would crystallize only, if they do, when they come to power.
Last but no less important. No party has presented the prospective members of team/cabinet who will take up challenges in their respective areas. Only the Chief is being promoted. This may be symbolic but it raises doubts. Understandably, IK or MNS or BBZ or CSH or SMH or MFR or other big ones will not do everything by themselves. It will be reassuring if we could get to know the teams who will be steering this country in future.
We are living in extraordinary, difficult times and I would like to base my decision to vote not just on the top guy; I want to know what will be done and by whom and how and when.

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The Mesh of Our Social Fabric

The Mesh (Mess?) of Our Social Fabric
We have an interesting social fabric; complex, patterned, colorful, stretchable, time worn and strong. We are unique to the extent of our particular history; but we resemble many other similar societies.
Our social fabric provides basis for our relations; the way we deal with others; interact within community; and support or undermine the society at large. Our social fabric is a living being. We wear it, hide behind it, undress it, spoil it, soil it, clean it, dye it and do whatever else we can do with it.
Several yarns make our social fabric. Two of these however are so predominant that they overshadow all others. These are ‘negative competition’ and ‘guilt induction’. It is worthy to look at these in more detail, understand them and learn to deal with them.
Negative Competition
A world without competition is a worthless and colorless place. Competition brings change, betterment, improvement, prosperity, motivation, sense of achievement, courage, resilience, cohesion, compassion, empathy and happiness. Competition can also bring status quo, fear of failure, ruthlessness, overtaking, individual glory, anxiety, depression, heartburn and destruction. On the balance, competition is more desirable if the participants are willing to play by the rules; if not always, most of the times.
Competition in our set up not only has more negative elements; we have also changed the rules to suit our needs and justify our means.
Our competition is no-holds-barred. We compete to kill the opponent; not just win for ourselves. We are trained to find the most negative things and use these in ingenuous ways to inflict harm on others. We have developed unlimited capacity to enjoy the defeat and misery of others. We have a huge arsenal to last a life time and wipe out the opposition and its coming generations. We have great mind strength to design the most effective methods of torture. But so is every other society; what is the difference? The difference is that they do it individually while we do it as a community.
We compete on the usual and unusual things. Food, clothes, education, religion, health, beauty, money, pomp, show, luxury, leaders, wives, children, hollowness, shallowness, diseases, miseries, government support, charity and donations. Our sense of competition is weird as we mostly compete on vague, useless parameters.
We also compete with everyone simultaneously. We rather compete in air. Whether we know the person, have any interest in it or not, we shall compete all the same. It makes our situation entirely unpredictable; we don’t know who to tackle.
In summary, our sense of competition is sharp, courage to compete is strong, stamina to compete is long, and ability to compete is excellent. The core problem is that we believe in ‘negative competition’ most of the time, if not all the time.
Guilt Induction
This is not a pass time; it is a passion that consumes our lives. We have to, somehow, anyhow induce guilt in everyone whose life we touch. They may be our own life partners, children, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, colleagues, juniors, seniors, shopkeepers, tailors, grocers, beggars, political leaders, business partners, and anyone else.
Our means and methods of doing this are versatile and we have polished these to perfection over time. We start our day with it and close our night with it. It is our way of life and we have made it our destiny to follow this path whole heatedly.
Look at this conversation. “You did not ask me how I was; why would you? You don’t really care about me” and on it goes till the poor listener dies from guilt. He does not; he is from the same material. He retorts “Have you seen lately what is happening to the house or children? You are always engrossed in your own fictitious problems. Why do I have to put up with you?” The effort is fully on to induce guilt in the other person.
We try to induce guilt while we congratulate, condole, visit a sick or even bless someone. Look at some sentences.
“Congratulations on completing your MBA; but you should have opted for finance rather than marketing as major”
“Congratulations on your marriage. I hope you won’t forget friends under pressure from your wife”
“Very sorry about your father’s death; I don’t think he really got the treatment he should have”
I love this one particularly. “I heard you had an accident; how did you do it?
“May Allah Bless you; You wouldn’t be much without His Blessing”
We could go on and on. Everywhere, all the time, style is the same. We cannot help putting a piece which is aimed at inducing guilt in others.
Why do we do that? Simply because we want them to feel small, come under pressure and never stand up to us. This is our way of dominating others; although pathetic yet it is quite effective.
How to Deal
The onus lies on us to put a brake as we cannot control others. We must consciously check ourselves. Two negatives in this case do not make one positive. We must protect ourselves from negative competition and stay away from doing it. There is likelihood that after a while we may be spared.
Guilt Induction is tougher. The only way to deal with it is to get tough. Two steps are important. We stop inducing guilt in others and we refuse to accept whenever someone does it to us. We must do what is proper to do socially and morally but never give in to guilt induction effort, no matter how strong it may be. With conscious effort and time, there is great hope for survival.

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