Who do you work for?


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When asked the question, some of the common answers are – myself, my family & my company. There are those that refuse to acknowledge they are working for anyone, be it a person or an organization and use the word “with”, I work “with” xyz. Semantics, I guess. And then, there are those that state they work for their boss.

We all work to provide for our dependents and ourselves. The question is not what do you work for, but who.

If you are an entrepreneur and pride yourself in working for yourself, there is some truth to that, but ultimately, the superior power that determines your actions lies with your customers, suppliers & investors. They can dictate the terms of your work. If you work for an organization, ideally your work and its attributes should be focused at fulfilling your organization’s obligations toward its customers and shareholders. Each of us that works in the corporate world falls somewhere on an organizational ladder with a “boss” that we report into. The boss has the power to determine your paycheck, your upward mobility within the organization and responsibilities you’ll handle. Some bosses are company focused which means your expectations fall in line as well. In such situations, there is more transparency built-in between levels i.e. employee reach extends beyond the immediate boss and through a couple of levels above. This is healthy as hierarchical stress is not as much and opportunities open up for those truly talented and doing the right thing. Others are self-serving and that’s when conflict may arise. That’s when one may end up working for a boss. Corporate politics can dictate where ones’ loyalties lie. Much depends on the employee-boss relationship & the personalities involved therein. Many employees are in the process of pleasing their bosses than in the actual performance of their job to meet the objectives they signed up for. And, these employees cannot be blamed altogether for it since they are acting in defense of their position and in many a case, they themselves are the only defense they may have.

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There have been arguments that state flat organizational structures may be the answer to curb such influences, where employees work in teams and natural leaders emerge as a part of the execution strategy. The emphasis is on actually getting things done to meet common objectives sans a hierarchy within the organization. Well, it may work to an extent in smaller organizations but flat structures are not scalable for growth. As organizations grow, flexibility & controls need to be established using the hierarchy model. And, in every mid to large organization, there are numerous rungs on the corporate ladders. Then, what is the optimal strategy for ensuring that the focus of every employee is truly on corporate goals and not hijacked by personal corporate politics? A strong HR policy propagated by a strong HR team with the support of top management can achieve this to an extent but in a complex business environment, it is difficult to altogether do away with it. Again, having an HR team that functions independently is a difficult thing to achieve in an organization. The HR team too falls on the corporate ladder. There will always be employees serving bosses for various reasons. Although, not completely healthy, this is a true fact in the corporate world and should be managed to optimize it.

When faced with such a predicament, employees who find it detrimental to their principles & career might look for other opportunities so as not to sacrifice their potential & aspirations catering to the whims of an overbearing, self-serving boss. There are also employees who do the boss’s bidding and focus on keeping the boss happy in order to safeguard their jobs. In both cases, it’s detrimental to the corporation, whether through the loss of productive employees for the wrong reasons or by having unproductive employees stay just managing their supervisors. But, at the same time, such bosses are a more serious predicament since their influence and its effect tends to be on a larger scale. It’s the prerogative of every organization to take this issue seriously and work through its channels to monitor and minimize such situations, if not totally eradicate them to ensure optimal productivity of the employee base. Much of it comes from encouraging true transparency throughout the organization irrespective of reporting relationships. And such transparency can be propagated through frequent top-down-top communication, more objective 360 degree performance appraisals, employee reviews as well as supervisor reviews, career pathing, ensuring employees with the right skills are not in wrong jobs etc.

That’s a starter list of ways to nurture healthy employee-work dynamics within organizations. I look forward to see you add to it.

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Work Smart, not hard…


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Every time I strike up a conversation with someone, either in a professional environment or in a social setting, the conversation invariably moves towards how it’s been on the work front. Most of the time, what I hear is, “It’s been busy!” Then, the conversation meanders into how there is no time to even catch a breath, so on and so forth. Sound familiar?

And, I invariably start thinking that this has become an unconscious reaction of almost anyone, whether they are truly swamped or not. After all, work is such an integral part of anyone’s life. But, in the modern world as we know it, is any work truly “hard”. Well, most of it is not and whatever is, there are several innovations in place to make it easier to perform.

Today, it is not as much about working hard as it is about working smart. We live in a time where it’s your resourcefulness and acumen that plays a vital part in your success than sheer hard toil.

For every aspect of work where true muscle power is needed, machinery and computers have proven their mettle. When it comes to true productivity, burning themidnightoil has shown to be futile. The most productive contribution from a human is limited to about 8-9 hours a day. After that, a change in scene is required to ensure that you do not burn yourself out. There is a need to recharge and replenish for continuing your productive pursuit the next day.

It also helps to pause a moment and relook at the task ahead with a fresh perspective. Often times, you will see a different light on some other end of the dark tunnel. The modern workforce is distributed across the globe, some working virtually and some enjoying flexible schedules. These allowances have actually brought down stress levels and increased productivity. Imagine being tied to your desk working on a task while worrying about how your kids will be picked up at daycare if you can’t go. Who wins in this situation? Now, if you were able to take off for an hour to get your kids home and come back to work or if you were to take off early, get your kids home and then, continue to work from home, isn’t that a true win-win situation all around.

Coming back to the 8-9 hours you have available on a daily basis to tackle work, I think that is plenty of time to be truly productive without complaining about being swamped. It boils down to planning your work and then, working the plan. It also builds upon being accountable for what you do and showing responsibility. This will actually rub off on those that you work with. If you plan right and perform right, you should never be truly swamped or overwhelmed by work.

Today’s economy has created unique situations where many employees have taken on more than their due at work and are thankful to be employed. But, this also creates situations where they may be overwhelmed causing burnout. By nature, we try to pack as much as possible in a day. Working smart is prioritizing based on importance and urgency, planning workable chunks, setting yourself up to succeed, being flexible to accommodate your work/life balance without losing focus on either.

Now, take a moment and reflect on your own situation….

Are you working hard…..or working smart?

Do you support smart work within your team/your organization?