Shut The Beep Up | How to Not Lead By Example

Note: This series is about all those incidents that make me want to scream “Shut The Beep Up”. Alas, I cannot do that aloud, because I am scared of people around me, people who cannot handle honesty and truth. This is my way of venting out. You could, in turn, ask me to STBU 🙂

I am opinionated, very opinionated. Everyone is, but I have a bad habit. Sometimes, I state those, in front of people, real people.

That’s where the problem begins. Some people would say that voicing your opinions should not be a problem. It depends!

In a country like India and corporate culture like Software industry, things are different. One should either keep their opinions to themselves or just refrain from saying it in front of colleagues, especially superiors. Why? Because nobody wants your opinions, and certainly not the honest ones.

I remember that when we were kids we were taught, Honest Is The Best Policy. Not anymore, kids. Honesty is so last season. It does not work these days.

I still ache to voice those opinions. There is only one place I can do that openly. In my head and on my blog. Okay, two places I can do that.

And, I am going to do just that.

Why the title?

Some people, most of you may disagree with this title.

Some would snort and visit a different blog and read a more positive post. Others would say, shut the beep up.

Hence the title.

There’s more. So, this is going to be a series. I have a few topics in mind and intend to post one each month. You’re most welcome to revisit the blog first of every month, if you’re into these sort of things.

Alright, let’s get to it.

How to NOT lead by example

Just like honesty, leading by example is also very old-fashioned. And, I am not just saying it. I have at least a million examples. But, for sake of sanity of the readers and myself, I will give two examples.

But first, a little background.

Skip Level Meetings: The background and the backbone of this post

I had my skip level meeting today.

Skip Level is a meeting with your direct manager’s manager, just in case you were wondering. We don’t have a very vertical hierarchy. All developers report to a development manager, who reports to a department manager.

Our skip level meetings happen twice a year, and these two days are the worst days of that year. I am not exaggerating. This is the time you hear that all your hard work means nothing. But, more on that later.

Let’s play the Tom, Dick and Harry. Let’s call my manager Tom, my department manager is Dick and Harry is another manager in our department.

Exhibit A

For all my previous skip level meetings, I have had a staple conversation with Dick. He would  lecture me about being more social, more approachable. In other words, he wants me to become a stick up and massage people’s ego. A very valuable lesson, because that is how people move ahead in their career.

Not for me, it doesn’t work. As in, I can’t force myself to become a puppet to please people. I do talk to people, I joke with them, because I want to, not because I have to.

It is not limited to Dick. My previous department manager had the same feedback for me. But he never said so to my face. He took a different approach.

I walk with my head bowed down and stay oblivious to others unless they elbowed my ribs, you know. True story!

My previous department manager started greeting me every morning, and evening and every time we pass each other in the corridors and cafeteria. So, gradually I started noticing his presence around. Soon, there came a point that I would naturally greet him, chat him casually. When he left the company, I was quite upset.

I know! That is a true example of leading by example.

Leading by example takes time and energy and commitment. Why should one put oneself through the pain?

What’s the better and easier way? Just say this.

“Shabana, you’ve to greet me when you see me, or HR. Otherwise it will reflect badly on your rewards.”

Do you think I care about that?

I did not.

Not initially.

When my bonus was pennies for three consecutive years, I relented. Sad story!

Exhibit B

So, now we will begin with today’s topic – speaking responsibly. How apt and nobel!

I am part of the interview panel and recently, we are asked to conduct interviews not just during the week days, but also on a Saturday. I hate it, as do other panellists. We all have our reasons.

So, during the last weekend drive, we discussed this over lunch break. The panellists also suggested that if we were compensated for it with a compensatory off or weekend allowance, it would give people a motive to “waste” their weekend. I call it a waste because we haven’t got a candidate in four months of interviewing, weekends included.

Apparently, what I said on that lunch table with a group of people did not go down well with Harry and he reported the whole matter to Dick. B**ched would be a better term in this context. The complain was only about me, although there were four others on the table echoing the exact same thing.

That’s the bias I always talk about. Just because the others were Marathi and I am not, that Harry knew them for all of his career, made me the victim. The complaint was mostly false. My response and words were exaggerated when Harry conveyed it to Dick, and it was further exaggerated when I was put in the hot seat.

I listened to the entire story and noticed how it has been distored. I took it upon myself to clear the misconception. Poor me! I had forgotten that perceptions and misconceptions are almost impossible to change.

Nonetheless, I tried to explain my point of view, and my version of truth. Obviously, in vain.

On my suggestion to compensate the weekend drive with allowance, this was his reply.

“That is such a middle class mentality. A gentleman and a gentlewoman NEVER talk about money. Why would you ask for weekend allowance for 50-100 rupees? That’s stooping too low.”

Wow, such words of wisdom.

It hurt but it was true, not because I am a middle class woman but because “being middle class” was used as if it the worst thing being a middle class person. Why? And, if it is that bad, how do I move out of middle class? What do you suggest – robbing a bank?

But, yes. I do consider the monetary benefit for every little thing. As do others. His words hurt me, but I didn’t say anything, hoping he would move on. Yeah, I wish!

He repeated the same thing multiple times over, like 10 times or more. Finally, it got to my nerves.

It’s like Himesh reshammiya’s music. The repetition is one of his trademarks, right?

So, you listen to junoon, junoon, junoon, junoon and say. It’s alright. There is repetition and is quite catchy.

Then, you listen to Naam hai tera tera. Deepika’s looks kill you and the song is still catchy.

But then there is tera tera tera suroor. There’s ek Baar aa ja aa ja aa ja aa ja aaaa jaaaaa.

And you give up. It’s too much to handle.

That’s what happened to me.

I wanted to scream.

“You made a point. Then you dragged it for a mile. And now, I don’t agree with your point nor do I respect you. I certainly don’t feel that you talk responsibly, something you’ve been trying to preach for past two hours.

That’s right. This session was about talking responsibly. For the previous two hours, Dick was telling me to be mindful of my words because juniors are impressionable and that’s what they take away from you. Right!

Parting Thoughts

I have learned a lot in those two hours, more than I have learned in my entire life. I learned is that it is okay to call people names; it is okay to make fun of their opinion and ideology; it is okay to twist the truth to make it convenient.

I may agree with what he had to say, if he had exemplified it. Now, I truly and completely understand the meaning of “Show, don’t tell.”

That, ladies and gentleman, is how not to lead by example.

Over and out!

 

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