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Blunder Land Chronicles!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
blunder-land chronicles,blunder,job description,soft skills,appraisal

Rajit Nair

Sometime back a popular movie in Malayalam (Indian Language) had a comedy scene depicting how a carpenter makes a wooden cot. Upon finishing the work, we see him inviting the owner to see and appreciate his work. The blunder is that one of the pillars in the courtyard got trapped inside the frame of the cot without the carpenter’s knowledge or in other words the cot was made ‘around’ the pillar. Likewise, how many ‘real-time’ minuscules to mega blunders, we witness while at work?

An enormous wedding cake made for a high profile wedding got stuck inside a bakery due to the stupidity of the baker and his team to take into account the size of the door through which the multi-layered, designer cake has to be taken out (sorry, I don’t have the clipping!). How much time, effort and money wasted is history!

HR department blunders are very common, mostly when the employee who was promoted and transferred from the other department to HRD, handling the HR function. In the GCC, this is a common practice (especially in family owned businesses or SMEs) as the business owner or the Chief Executive is very reluctant to ‘fire’ anyone, instead, s/he would try to ‘accommodate’ the employee in a ‘less’ chaotic or sometimes the only well-organized department in the organization. So don’t be surprised if a series of blunders like forwarding the draft warning email to the employee itself for review instead of sending to his/her Supervisor or sending the job offer to an employee in the company with the same name, instead to the selected candidate, faulty job descriptions prepared without understanding the job or just a ‘cut n paste’ from another job description or sometimes from the Internet and the like. Think about an employee in a poultry development department getting a Job Description that talks in length about his/her duties related to cattle breeding or mushroom cultivation!

Hiring is always a tricky affair! If you look around, you would see companies carrying ‘excess baggage’ that resulted from hiring blunders. The good thing about the recession is that it helped many companies to clear such ‘clutter’. Few months back, one of my friends from the services industry narrated to me a catch-22 corporate incident. As part of a restructuring initiative, his company hired a veteran (nearing retirement age) to head the services department. Based on the direct orders from the top, HR did not or could not give any attention to the soft skills or did not even bother to state that this person would be a ‘misfit’ as he has a track record of adjustment problems in his previous ‘missions’. The comparatively young employees in that department could not stand the slowness, passiveness and interference from the new boss. Moreover, the only objective the veteran boss had is to clear the backlogs, and did not pay any attention to the quality of the service delivered. Although he has immense experience, (which prompted the top management to hire him), he sidelined the quality procedures just to ‘deliver’ what he had promised to the top management. Complaints started pouring in for the first time about the output and the team started to panic. Soon, the department started drifting from the organizational goals and soon HR was forced to call for top management intervention.

Performance Appraisal time in any company would provide good episodes of blunders either by the managers or the supervisors or by the employees itself while completing their part in the appraisal forms or conducting the appraisal meeting itself. In smaller organizations you could witness ‘emotional imbalances’ and ‘black-mailing’ during the appraisal period by the employees. “I did for you that, you remember the other day, still you think I am not performing” is the usual cliché. In other cases, female employees making melodrama including crying and ‘purchasing’ the manager to change his/her ‘verdict’ on the Appraisal form is also a reality.

Career choosing/changing blunders too are very common among the greenhorns, when they lack proper career guidance (please read my first article Why we end up in the wrong Job?). Early diagnosis will help rectify such blunders but when you are in a foreign land (as an expatriate) you have lots of restrictions and hurdles before you hop. At this point, I would like to salute one of my college mates, who immediately after obtaining the postgraduate degree did not wait to get a job. Instead, he started his own business, a roadside small pan-shop (with a mediocre capital which sells, pan products, cigarettes, refreshments, daily needs for the city populace etc) in a crowded area near the city’s main bus stand. I salute him because unlike most of the Keralities, he did not go for any flashy corporate house to become a management trainee or waste his time writing tests or attending walk-in interviews, where interviewers would ask him how many steps he just climbed etc or like majority, he did not opt to become a Non Resident Indian (NRI) to work abroad (generally the Gulf), where he would have faced lots of precincts as an expatriate, where he might have been treated badly by hypocrites (if he was unlucky), or being suppressed or always under threat or pressure or manipulated his character and work ethics or forced to work under (or with) jerks (if he was extremely unlucky) and to get tormented by extreme weather. I admire him for his courage (which I did not have at that time) and his sense of pride in what he’s doing for a living.

Blunders in departmental organization structures are also very common in companies especially, where the ‘Old School or No School’ reigns over the ‘New School’. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, when the department manager is unsure about what s/he is doing or is decorating that position just because of ‘lady luck’, then many blunders precipitate. Hours and hours were expended to convince an ‘Old School’ Finance & Accounts department manager in a real estate company that the reporting line of the newly hired Financial Controller is directly to the Chief Executive and not to the Finance & Accounts manager as per the new Organization Structure and the Financial Controller has much wider role than the Finance & Accounts department manager. The ‘Old School’ guy till-date could not ‘digest’ the idea and is now engaged in an Internet ‘research’ to prove the Organization Development Specialist wrong.

Even successful leaders often make ‘mega’ blunders. This happens mainly when it comes to business expansion or business strategy implementation. Many successful and established business owners are great ‘dreamers’ and excellent ‘tinsel town personalities’ and have good acumen in strategy articulation. However, when it comes to implementation or in taking a bold step, most of them fail. Opportunity to collaborate with an international rating agency lost by a local service provider was such a blunder realized by the business owner at the threshold of bankruptcy only. This happened just to retain the ‘charade of glamor’ of being a locally born business. This false notion in the changing paradigm where businesses especially those ‘Below the SME’ (bSME) criteria would survive only through collaborations, was simply a ‘majestic’ blunder.

All these mistakes or blunders by experienced business leaders and employees are because of lack of thinking or lack of proper homework or lack of application of knowledge or poor communication (to some extent) or lack of interest or; simply ignorance.

Importantly, for an employee to perform, the company should provide all the requisites including training and mentoring. In cases, where even after corrective measures, the employee continues to make mistakes, then ‘clinical intervention’ would be the only option left with the management to sever the relationship.

A blunder made by an inexperienced employee is excusable to a certain extent, as human beings are primed to make mistakes once or twice, but repeated more than twice, then the individual should be labeled obtuse.

Please keep visiting  (every week) for more on the series “Fearless or Shameless”.

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