Nuts And Bolts
Battling bad bosses? Or a paltry increment? Our one- stop workplace guide has all the answers.
Landing the job you want is only the start. What follows is learning how to navigate your way across a corporate minefield. In this economic climate, however, thriving is far better than just surviving. From dealing with bad bosses to negotiating a raise to building team spirit, follow our comprehensive how- to guide on facing professional challenges.
THE BIG BOSS
Q. How to keep things professional?
A. The first step towards managing a professional relationship with the boss is to maintain a healthy distance. A powerful boss is like a bonfire-- if you stand too close, you’re bound to get burnt. But if you stay too far away, you’ll never be warm enough. A healthy distance however is easier said than enforced. Modern workplaces facilitate and encourage discussion and alliances between different tiers of an organisation. This may mean that you occasionally share
the numbers of niche restaurants in the city with your boss, or recommend a good playschool for their children. In all other cases, avoid sharing too much information about your personal life. Maintaining these boundaries may seem insignificant at first, but it will go a long way towards establishing your credibility as a professional with your seniors. Q. How to deal with a dishonest boss?
A. Integrity knows no negotiation. A dishonest boss might be the trickiest slippery slope you come across. If you plan on taking redemptive action, then make sure you’ve gathered enough factual data as evidence to nail him. The correct way forward would be to speak with the CEO. Confrontation with the concerned party may only aggravate the situation further. However remember that your position as the organisation’s whistleblower is fraught with danger as your colleagues may no longer trust you post the revelation. Be open to the idea of switching jobs and moving on to better opportunities if your workplace is an unforgiving one.
Q. How to respond to inappropriate innuendoes?
A. Despite the sexual harassment video they run once a year and a definitive bill introduced by the Government in 2010 ( Protection of Women for Sexual Harassment Bill), this nexus between power and gender continues to rankle. The best way to deal with such unwanted attention is to nip it in the bud. Trust your instincts and say no at the very start. Remember, the less ambiguous you are about your answer, the less chance there is for your signals to be misread. If such behaviour persists, inform your HR department immediately who will then take appropriate action against your boss. It is however best to deal with this situation at a personal level to avoid unwanted attention from your peers. Q. How to negotiate a better appraisal? A. An appraisal is not an annual event— it’s a year- long dialogue with your boss about achievements, challenges, efforts made and results got. The key here is to participate with your boss in the goal setting process at the beginning of the year, and handle work in alignment with the goals. And while in the process, review and feedback meetings are essential to track results and growth. If this robust practice of discussion is in place, it’s hardly a challenge negotiating for a better appraisal, provided you back your claims with concrete evidence of the work you have accomplished.
THE HIGH FIVE
Q. How to deal with disgruntled colleagues when you get promoted over them?
A. A promotion in the current economic scenario, where companies are driving employees away in hordes, should be considered as a massive pat on the back. There is then no reason to feel apologetic, secretive or patronising towards your new juniors. Most often, colleagues will not be frank about their unhappiness and may even send you a hypocritical congratulatory note. One needs to remain patient and sensitive while waiting for this phase of perceived animosity to pass. Also, a change in attitude may put you in a more sensitive spot vis- à- vis the office grapevine so stay guarded in conversations with your peers. Q. How to deal with shirkers in your team?
A. Confrontation is the only way out. Shirkers often take advantage of a friendship they struck with you at the very beginning. Don’t let this get in the way of meeting your quarterly goals. Shirkers do not understand veiled feedback. It’s imperative to call them out and give them an honest picture about their poor performance. As expected, the shirker will respond with excuses, or even worse, denial. It’s then critical to have data at hand about what was assigned with timelines showing how much has been achieved. If the informal appraisal fails to spike their performance, do not wait for the annual one to make your decision. Replace the shirker with a more responsible professional. Q. How to be a good colleague without crossing any lines?
A. Just like parents, you don’t choose your colleagues. Workplace relationships have a direct impact on how you perform. The underlying quality of a healthy workplace is to have respect for others’ beliefs and preferences. Politically incorrect jokes about gender, religion and culture are best left to your Twitter feed. It’s important to establish a good rapport, especially with complicated teammates. Be neutral, avoid gossip, generate support instead of sabotage and find ways to praise your colleagues when they do a good job. Leave the power hoarding to top management and share the fruit of your collective labour. Q. How to be a team player?
A. This June the media was saturated with coverage on the ugly spat between tennis stars Leander Peas and Mahesh
Bhupati. That’s a classic case of a team dynamic gone horribly long. They stopped communicating with each other and instead decided to air their differences in public. Each team is bound to consist of different personalities with different aspirations and strengths. But every team player should share a common goal and most importantly, posess the energy, enthusiasm and drive to achieve. Flexibility and dependability are the top two desirable traits in a team player. A rigid and inconsistent performer hampers the output of an entire group. Learn to adapt to the team’s requirements before addressing your own.
THE GREEN MILE
Q. How to negotiate for a better salary when switching jobs? / How to beat the recession?
A. The first thing to remember is that relationships with your boss or the HR department will not be hampered by negotiation. Instead, there will be a better understanding of expectations at both ends. Besides a salary hike, you can demand more in terms of your profile and the team you work in. The way to ensure you get your due is to compare your offer to the current market value. If the offer is not in keeping with the current trends then negotiations should begin. Don’t hesitate to have an honest discussion with your boss and ask for the salary you deserve. A good pay package ensures you beat the recession and inflation. Q. How to handle negative feelings when your peers earn more than you? A. This is the perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Instead of plotting your peer’s downfall, look at it as a benchmark to plan your own growth against. If this disparity isn’t performance based, then many factors, including better negotiations at the time of joining, level of
work experience and previous roles held could be the reason behind their higher pay. Cope with these disparities without hurting your self- esteem. If the difference is blatantly unfair, seek an explanation by objectively presenting your achievements vis- à- vis that of your peer. If the organisational process allows it, make it a point to highlight this issue during the next appraisal cycle. Q. How to negotiate for better benefits ( health, travel, retirement)?
A. The race to get the best perks shouldn’t overshadow what you actually need from the job. Prioritise these needs and then negotiate for benefits. For example, if you are a new mother, then flexi- hours or working from home might be concessions you require more urgently than a petrol allowance or getting your phone bills paid. It’s also wise to differentiate salary amount from benefits. Even when negotiating for standard benefits like medical insurance and retirement, be smart about what you need most and ask for those benefits accordingly. Q. How to deal with downsizing/ taking a pay cut?
A. Downsizing are not a widespread phenomenon in India just yet. However a declining growth rate may lead to an inevitable situation where to keep your job, you will have to make a few concessions. Don’t feel cornered when a pay cut is announced. It’s important to know what category of employee is subjected to the cut and for how long. You could make the cut a little palatable by negotiating a flexiweek or cutting down on your daily commute by working a fewer number of days per month. Though discouraging, a paycut should not throw you off course since the revival of the company from this crisis depends on how its employees pull together. After all, your fortunes are tied to your company’s ability to weather the storm.