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.


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.


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.


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.

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