Article

We, the Entitled

We, the Entitled

It is true that there are good, average, and bad employers. It is equally true that there are forever dissatisfied employees asking for more. That’s why there are consultants and agencies selling us the dream of contented and happy employees. They know it’s a matter of dreams alone.

Let’s get realistic. We are human beings. We are never satisfied with what we get. If the salary doesn’t have a variable component, we’re like: Where is the additional ‘incentive’ to perform? If the salary does have a variable amount, we hate that uncertainty. If we get 30% of our incentive, we bemoan the remaining that doesn’t come by. If we get the full amount, we compare it against 3x incentives received by our friends in the banking sector (never mind the working hours). If we don’t have a job rotation policy, we feel stagnated. If we have a job rotation policy, we feel our competitive advantage isn’t used best. If the office celebrates festivals, we don’t participate whole-heartedly because we are busy with ‘better things to do’. If the office doesn’t celebrate festivals, we have a theory ready on Employee Degeneration in Absence of Celebrations. If we don’t get facetime with the management, we feel sidelined. If we get facetime, we feel pressured. If we don’t get new assignments, we feel unexcited. If we get them, we feel overloaded.

The matter is simple. The utopian world doesn’t exist. Neither in office, nor at home. And by the way, I am reading Ramayana these days. Apparently, the state of the world back then, was even worse.

But then – says the employee – it’s not a question of either-or. Employers need to strike a balance.

Of course, we need to strike a balance – employers and employees. But then, what is balance? Also, whose balance? There are 7.7 billion definitions of balance on earth; and as many definitions of balance in the organization as its number of employees. Balance is as vague as contentment. Even in the smallest teams, people find it hard to come to a consensus on the constituents of ‘balance’. In our own family, we can’t seem to find a consistent definition of balance with our parents/ spouse/ children. But we expect the organization to find an all-inclusive, equally-euphoric, widely-bought-in, concept of Balance. Hypocritical, isn’t it?

Does this mean that we stop asking questions and accept whatever the organization does? No, that will sound the death knell for improvement. Solutions emerge only when the status-quo is questioned. The consistent want to improve is the sole fuel of invention. If employees hadn’t questioned the desk-mentality, work-from-home wouldn’t be a reality. If people didn’t assign priority to personal goals, the concept of Sabbatical Leave wouldn’t get ushered. Voluntary retirement, period leave, job-sharing, flexi-timings, child/elder care leave, group insurance, social contribution, 360-degree appraisals, scholarships etc., all such amazing ideas owe their origin to a question.

Questioning, therefore, is wonderful, and it brings the best out of an organization. We know that. So, we love to question and it’s perfect. So why do we start getting the jitters when we are questioned? What’s good for company should be good for us too, no?

Questioning others requires awareness. Being open for questioning requires awakening.

Awareness tells us that employers need to have a conscience to be able to sustain in the long run. So, we expect the company to make concessions for our sick days, bad hair days, travel days, charitable days, family care days, friends meet up days etc. Awareness informs us what other employers are doing to help people and planet. So, we expect the company to have negative carbon footprint, minimize waste generation, expend on CSR projects and disburse some pandemic allowance. Awareness tells us how stakeholders are supposed to behave with us, and how they should be held accountable for their jobs. Awareness provides the raw material for asking questions. Courtesy: Jio, awareness comes as cheap as Rs 150 per month these days.

Awakening, on the other hand, requires introspection. Turn the tables and put the company in the seat of the questioner: What work did we do daily? What goals did we achieve in one quarter? Are our goals ambitious enough? What earth-shattering work did we do to claim an ‘Outstanding’ rating in place of a ‘Fully-met’ one? How did we migrate our function to the next orbit to justify the ask for a promotion?  How much did our professional goals suffer because of our unplanned personal needs? How did we compensate for those losses? Which legacy of system did we permanently change to feel fit for the highest salary increment? What was our role in causing that friction with our stakeholder? What did we not do to worsen our relationship with our stakeholders? …Squirming, are we?

To put it plainly, we expect our employer to accommodate for our consistently improving lifestyles. But we lament when the employer also expects us to contribute to its consistently improving profitability. We want righteous, empathetic, and progressive leaders like Shri Raam. But we don’t like being the forever diligent, dedicated, and goal-oriented Hanuman. We like to be led by a socialist king, who lets us be capitalistic individuals in return. We want rights; duties are so old-fashioned anyway.

This double-standard often comes accompanied with a quip: If I were to be all that awakened and saintly, I would go and meditate in the Himalayas. I’m here for salary, not enlightenment. Going by the same logic, if you constantly harangue about company, boss, and salary, you should go and become a full-time activist. The company hired you for your productivity, not speeches.  

The difference between asking questions to find solutions, and asking holier than thou questions, lies in attitude. The former is a seeker, who comes with the commitment to work for the change. The latter is a judge, demanding that the world works for it. And if we indeed have genuine grudges with the organization, who stopped us from leaving? To stick around in a job half-heartedly only to be able to draw a salary, is as unfair to the company as the company is to us, isn’t it?

As for me, I’d like to borrow what someone once said: I don’t take the moral high ground. I have vertigo!

Post-script and disclaimer: I am not in HR. And I have enough grievances with them ;)

About the Author

Sonal Singh currently serves as the Head of Corporate Communications for Jindal Stainless Group, a USD 3 billion company. She has over 14 years of multi-faceted experience in managing corporate, marketing, and leadership communications.