The League of Extraordinary Colleagues

What makes a workplace workable? Colleagues.You may work in the glitziest of buldings,you may have the most important job profile ever granted to a human being,you may have the poshest cabin in the entire office,but without colleagues around,all that comes to naught.

Colleagues come in a wide variety of sizes,attitudes and preferences.Though most of them safely fall under the dome of the normal distribution curve,some swing to extremes.I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being acquainted with some such people.

During a team dinner some months ago,as we gathered around the long mahogany table,its surface reflecting the brilliance of the chandelier above,a portly guy walked in with a bowed head,unshaven face and measured step.Much like a poet brooding over the meter of his latest poem,he quietly took his place.He stared at his shoelaces for a while and then looked at the floor pattern.As everyone broke the  ice with the usual jovial banter,this guy just sat with the same bowed head and looked reverentially at the dinner menu.Only a few words of introduction could be squeezed out of him.Months later,when we regrouped in a new place to start a project,hoots of laughter could be heard from somewhere.Every two minutes of this laughter would be interspersed with a two second silence.We wondered who the perpetrator was.Out comes the poet,clean shaven,bursting with energy from an unknown source and practically hopping from one place to another.Turns out,he was a fish out of water in the team dinner.This guy cannot go farther than three words without letting loose a barrel of highly infectious laughter.He also happens to know a lot of statistics and facts about government jobs.One of the team members had just secured a government posting and when a fellow  colleague innocently miscalculated the remuneration,he jumped up and down,waved indignantly and rattled off all the latest policies with regards to the pay scale.While the two battled it out in the boardroom,the appointee looked hopelessly lost.(What was the remuneration anyway?)

Moving along the spectrum,we also have the fitness enthusiasts.These are people who will give you a smug smile as they virtuously sip on their carrot juice and watch you guzzle coffee every hour,spreading the wonderful nutrition all through your body.They are the ones who creep up behind you in the cafeteria,as you’re balancing your plate and palate with some greasy looking fries and a gallon of ice cream,and munch cucumber and watermelon slices with aplomb,while you valiantly try to digest the saturated fats rushing through your arteries.They are the ones who,when you make the bad decision to climb stairs for the first time in your office life,demonstrate their marathoner skills without a second thought and throw pearls of wisdom along the way.You,on the other hand,huff and puff your way around the stupid staircase,which never seems to end,while cursing everything within a fifty feet vicinity.

One such guy I know lives in the badminton court.The swimming pool is his summer home.He occasionally goes home,says hi to his folks and rushes back to  his beloved court.He plays every sport known to mankind with the same dogged determination and tries to inflict the same to other hapless souls.A crusader of walking,he first baits you with the promise of an enriching journey.Your tired mind tries to stave off the threat,but you’re much too genial to say no.There,you start walking together.Nice trees pass you by,as do friendly earthworms and an occasional rabbit.You take a deep breath and start appreciating Mother Nature and feel sorry for not doing so before.You turn to your right and realize your companion is nowhere to be found.You panic and look hither and thither.Oh there he is.About fifty yards ahead of you,jauntily striding along the path.He looks at you with his piercing eyes and shakes his head in pity.You mumble apologies for being slow and try to keep pace with him.When the destination appears,he smiles in all his glory,cheeks infused with blood and healthy muscles in all their crowning glory.You wheeze and pant and smile weakly,hoping never to cross paths with the crusader again.

I have to hide now.The fitness people are passing by.

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The Workplace Laws

Officeland is like no other place on earth.Some enter the premises to escape their home lives,some saunter in to make merry,some stroll through the entire perimeter exercising their right to free will and balloony stomachs.Oh,and some occasionally work.There are certain laws which govern the office as they do the outside world.Here goes:

1.The Law of Office Supplies:The more urgent your need,the less visible they become.

Office supplies have a mind of their own.One minute,they are all sitting pretty on your desk,all neatly arranged and raring to go.The minute you have to process an invoice,or make changes in the accession register or answer the boss’s urgent call for a whiteboard marker,the supplies magically vanish.Pens,particularly,are notorious for disappearing at the most opportune moment.After you’ve coped with all the supply-less madness,you suddenly find your supplies again,sitting pretty on your desk,mocking you with their bright colors and varied assortments.

2.The Boss Law-No,this is not the “Boss is always right” law.This is an everyday occurance at the workplace.It works like this.

You’ll always be doing something unimportant when the boss approaches your desk.

All is hunky dory when the big guy is sitting in his plush office.You’ll be buried in work,forget to eat,drink and look like a terminally ill ghost.Your diet is made up of chunks of data,pieces of pie charts and blocks of numbers.All this while,your boss is inside his room.What makes bosses emerge from their lair and go check on the unfortunate employee is still unknown.What is known,though,is when the big guy is standing behind your shoulder,your browser is tuned to everything except work.And right on cue,songs start blaring from the bally computer while you shudder and shrink to a pea sized creature,while your boss walks away,mentally reminding himself not to give you a good appraisal.

3.The IT law: All defective computers function fine enough when the IT guy stands next to you.

Erratic PCs are a boon or a bane,depends on how you look at it.A non-functioning system means more time to mess and laze around,check your mail on your colleague’s system,complain about the slow IT service and blame the computer industry in general.If you’re anything like me,you’ll wholeheartedly plunge into the points I just offered and work up a good deal of false indignated-lather.Calling the IT services to come and rectify your system is another post altogether.When the guy from IT finally arrives,days after you’ve lodged your complaint,the system detects his presence and springs to life.The system knoweth that thou hath not a single IT gene in thou body.The IT guy smirks inwardly,scribbles some techno drivel in his service sheet and thrusts it into your hand.The minute he shimmers away,the system decides to play you and stops functioning again.So long till the next IT visit.

4.The Filing Law- The most used files are never to be found,the least used ones occupy the best place on the shelf.

You want the latest general bills file.Where do you search for it?Assuming it’s taken out daily and updated properly,it’s got to be on the top,right?Wrong.One can never find an important and a daily used file in the same place.That file keeps on shifting places till it somehow reached the bottom of the file pile.To get to it,you either need superhuman strength or four able bodied coworkers to help you dig through the mass of unused files.Why this happens?Nobody wants to find out.

5.The Law of the Cafeteria:

Anything ordered from the cafeteria will not reach you before an hour.

This is more of a general observation,than a law.Food will arrive from the depths of the cafeteria when you’re at the end of your patience.And people will materialize just when you’ve begun eating.So,you either end up looking like a wolf chomping down its prey,with bits and pieces dangling by the side,or you make a mad dash into the staff room and gulp it down,getting choked in the process.Office cafeterias are also known for messing up orders.On a rushed day,you might find yourself staring at the cafe guy,who is  holding a glass of cinnamon tea and a droopy sandwich,while all the time wondering where your order is.The cafe people will also turn temporarily deaf,as when you are presented with a sad looking soggy non-toasted-non-grilled-not-fit-for-human-consumption sandwich,when you had ordered for and had imagined a gloriously grilled and browned-sun kissed-oozing health and goodness-and-calorie-increasing sandwich.Oh,heck,did the cafe guys just save your heart?

6.The Chain Mail Law:

Chain mails will grow in length and incomprehensibility till they exceed the natural intelligence of the person who originated it.

I love office mails.Specially chain mails.Often,you are bombarded with mails which only say,”FYI” or “PFA the so-and-so” or “FYR”.In order to decode the mail,one has to scroll all the way down to the first mail which began as an innocent communication between two people,carbon copied to a third.This third party,of course,is paid only to forward emails,so they do the needful and send it back to the intended recipients and carbon copy another two unfortunate souls.When those bewildered souls comprehend the mail and oblige the original sender,they too decide to vindicate themselves and carbon copy two more souls.So on and so forth,your name also has the honor of being included in the carbon copy list.Whoo hoo.When you reply to the mail and send it to the two million people in the CC,the originator of the mail scratches his head disbelievingly.Who the heck are all these people? He or she decides to print out the chain mail,twist it into a chain and hang himself/herself at the earliest.

7.The Law of the Meeting: This is actually a series of laws.

  • All meetings will start late.
  • They will do so because no one will know where to show up. (Corollary:No one reads office mails seriously.)
  • If at all a meeting starts on time,there will be no projector or laptop.
  • When the projector arrives,the IT guy will tinker around with it till he announces that the hardware is not compatible.
  • When everything is settled and in place,the power will go off.If it doesn’t,the boss will receive an important phone call.
  • No one will remember why the meeting was called in the first place.They will have to check the minutes of the last meeting.
  • On an average,two out of five people will fall asleep in the meeting room.
  • The meeting will always comprise of heavy management buzzwords and other like minded jargon which nobody understands.
  • The meeting will stretch an hour after the scheduled time.And nobody will remember what it was about in the next meeting as well.
  • Some smart aleck will send everyone the minutes of the meeting in a fancy Word format.

 

There are many more laws and axioms to be written about.This was a beginning.More in the next series of The Workplace Laws.

>Acronym Cronies

>MIS.QPR.KRA.MOM.Acronyms that govern my life at present.And no,MOM does not stand for mom,it’s Minutes of the Meeting.I’ve become corporatized.From a free wheeling,dreamy eyed time waster,I’ve morphed into an office goer.A corporate one at that.Don’t get me wrong,I love what I do at my job.I’m only amazed at this sudden transformation.It’s doing me good,by the way.

Every time I step into office,I’m reminded of Dilbert and his co-workers.Minus the cubicles,of course.The QPR mentioned above stands for Quarterly Performance Review,something which the employees have to present to their section heads for their appraisals.Having spent a year in the office and attended countless such meetings,here’s a lowdown on what actually happens.

If the meeting time reads “2 pm to 5 pm”,you can bet your life on the fact that it won’t start till until 2:45 pm.In-office mails are something nobody bothers to read.Therefore,nobody knows where to assemble for the meeting.If,in the past,a meeting has taken place in a particular room,we naturally assume that the next meeting will be held there itself.Once the discovery is made that there is no one in the room,apart from you and your similar minded colleagues,a frantic search is made for the mail announcing the venue of the meeting.It is found,people look at each other for a while,each trying to recall where the venue is.Somebody runs in breathlessly and admonishes the group for being so late and leads them to the venue.Once settled in,a hunt begins for the projector and laptop for the ensuing presentations.The IT section is called,requirements are specified over the phone and coffee is ordered for everybody.The HOD smiles at everyone genially.The wait for the IT guy begins.Note that the time on the wall clock reads somewhere close to 3 pm.The coffee arrives,duly poured and gulped down.The IT guy saunters in with a laptop,a projector and a mono expression.The process of setting the whole thing up takes anywhere between ten to twenty minutes.You doodle on your notepad,glance sideways at your colleague,who is stifling huge yawns.The IT guy emerges from the rigmarole,a jaunty expression on his face which seems to say,”There,the laptop is all fixed up.Enjoy the meeting.” He leaves and the meeting begins.

QPR.What you’ve done/achieved/managed in the last four months.To remember what you’ve done for the last four months,you need a MIS.Management Information System.A system designed to track your activities/non activities every month.To remember what to write in your MIS,you need a Weekly/Daily Log.An Excel sheet filled with what you did,at which hour of which day.And to be able to write a log,you need a KRA.Key Results Area.This defines the area of work you need to produce substantial results in.

A QPR presentation can be wildly entertaining or deathly boring,it all depends on the presenter.I’ve had the fortune to witness only the former ones.So,here we are.Settled in for a meeting scheduled to commence at 2pm,which finally starts at 3pm. It usually starts off with a round off about the previous meeting’s MOM.You know,Minutes of the Meeting.Agendas are discussed,lots and lots of random management jargon is thrown in at appropriate places,more coffee is served,several reams of paper are exhausted jotting down this meeting’s MOM,the energy levels in the room are on a constant high.The meeting finally ends half an hour past the scheduled time.Everyone glides out of the room,dazed,not sure what happened in the last two and a half hours.When they get back to their systems the next day,a cheery email from the section head reads,”‘PFA the MOM of yesterday’s meeting.”

(BTW,PFA=Please Find Attached.)

>Funday Ka Funda

>April 05,2011.The LRC team goes for a much deserved and awaited outing at Leonia resort,located in the outskirts of Hyderabad.We board the bus,loaded with Lays,Pepsi/Thums Up and Himessss Nasal bhai Reshammiya welcomes us with his honeyed vocals,whom we fear will keep us company throughout the two hour journey.But thank the mighty Lord for Mohd. Rafi,who puts a stop to it,soothes and enthralls us with his magic. Here we are,at Leonia.It is breathtakingly clean,serene and a lush green canopy envelops the entire resort like some sort of a protective blanket.We can already anticipate the day ahead of us.

A visibly nervous but eager young aide to the manager explains our package to us.There are various games,including paint ball.I had a vague idea about the game (turns out I was badly and sadly mistaken) and was completely taken aback when the rules were explained.Two captains are elected who pick their teams.You wear the game outfit,an army-type ensemble,complete with a loaded gun.You are taken into a mock battleground set up with base camps,boulders,rocks,trenches et al.The objective of the game is to capture the enemy flag and bring it back to your base camp,and injuring as many enemy soldiers as possible.The weapon,a heavy metal gun filled with paint “bullets” is hoisted on to your shoulder.There are two referees who monitor your game through the thirty minute time limit.Here we are,gearing up for the battle.

Ah,sweet victory.I captained my team,The Green Battalion,to a resounding victory against the Black Commandos.We had our first taste of what it feels like to get roasted under an unforgiving sun in the middle of the afternoon,coupled with a heavy gun,straining to view the enemy position stealthily while trying to stage a surprise attack.We did not capture the flag, but managed to injure four soliders and also successfully invaded their terrain.That’s our team,standing by the enemy flag,while the losing team acknowledges our supremacy.Ha!

Too tired after all that war? No way. There were the pool and indoor games to be played next. (The pool pictures aren’t uploaded here for a reason.)We tried our hand at billiards and table tennis.A lot of group pictures followed this.

Foooood.After all that fighting and billiard-ing and photo sessions,we sat down to a delectable and excellent repast of the choicest buffet dishes.This is us,enjoying a steaming bowl of potato and cucumber soup.We did full justice to the desserts as well.No discrimination,you see.

On our way to the Go Karting rink.Tired,but fulfilled,we upheld the Indian tradition of Antakshari.Lacking any more energy,our songs were low decibel-ed but tuneful nonetheless.

The Go Karting Rink.

Each one of us got to do 4 laps around the rink.It’s a simple manoeveuring procedure,nothing rocket science-ish.If I could do it,so can anyone.The steering was a bit stiff,though in hindsight,I can see how that was a necessity.It effectively steers you in the right direction.You’re so busy concentrating on keeping yourself on track you don’t overspeed.Of course,experienced drivers,overconfident souls and nervous first timers almost always display speed symptoms. One poor girl pressed on the accelerator and forgot the existence of the steering wheel and promptly slammed into a wall of old tyres stacked in a corner.That was a stray incident,though. The rest of us managed quite well.

This is all of us at the EOD.End of the Day.

A wonderful day,great games,amazing food.Another set of memories.