Monday, December 26, 2005

Job satisfaction....

Hi blog !

Been a long time. Let me begin by reproducing an article which has appeared in the Time of India. This was by one Mr.Subroto Bagchi (He is the co-founder & COO of Mindtree-an IT Consulting Company). This topic has been very dear to me & so I was unable to resist a critique on it and mailed it back to him. He replied after sometime & the clarification was interesting. I was quite pleased with my efforts. Read on..

The Original article :

Job Satisfaction

Jobs are not meant to satisfy us. Jobs are not animate things that have knowledge of who we are, what we are seeking and what our special needs could be. You may say that I am just making a philosophical statement. To the contrary, I believe that it is the most practical and rewarding way of looking at many things in a professional career. When I see scores of successful people around me, I believe that their achievements are largely because of such a perspective. It also occurs to me that developing this perspective is eventually beneficial in every way possible.

Let me go back a century and tell you a story. My grandfather was a medical practitioner in the Bihar of 1920s. He had a brood of children who were orphaned due to his untimely death. Two of my uncles had just about finished high school when he moved on. Their older brothers could not afford to send them to college. The two had to be gainfully employed, somehow, as soon as possible. They were taken to Tata Steel, an hour away from where they lived. Tata Steel and the government of Bihar were the only two employers you could think of in a five-hundred mile radius of my uncles’ hometown. The possible work one could get at Tata Steel was that of a technologist-engineer or of a manual worker. So, what could be done with the two boys with their high school qualifications? They were neither fish nor fowl. “Take them to the lab,’’ someone said. A German technician who ran the place was looking for a few hands. The burly German took a hard look at the two. Then he showed them a broom standing at one corner of the lab and asked them to sweep the floor. By the end of day, one of the two just ran away. To him, it was too much to handle. The one who stayed back retired as a chief foreman of Tata Steel. The difference between the two? The one that stayed on was not trying to seek ‘job satisfaction’. Instead, he focussed on satisfying the job.

The more prosperous the industry, the higher the number of people looking for this elusive thing called ‘job satisfaction’. Similarly, the more qualified some people are, the higher is their need for ‘job satisfaction’. Sometimes, it is as elusive as seeking ‘true love’. There are times when we get lucky deservedly or otherwise. But we also get used to it and conclude that it is the responsibility of the organisation to maintain a continuous supply of job satisfaction.

Whenever I think of job satisfaction, I remember all those who have to work at night—policemen, airline pilots, nurses and doctors, ambulance drivers and hotel staff, and of course the sentinel of the snow and the desert and the mountains. Do their jobs ‘satisfy’ these people or do these people satisfy the jobs with which they have been entrusted? Are jobs living things that can ever ‘satisfy’ us?

In the corporate world, like any other place, when we open the bonnet and look under it, we find a whole bunch of tough, dirty but strategic tasks that must get done for the bacon to come home. Sometimes, they are so tough and so dirty that they overshadow the strategic nature of the job. So, all such jobs have to be ‘sold’ to prospective incumbents. More they are sold, less buyers they attract. Often, the man who takes up the job is either a loser who has no other choice, or someone who just views it as a transit camp. For many potentially high-performance individuals, a false sense of survival, desire for glamour or just the need for creature comforts make these jobs undesirable. “I would rather be in Kolkata than be posted to Mungher.’’ “I rather have the corporate planning job than be collecting bad debts.’’ Or, consider this one here: “Give me a cerebral job, I do not enjoy handling transactions...’’

Few of us ever ask the boss to be rewarded with a tough and dirty job. We only look for the ‘plum’ ones. Yet, there are people, who given a tough and dirty job, make it strategic: they transform the job in unbelievable ways. In a typical career span, there must be at least four such solid stints in one’s life to make the person a solid professional. All the great people I know have been in the trenches for much of their lives, and their inventory of bruises outnumber the commendations they have received. The occasional commendations stay on the wall. It is the bruises that these people carry with pride.

Subroto Bagchi is co-founder & chief operating 0fficer of MindTree Consulting

My mail to Mr.Bagchi :

"Santosh Upadhyay" wrote:

Dear Mr.Bagchi,

This refers to your article “Job Satisfaction” in the ‘Times of Mind’ in The Times of India.

I am an avid reader of your articles & keenly follow them up in The Times of India as well as Businessworld (Arbor Mentis) for which you write regularly. I feel this is because your articles are firmly rooted with practical aspects of the subject you discuss.

A brief introduction of myself, I am a Mechanical Engineer from M.S.University, Baroda and working for an Engineering Major in their Oil & Gas Projects division. I have in all about 6 years of work experience.

I am writing to you since I feel this topic “Job Satisfaction” is quite close to my heart. Though I have come to understand & appreciate some of the points you have mentioned in your article. I too like many others you have mentioned in your article was running after this elusive “Job Satisfaction”, till I came to realize that there is no such thing as a job satisfaction. There are certain external factors, apart from one’s skills & capabilities which affect one’s performance on the job. It is an unstated understanding as an individual that if these external factors are favourable with the assignments one is handling, this somewhere ensures that the individual is able to give 100% to the job at hand.

I dispute your view that one should attempt to satisfy the job always. I have always strongly believed that “performance” per se is inextricably linked to the extent of opportunities available to an individual on the job. Even the best of people will be abject failures in case of failure if ample opportunities are not available to them. I talk with respect to middle management level since that is where I am after 6 years of working.

At the same time corporate should also attempt to have a proper match of skill sets available with a person and the kind of job he is assigned to.

Lastly you cannot deny the dynamics of the workplace have changed a great extent post 2002 due to the rapid strides Economy has taken leading to a mismatch between the talent demand & supply.

Some of our corporate have themselves led into the talent crunch they are having, since they have not taken any care of their employees. To quote my experience, this dates back to the 2002 Gujarat riots when whole of the city was under curfew. After we resumed office after a gap of 4-5 days, we were asked to apply compulsorily for leave in the period we were unable to make it to the office (3 days) due to the curfew. This was when the job market was in a downtrend & the company perhaps knew it could take the employees for granted.

Clap can only be had with two hands. I also refer to one of your earlier articles wherein you had quoted that in earlier times, people were happy since they used to do jobs for which they were good at and this did not lead to discontent. E.g. A carpenter used to do carpentry since this is what his forefathers had done & known. Same with an Ironsmith, so on & so forth.

I further refer to Maslow’s pyramid of needs, once a particular level of needs is satisfied; it is natural for a man to start looking for satisfying needs of the next level. E.g. Once the person is able to take care of the clothing, shelter & food, he will start focusing on the other larger issues like a better paying job, next level would be to utilize his capabilities are to the maximum extent on the job or “job satisfaction” per se. I personally have experienced this first hand.

The kind of people whom you have mentioned in the article, like the ones who covert mundane tough & dirty jobs into strategic are few & far.

I still think I will keep trying to look to utilize my capabilities in a better way in the present or a prospective job, its better to have tried & lost than not to have tried at all. Though I will not call it as looking for "Job Satisfaction" but a good fit between my skills & those required on the job. I firmly believe after having read “The Alchemist” by Paul Couhelo that its good to have dreams for yourself & to explore the world in order to have any chances of attaining them.

I have tried to put my thoughts in an orderly mail, though they may ultimately lead to no particular conclusion.

“Experience is not what happens to us, experience is what we do with what happens to us.”


Santosh Upadhyay
Vadodara, Gujarat

Mr.Bagchi's reply :

Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2005 13:37:24 +0530
From: "timesofmind" Block Sender This is SPAM Add to Address Book

To: "Santosh Upadhyay"
Subject: Re: Attn.: Mr.Subroto Bagchi : Regarding Article "Job Satisfaction" : "Times of Mind" section on 23.12.2005 :
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Dear Santosh,

You write well and argue your thoughts admirably.

No, I am not saying that we have to be unquestioning slaves to our work. I am saying that till the job is on my hand and I am with it, I can find myriad ways of making it rich and expansive - there is no point in cribbing and crying about it. If I did that, chances are very high that I would find myself doing what I really want to do....