What to do with Toxic Superstars at work?

ciel blog - toxic superstar

Bill Gates said, “The key for us, number one, has always been hiring very smart people. If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become some mediocre company.”

“When you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work”, said Steve Jobs.

Who are the Toxic Superstars?

Organizations do their best to attract Superstars and retain them. They deliver top-class productivity, set benchmarks in the organization and inspire others. Their number is small but they deliver high impact. They become the blue-eyed boys or girls for a manager, earn highest bonus and set on a fast-track career path.

The problem arises when one such A-grader is toxic corroding the fabric of the organization. Such a person is normally focused on one’s own interests, own goals to meet, earning bonuses and accolades for self rather than for the team. These individuals walk the extra mile to learn and adapt to the situation, but are sharply focused on their own requirements. They de-prioritise goals of the team and purpose of the organization over indirect outcome of one’s actions. They firmly believe, “I am right and the others are wrong”.

How do their Managers deal with them?

Managers find it very difficult to reprimand them for this behaviour. They are willing to overlook the attitude issue in the name of rough edges. This is all because of the track record and the results that a superstar delivers.

Goals and budgets for the quarter and the year are important. Because these superstars contribute significantly to those numbers, the manager does not want to upset the performer with a reprimanding conversation. Moreover, many managers are not sure how the conversation would take shape and do not want to upset the applecart. They do not want to risk damaging their working relationship with the performer and losing the person from the team.

What should be done?

Tough task for the leadership team to call a spade a spade! This calls for open communication across the rank and file. The norm in the organization should be clear to all. The values of the organization have to be lived by the leaders and the employees should be able to see them. In this kind of a situation, it is highly unlikely that a toxic superstars will be bold enough to act in a self-centred way on a consistent basis harming the ethos of the team.

Secondly, some organizations encourage their troops to be super-competitive and are quite fine with the skirmishes that a top performer brings to the table. In those situations, the toxicity may not be about the attitude of one-upmanship, rather it could be about lack of integrity and honesty. The leadership needs to recognize these behaviours and take a stance on this. Most importantly, their stance needs to be visible in the organization.

Last but not the least, leadership ability of managers across the organization plays a very important role. Most often, the front-line managers and their supervisors hold the key to the way behaviours of superstars are observed and promoted. While the top leaders set the tone, the behaviours of the managers on the ground on a day-to-day basis determines how a superstar is dealt with. They need to be able to build high levels of trust and open communication with their sub-ordinates. They must be able to leverage their relationship with the superstar to discuss violations from code of conduct and toxicity in their behaviour. This is the most important aspect and most difficult to operationalise.

Rome was not built in a day. As an organization matures, they do better!

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/what-to-do-with-toxic-superstars-at-work/

 

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Equal Pay for Equal Work

EQUAL-WORK-EQUAL-PAY

 

Constitution of India as well as ILO (International Labour Organization) are clear about human dignity and fairness in rewarding workers. In spite of all these provisions, various studies have shown that there is a gender pay gap. Women workers tend to earn less than their men counterparts in many industry sectors. The phenomenon is pronounced clearly in industries such as textile, construction, entertainment and agriculture. Women’s day celebration has become a lot more wide-spread, yet the basic principle of fair reward and human dignity continue to be global issues.

Our belief system has to be revamped first

It is easy to say that equal pay has to be implemented. However, it is not possible to apply the principle on the ground because the business owners and senior managers do not believe that women and men can produce equal output. Many a times, they do not have a clear measurement system, rather they go by their mental measures. Further, they believe that a woman is weaker than a man and has many limitations that disables her to produce an output same as a man. These deeply-seated beliefs come on the way of implementation of equal pay for equal work.

If we have to eliminate the gender pay gap, we have to change this belief and make them accept the fact that a woman can produce the same output as a man in the same role.

Demand-Supply issue

Women by their physical being, need breaks from work for maternity and baby-care. Many a times, they share a large share of the responsibilities at home such as elder care, keeping the home tidy, cooking and so on. Thus, they face challenges to balance their time and focus between work and family. Workplaces which can find viable alternatives in staffing themselves will have less demand for employing women. Given the sluggish demand for women workers, it is likely that the principle of equal pay gets compromised. Just economics!

A large part of our population is still below the poverty line in spite of several well-meaning measures taken by the Government. There is a supply of blue collar workers from these families. Sometimes, there are women who are trying hard to get back to work after a hiatus. More often than not, these women are well-qualified and have relevant experience. Still, it is not easy for them to find meaningful work. In all these cases, they are willing to settle for a pay which might be lesser than the fair pay. Again, this is just economics of short-term gains.

Many small enterprises find it expensive in the short term to provide the statutory benefits to women such as paid leaves on maternity. So, they tend to mitigate the risk of such payments by paying lesser to women. Effective social security programmes can take away this responsibility from employers and hence, make it a level playing field for employment for any gender.

Measure Work

Many employers think that women produce lesser than their men counterparts. This is male chauvinistic thinking. There are many cases where women produce higher than men. Industry sectors such as manufacturing, assembly shops, electronic and electrical products, luxury goods, consumer products, education, science which employed only men just a few decades ago have increasing number of women working there. Old norms have to change if we can quantify work and measure them. Employers must find ways of doing this. They may be surprised to find many men working there might be less productive than the women. It could be a paradigm shift in their thinking.

Pay must be a reflection of the work output delivered now and the potential delivery in future. It cannot be a reflection of one’s gender, faith, whims and fancies.

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/equal-pay-for-equal-work/

Age is just a number

ciel blog - age is just a number

Roger Federer became the first man to win 20 Grand Slams and quoted this old adage. It describes his situation beautifully. Yet there is a paradox here, especially in the world of sports. Age determines a lot about the performance levels because of the physical development of the body, the number of hours one engages in the sport and the opportunities to learn. We all know, the performance curve follows the path of diminishing returns after a certain point. What is that point?

For professional tennis players, it is normally 30 years of age. Roger was a sensation in the first few years of his career and won many Grand Slams. He dominated the world of tennis for five years. Then came a big lull in his career in 2013-16 and a big line-up of great competitors at the same time. By historical evidences and common wisdom, he should have faded away a few years ago. That was the time he has come back strongly again! He is clearly the oldest of the top players in the global stage and going strong. Is there a tail wind for him or really a secret sauce that makes him stand apart?

Fortune favours the brave!

After winning the game, he said, it is his schedule and staying hungry. Easier said than done! I wonder what one can learn from this surreal story to drive one’s way to success.

Many of us do not know what a good schedule is. We are too lazy to make a plan for the day, the week and so on. We do not know how to prioritize; do not invest the energies to make plans. Hence, we let ourselves stay afloat on the stream of time and hope that we will stay safe and make progress.

All actions do not materialize as per our plan. The brave do not worry when their plans do not come true; they adapt and do their best to stay the course. If it doesn’t work, they make alternate plans. They do not brood over the failures.

If we think about Roger Federer’s statements again, we can see that he has been brave to take the lull of his career in his stride, adapted his schedule and kept his ambitions burning. Luck has been on his side. Let’s be brave to plan and adapt our course!

We need to gather the Resources

Resources are required for any activity to be done well. We may need finances, emotional support, guidance from a coach, the right machinery, technology, team and so on. Organizing all of them at right time is essential. Half-hearted efforts, assumptions or willingness to work with the second-grade choices do not make the secret sauce to success.

Experience in any field gives us the opportunity to gain insight, learn and adapt. Not all of us squeeze the optimum value out of our experiences. Opportunity is the first step to success; the biggest of enablers for success. Our Age and experience gives us the platform for success but does not guarantee it. We have to make the most of it!

A coach can guide us, raise the bar and encourage us to succeed, but the disciple has to find the harmony with the coach, absorb the inputs, ask the right questions and explore new vistas. Like a coach is a valuable resource, there are many such resources needed for success and all of them need to be in perfect cohesion.

Staying the course

Often success is elusive and it is temporary. Each time, we have to prove our mettle to hold on to success. It is to be earned every day and week. The journey is arduous. Many of us do not persevere at the same path. We see many people interested in healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, running a marathon, learning a new hobby and so on. New Year resolutions are aplenty. Only a few are able to do it. Some of us keep procrastinating, explore alternative paths and eventually lose interest in the cause. This is the most common reason why we fail in crossing the line.

China has developed itself as the manufacturing hub for the world. Behind this success, it is not the years of experience in manufacturing. Rather, it is the ecosystem of government policy, availability of labour, technology adaptation, vocational training, social norms of working together and so on. It is their consistent and disciplined approach of staying the course. Can another country replicate it? Difficult, but not impossible!

Age is just a number. Make it work for you!

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/age-just-number/

Should you invest on Training and Education of Employees?

ciel blog - invest on training and education

All workplaces want their employees to be at their productive-best. They invest energies on creating the right environment to perform, setting norms and values, organizing work in a manner that facilitates value creation, incentivising employees, adopting the right tools and technology, educating and developing employees and so on. Can someone stack-rank these factors so that efforts and investments can be accordingly channelized?

Training is good, What’s new?

Common wisdom says, most human beings are keen to learn new things. Given a fear-free environment and adequate sense of independence, they would apply the acquired knowledge on their work. They would practice newly acquired skills and sharpen the saw over time. They will need lesser efforts of guidance and supervision from their bosses. They feel cared for and valued.

Sometimes, such initiatives enable employees discover interest in new areas of work; they move out of their comfort zone and take up new kind of work within the organization. It allows the employer to move their employees across various roles in the organization. And at the same time, it helps employees acquire knowledge on various areas of work and be future-ready.

The moot question here, “Is training and Education a feel-good factor for the organization and the employees equally or do they directly contribute in revenues and profits of a business?”

Who misses the Training Programs?

Is it the manager who wants the program to happen or the employee who wants the program? All of us know, it is the ideal scenario when the manager as well as the employee want training, are keen on acquiring new knowledge and sharpening their existing skills. Most organizational contexts are far from this ideal.

When a manager believes that continuing investments in training keeps his troop ahead of the curve and motivate them to do more, the manager drives the initiative. He or she finds ways and means of designing and organizing appropriate reinforcements.

However, in many situations, managers believe, time on such activities is wastage of work hours; they see many lacunae in the program and believe, it isn’t good enough for their context. Some of them profess that employees must learn on-the-job and self-develop by observing others at work, drawing upon the resources on the internet. They exonerate themselves from the responsibility of developing their people and ask the employees to figure out a way of staying relevant to deliver what the job demands. The leaders have a problem here with their managerial talent! Before any further investment is made on training, they have to invest on the managers across levels in the organization to own up and drive the learning initiative in the company; and use it as a driver of performance.

When the HR team drops the beat on training, the Managers across the hierarchy of an organization must see this drop and put efforts to bring it back. That’s the goal of a high-performing organization.

It takes two to tango!

Organizations can facilitate learning, encourage acquiring new skills and create opportunities to learn. However, the onus lies on the learner. That is why they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

There are employees who tend to consider a training initiative to be a torture; they fail to concentrate on the learning objective, stay distracted, look for the comforts of a classroom and do not value the efforts put by their bosses and colleagues in creating the opportunity for him or her to learn. Hence, it is important that participation in continuing education, training and development is voluntary. There are industry sectors and certain roles which need the employee to upgrade his or her skills and knowledge on a continuous basis. In this context, an employee has to stay hungry for more knowledge and new skills. When someone shows a contra-behaviour, it’s time to bring in someone amenable to learn and develop rather than struggling to change someone’s motives.

Training and education is valuable only when the manager uses it to drive performance and when the employee craves for it!

ref: http://www.cielhr.com/should-you-invest-on-training-and-education-of-employees/

Are you a Quiet Leader?

ciel blog - quiet leader

We grow up with various stereotypes and accordingly, we look up to certain kind of leaders as our heroes. Organizations tend to choose and promote people who are boisterous, loud and confident. It is believed that such a person is likely to inspire and lead the flock purposively, keep them together and deliver the results that the organization wants. We would have seen personalities who are on the quieter side and unable to create an impression in the first interaction. Social norms work in the minds of the audience and often they lose out when pitted against a verbal enthusiast. However, I have seen poor results delivered by the team led by the seemingly ideal person. Why is it so?

Context matters… Leader must adapt!

Situations differ and accordingly the challenges before a leader vary. One has to be flexible to be able to adapt to the situation. You may be loud and dominating; leading your team from the front and in the spotlight. Alternately, you may be quiet, analytical and empowering; prefer to be in the background. Neither of the two type is ideal! A leader is a human; the followers are human too. Hence, the group dynamics and the leader’s personal style determine how well one is able to adapt to the situation.

The leader has to invest the time and space to think about the context, recognize the situation, involve the team in arriving at the decision and building ownership of the execution steps. These steps sound very textbook style. Often, the situation could be such that the leader does not have the wherewithal to go through these steps. And in some cases, personal style of the individual comes on the way of following this style.

Results take a beating when the team expects consultation and participation whereas the leader follows his own agenda to arrive at the decision and merely communicates them down the line. Given the composition of today’s workforce, team members often want to understand the rationale of a decision and participate in the process; they do not like to be instructed and watched over their shoulders. Given this context, it is more likely that the leader cannot afford to have a dominating, invincible and instructive style. Similarly, there are situations where the house is on fire and the leader is expected to be on his toes, taking quick calls and leading from the front. So, the style of being participative, passive and consensus-driven will not work.

One-size-fits-all does not work. One has to adapt to the context!

Make choices!

One of the most important characteristics that defines a leader is the choices one makes. While the speed of decision making, the process of arriving at the decision and the way it is communicated are important, the first and most critical factor behind the success of a leader is the decision one takes. Normally, there is a set of alternate paths which lie before a leader and one chooses to traverse one of them.

Isn’t it frustrating to see the leader delaying a decision, procrastinating, unwilling to bite the bullet? We need our leader to be confident and calm in evaluating various alternates; we need him or her to be charismatic and creative in bringing up new possibilities before us. It is a unique combination of self-confidence, charisma and pragmatism that we look for. Again, easier said than done! How often we come across such people?

We find the macho and communicative boss who believes in speed and his instinct in processing the information, takes a call fast and pushes the team to get ahead. It surely raises the confidence of the team, boosts team spirit and fires everyone up. When the going gets tough, the boss needs to stay strong and calm to weather the storm, make course-corrections and sustain optimism. We have seen such macho leaders fail at times.

Quiet leaders are often stereotyped as people who are slow, tentative and selfish. However, from another perspective, the same actions might be sure-footed, determined and cautious. So pragmatically speaking, our boss needs to be balanced in his approach to a problem so that the choice is made quickly; communicated with vigour; and arrived after giving it the right amount of thought and experience. No one type of leader does it better than the other!

If you love solitude…

As we can see, there is no one particular style of leadership that works better than the other. Just in case you love solitude, prefer to write than talk, hate superficiality, embrace deep-diving, stay calm and confident in times of crisis as well as jubilation, you need not worry about your prospects of being successful as a leader. You have great strengths which need to be leveraged!

It is easy for you to listen actively, empathise, give credit to your team, put your team first, stay poised and find solutions. It is important for you to communicate often, show the way forward and exude optimism. Your team trusts you, values your position and looks up to you for inspiration!

Watch out if you are the boss’s Favorite!

Image result for boss's favorite

We all know, bosses have their favorites. They are human beings and so do the people who work with them. It is natural that the boss likes and trusts someone more than the others. You become first among equals, the go-to-person for prestigious project, a critical decision or a crisis. You enjoy his proximity and often become a part of the inner circle that has the knowledge of classified information. You feel privileged and start enjoying a special status in the team. Is life a bed of roses for you?

Are you able to drive Change programs effectively?

Since you are the go-to-person for your boss, your plate remains full all the time. You are undoubtedly important for your team and the organization. You get to work on challenging assignments and can potentially learn a lot from these assignments. However, there is a catch here!

Problems in the organization are solved not by just one person but by a team and often by a cross-functional team, especially if you are in a role that has a significant strategic bent to it. The boss’s favorite is a spotlight in the organization and is looked upon with a range of emotions such as jealousy and awe. When you are in the situation of getting things done by collaborating with people from other teams, you experience bottlenecks. They do not open up to you; some of them start sabotaging your intent in a stealth mode. You start feeling frustrated and shooting from the shoulder of your boss. It often back-fires especially when you are talking to people from other teams who do not report to your boss.

You are unable to get the things done as per the plan. Often, you do not get the complete picture of the ground reality because people are not forthcoming with you. You are unable to identify the root cause of the problem you are supposed to solve or give those critical inputs to your boss. You fail to deliver the business impact. So, do not oversell your clout! Stay modest and do not take advantage of your special status.

Are you developing your career?

You are protected well by your boss, enjoy a big elbow room in many things related to work and get to solve the meaty challenges. Does that mean that you are developing your capabilities and increasing your worth? Your boss could have a rough patch in your organization and might fall out of the main stream. Your boss might become cold and distant suddenly. The peers of your boss could come to the lime light and might have opportunities which are better for you. But, your deep loyalty to your boss could come on the way of you being trusted by the front-running leaders in the organization. What happens to you in that situation?

Secondly, as you work through the maze of your organization, you being the boss’s favorite tend to be the spokesperson of your boss and his ideas. This happens unconsciously; over a period of time, this leads to you being branded as someone who toes the boss’s line, lacks the depth and confidence to form opinions and speak one’s mind. This kind of an image harms your future prospects and potentially compromises the kind of recommendations that you are likely to get from the others in future.

Each passing year, you must analyze if you are increasing your experience by a year or strengthening your abilities and deepening your expertise. Staying as a sidekick will not necessarily enrich your abilities unless you are delivering on assignments which have increasingly greater impact on your organization. Your title might change and rewards might increase; you might deepen your roots in the organization. However, the most critical factor to analyze is to check if you are producing greater impact each year. If not, you must look out for career options within or outside your current employer!

Are you hungry for approval?

Many a times, we have noticed the school kid in us want to be in the good books of the teacher. We look for the pat on the back, the stars on our books and so on! We want to be the apple of the teacher’s eye. We behave well by following all her instructions and do our best to shine in the tests that she takes. Are we carrying the same to our workplace?

It is important that we introspect and understand who we are. In case, we look for the praise or the abrogation all the time, we fail to stand on our own feet. As a professional aspiring to break into the higher echelons of an organization, it is important that we learn to think independently and present those thoughts firmly. At the same time, we have to learn to stay modest and sensitive so that the bosses do not feel hurt to hear another perspective rather welcome them.

Being the favorite of the boss puts us on a pedestal. However, we must make sure that we are growing well by increasing the business impact that we deliver and build the social equity in the organization at the same time.

How do you know if the new job offer is better than your current job?

ciel blog - new job offer vs current job

Over 4 million people change their jobs each year in India and many more face job interviews. Most of them are anxious and unsure if the new job offer is better than their current jobs. Is there a tool that can help somebody pick the one that scores higher over the other?

What do we look for in a job?

Compensation, of course, is one of the features that is associated with most jobs. That apart, there are several factors that determine one’s thoughts about the job consciously or subconsciously. Firstly, it is the purpose, the mission and the social norm associated with the job. Be it the job of a driver, a doctor, cook, teacher, cleaning staff, engineer, plumber, accountant, content writer, salesman, software programmer, all of us want to do a job that adds value in the ecosystem that we care about. Most often, the identity of a person is linked to the profession and where one works. Hence, it is important that the job and the industry are held highly in the person’s mind.

Secondly, it is the work environment – the colleagues we work with, the bosses we report to, the empowerment that we receive, the recognition that we receive and the challenges it poses on the way. Each of us wake up to make the day more productive and satisfying. It is our workplace that helps us realize the goals for the day. Hence, we look forward to a workplace that creates energy, optimism and ignites a creative spirit in our mind.

Finally, certain aspects of the role are important for each of us. For example, working on a particular kind of equipment, tools and software is important for the person in a technical job. Similarly for someone who has significant responsibility in the family, commuting time, work hours and holidays are important considerations. Opportunities to grow along a particular career path are important for an ambitious worker. We find the job satisfying when most of these are in place and on an overall level, we feel fulfilled.

Hard and soft aspects of choice-making:

Given the above construct, one should make a list of factors under the 3 broad categories: the job, the workplace and the fine-print. Job change is an important event in one’s life and can have a huge impact on one’s future. Hence, adequate care must be taken to consider all aspects from a rational as well as emotional standpoint.

It is easy to compare two opportunities on aspects such as compensation, title, industry’s attractiveness, the level of technology in use and practice of internal promotions. However, what about the soft aspects of the workplace? As someone once said, “We get to choose neither our parents nor our boss”, it is important that you know about the culture of recognition, the colleagues that you will work with and the boss you’ll report to.

We can network with colleagues in industry, refer to various studies that rank best practices in various organizations, study what people are talking about the employer on social media and industry platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn etc. We can speak to ex-employees of the company to understand about the workplace. It is not easy to do it and has to be done.

Do we have the check-list of what we look for and value?

After making up our mind about the decision factors pertaining to each of the 3 aspects i.e. job, workplace and role-specific details, one needs to list them down. Each one of these factors has to be assigned a weight on a scale of 1 – 5 where 1 indicates least significant and 5 is the most.

Then the next step is to score both opportunities on each of these decision factors and weighted score has to be arrived at. Based on the sum of the weighted score for each opportunity, one can decide which one is better. Simple, isn’t it?

Let us take an example: a software engineer is ambitious, looking for growth opportunities and a good work-life balance. The decision table could be something like this:

Decision Factors
Decision Weight on scale of 1 – 5
Current Job on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for Current Job
New Job Opportunity on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for the New Opportunity
Job          
1.       Compensation

5

4 20 5

25

2.       Reputation of the firm

5

4 20 3

15

3.       Opportunity to work in various industry sectors

5

2 10 5

25

Workplace          
4.       Well-qualified Colleagues

4

2 8 5

20

5.       Supportive boss

5

4 20 3

15

6.       Recognition for the work done

3

4 12 5

15

7.       Opportunities to learn

4

4 16 5

20

8.       Challenging work

4

3 12 5

20

Role-related Specifics          
9.       Commuting from work

5

5 25 2

10

10.   Work hours

5

5 25 3

15

11.   Leadership opportunities

5

3 15 5

25

12.   Impact on the organization

5

2 10 5

25

     

193

 

230

This tool helps one identify all the soft and hard aspects of decision making, consider them holistically and take the ultimate decision. It makes our life simpler and organized. Let’s go for it!