Missed Opportunities

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2010-01-27

I'm not sure if anyone reads the articles in The Hindu's four-page "Opportunities" supplement on Wednesdays. Most of the space is taken up by job advertisements, and my uncharitable suspicion is that the articles are meant only to provide a veneer of respectability and fill the remaining space. The articles have such insightful titles as Path to dream job not usually smooth and Identify, groom employees with high potential early on, and are always written by one of the same four or five people (with contact address faqs@cnkonline.com).

Sometimes, I'm not fast enough on Wednesday mornings to get my hands on the main newspaper over breakfast, so I scan the first couple of pieces in Opportunities while biding my time. One thing I've noticed over and over again is the tendency of the authors to drop names indiscriminately (sometimes complete with made-up quotes).

Here's today's example, from Share your ideas, but be humble in expressing them:

Anand was almost irritated with this new entrant into his team. This guy joined just a couple of days ago and actually had the courage to go up to the team leader to provide some inputs on a new strategy they could implement. Wasn't there ever a rule as to when a new employee could actually start involving himself in ‘improving’ team affairs? Apparently not, because this person had pushed himself to do just that and now, he was recognised not just as ‘Mr. Congeniality’, but also as someone who could envisage new concepts and plans.

Anand, alas, is never again mentioned in the article, and nothing more is said about his almost-irritation with his enterprising colleague. But he's not the only one with problems:

I am often called the ‘enthu cutlet’ for being overtly enthusiastic and coming up with new ideas. I do feel this sends across the wrong message to my colleagues that I am attention-seeking and nothing else, rues Kamala.

Kamala, too, receives no further mention, but the article offers the following as part of a strategy to avoid provoking resentment in your new colleagues:

If you are a newbie, it is best to ask your team if you could contribute a fresh perspective on what already exists. This would be welcome, since they would automatically understand that it is imperative to procure this fresh perspective from a person who until recently was an outsider to the organisation, since it helps them gain knowledge of what the world thinks of what they have been doing.

Why do I find it just a touch difficult to believe that the mysterious, brooding Anand and Kamala's grumpy old (since nobody under fifty would call someone an "enthu cutlet") colleagues are brimming with automatic understanding of the greater good?

It becomes quite clear by the end of the article that Anand and Kamala were named only to satisfy some style guide's belief that mentioning "real" people makes it easier for readers to relate to situations described and advice offered. That may be true, but unfortunately for Opportunities, its fabricated case studies are usually quite transparent to the (only?) reader, and gratuitously detract from the point of the article.

I'm sorry, Anand, but you're a loser.