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How to be likeable at work

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Yes, you may be working from home, wearing your night suit, uncombed hair, your brunch (late breakfast but before lunch) on the side table next to you, with the glass of fruit juice. You live with your parents, and you have refused to get married. If you are a male then possibly you may not have shaved. If a female, you have not combed your hair. Are you in touch with your school and college friends? Oh Yess! Remember the sauce stain from last night’s "party from home"(vide video conference)with friends? That stain stares back at you, reminding you about each friend showing off the chicken leg with red sauce dripping down his or her hand(ordered from a home delivery service) and the glass of yummy, intoxicating sip by sip liquor! And on each video screen, you greeting each other with "Cheers!" for every glass that you poured for yourself and their cheering back. You continued to cheer each other over the internet till around 3.00am this morning. When you woke up this morning with a start, you instantly picked up the empty glass next to you on your bed , raised your hand and croaked in a sore voice "cheers", before realizing that the party was long over and that the laptop had shut itself down.

Your family members are all sleeping in the next two rooms since it is a Sunday. You realize that you are hungry, and so you make yourself a brunch in the mini kitchenette, sit down to slice through the juicy bacon and egg and you munch with much relish! When you are half way though you happen to look at the watch. You jump out of your bed! "Sheep! It was 10.00am in the morning! Just two hours away to our video conference". You imagine the video conference with the boss staring at your presentation with a foxed expression on her face, along with the rest of the office personnel either smirking, or giggling behind their palm or rolling in mirth under the table. And you realize then, that you have not completed half of your part of the presentation as yet! The boss is going to kill you! Your team mates are going to laugh at you! “Sharad is most certainly going to get promoted if I fail this presentation!” you assure yourself. “Got to finish the project and appear on time for the Video presentation”.

You rush into the toilet after giving your brunch and fruit juice a, "goodbye to you my trusted friend", look. The hangover from yesterday has lingered on, giving you a heady feeling. So, you stumble under the bath and quickly take a wash under the shower with all your clothes on. It wakes you up with a bang! You look all around you and then at your clothes. "What are you doing?!", you reprimand yourself. If you are a man you lather yourself in a jiffy, shave off your sexy stubble (your boss will not find it sexy) and then take off your clothes to soap yourself and wash last night’s party away. You tiptoe out with the towel , look at the window on the left and then at the window on the right to check if the curtains have been pulled, and then you cast aside the towel in gay abandon and do a ramp walk with an attitude, right up to your clothes in your almirah. Your family remain fast asleep in the next two neighbouring rooms.

Your clothes are on, you look natty! Your hair looks well groomed. If a lady, you would apply some lipstick onto your cheeks for that extra effect! And if a man, you would splash on some 'after shave' lotion with the impossible hope that some of your pretty colleagues can smell you at the other end of the computer.

Being a senior, you had prepared all the data for the presentation and it was ready with you since several days. Yet the luxury called Lockdown induced procrastination got the better of you. With just an hour away you start typing away like person being chased by a Royal Bengal tiger! It is interesting how well you work under pressure. Job done, you are ready to switch on your Wi-Fi and then you flip open your laptop. You had neither shut down nor did you log out from last night’s Video conference cum party and the moment the Internet connection is switched on and your computer comes online, you can see a friend still lying in her sofa and raising her hand to say, "Peers!". You say, "cheers" and log out. Then you log in once again for the office Video conference.

Hey! I have deviated from the Topic of today, "How to be likeable at work". But life is too short to only discuss how important it is to be likeable at your workplace. Enjoy your life with your friends for God's sake before you get too old to enjoy the same. Learn to love yourself, for, there may be no tomorrow! And about your office. Life is too short to play politics or carry a baggage with you till when you are taking your last breath in life, hence it was important, you decide, not to hurt Sharad, your competitor for the next promotion.

"Hello Mam! Good afternoon!", you greet your boss with a big smile as she logs in with her password. One by one your boss and you greet each office team member with your famous smile and your warm, "Hi! Good afternoon!" as they log in with their passwords. You have already sent the points of your presentation to your boss and to Sharad too, since he was also a Director Operations, like you, albeit of a different division. You have received Sharad's research and did a quick browse with much interest. "He is not your competitor!", you tell yourself, "We are both working for the betterment of the same organization". You have your POPs ready on your desktop to be presented stage by stage. Your POPs say, "Termination at stage 1, Termination at stage 2, Termination at the final stage 3". You decided to delete the "Retain Stage 1 if Performance is x, Recruit Stage 2. Recruit finally by Stage 3”, and then you raised the mouse to delete the same but decided to keep it as it was for some strange reason. You look at Sharad's POPs and you squirm. They were outstanding! He was a workaholic! After all the pleasantries, Mrs. Wendy Mackrow, the forty-two-year-old Managing Director began, "Guys I must thank you all at the very onset for being able to join this webinar on a Sunday, especially considering that all of you are senior functionaries. However, you all realize that we are going to report a big loss this financial year too. This Wuhan Virus Pandemic has hit us a bit too hard. We are not earning and yet the expenses are huge! Mehmood Quazi our global Finance Director, who is part of this webinar today, has given me this financial report which says that our loss is going to be around 20 crores in Indian Rupees, that is 2,697,960 in US Dollars. The recession had dented our profits but we were limping. This Covid-19 Pandemic has broken both our legs! We have to take a call today about whether we can retain as many team members as we do today. Or do any of the two senior Marketing Directors have a solution to stave of this retrenchment?". You notice the shocked silence and that all the smiling faces were now desperately clinging onto sanity. Listening to a discussion about whether his or her head will be chopped off, or not, is scary to say the least.

Wendy points at you and declares, "Our promising Director Operations will...", then she stops. One of the Directors of the many manufacturing units came to whisper something into her ears, and handed her a note. After he left, she forgot that she had pointed at you. She now looked at Sharad and declared, "Sharad has a few ideas to share with you. The manufacturing unit five head just handed me a note to say that supply to that unit had stopped for several days as payments were due to our debtors and that the raw material was enough for only approximately thirty days and not more. We may have to stop production far ahead of the last few days. Sharad, you are the head of operation of one of the business units. Sales & Marketing is also under you for your business lines. What do you suggest? Close down this company or terminate a few for the good of the majority? Remember that other than salaries, there are several other expense heads to be taken into consideration."

The subject was, "How to be likeable at work". Whereas at this very moment, you and I are reading a storyline where you are soon to become the most detestable person in this organization because you were going to suggest in favor of termination of your juniors.

Sharad stood up with all the confidence of his past fifteen years’ experience. He had completed his engineering at 24, and had worked up to this position over the last fifteen years. He was 39 years of age. You were 38 years of age and yet you normally felt like a twenty-five year old and not more. But at this very moment, your legs felt like you were eighty years of age or maybe more! They were all staring at you and Sharad like sacrificial lambs would at the slaughter house manager!

"I think ladies and gentlemen that we got to be very practical. I feel I must resign and that the company must not waste a penny more on paying me my salary. Shutting down the company does not make sense", Sharad began. You had this grim expression but your heart just did a summersault and screamed a “Yahoo! Let him resign!" But then, the good person inside you, reprimanded, "No! Do not carry any baggage to your grave! He is your co-worker! Further, these are trying times for your juniors. Those boys and girls who had worked month after month, late into the night, supervising juniors below them, just so that you could try and meet your target. During this crucial meeting, you cannot stoop so low as to relish the idea of your competitor resigning" And so, your heart sobered.

"Question is", Sharad continued, "whether my resigning will help the company? Can we somehow cut down costs by issuing 'Temporary Holiday Letters to those employees whose performance records are not very healthy? Meaning thereby, can we ask certain employees to sit at home and we do not pay them salaries for those specific months? If and when we recover, we take back as many as our finances permit us to do so ".

And then those amazing POPs popped up one after another to prove the average sales performance having tanked, average database collection of potential clients having tanked, average follow up done for clients who have not made their payments had not borne results, the retention by HR of performing employees had tanked, and finally the total expenses over the income had increased three fold.

And you were wondering all this while, "How come the subject is - How to be likeable at work". Well, you are soon going to come to know.

Sharad continues, "I propose that we first remove some team members from amongst us in this video conference. It may sound bitter to you. But bitter moments demand strong decisions. The middle rung must lose a larger number and a big chunk from the ground level workers, ideally the sales personnel. We save as per the POP in front of your screen approximately 15 crores INR or approximately 202,200.00 USD per annum. This is a huge saving. We can use it to pay the salaries of our present staff and somehow survive. This is my submission. We must cut down costs immediately by terminating the services of a few to save the careers of the majority".

There was a grim silence born from dread. Any rabbit would remain quiet if the wolf was seen searching in the bush nearby to catch and terminate its prey.

The boss then looks at you and nods. "Is that what you feel too?” You look down at a few POPs that you had meticulously prepared over the past two weeks. “Terminate! Terminate! Terminate!”, your report screamed. Sharad’s work and yours seemed more or less the same.

You looked at the faces of all your colleagues. Your juniors could not look you in the eye. To them all, at this moment, you were a wolf and they were the scared rabbits! You tried to imagine the plight of their children not being able to go to school and their EMIs for goods purchased, not being paid. The Middle class had savings to sustain themselves for maybe a period of one year. If any one or two of the EMIs were to be stopped and the product in question were to be returned, maybe then, the savings would help eke out a living. But what about the ground level workers? They hardly had any savings. They would starve to death. Yet, you realized what Sharad said was right. Your arguments were identical. But that is when you decided to dump your “Terminate! Terminate! Terminate!” report into the Dustbin. And you decided to load and present the very same POPs that you had decided initially to delete. And you presented the senior management as well as the senior team members who had joined in today, with the silliest idea of the moment, the "We need to postpone Termination", argument.

"Mam, you are the Managing Director of a company that is stressed because Sharad and I failed to keep up with what the emergency period required of us. And yet, you may agree with Sharad and I if we were to present you with a, ‘Terminate them’ proposal." You began with this argument, and your team members were literally hiding under the table. "But let us imagine that we are all in a boat with a hole and the shores are far away in the distance or the shores cannot be seen at all. There are only two alternatives. One is to reduce passengers by forcing them to jump off the boat and forcing them to sacrifice their lives for the rest to somehow reach the shore which, you know, you may not reach because the leak exists anyway”. You looked around at your team and you saw that they were looking mighty scared and were literally squirming in their seats. Were you likeable at that moment? No way! And then you continued, “The second alternative is that, knowing fully well that we have a hole, we all must break up into several teams. One team plugs the hole and stops the water from gushing into the boat. While it does so, the other teams row the boat as one big team and increase the speed of the boat which would now not be leaking or being plugged at regular intervals. Now because the leak is being regularly plugged, the boat has a greater chance of going strong to reach the first island of hope and emancipation that we see ahead. And yes – that way, the total team survives”.

You now see that not just your team members, but also the Managing Director, Sharad, and his team members had just sat up in their seats to listen to you with a keen interest that, was obvious in their eyes.

I agree with Sharad, that we save approximately 15 crores INR or approximately 202,200.00 USD per annum, if we ask a big number of our employees to sacrifice their jobs for the greater good. And they would gladly sacrifice their lives for an organization that has over these past so many years done so much for them.

At the same time, if we explain to them about the hole in our boat then most of the present team that we wish to terminate, would work extra hard to plug that hole or reduce that leak. That is the Finance team sits down with a dedicated team to calculate the monies required to keep the company afloat for the next twelve months. Let us assume that the figure to be saved is the value of approximately 15 crores INR or approximately 202,200.00 USD per annum. Then, let us chop off the salaries of the top management, that is, Sharad and myself, by the biggest chunk from this amount per annum. Then a smaller amount be chopped away from the salaries of the team members of Sharad and mine sitting in this room. And even smaller amount is chopped off from the teams below those who sit in this room. I feel the amount chopped away will more or less equal if not exceed the value to be saved by terminating the employees of our organization. Then there is the loss to be made up. There is always a bottom rung that barely sustains itself with the salary that is paid to them. Therefore, we do not chop away any salaries from them but we explain to every single employee in a common memo that the organization may close down if we do not generate a profit. In the meantime, the rest of the team dedicates themselves to rowing this boat and take it to the shore of wealth and desired comfort level. That is, we have to now explain fresh job functions and delegate duties and tasks to be executed to meet cash in bank targets as soon as possible. They will by now know about the pandemic but have not been told what is expected from them. Let us tell them all not just to row harder, but to row intelligently.

Every successful effort begins with a good harvest of business or orders. From now on, the tech savvy team members, have to create and register Social Networking profiles and spread a PAN Global branding image about the organization. Repeatedly, day after day! The first time it does not catch the potential client’s attention. May not the second time too! But from the third time, he begins to see your message. From the fifth time, it enters his heart and by the sixth time, he becomes your potential client and sends you an enquiry. In the meanwhile, any spare, not so technologically savvy person, must ring up at least one potential client from a common database generated by the top management. The telemarketing team rings up all the old clients who have paid on time in the past. One by one, clients of over ten years ago. Many may have closed down. Many had land lines which have been replaced by mobile phones. Find out the new numbers. Ring them up. They were happy with you then. You simply did not have the time to follow up and get a repeat order. Let’s do it now. We shall display every successful lead generation as an achievement of a specific executive who gets the lead! In this way we may get three leads per day. We celebrate these three leads in a gathering of sales personnel below, on every computer desktop within the organization. Let each lead gatherer be declared the winner of the day with his image displayed on the board and on all office desktop computers.

As these leads keep growing, we hand the same over to the specialized team that specializes at closing the sales lead. As leads keep getting closed, our fund situation will gradually begin to crawl up the ladder. But the production must continue. Without production, we cannot have delivery.

Without monies, we can do nothing. Our planning department would do better brainstorming. How much of the salaries chopped away will help create the funds to help make purchases and continue our factories? We have a problem with sourcing raw materials. Our sourcing department will find a solution to ensure a regular supply. Our Production would increase because our workers would work harder.

The cure for this Virus infection would be out in the market by November or December 2020 in this year. It would be prohibitively expensive during the first three months but by 2021 end bulk production would certainly happen in several countries. Medicines would be more easily available at a lower cost subsequently. In the meanwhile, infected people would be cured and return home hale and hearty, and their plasma may help a large number to be cured as antibodies get created within each body subsequently. People will begin to return to work in larger numbers.

Yet if you still wish to terminate them, I know they would feel miserable and will face hardships and yet they shall sacrifice their careers for the greater good.

But one must consider that , in our line of business, training a new person takes a lot of time. You end up experimenting with several failed individuals before you come upon the rare employee with the right attitude and the right knowledge combination. Now it is important to note that, each of our present workers were trained over several years to function in a particular production line or sales line, or quality check line, or accounts line etc. When the markets opened up, it would be important to get back the same individual for that position, failing which it would take several months in trying to locate a similarly qualified individual and then make an individual adjust with a specific system or style of operation. In the meanwhile, in a bout of desperation, the ground level worker or the middle-class worker who we had been terminated may seek and manage to strike a deal with any other organization. Then, he may not be in a frame of mind to disturb his financial security by risking re-joining a company that had decided to drop him in sensing the first sign of trouble or danger.

That is my submission. I propose we inform the total lot of employees that we have an emergency. That we may be forced to cut down costs. Hence, we must all work harder in order that this organization not just survives, but is also able to create wealth many times more than the highest wealth created till date”.

Having made your out of the box presentation, you realize that you were speaking in a cool but convincing fashion. You sit down, sincerely convinced that every employee deserved the best in-spite of the emergency, and you did your best to convince everybody at this gathering.

There was pin drop silence for a very long time and everybody is now looking at the Managing Director.

The Managing Director stood up, looked all around, sighed and declared, "My grandfather migrated to this country with just what he wore, accompanies by his wife and his infant child, my father, in his lap. He did not have monies for food for a single day. He got a job with much difficulty, in a mill that made suitcases and the monies paid enough for a shanty and two square meals. This is where my aunt was born. Because he was desperate, he worked hard. And so he got promoted. And because he helped out his team mates, production doubled, and he got promoted once again. But after he got promoted this time, the lives of so many were his responsibility. He worked intelligently and he got promoted to a very senior position. Then the great depression hit the country. His son was studying in an expensive school, he was paying an EMI for a small two bedroom house that he had purchased. One day the mill owner called everybody and declared that he was closing down the factory because he was too old to run a loss-making factory. My grandfather tried to convince him otherwise but to no avail. Then my grandfather offered to buy the business away from the owner. "Where will you get the money to pay may?" the owner asked with an incredulous expression on his face. My grand father saw that each of the workers came forward and dropped coins and some notes into his hat. He thus bought that factory from the owner at a throw away price which my grandfather got from donations made by every worker. He saved the factory from being closed down, paid back every worker and made them all share holders of the factory. My father took over the factory from my grandfather and I took over the factory, this factory, from him. I have made enough money to retire and feed two generations downwards. I like your vision! Your dreams are the dreams that winners see ahead of them ".

Then the Managing Director looked all around her and said, "I want this visionary to buy this factory away from me. Question is, can he walk the talk? Is he confident about what he just said?"

Then she looks at you and asks you, "If you are confident that your idea will work and that your team and the total company will follow you, then, will you buy this company away from me?"

She was looking at you, waiting for your reply!

Everybody was staring at you! Then somebody stood up and began to clap! It was Sharad! Then everybody stood up and began to clap! They all wanted you to become the new owner of the company!

You now look into the eyes of the Managing Director and you nod in the affirmative. “I shall!”

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Now you would ask, "Where is the part which says 'Likeable at work'!"

The truth is, you do not have to make yourself likeable. You do not have to prove anything to anybody, but, to yourself. Being polite in an office environment is absolutely necessary. Being kind to the weak and disabled is absolutely necessary. Being likeable in your office is not necessary. In an office, you are not there to win a popularity contest. Being able to perform to the satisfaction of your bosses and top bosses is important. But most importantly, are you happy with your own quality of work is the question that would determine whether you are happy with yourself. If you are happy with yourself, you will realize that you are smiling. And a person who keeps smiling is either an idiot or is soon going to prove to become the most trusted and hence the most likeable person in that environment.

Does that answer your question?

If not: Ring ANIRUDDHA ROY CHOUDHURY: 9339149499, Chief Executive, ONI ENTERPRISES, Top and Mid Management Recruitment Consultants, One of India’s oldest with 23 plus years of Executive Search Consultancy

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