Monday, November 7, 2011

Am I Working under a good Manager?

       This was the question that tormented my mind quite often in more than 10 years of my association in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a well respected newspaper organization in India, The Hindu. I felt very excited when I was offered the contract work for packing and dispatch work in one of the branch offices of The Hindu in Coimbatore.

      I later came to know that it was also offered to another person, but he refused because it was not a financially rewarding one commensurate with the responsibilities involved. The dispatch work is usually handled by the city agent of The Hindu. Newspaper agency is a profitable business, and as an obligation for having such an opportunity from the company, the city agent accepts the responsibility of running the dispatch work.

       Hiring people for the job is the most difficult part of the work. Being a nighttime work, one has to engage people who work in the daytime somewhere else and who need additional income to augment their salary. Besides, you have to hire people near the printing press of The Hindu for them to present regularly for work. The other problem is that of attrition.  One or two workers will be leaving regularly for various reasons, and you have to find replacement for them.

       With a print order of 75,000 to 100,000 copies of The Hindu at that time, shortage of workers in a particular day would lead to problems for nearly 400 agents of The Hindu served from Coimbatore center in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For these reasons, the city agent as dispatch contractor is a great advantage to the company as he will be able to handle these problems easily.
       But in Coimbatore, the city agent of The Hindu was a relative to the owners, and therefore, the company did not expect him to assume such a difficult responsibility. For these reasons, the branch office of The Hindu itself was running the dispatch work and was looking for someone to handle the work. These were the circumstances under which I was offered the work, and I accepted it as a challenge and hoped that I would be able to do it successfully and will be offered an agency later.

        Even though this work did not involve any news or editorial job, this was of crucial importance for the successful running of the newspaper. Therefore, doing well in the dispatch work will be appreciated by the company, and I will be awarded with a news agency for The Hindu sometime later, which would be a financially rewarding one for me, or so I thought until I realized later that the manager who had hired me had other ideas.

       After running the work for one year, a sales representative, who was very close to the branch manager, told me - obviously under the manager’s instructions - that the city agency was being bifurcated and asked me to write a letter to the head office asking a part of the agency.

      I thought that this was in keeping with the manager's promise of offering me a news agency when I first accepted the job. I thought that if I am offered the agency, besides offering me a financially rewarding work, it would also help me running the dispatch work in a more efficient manner as I can recruit boys in the area for dispatch work as the area was near the printing press of The Hindu. I wrote a letter to the head office, and I received a reply that there was no such proposal at that time.

       After writing that letter, the manager’s attitude toward me and the dispatch work changed a great deal. He acted as if he did not want me to continue the dispatch work any longer. He even at one time casually told me that those who worked for the company for some time and left the company have become much more prosperous in life.

       Then I realized that even if the city agency was bifurcated, he would try to give the agency to one of agents in the suburban areas of the city. I also, by his attitude toward me and the dispatch work, came to understand that his purpose of offering me the dispatch work in the first place was neither with regard to any advantage to the company nor he had any interest in keeping his promise of offering me an agency.  His sole purpose of offering me the dispatch work was for me to write a letter to the head office asking for bifurcating the Coimbatore agency and then offering it to somebody, who he had already chosen, with an idea of getting some financial reward for him, which looked like he had some kind of tacit understanding with the higher management.  I also came to understand that he had some agents in the suburban areas of Coimbatore who were given agency recently on this basis.  But I did not want to give up after so much of hard work in settling down in the work and succeeding in running the work well and with great success. 

        Only after nearly 10 years of work in the dispatch section, I was finally able to succeed in getting the agency of The Hindu, but only a part of the area that I was asking for was given to me. I persisted in my efforts to get the remaining part of the area for my agency explaining to the branch manager how it will also help me in running the dispatch work better.

      After only about 9 months of running the agency and dispatch work together, one day the circulation manager from the head office came to the branch office and met me, and I told him about my request for the additional area to be attached to my agency. I have heard that he was a trouble shooter for the top management, and I hoped that he would reward my hard work in the dispatch section and would offer me the agency for the additional area.

       A few days after that meeting, I received a letter that I was being relieved from both the agency and the dispatch work with immediate effect, and I was asked to handover both the agency and the dispatch work to someone else. To this day, I have not understood this type of action on the part of the Circulation Manager and the company and what type of management principles that made them to take such an action.

        No reason was offered for relieving me and nothing was said about my request for the additional area for my agency.

        The agency and the dispatch work were offered to a person who refused the offer in the first place when I was offered the dispatch work. He was also given the agency for the area that I was asking for in the first place. I guess, probably the circulation manager of The Hindu - being a troubleshooter for the top management - got a promotion for solving a problem in the dispatch work in a branch office of the company, if it can be called as solving a problem.

        I left The Hindu around 1995. I almost felt like a bonded laborer in The Hindu after sometime into my work as dispatch contractor. The things I had gone through there exposes the hypocrisy of a newspaper which preaches everyone in the world but it does not follow the principles of transparency, keeping its promise to its workers, and other principles of management in its own organization, as I would explain them further in my blog.

       In my future postings, I will write about those instances in my work there which made me think very badly of the newspaper and about the management of the company . Now I am employed in an entirely different area. I thought about expressing my anger for the unjust removal from that company and have decided to express my thoughts as a blog. I thought that this is one of my legitimate modes of protest.

        In my future posts, I will write about the way in which the management of the company treated me and my work, how many obstacles and barriers were placed by the branch manager  which made it difficult for me to run the dispatch work efficiently, how they have failed to provide the necessary atmosphere for me to work properly in the 10 years of work for them.

       Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy: Aristotle.

      This quotation from Aristotle epitomizes the purpose of my blog, to express my anger toward The Hindu and its method of management. I think that this method is the right way of expressing my anger as per the above quotation.