Friday, October 19, 2012

India has become a country of thieves: Markandey Katju - Indian Express

India has become a country of thieves: Markandey Katju - Indian Express

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ayn Rand - India: "My initiation with Ayn Rand's philosophy"

Ayn Rand - India: "My initiation with Ayn Rand's philosophy"

An article in The Hindu quoted from Aristotle's Nicomachean ethics as if that quotation supports the idea that one can steal a little but not loot. I have replied to that article in my blog (URL for the article and my reply  above), but I want to everyone who admire Ayn Rand and Aristotle to reply to that article in The Hindu letters to the editor column. I have some disputes with The Hindu and therefore I did not write in the letter to the editor column but I have posted a reply in my blog. I hope admirer of Ayn Rand would respond to this request. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another Incident of Playing Politics by the Branch Manger

      Before writing further about my struggle with the branch manager in The Hindu, I have to write something about the then Managing Director, who was also the publisher of The Hindu. He was kind of an eccentric man. I knew nothing about him or his method of conducting business except one or two incidents involving him. If he finds someone in the office doing some unpleasant things, the first thing he would say is “Fire him.”  Of course, he would not pursue the matter further, but the office staff in the head office will shiver at the sight of him.

       I have heard about one such incident in which an employee was smoking outside the office. Being a newspaper office, no one would smoke inside the premises. When he saw him smoking, he told some officer who was accompanying him to fire him, but as usual, he did not pursue the matter further, and the staff was left alone.

       In another incident, once while he was vacationing in Ootacamund, some boys from Chennai, who were also vacationing in the same hotel, approached him with a complaint that they were getting The Hindu at their home in Chennai very late and requested him to do something and help them get the paper delivered to their home earlier.

      He immediately telephoned the Chennai office, and informed the staff in the circulation department that the concerned agent should be fired immediately.  The agent was then summoned to the office immediately, and he had to explain a lot and promise to deliver copies of The Hindu earlier to his subscribers, and only after a lot of explaining by the agent that he was allowed to remain as an agent of The Hindu in Chennai.

      In both cases, the concerned persons could get away with their mistakes – if any – only because the staff of The Hindu did not want to fire them. If someone in The Hindu had something against them, they would have used those incidents as an excuse to get rid of them even if they did not deserve such a punishment for their mistakes. 

       I want to the readers to bear this in mind while considering what would have happened to me in one such incident where I was involved directly with a work relating to the Managing Director.

       The Hindu is published by a company that is a wholly family owned one. Many of the family members visit Ootacamund during the summer season, and they maintain a guest house there for their summer holidays. During May-July every year, some members of The Hindu family on their way to Ootacamund will visit the Coimbatore office. Sometimes, before their visit to Ootacamund, furniture and many other things will be sent from the Coimbatore office to Ootacamund guest house.

        During such time, the manager will inform me to see that those things that have to be sent to the Ootacamund guest house are sent on the same day they reach the Coimbatore office and that no delay would be tolerated by the management.

       The branch manager would call me around 9 to 9:30 p.m. on those days to specifically inform me about sending things to Ootacamund guest house, and he will inform me that if he driver of the Ootacamund transport say that there is not enough space to take all those things that are meant for the Ootacamund guest house, the manager would tell me that I can ask the driver to leave some or all of the newspaper parcels of the day in the office itself and that he must take the things meant for the guest house first on that day itself.

       Of course, some drivers, who sometimes say that there was not enough space, when he was told about this choice to them, he would invariable make space and take all the parcels meant for the guest house as well as all the newspaper parcels.  Everyone understands that the management does not want to take it literally, but it is meant to emphasize the urgency of sending the parcels to the guest house without delay.

       One year, for the dog show held in Ootacamund, an application form was sent from the Chennai office to the Coimbatore office to be sent to the guest house in Ootacamund, where there were some staff to look after those matters.  Usually, when such documents are sent, it is noted in a log note, and after sending the document to Ootacamund through the transport driver, I would make a note that the document has been sent with the date of dispatch. 

       The application for the dog show was sent on a day when I was not attending the dispatch work, and my friend was looking after the dispatch work on that day. The application was not sent on that day, and my friend did not tell me about the letter to be sent through the Ootacamund transport driver, nor did the branch manager call me at around 9 p.m. about this.  when I came to the dispatch work the next day, I found the letter with a note made on the previous day that the letter should be sent to Ootacamund the previous day. I sent that letter on that day to Ootacamund through the driver of that transport.

       Immediately, I realized that something was wrong, and I could not take a chance of just informing the branch manager about this, because if there was any delay and the application could not reach in time for it to be accepted, I thought that the consequences would be terrible for me, and I would know about whether it reached in time or not only after that terrible things had happened to me or nothing would happen if that application reached in time.

       I did not want to take a chance on that and I decided to do some whistle blowing job to save myself from being sent away from the dispatch work because I knew that the manger who wanted to get rid of me would use this as an excuse if the application did not reach in time for it to be accepted. I wrote a letter to the Circulation manager about this in detail as a preemptive measure.

       Nothing happened for a few days, and I realized that the letter had reached in time.  A few days later, by the activities of the branch manager and the staff, I realized that the letter I sent to the circulation manager reached him, and the news about such a letter being received by the circulation manager has reached the branch office also. Within a few days, I came to know that the circulation manager will be visiting the branch office soon, and I was asked to be present during the daytime on the day that he visited the office. What happened on that day and the ensuing days, I will write in the next post.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Was My Manager a Jerk?

       I recently came across an article in a management blog by Jeff Haden  about Bad Bosses titled "Why Your Employees Think Your'e a Jerk?" In that article, Jeff Haden identifies seven reasons for considering a manager a jerk.

       Jerk:  Noun:  An idiot or stupid person. An insensitive, selfish, ignorant, cocky person who is inconsiderate and does stupid things.

       A man who takes unfair advantage of, deceive, or manipulate people.

       Slang:   A foolish, rude, or contemptible person.

       The first of the seven reasons for considering a man as a Jerk is, I am quoting him:

      "You're a Bill Clinton.  Politicians have to be political. (Wow, that was obvious.) Business owners don't; in fact, engaging in petty political games is probably the worset thing you can do.  Any business with three or more people has a little politics going on - since all you need is two people to gang up on the third - but when you as the boss get involved, the politics run wild.  Then a few people are "in."  They don't have to work hard, because they're are already in.  The rest are "out."  They don't want to work hard, because nothing they do really matters."  Read more here.

       I am going to relate in this post two incidents that happened during my work there as dispatch contractor, and you will be able to decide from that whether he can be called a Jerk or not.  I had observed many incidents in the office in which the manager was playing politics which perfectly fit in this category, but I will confine my post only to the dispatch work and my work there as dispatch contractor.

       Before writing further, I would like to write about the circumstances under which I took over the dispatch work.  I had a friend who was an agent of The Hindu in Coimbatore, and through him I came to accept the work as dispatch contractor.  I thought that he was helping me in appreciation for what I had done for him, but he acted as a tool of the branch manager to trap me into this work with the bait of an agency to me for the newspaper, and this turned out to be the most terrible mistake in my whole life.

       To understand my relationship with him, I have to write at least two to three posts, which I will defer to the future.  He seemed to have had some sort of a secret understanding with the branch manager for getting me to accept the dispatch work, which I did not realize at that time but came to realize only much later, about which I will write in my future posts.  For now, it is suffice to say that he was helping me by looking after the dispatch work one day a week to let me have a day off every week.

       Packing and dispatch work was a very demanding type of work.  I must be present in the dispatch section at 9 p.m. everyday for 361 days of a year (there were only four days in a year that The Hindu was not being  printed), and my work will be finished only at about 5 to 5:30 a.m.  On the days when I was indisposed or when I had some other work to do at home, he was looking after the dispatch work in my absence, though I avoided such situations as much as possible.

       In the packing and dispatch work, picking the labels and marking the number of copies to be sent to the agents needed workers who are at least literates in English - if not educated - to the smooth functioning of the dispatch work.  At any time, I had three persons who could do the work.  Even then, I had to do the work myself some days when all of them were absent on some days, and I had to come to the dispatch work before 9 a.m. in those days.  At one time, I had two brothers, one a graduate - the elder one - and another a diploma holder, to do this work.

       The dispatch worker - the diploma holder - one day informed me that The Hindu was recruiting diploma holders for working in the press, and he asked me to recommend him to the branch manager for the work of printing press operator trainee.  I promised him that I would ask the branch manager in this regard and inform him about this as he had been working in the dispatch section for nearly two years.

       I met the manager the next day, and I told him about his request and asked him to recommend him for the job of a trainee in the press.  He told me that that person was a trouble maker and that he could not recommend such a person and put his colleagues in the press in trouble.  I told him that he was a good worker and that he had work experience in an industry in his field and that he was just the kind who speaks loudly and that made him look like a trouble maker, but actually he was a good worker.  But the branch manager was not willing to recommend him for the job.

       I then told the diploma holder what the branch manager told me about him and that I cannot help him to get the job of a trainee in The Hindu, and I expressed my sincere regret for my inability and I advised him to be not to be visible other than in his work wherever he works in the future. He and his brothers were very disappointed, but they understood my position.  After sometime, both of them left the dispatch work, and they informed me about getting some other job outside of Coimbatore.

       After sometime, I had seen the elder brother somewhere in Coimbatore, and I later asked the dispatch workers about him.  The workers told me that they were disappointed with me for not having made enough effort to get the trainee job for him.  I thought that they knew about me and the branch manager well and that I was sincere in trying to help him to get the job but the branch manager was not willing to recommend him for the job.

       I forgot the incident for about one year until I met the elder brother again by chance once again.  He told me that my friend, who was helping me in running the dispatch work by coming once a week, told him that I had not recommended him strongly for the job to the branch manager and that he could not recommend to the company if I, as the head of dispatch section, suggest him very strongly for the job.  I knew even before that something happened in the dispatch section regarding his job request that made them leave the dispatch.

       I told him that he knew both me and the branch manager very well and that the branch manager was a man who played politics well and I also reminded him about the approach of branch manager and what he did regarding the request for an increase in wages for the dispatch workers earlier.  He told me that he understood well and he knew that the branch manager was the reason for his brother not getting the job but his brother would not understand those things and he was very disappointed with me.  At that time, he also informed me about some incidents that occurred in the dispatch section while my friend was attending the dispatch work and he warned me that my friend was not exactly helping him in the smooth running of the dispatch work and that some mischief was being perpetuated in the dispatch section by him.  I knew that well and I only did not know in what form it would unfold.

       I wanted to narrate another incident of playing politics by the branch manager, but this post is growing to be too long, and it would bore you to bring that as well into this post, so I will defer that to another post.

       But, I want to write in this post briefly about what I did before starting this blog. I took one year before starting this blog to contact various persons in a variety of fields and sought their opinion and advice about the problems that I may to have to face if and when this blog becomes famous or somewhat visible in the Net, and I had taken some precautionary measures with their advice to face such problems, if and when they happen.

       I will write about that later in a more detailed way.  In the next blog, I will write about another incident of playing politics by the branch manager - this was intended to do much more serious harm to me than the above incident - and you can then decide yourself whether the branch manager was a Jerk or not.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Deputy Managing Director and Circulation Managing Visiting Dispatch Section

      A few days after the branch manager informed me about the visit of the Deputy Managing Director and the Circulation Manager to the branch office, they came to the dispatch section one day along with the branch manager. I had already met the Circulation Manger a few times, and after the formal greetings, they went into the press to have a look at the working of the new printing press and then came into the dispatch section and observed the work in the dispatch section.

       After observing the smooth and efficient work of the new printing machine, if one comes to the dispatch section, it would be a picture of perfect contrast with papers strewn all over near the conveyor.

       Of course, they could not scold me for the mess that they were witnessing as they knew the reasons very well. In fact, I was very skeptical of the visit if they thought that they could make a decision about the increase in the strength of dispatch workers only after observing the work.

       Even though the speed of the machine was around 40,000 copies per hour, so far, they had been running it at around 25,000 to 30,000 copies per hour. Still, this was nearly two times the speed of the previous machine. But on that day, they were running the machine at the maximum possible speed to display their department’s skill and expertise to the Deputy Managing Director, and it had been almost two months since the commissioning of the machine and they had full control of its function, which advantage they had used to the maximum extent possible.

       In the presence of top management of the company, people in one department would like to show off their efficiency, and at the same time try to expose the deficiency in the work of other departments if possible to emphasize the importance of their department in the overall functioning of the company. This is natural for men in every profession. Based on that idea, the press people ran the press at the maximum speed, and the dispatch workers could not handle such work, and there was a heap of around 1000 copies strewn around the conveyor haphazardly when the printing of the Kerala edition was over.  These copies must be stacked, counted in 25s, and sent to labeling and then packing and dispatch.  Out of total six transports for Kerala, only two had left at this time, while normally four transports would have left after loading the parcels at the end of printing of Kerala edition.

       After the printing of the Kerala edition was over, the press people came out and asked me (much more loudly than usual) whether the copies were enough for me and whether they can start the printing of the Tamil Nadu edition. This was to show to the top management that their department was doing their part of work fine and that the other department was lacking in their work.

       The Circulation Manger asked me, “Nandagopal, what is happening?” I informed him about the present strength of 17 (or 19) workers in the dispatch section was not enough to handle such a huge increase in the work and that I needed at least six workers more to manage the increased work due to the installation of the new machine.

       As if offering as a solution to the problem, he asked me just to count the copies and stack them in 25s first and clear the table for stacking the Tamil Nadu edition copies and give okay to the press. He then asked me how long it will take to finish this work, and I informed him that 10 minutes would be enough for this. He told the press people to start printing the Tamil Nadu edition after 10 minutes, and he asked me to finish the packing and dispatch work of Kerala edition while the printing of the Tamil Nadu goes on. After this, he went to the Managing Director, and they talked for a while, and they left the press as if they had come here and solved a problem in one of their department! Nothing more was said about the increase in the strength of the dispatch workers.
       What he told me was what we had been doing since commissioning of the new machine. Only this time, as the press people ran the press at a higher speed than they usually do, there was a delay of more than 10 to 15 minutes in finishing the work of Kerala edition packing and dispatch as we had been doing since the commissioning of the new press.  I expected him to make a decision then and there to increase the strength of the dispatch workers, but he did not do that.

       After a few days, the increase in the strength of the dispatch workers was sanctioned and I was very disappointed about the way in which the management of the company handled this issue.

       After this incident, the admiration and respect I had for The Hindu had fallen to a very low level. I had been a reader of The Hindu since my college days from 1973 because I have always considered The Hindu as the best newspaper in India. It has set up a very high standard in Journalism in its more than 100 years of its history. But I did not expect such an objectionable level of management practices from this company. Of course, one cannot expect everyone working in a company living up to its high standards, but I did not expect the top management of the company passively accepting such attitudes from its mangers and encouraging them in such management activities.

       In this context, I had also made a suggestion to the branch manager for improving the efficiency of the working of the dispatch section. 

       If the press is run at its maximum capacity, as it was done during the visit of the top management of the company, and if the company wanted to use the new machine to its maximum potential, even increasing the workers to more than 23 (or at a maximum 25) would not make a sound business sense because more space would be needed for the dispatch work and there was not much space in the premises in which the press was situated then. In this context, I suggested the idea of machine packing of parcels of 100 copies and the rest by manual packing.

      The complete packing by machine was not that much easier because there were a large number of parcels of copies of 3, 4, 5 and also parcels between 10 and 20 were also large in number.  This would make complete automation an arduous or almost an impossible task. But if packing a few parcels of 100 copies for Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and city editions was done by machine, it would reduce to a great extent the work of collecting and stacking the copies from the conveyor and packing those parcels. It would also help me to run the dispatch work with just 21 workers and also help me to send the transports much more quickly than with 23 people working in the dispatch section.

      When I suggested this to the branch manager, he immediately rejected the proposal saying that the head office would not accept it. He even did not take the trouble of suggesting the proposal to the head office and take a chance of finding whether the head office would accept this. I realized at that time suggesting any idea for improving the work in the dispatch section to him would be useless.

       In my future posts, I will write more about the manager and his handling of the dispatch work and my struggle for a news agency for The Hindu.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Decision Making in The Hindu: Managing Increased Work Load Without Additional Workers

       In my post dated January 22, 2012, I wrote extensively about the dispatch work. I wrote in that post that apart from the parcels of the daily edition of the newspaper, the parcels of supplements printed and packed separately earlier are also sent to the news agents along with the daily newspaper parcels.

       On Saturdays and Sundays, the pages of supplements are usually more than that of the main newspaper. On those days, the time taken for packing of parcels may not be than any other days. But, the supplement parcels that are to be sent along with the daily newspaper parcels are kept ready at appropriate places for loading in each car/van, and to load all these parcels, the drivers of each transport need more time to check and load the parcels in the car/van.

       The dispatch section was spacious enough to work on the days when the supplement was 4 or 8 or even 12 pages.  But on Saturdays and Sundays, usually there were two or three or even four supplements and the supplement pages were more than 12 and even up to 20, the dispatch section was like a cramped place.

       The supplement parcels sent separately along with the daily parcels were kept outside the dispatch section in an open place.  During rainy days, the dispatch section looked like a real mess.

       If there had been rain before the start of printing, the supplements parcels could not be kept outside and were accommodated inside the dispatch section, and that led to the packers working in a very cramped environment, and also there was confusion while loading the parcels because the supplements parcels could not be kept separately for each transport because of lack of space, and also for each transport, the supplements loaded in the front seat, the back seat, and the bonnet could not be kept separately for easy loading of parcels along with the main newspaper parcels as a consequence of this severe space restriction.

       When there was rain during the printing of the daily paper, but not before, the confusion became even more pronounced as the workers had to bring the parcels from the open space into the dispatch section besides continuing their work of packing, and the confusion continued while loading of parcels in the car/van as the parcels of different transports got mixed, and as a result, there was delay in the departure of the transports. Imagine when there was rain before the start of main newspaper printing, and it continued while the printing and packing of parcels were going on!

       During the winter months, I had to work under constant worry about the rain and the necessity of the additional work of bringing the parcels inside the dispatch section from the open place to keep the parcels not getting damaged in the rain.

       I explained this situation to the manager many times, and I wanted him to make some arrangements for safe keeping of parcels such as putting a shelter in front of the dispatch section so that parcels could be kept safely, and the drives of the car/van could load the parcels without any problem even when there was rain during the loading of parcels.  Whenever I brought the subject to his attention, he promised me that some arrangements would be made in this regard very soon.

       One day, I saw some workers doing some renovation work in some part of the building. I learnt that they had come from the head office to do the work and that the work would go on for nearly a month.

    I went to see the branch manager and told him about my long pending request for some sort of roofing or some other type of arrangement that would help me to keep the supplement parcels outside safely without being damaged in the rain.

       But, what he told me shocked me and made me realize that what he had been telling me all these days about his desire to do something to solve the problem in this regard was just a tactic to postpone the issue and he had no intention of doing anything to solve the problem.  He told me that he could not tell the architect, who was in charge of the work, to put a roof in front of the dispatch section because the architect would tell him that it would spoil the beauty of the building.

       What he was talking about was what architects would call the façade and the ornamentation of the building.  I knew even then that he did not know about anything about architecture beyond that one sentence and that he used that as a popular bromide rather than out any conviction about the truthfulness of such a statement.

       Being an admirer of Ayn Rand, I knew that I could argue against that statement, and I was tempted to explain to him the most fundamental principle of architecture attributed to the great American architect Louis H. Sullivan that “Form (façade which expresses the beauty of the building) follows function” to him, which means that the form or the façade of a building must follow the function for which it is built, and a good architect must be able to design a building in such a way that it fulfills its function and acquires its form (beauty) by expressing that function.

       But I did not say anything at that time and left it at that.  His idea of management was that a manager in one department should not question another manager’s decision even if he knows that is a wrong decision, which if one considers superficially may look perfectly all right.

      But consider the situation that I have explained above.  Here, the dispatch section, which comes directly under him, needs something to be done, the responsibility of which comes under another manager.

      In such circumstances, won’t he ask that manger to do that work so as to improve the efficiency of the work done in the company? How can a company perform efficiently if one department’s decision adversely affects the other department’s work and the manager of the concerned department does not bring it to the attention of the manager of the other department? These are the questions that never occurred to him, or he was not bothered by such things even if it adversely affects his department’s work. What kind of management principle is this?

        His decision was based on the idea that if he does not involve himself in any way with other departments - even if those decisions adversely affects his department’s work and his involvement will make a favorable impact on his department’s work and also the overall performance of the company – then other department staff would not involve themselves in his decisions concerning his department.

        He did not want anyone from other departments to tell him when there was a need to appoint any news agent. He was mainly concerned with news agent appointments as I wrote earlier. This was the work he cherished most in his job.  On the occasions when a new appointment was being made, he looked like a man who got a promotion or a huge salary increase, and he moved as if there was a halo over his head, and he looked like one of the happiest man on earth. I will write about those instances in my future posts as I was a candidate many times for agency for various centers before I got the Ramanathapuram agency.

       I realized at that time that he was using that statement merely as a means of convenience and he was the kind of a manger who does not work but just keep his job.

       This was an instance which was concerned just with the branch manager and the staff of another department dealing with facilities and their function which could only be termed deplorable.

       But in another instance, along with the branch manager, the top management of the company including the circulation manager, and even the deputy managing director of the company, were unwilling the make decisions that severely affected my work, and their attitude were much more deplorable than this. I will write about that in my next posting.