Speak Up!

Abhishek came back home at 11.30 PM, totally exhausted. He was having a bad time at work. He had been working from 8 in the morning for the last 9 months on a critical support project. His PM had earlier told him that he had to put in a lot more effort than what he was putting in now, in order to sustain in the company; but Abhishek could not understand how much more hard work was expected out of him.
Once he reached home, Abhishek had a quick dinner and went off to sleep; his mother tried to strike a conversation with him while he was eating, but Abhishek was way too tired to even respond. He went back to his room and opened the resignation letter that he had written a month back, and which he felt like submitting to his PM every single day…

Background
Sysofni Technologies Ltd. is one of the leading IT giants in the country, providing IT services to major clients across the globe. In the last ten years or so, it had grown by over 300%. Currently, it had over one lakh employees in its ten offshore development centres in India, and around ten thousand more in its development centres in the United States, China and Europe.
In the year 2009, Sysofni recruited more than 25000 engineering graduates, who were to be trained in their world-class training centre at Mangalore, Karnataka. One of those budding graduates was Abhishek, a native of Bangalore. In his 4 months of training, Abhishek did exceedingly well in all the technical modules. However, he was an extremely shy and timid guy, and did not like to talk much with new people. After successfully completing his training, Abhishek got posted in the Manufacturing Business Unit, which was located at the company headquarters in Bangalore. Abhishek’s happiness knew no bounds when he learnt that he will be going back to his hometown.
Abhishek had to work in the offshore development centre of DISCO, which is one of the world’s leading networking companies. On the very first day he reported to his office, Abhishek was put into the Application Support team of the Global Products & Sales Services division of DISCO. His Project Manager, Mr. Balan Anantharaman Nair, was a strict person, who expected everyone to put in more than hundred percent at work.

“You have got a good CGPA in training, Abhishek. My expectations from you are very high. I hope you will live up to it”, Mr. Balan retorted, with a smile on his face. Abhishek, being a fresher, was filled with a lot of enthusiasm to put in his best at work.
“Yes sir, I’ll make most use of my knowledge and the skill-set that I developed during training, and won’t give you a chance to be disappointed”, Abhishek replied.

The Situation
In the next few days, Abhishek was fully involved in his work. He had to support two applications, which involved solving problems at real-time and responding back to clients; but being a timid guy, he was not able to mingle with his team mates very well. He would accept any work that was assigned to him without any hesitation, as he feared the consequences of saying ‘No’. This encouraged his team mates to increase his responsibilities, and within a month’s time, Abhishek was supporting as many as 6 applications.
With increasing work-load, Abhishek’s efficiency began to decrease. He was neither able to handle so many applications at the same time, nor was he able to tell this to his colleagues or to Mr. Balan.
“Abhishek, please run the query to generate the report of the sales in EMEA region from Q1 FY09 to Q3 FY10”, Deepika, the most senior member of his team instructed him one day.
Deepika had been working in the company for almost 5 years now, and was leading the support team ever since its inception. She also reported directly to Mr. Balan. She was responsible for training Abhishek initially and arranging for his Knowledge Transfer sessions, so as to enable him to start working with them at the earliest. Deepika was a very outgoing person, who always made sure that Abhishek came up with quick solutions to whatever tasks she asked of him. Abhishek was, hence, very scared of her.
“Sure Deepika, give me 5 minutes”, Abhishek replied, although he was not sure which tables to query to extract the data. He struggled to find the tables in the database, but could not do so. After an hour, Deepika asked him about the report.
“I … I haven’t got the report Deepika. I was not sure of which table to query”, he replied.
“What! Why did you not ask any of us earlier? If you don’t know something, you have to ask your seniors for help rather than sitting there all by yourself and ending up doing nothing”, Deepika responded angrily.
“I … I … I thought I would be able to find it out by myself … and I did not want to disturb any of you”, Abhishek said in a remorseful tone.
“This is absolutely ridiculous! You are only a few months old, and you need to put in a lot of effort now in order to stabilize yourself in the project. It is a very steep learning curve, and such behaviour is definitely not accepted”, Deepika said in a commanding voice, which scared Abhishek even more. Deepika went on to complain to Mr. Balan about Abhishek’s performance at work, and Mr. Balan arranged for a meeting with him.

The Meeting
When Abhishek entered Mr. Balan’s cabin, he seemed to be in a very serious mood. He asked Abhishek to take a seat, to which he timidly accepted.
“I have been hearing that you are not doing a great job at work, Abhishek. Do you have anything to say about this?” Mr. Balan asked him, raising his voice as he completed the question.
“I … I am trying my best to reach up to the required level of performance sir… and I promise you that I will not give you a reason to question me again”, Abhishek stammered in defence.
“See Abhishek, I understand that you had problems in the beginning because you were new to this environment; but now, you should have picked up speed and taken up more responsibilities. On the other hand, I’m receiving negative feedback about your performance at work. Please note that very soon, we will be moving some of your team mates from the support team to the development team and some of them might even go onsite. So if we start receiving complaints about you from our clients, it will be very difficult for you to grow to higher posts later on. I want you to work extra hours now and take up more responsibilities without giving any reasons. Is that understood?” Mr. Balan’s voice was as stern as it could get.
“Yes… yes sir. Sorry sir. I will work harder sir”, Abhishek said, and left the cabin…

The Aftermath
Since then, Abhishek has been working day and night, solving one issue after the other; but still, he was not able to speak up and ask his doubts without fear. Deepika went onsite in a couple of months’ time, and a lot more work came on his shoulders. Mr. Balan kept putting pressure on Abhishek to deliver to his expectations. Abhishek got very frustrated one day and drafted his resignation letter; but did not have the courage to submit it to Mr. Balan. He only kept looking at it every day, hoping that he would submit it sometime soon.
If only he had expressed his problems in the meeting…

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9 thoughts on “Speak Up!

  1. Yay! Welcome back! So happy to c ur article 🙂 N I can totally relate to it.. It’s much better to speak up and stand for urself than stand the torture. I guess the world takes too much advantage of people being polite or sweet. Guess we always need to keep COI in mind 😀

  2. I definitely know the characters in this “story” ;-).. Glad my character doesn’t get a mention 😀

  3. Sri – Yep…COI is important!

    Priya – Agree with you again 😀

    Vignesh – Haha…you might know the characters, but it is a highly exaggerated story man. The actual version was much more pleasant. This was a case I had to write for my OB course 😉

  4. Excellent one Nikhil.. I was tensed reading the blog, was searching what was in stock for me.. :). Maybe you can have a detailed version also soon..

  5. Thanks Aravind! It was actually a fictitious post, although inspired from a familiar background 🙂 …and I will definitely write a detailed post soon, with more characters involved 😉

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