Monday, January 07, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 8 (chapter 2)

(Use the navigation within this blog site to read earlier episodes)

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; designation: Senior Software Engineer
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead
  • Colonel - another Team Lead


Vignesh was disturbed from his work when Sir Karthick stood up and announced, “Guys, we have team meeting now.” When no one from their team spanning across six cubicles reacted, he shouted, “Let’s go to Orion.”
After a delay everyone trudged out; many unwillingly. Vignesh stared at Sir Karthick for a few seconds. He wondered how he stayed in such good shape even though he never did any exercise. He was fair, well built with broad shoulders and smart looking. He could have easily passed off as a model. And to add to it he was getting promoted as well. Everything was going his way. Vignesh consoled himself saying that it was just his bad luck that his boss favoured Karthick. There were numerous reasons that he could come up with. 

They both come from the same place. Karthick had more visibility in the last few months while I was preoccupied with my home construction. Karthick made use of every opportunity to make his presence felt at the top. Karthick was included in all the meetings with the client while I was always kept out of them. Even on questioning, I was told that I didn’t need to attend them since it was a waste of time. And even team meetings are now run by him.

Vignesh joined Merv and Gokul in the elevator.
“What’s in today’s meeting?” Merv asked Gokul when the doors closed.
Gokul raised his eyes upwards while his spectacles slid down his hawkish nose. He spoke in a whisper as if the elevator had ears, “The farewell of course.”
“That I know. I arranged for the cake. What else?”
“Client downsizing. A couple of retirements. And more restrictions for our restricted area!”
“More restrictions?”
“Yeah. Some security thing – they may have heard about other clients and decided to fortify our area.”
Vignesh was surprised since he hadn’t heard anything about the restrictions and he wondered how Gokul knew about the downsizing.
“And our Colonel is quitting because he is attending this meeting.”
“Because he’s attending?” Merv asked surprised.
“Yeah. He’s attending means he doesn’t care any damn as to what happens in this team. Did you hear anything?” Gokul asked Vignesh for confirmation.
That was completely out of the blue for Vignesh. He was out of touch with office rumours lately since he was busy reading about tiles, paints, lighting and discussing daily with the builder on customisations for the apartment he had bought. To add to the list was the depression over his ex-girlfriend. Whenever he felt that he was slipping into a depression he reminded himself of the man in the underpass enjoying his cup of tea.
He responded, “Nothing confirmed yet.”
One of his maxims in corporate politics was that the senior should never be taken by surprise on hearing information from juniors. But the rumour was worrying because if it were true then he was certain who was getting promoted.
Gokul asked, “You know what Orion is?”
“It’s a constellation,” Merv replied.
“Yeah, the Hunter constellation. The people quitting are the ones hunted.”
“Maybe the hunted are moving to greener grass.”
“The grass is always green on the other side. But the hunted will always be hunted no matter which grass they eat.”

            Gokul switched on the projector and the agenda appeared on the screen:
- Project installs & learnings
- Client updates
- Organisational updates
- Farewell

They began with project installs but there was nothing happening for the next two weeks.
Karthick announced, “One update in our team. Basically we will not be allowed to bring camera phones inside our restricted area.”
Immediately there was a lot of murmuring.
“In 2 weeks this will be implemented. Basically camera phones will have to be kept outside in a security locker. Like other clients area.”
There were a couple of basic phones available in the market without a camera; most people in other restricted areas used two phones for personal use.
The murmuring continued but Karthick just increased his voice, “Moving on… err… basically from the client side there are some changes.”
The murmuring stopped. For those who weren’t in touch with the rumours they wondered if there was some impact on their work. They had heard from friends that this was how a contract termination was also announced – start by saying there are changes, then talk about the client organisation and then slip in the bad news.
“Umm... Two people are retiring next month – one is a senior person. Basically they are expected to reshuffle the technology team. Considering the market situation there is a possibility of reduction in the US team size. We will have details in the next meeting. Basically it is an opportunity for us to increase team size... umm... Basically, the pipeline looks good for us.”
The team felt a little relieved. Vignesh knew that even during the recession, managers said the pipeline looked strong.
“Basically it is the culmination of the good work that you all have done. That’s why this opportunity has come our way.”

Why don’t we attribute it to being lucky? Our relative salaries are lower; so our billing rates are lower; and they are in a crunch to cut costs. It’s circumstance. How can we take credit for everything?

“Any questions?”
When no one replied, Sir Karthick continued, “Ok then. We will have the farewell.”
The farewell was that of the cadet, the one person whom the Colonel liked in the team and whom he had mentored. The team had to wait five minutes for their manager to appear. According to Vignesh’s theory of corporate politics, the more senior the person, the more accommodative others are when the person comes late. If someone junior came late, then they would be looked down at. If it was someone senior they would say ‘He is very busy.’

When their manager arrived he was lost in a different world. He had a 1-on-1 meeting with the Colonel before lunch and then two back to back meetings after lunch and they all drained him mentally – one was with his boss, the senior manager, and the next one was with the HR manager.

On seeing their manager, Merv started, “As you all know, today is the last day of someone special in our team. Everyone can share their thoughts and we’ll have the farewell speech after that.”
As expected, the Colonel was the first to speak, “I have enjoyed working with you. You were focussed on work. Your deliveries were perfect and you did exhaustive testing. Onsite also had confidence in you. I wish you the very best.”

The manager gazed at the Colonel and wondered if he had suddenly found peace. The Colonel was known to everyone as a disciplinarian who got worked up with the smallest mistakes; he was always full of complaints about everyone – associates coming late, associates wasting time chatting, associates spending too long in the cafeteria and how their team was facing the end of days. Today when he asked for a meeting, the manager wondered if he would complain about him – no one would dare complain about their boss directly but with the Colonel anything was possible. But instead of complaints, he calmly told that he was quitting.

“Thanks. And thanks for all your support and being my mentor,” junior replied to the compliments.
Once the starting trouble was taken care of, others shared their views. Merv said, “All of us will miss the technical tips he shared. We will miss the sort master.”
A lot of times during crisis situations, the tricks he did using the sort tool helped them fix issues quickly.

Sir Karthick said, “Adding to what others have said, actually I was very sad when he said he’s leaving. Having someone of his caliber is a great asset. Basically the client team is very happy with his work and they always liked him. I always liked having him because he would come with alternate ways to solve problems.”

Vignesh tried hard to control his sarcastic laughter; he still remembered a time when both of them had a heated argument over a problem. Junior was arguing that a simple sort was all that was required while Sir Karthick was saying that it could only be done by a change in the code. In the end junior quite literally pushed Sir Karthick and went ahead implementing his idea.
“When you have someone like that, you broaden your scope of thinking. Unfortunately due to personal reasons he has to move. All the best.”
“Thanks Karthick,” he acknowledged.

When the room fell silent, Merv looked in junior's direction and said, “Now it’s time for your farewell speech.”
He delivered a rehearsed speech. “MegaSoft has been a great learning experience for me. I was lucky to work with some great people and there are so many things I learnt. I’d like to thank everyone for their constant support.”

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