“Decorum, a tool to spur growth”- 19 February 2013

Ajitabh was a talented young man. His sharp intelligence and quick grip of issues made him a favourite with the top management with a year after he joined the manufacturing company. What made him a darling of his peers was his ability to stand up to anybody in the higher rungs. He could dare anybody and question any decision, no matter who made it.

However, there was a flip side, too, to Ajitabh’s personality. He was rather too brazen and too careless in conduct with seniors. “I respect no seniority”, he would say with brazenness that younger lot would love. The bosses, however, eventually started hating that habit of his. For, even in serious meeting, Ajitabh would rise to ask some brazen questions that often sounded thoughtless. That would disturb the decorum of the meeting and ruffle the sense of dignity of the seniors and superiors.
Slowly, Ajitabh’s brazenness started rubbing his peers, too, on the wrong side. They realised that Ajitabh had no respect for any one, let alone seniors. He could insult anyone without provocation. He could say ‘no’ to any official assignment coming from the bosses but communicated to him by a peer.
Besides, Ajitabh also had a few bad and loud habits that irked most. For example, he would slam doors, drag chairs making a lot of noise, put his legs up on the table as he ate his lunch, and even spit occasionally in the rubbish bin.
A couple of peers and seniors tried to talk him out of those habits. But each time they tried, Ajitabh responded with a rudeness that shocked one and all. Another habit of the young man was to park his car in the parking slot reserved for the CEO. For some time the CEO ignored the issue. But subsequently, he asked the security to ask Ajitabh to park his vehicle anywhere else. Ajitabh responded by ignoring the caution, which was too much for anybody to put up with.
All these habits, despite Ajitabh’s intelligence and efficiency, had a negative effect on his career growth. At the time of assessment, he was bypassed for promotion. In the next assessment, too, another junior superseded him.
The next morning, Ajitabh gate-crashed into the CEO’s room and exploded angrily daring the chief about the decision. The chief had expected this to happen. He could have got angry, too. But, calmly, he asked Ajitabh to sit down and talked to him at great length. He explained what went wrong and how Ajitabh had ruffled many a feather on the premises, from juniors to seniors.
The boss said, “Your superior intelligence higher efficiency has no value for us if you do not maintain the decorum of the office and dignity of the organisation. You are young and should improve your behaviour. If you feel that you can get away with all that, you are terribly wrong. For, we have taken all that seriously and have chosen to allow two juniors to bypass you for two consecutive years. You now decide how to respond to this. If you feel, you can leave, you are welcome. As for us, we respect your talent and want you to continue with decency, dignity, and decorum. Make your choice.”
Saying this, the chief got up from his chair and left his own office, leaving Ajitabh to ponder.
Half hour later Ajitabh emerged from CEO’s office and went to the cafeteria where he found the chief at a table with a couple of Directors. He went straight to the table and apologised profusely to the chief and others. He said, “I am a changed person now. You will see the difference right from this moment.’ He then shook hands with all and got back to his work. He had already lost two assessments and had to make a serious course-correction.
Life in a workplace has a necessary dimension of decorum, which many people fail to understand, and then suffer. But those who follow norms of decorum often register quicker-rising growth curve in their careers. Unfortunately, however, this aspect is rarely taught in schools and colleges or in homes.

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