Story is told of a World War II General who was captured as a Prisoner of War (PoW). There, in the PoW camp, this General started insisting that the soldiers took bathe every day, shaved every day, wore clean clothes, kept their barracks clean and tidy. Neatness increases morale, he would insist. Initially, the soldiers did not take the General seriously. For, they did not know where the General actually belonged. But slowly and invariably, the General’s insistence started having a good effect on the PoWs. The officers of the PoW camp, too, started seeing the effect. The camp started remaining clean and the PoWs generally well-behaved. In a few more months, the General started encouraging the soldiers to make serious attempts to escape from the PoW camp. And one by one, soldiers started slipping out to freedom.
The General, however, could never get out. One day, he was taken to the special cell of the camp and given a thrashing. Then he revealed that he was the one who encouraged and helped lots of soldiers to escape. More thrashing, against the international code, led to more revelations: the General was not a General but a fake, actually a criminal who had posed as General.
The PoWs that remained in the camp were stunned when they knew the details. Among them was a senior soldier who asked a simple question: “Guys, what is wrong if that guy was a fake? Didn’t he tell us something very important? Did he not tell us that neatness increases one’s morale? If we agree, then why not follow the code that guy gave us?”
The moral of the story is simple: Neatness increases morale. It goads us to do better, to excel. In work situations, this is absolutely important – neatness.
A survey of Indian workplaces, conducted by a group of sociology students a few years ago, revealed that a large percentage of employees are not worried about neatness of their appearance, their overall conduct in office or at home, and their interactions with others.
Of course, in metropolitan centers, the situation is not all that bad. There is a good percentage of people who carry themselves well, dress well, and behave well. Yet, this percentage does not form the majority. Most employees are careless about all these aspects of their personality.
As a result, the overall efficiency of organizations is known to drop considerably. This is a matter of concern for many heads of organizations who do not know how to sort things out.
Yet, restricting the discussion to employees, it is necessary to point out that it is in their own interest to step up neatness in everything they do – from dress to address. In modern-day corporate sector, this problem has been sorted out by creating a strict dress code and conduct code. In other organizations, however, the situation is still the same – good numbers of employees who do not care how they look and how they behave.
When Dilip Naigaonkar (name changed for privacy) realized that he had come to a block in his career advancement, he consulted his father. The old man, a retired employee of a public sector undertaking, took a good look at his young son, sighed, and said, “Sunny, there is a problem with you. Whatever work you do, you do not do it well. And whatever you do, you do not get noticed. How will you grow? So, in order to grow, first grow up. That means, start taking good care of yourself – your clothes, your appearance, your way of talking and your way of walking. Try this formula, and let me know after six months.”
Dilip followed his father’s advice. He altered his way of doing things and way of handling himself. In less than six months, his bosses started noticing the positive change. One of them, in charge of HR, gave a favourable report to the big boss who accepted to promote Dilip on probation.
For Dilip, it was a great opportunity. He was very happy to communicate to his father what was happening. The old man said, “Now do one thing. Increase attention to self-management. You will get better results in another six months.”
Self-management, thus, is the key to success in career. And self-management begins with neatness in every aspect of one’s physical personality. That is only the beginning.
Published in The Hitavada – Future 07 Sep 2010