“I-am-Junior syndrome” 19 May 2011

When Deepesh joined the company, there were as many as 25 young men and women in the new batch. All were bright people with many proven qualities during their academic careers. Now, in this highly competitive company, they were expected to implement what they had learned in schools and colleges. All of them were hard working and soon developed camaraderie in the group. They discussed their tasks, career prospects, and personal likes and dislikes as they worked on various projects of the company. Deepesh liked all that.
Life, however, was not going to remain this way at the company. For, in just a few months after the new batch of management trainees joined, a lot many seniors left the organization en masse to join a rival enterprise. Suddenly, the company developed a serious crunch of experienced staff. Naturally, the batch of fresh trainees was pressed into active participation.
Yet, a good number of those young men and women insisted often that being juniors on the campus, they were not responsible for jobs their seniors used to do until a few weeks ago. They avoided assignments, they often tried to pass the buck to others. Their argument was simple: We shall keep only some tasks to ourselves since we are juniors.
Deepesh did not like this. He sought to explain to his batch mates that such a behaviour would only tarnish the company’s name and they should avoid behaving thus. They all laughed at him, made fun of his seriousness, and wasted their time in the company’s cafeteria. They were, after all, juniors and so were not supposed to do things seniors were supposed to do.
In a weekly meeting for the fresh batch, when the boss asked a question about how they felt, one trainee responded by saying that he was junior and still learning and so could not answer the question. The boss felt disgusted and explained that he had asked only one question: How was everybody coping with the oppressive heat of the summer.
Yet, the trainee gave such an answer. At that time, Deepesh stood up, apologised to the boss on behalf of the colleagues and saved the day. The boss was happy that there was at least one junior who behaved like a senior.
Things were really bad in the office. Many senior had left. Juniors were too junior to give them ‘senior’ tasks. Work piled up, delivery schedule went totally off the track. Losses, too, started piling up.
Deepesh decided to help the boss in whatever the manner possible. Not only did he do his assigned tasks, but also undertook many tasks that only seniors were supposed to do. The boss was, naturally, pleased, but others in the trainee batch hated Deepesh’s approach. They chided him, poked fun at him, and refused to get out of the ‘I-am-junior’ syndrome.
In a few months, the crisis blew over, thanks to the massive contribution made by just a few people like Deepesh who rose above their limitations and accomplished tasks well beyond their capacity. The boss was very pleased and recommended for Deepesh a promotion well ahead of the regular time. Deepesh who had joined in just a few months ago found himself to be among sectional heads.
Of course, other trainees took offence to Deepesh’s promotion. They approached the boss and questioned him about the development. How could Deepesh get the promotion and become their boss? He is too junior and did not have the experience. How could he get the promotion, then?
The boss smiled. He then told them flatly, “Look friends, when you shouted yourself hoarse about being juniors, Deepesh stepped out of his skin and accomplished many things – for the company as well as for himself. The first thing he did was to declare to himself that he was no longer a junior and the company needed his ‘senior’ services. I am very happy, he did that. For, that helped me to recommend his name for promotion.”
It is difficult to say if all the trainees learned any positive lesson from the episode, but some of them did. They also started emulating Deepesh. Thus, they heightened their chances of promotion and better career prospects.
The problem was not of being juniors; it was about rising above what can be called loosely ‘I-am-junior’ syndrome. As a career counselor, I often tell young people not to entrap themselves in a limited vision. Those who understand the meaning of the advice serve a great purpose for themselves and the organisation. Others always remain ‘junior’ to men like Deepesh who set a scorching pace of growth for themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *