“Self-help group action to forge ahead”19 April 2011

He came from a rural background. Because he did well at his MBA final exam, he got the job quickly. Things were different and difficult in the office. Avinash found everybody very differently poised in career path. Competition was intense and nobody seemed to care for or to help others. Though his marks were good and though he was picked up quickly in the campus interview, Avinash realised that he did not have many a skill needed to forge ahead in career in that big organisation with hundreds of employees. His boss, a young woman with stiff upper lip just refused to understand the degree of difficulties Avinash faced, having come from a village where his father tilled the land.

One day, at the office cafeteria, Avinash bumped into another guy, Deepak, who had just joined the organisation. Deepak was also as confused as Avinash was since he too did not understand how to cope with the pressures of competition particularly from guys who were educated in cities and had certain advantages over the guys from rural centres. Both of them, Avinash and Deepak became friends, helping each other in every possible way. Both joined classes for spoken English and started conversing with each other in English, a language they knew but did not know how to speak fluently.

Of course, knowing how to speak English well was only a small part of the whole effort. They needed to do more to become more proficient in the ways to conduct themselves in the urban settings with which they were least familiar. However, they were not the only guys on the campus to be facing such difficulties. They realised that there were a few other young people, too, with similar sets of soft-skill difficulties. A natural association got formed among all of them. They started their own training sessions. They took help of some outside counsellors as well and started making themselves a little more comfortable.

Their efforts did not go waste. Avinash, Deepak and all others in the group of nine started gaining more confidence in handling issues in office well. And this was noticed by a Vice President. Once, as they sat chatting in the cafeteria, this Vice President, a man with kind voice and kinder look in the eyes, stopped by their table and started talking, making efforts to know everything about them.

What surprised the VP was the collective efforts all of them were making to improve their lot. Impressed by the effort, he offered to help and started giving them precious tips which helped them a great deal.

This is a real-life story which I came to know from a friend who is one of the Directors of the company. He said, “It is only natural that young people coming from rural background fall behind in the race. Guys from cities are smarter because they get appropriate training. But rural guys lack the facilities and need to get ready for intense competition. So, they form such groups and help one another. This is a new trend.”

Of course, in many professional organisations where rural youths find jobs, this problem needs to be solved properly. Forming such groups purposefully is one way to handle the issues of individual development. Of course, most companies also carry out training programmes. Yet, these programmes have their limitations in the sense trainers are not in a position to tackle individual cases effectively. Counsellors do help, but what seem to help more is formation of a group of similarly needy persons and seek appropriate help to improve overall performance levels.

Knowing the efficacy of such an approach, many companies also encourage formation of such self-help groups and give those all the necessary official help.

However, it must be stressed that managements may not adopt such an approach everywhere, since they may not have the right inclination. Hence, there is a need for individuals to look for people in similar difficulties and sort out problems collectively. Such a group-therapy, so to say, can be an effective answer to the problems faced by young employees with disadvantaged backgrounds.

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