“Soft exterior, tough interior”- 31 January 2012

This story at workplace demonstrates a rare experience that generally defies common belief that bosses have to be really, really tough to get things done their way. But here was Raghunath (his real first name) working as a company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) with an altogether different mindset. He was very soft in his behavior, and never liked to punish his subordinates, whatever their mistake. Nobody had ever heard his voice rise even when things were terribly wrong. At times, because of somebody’s mistake, the company had to lose big business opportunities or quite a bit of money in certain operations. Yet, Raghunath would never shout or even punish his people. He did give them stern warning, but generally, people never felt that it was a reprimand. The company’s promoters often chided Raghu, called so fondly by one and all, for his unnecessary softness. They believed in tough action, and Raghu did not feel it necessary. He never sacked people and he never gave them any written warnings.
Yet, the company ran in absolute profits for years on end and the competitors did not have a clue about how Raghu’s did that. With his softness of behavior, Raghu became some sort of a legend in industrial circles. He was, therefore, also called ‘Mr. Softee’.
Then came bad times. The economy took a tail-spin and many companies started sacking people, as is usually done in bad times. Raghu refused to follow that practice. He took many tough decisions, including his own salary slash in a big way. He also stopped using his car and came to work on a two-wheeler. He wanted to save every possible rupee, but did not take the easier option of sacking people. That gesture went a long distance.
For, when good times returned and other companies offered big salary offers to Raghu’s colleagues, nobody left. They did not want to ditch Raghu Sir!
One day, the promoters called Raghunath for a discussion on a serious matter. They wanted to know why he was so soft when that was not necessary. Raghu explained, “Sir, in fact, being ‘Mr. Softee’ involves a lot of courage and toughness of the mind. It requires an uncanny ability to endure stress when things threaten to go wrong. So, one needs to be internally tough so that one can endure the stress. Another thought which helps me is a basic belief that people are generally good and want to excel. I also believe that there are not many people who would want things to go wrong. In most cases, mistakes occur because of some unintended slackness or casual approach. So, where is the need to act tough when we know that the mistake is not a mischief?”
The bosses did not understand the logic correctly, but felt that they need not disturb Raghunath in his working style. Yet, profound doubts persisted, and the bosses suggested Raghunath occasionally to be tough. He only smiled and let go. That he was right was proved one day when a research group conducted a study of industry to measure the HI count of companies. HI is ‘happiness index’, which indicates how happy employees of a company are. Raghunath’s company was rated highly by the study.
This attitude is relevant all the time. For, it goes against the commonly-held belief that the bosses have to be absolutely tough and tackle problems in a no-nonsense manner.
To such people, Raghunath has only one response: “Look guys, I am a no-nonsense man. But that also does not mean that I should bark like a dog. For, such an approach does not solve problems.”
Going by his success in the marketplace, nobody now grudges Raghu’s methods and in fact knows that he is right, as his method works.

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