“Thank you, Dad”- 4 October 2011

His credentials were impeccable — Post-graduate in engineering from a very prestigious national institute in India, MBA from US, Ph.D. in marketing from the same American university, and fours’ working experience in a global leader in US. When 34-year-old Satish came to the company armed with these credentials, all were overwhelmed as well as excited. All were impressed with his personality, crisp and precise. Everybody expected him to become an integral part of the leadership team of the company. To make matters more impressive, right on the first day, Satish declared proudly in the coffee-break that he was a thorough-bread professional who enjoyed his work to the hilt. A phenomenon was taking place in the company, all felt.

The honeymoon, however, did not last long. In just a few months, everybody – from the MD to the lowest-level executives – started wondering why Satish came to the company at all. He had been offered one of the best packages in Indian industry. He was given a very high position over the heads of several seniors (who did not grudge because of his credentials). Yet, Satish never seemed to try to understand the company and its culture. He worked for himself, as if, and did not mingle with his peers and others, except for those few minutes of crisp conversations in clipped tones at coffee-breaks. Some seniors also started getting an impression that Satish looked down upon them. He had a condescending look in his cold eyes, one senior Vice President felt.
Despite all this, Satish was absolutely fabulous in his assignment. The department he headed worked with added efficiency and won appreciation of the Board. And yet, there was no cheer on anybody’s face in his department. For, Satish was too cut-and-dried professional who understood nothing beyond his task at hand. Everybody worked well, but nobody enjoyed work. The department wore a sullen air.
With people in other departments, Satish behaved with a chilling aloofness. Nobody expected him to take part in gossip or office politics. But that also did not mean such a cold behaviour. So aloof was Satish that he even refused to join week-end parties colleagues organised occasionally. Instead, he would take his pretty wife to the same club and sit there in one corner of the lawn having a quiet dinner.
“That is too much”, one senior woman colleague hissed. Her comment represented the sentiment all over. Some seniors even thought of recommending to the top management discontinuation of the contract with Satish by paying him more than adequate compensation so that he would go and the atmosphere in the company would improve.
“No, that cannot happen,” said a veteran member of the Board. A man with a fashionable white beard and longish hair, this Director took upon himself the task of talking to Satish, and even counselling him if necessary. “If I fail, then you may take the extreme step of easing him out,” he stressed.
Several weeks passed. During this time, people often saw the old man having coffee with the young Satish in the executive cafeteria. They also saw heard that the veteran had invited the young couple to his home for a Saturday evening. The two men – with distinct differences in personalities – were also seen spending some time together almost every Sunday. Nobody, however, knew what was happening. Nobody had much hope.
And then came a little surprise. One Saturday afternoon when things were relaxed, Satish lingered for half an hour more than his usual fifteen minutes at coffee-break and kept talking to the four executives in the group. The conversation did not proceed smoothly, but the subject was interesting. When the group broke to return to work, everybody, including Satish, promised to open the subject once again and discuss it in depth. “Then why not sit together for dinner today? I invite you all. At 8 in the evening. At Kwality. Is that all right? Is everybody free?”, asked Satish, throwing everybody off balance. That was a Satish not known to them.
After all, things were moving in the right direction! The veteran Director – Jagannath Iyer — only chuckled when he heard of the dinner and the good time all had. His mission had succeeded. But that had taken him several weeks of persistent and persuasive contact with Satish. The young man had a funny image of a professional. He felt, a professional is a person who does his professional work and goes home, with having nothing to do with others the company or other affairs of the company. For him, company was just a workplace, and not a club where people mingled UNNECESSARILY, or make personal friendships.
“That is perfectly fine, Satish, but when people work for long hours and many years together, they are bound to develop close bonds. And building such bonds is not unprofessionalism,” Jagannath Iyer had said. He then gave several examples from the professional lives of many corporate legends who Satish regarded as his role models. Those were examples of their social behaviour, their ability to create human bonds that went beyond work, to make friends, to empathize and to bind the team in a stronger association that went far beyond the professional requirement. Nobody had exposed Satish to such a treasure of wisdom ever.
That evening, as the old man and the young executive talked for four hours sipping cups and cups of coffee Satish’s wife made, a positive change came over. Satish bent forward, and surprising his wife, said to the veteran Jagannath Iyer, “Thank you, Dad.”
Everything was beautiful afterwards.

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