“The advantage of being young”- 2 September 2014.
When Sudipto took over as General Manager of the firm, he was barely 25 years old. The firm’s workforce had a loose mix of about 60% of persons above the age of 45, about 20% above 30 and 40 years of age, and less than 20% of workforce in the Gen Y segment, that is, around 25 years of age. For Sudipto, this mix offered a special challenge, rather difficult to be handled.
For, whatever changes he thought of and suggested, the 45-plus workforce opposed it tooth and nail. The Gen Y people were enthusiastic about the changes, but the middle segment was just nonchalant. In this demographic profile of the firm, how was Sudipto going to implement the new ideas he had imported from his B-school education?
First, he thought of bulldozing things with the help of Gen Y segment, pushing things down the throats of people from older segments. But one or two such attempts just bombed and the opposition from old segment was too much to handle – fierce and so-called principle-based.
Sudipto started seeing a stalemate in the distance, and grew increasingly disappointed. Back at home, he could not even smile at his pretty young bride of just a few months, leaving her bewildered. His small family — parents and he and his wife — grew increasingly restless, and there was no conversation at mealtime.
One Sunday afternoon, however, Sudipto’s 60-year-old father, a seasoned corporate executive who had just retired, understood things correctly. At lunch that Sunday, he just took over. He confronted Sudipto over what was happening in the company. The young man first fumbled a little, but then opened up and poured out his anxieties to his family.
The old man was sympathetic. He said, “Look Son, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, the situation is not out of control. The opposition from older segments is not something you cannot circumvent. But for that to be made possible, you will have to understand why they are opposing your new ideas and changes. They are afraid to adopt new things. They are worried if they would fail in the implementation of new ideas and fall behind in the race. If you are able to assure them that the new ideas are not edge the oldies out but to make the firm more efficient, their opposition would subside.”
Sudipto looked up in surprise, a little smile returning to his otherwise worried face. That afternoon, he got closeted with his father for a couple of hours, trying to understand the mindset of the old segment vis-a-vis the Gen Y attitudes. He realised that afternoon that if he wanted changes to take place, then he will have to address the fears that the old segment harboured, and respond to the aspirations of Gen Y. If that could be done successfully, then the middle segment was never a problem.
Things started moving smoothly since then on.
Sudipto adopted an altogether different approach. First, he started holding idea meetings without calling them by that name. He encouraged the oldies to make generous contributions to the thought of the firm’s growth. And what a pleasant surprise awaited him! For, the ideas the oldies came up with were never at variance with the new thinking, but they were worded differently. Once Sudipto understood how to remove the parallax, everything moved smoothly, surprising everybody in the process.
One day at lunch, one older employee sneaked into a chair next to Sudipto’s and asked, “Sorry Sir, but what is the secret of your new avtar?”
The young General Manager smiled, and said, “Sir, the changed avtar came because my old man at home gave me a new idea.” And then he grinned, leaving the senior employee all the more confused.