The egg-or-hen syndrome – 24 Aug 2010

When Narula did not get his promotion, he was angry. He had been with the company’s sales force for the past four years, and was expecting his promotion any time. But a wave of promotions came and went, and Narula remained where he had been. There was a marginal increase in his emoluments, but no promotion, which he was sure of getting and had promised his wife accordingly. What will he tell his wife who created such a heavenly happiness in his life just a few months ago? And what will his colleagues think? For, he was considered a senior and others expected his performance to bring in appropriate reward. That had not happened, and Narula was bewildered, and of course, angry.

He reacted sharply. He chose not to work even an extra half hour. He decided to stick to his sales and targets and not to exceed those. He started coming in time and leaving the office on dot of 5.30 p.m. every day. And because he started doing that, his group’s sales figures went down drastically in six months. After all, he was a good performer and he had refused to do anything more than his quota.

His immediate superior confronted him one day in the office canteen. “Yes, Narula, what has happened to you? This is a new Narula I am seeing these days.m Where is the old Narula gone — enthusiastic, dynamic, all eager to take the plunge? Why all this sticking to time and sticking to targets? Why not go an extra mile, Narula?”, the boss asked. The boss, too, was a young man of great calibre and he had got two promotions in a span of just six years, whereas Narula was still languishing for four years without any recognition. “Mind your own business, just as you minded your own promotion and ignored me,” Narula spat back. His cold anger was chilling and the young boss realised what had gone wrong.

The boss did not keep quiet. He talked to his immediate superior about Narula’s case. This boss was a seasoned warrior. In an instant, he understood what had been bugging Narula. “Send him to me. I will take care,” he said. Once Narula was in his glassed-in office, the boss started speaking, first calmly, and later intensely. His words came with a flourish and power. And the boss set Narula thinking. Of course, whatever he told was difficult to digest. But Narula was inclined to consider what the boss said.

“Look, Narula, you are becoming a victim of the egg-or-hen syndrome. Never allow that to happen. For, that will rob you off your peace of mind and sense of focus on work. You will stop being somebody in this organisation and you will become anybody, a man without a face of his own , his own identity. You think, because the company is not rewarding you, you would not exert and do only the basic needful. And as you do this, the bosses will say, ‘If he is not going the extra mile which we want him to do, then why should we consider his promotions?’ And will they be wrong if they think so? This is what I call the egg-or-hen syndrome. What came first — the egg or the hen? What came first — your continued good performance, or the promotion you are looking for? The company is too big to be bothered about one employee like you. So, you will have to make your presence felt. If you don’t, then your chances will go further away from you.”

At first, Narula was not convinced. But the words of wisdom and experience set him thinking slowly. His wife, too, egged him on. She said, “He is right. Why play the egg-or-hen game?” It took time for Narula to get back into his old zealous style. But slowly, he started moving. He is still to get the promotion he wants to badly, but the bosses realise that he has been wronged. He has now more supporters among his superiors. His chances have brightened. And, thankfully, Narula knows it.

Published in The Hitavada – Future – 24 Aug 2010

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