Thursday, 17 May 2012

"The Art of Checking Out"  - I would like to dedicate this post to my friend - the intellectual Miyagi, the shephard who leads you to the light, the person with the pearls of wisdom which transform your life. He has liberated me from months of torment (provided I follow his advice) and I write this post in his appreciation since he has successfully demonstrated it CAN happen.

"You need to learn how to Check-Out" he explains with a profound and beatific glow on his face. This is after he has seen me through weeks of misery and depression where this job is finally starting to take a toll on my health with constant stress headaches. Now his advice is so obvious but so difficult to follow but I hope I can retain the essence of the art and science of checking out which looks something like this -

1. You should stop giving a damn - This is tenet number 1, the real truth, the holy grail, the absolute gospel. This essentially entails the need to stop caring about what everybody else at work thinks, what people say to you,about work, about the holy trinity, about presentations, deadlines etc - the equivalent of professional nirvana. This can come in many forms - you dont care about the quality of the deliverable, the unnecessary and fake deadlines set by your enthusiastic VP, the repeated and inane requests of the MD, the pressure you put on the analyst. Everything is pushed back, forward, upward etc - EVERYWHERE but yourself.

2. Be as less responsive as possible - This is extremely important - because the minute you appear over enthusiastic, this sends a red flag through the system which indicates - "newbie, novice - lets exploit him/her". This needs to stop right away. Your minimum response time to any email which says ASAP - should be atleast 3 - 4 hours if not more. If nobody is dying - then it can be more than 24 hours. When asked a question - if the answer is Yes, then dont reply at all. When asked repeatedly about the status of your work over email - dont respond until they call. When they call - ignore the first few times if you are at dinner or are busy with e.g. staring at the ceiling and finally answer and keep it to the point, ignoring the hysterical questions from the VP about why you were not available.

3. Everyone is out to screw you - This is especially true, even the ones who are nice are actually douchebags in disguise. The only thing people learn in this business is self-preservation. So that is an art you pick up very quickly. For e.g. - it is easy to see friends change personalities, bosses who are pleasant one minute are absolute demons the next. No one can escape this phenomena - if it is your holiday or vacation in the firing line - whose weekend are you going to kill - yours or the analyst? Its virtually a no-brainer. The sooner you learn this - the better.

4. Push back, push back and push back - It is apparently possible to leave this business at 7 pm if you dont do a shred of work. This goes back to Tenet 1, as long as you stop caring about the quality of the deliverable and your inherent need to outperform - then this comes very easily. You have to be comfortable saying " I forgot" or " It was an oversight - no big deal"  or " Fine - I ll fix it later" . As my friend says - nothing in this business is life or death - but spending 2 nights in a row over some presentation that no one cares about can make all the difference to YOUR life.

5. Prioritise - There are 3 main priorities of your life - Health, Family and Friends and finally a Job. But when a job starts to overtake all else - then you know its time to let something go and most logically it should be the last option.

This may be a bit harsh for all those doe-eyed people who still want to work in this industry but this is the bare naked truth. This is the reality - this job has the ability to inherently change you and hence all your social interactions - it creates unwanted ripples in your life that sometimes cause permanent damage - either to your health or your close relationships.

One incident in particular resonates with me when I think of the above and i think is the perfect illustration of this. All the associates had a session with the "Head of Something Very Important in the Bank" (basically second in command to the CEO), the only words that I heard during that 1 hour meeting were - revenue, market share, wallet size, we need more deals, we need to grow, we are the best, we skillfully managed the crisis, money is important - you get the drift.
The words that one did not hear at all were - people, human capital, work-life balance, strategy - Makes you Think right?

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