Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to negotiate a holiday with your boss. And no, you don’t need to lie about a relative’s sickness, you just need to plan ahead.
Approach the boss with a solution
Find a replacement
Approach the boss with a solution
What can you do to ensure that your work does not get impacted during your absence? If you approach your seniors with a solution, half the battle is already won.
Find a replacement
It can be a colleague or someone hired temporarily. Work should’t suffer in your absence.
Don’t decided to go on a leave last minute as it would burden your colleagues. Plan it ahead so your manager also has time to figure out what to do in your absence.
Build your leave request around others who might be planning to take time off. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated and reciprocated.
What you need to do is plan in advance and approach your boss honestly. “Clear communication helps your seniors plan the team capacity in advance, shows them that you have the company’s interest in mind and ensures that there is trust between you and your seniors,” says Rakhee Malik, head and director of human resources, AT Kearney India, a management consulting company.
Three professionals tell us how they beat the burnout and went back to managing their work life through personal time and professional help.
Symptoms of a burnout
About four years ago, in late 2014, Nida Sahar, a computer engineer based in Bengaluru, started to feel a lack of interest in her work. Every morning, she felt fatigued, didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. At work, she would become anxious faced with the tasks she had to do and would head to the bathroom to cry.
“I felt like I was wasting my life on things that didn’t matter. I wanted to win awards, to excel at my work, but I felt too tired and felt like I wasn’t going to achieve much in life,” says the 32-year-old. Much as she tried, she couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong.
When the feeling didn’t go away for a month, Sahar consulted a psychologist and found that she was experiencing the classic symptoms of a burnout. “I was too emotionally attached to my work environment and was a workaholic. All my happiness was attached to achievements in my job,” she says, “so much so, that I had forgotten how to live.”
Burnout happens from chronic stress
Burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic stress at work and can happen to anyone. Sessions with her psychologist made Sahar realize that she couldn’t go on like this—she needed a break. She broached the subject with her senior manager and was surprised at the support. “He had gone through the same thing early in his career. Taking time off would help, he assured me,” she says.
When Sandeep Mulay Kumar and his wife were investing in a property in Bengaluru, his mother found out that he was paying less than his spouse Pramitha Ramaprakash because he was earning less than her.
“My mother took me into a corner and told me quietly that the fact that I’m earning less than my wife shouldn’t go out of the family,” laughs the 38-year-old, while explaining how truly entrenched the patriarchal concept of men being the primary breadwinners is when it comes to Indian families.
Her salary is higher
The first time in 2011, when Ramaprakash got a higher salary, Kumar admits that it did bruise his ego a bit. “Pramitha had quit her job after our marriage and moved to the UK because of my career. Six months later, she finds a job, two hours away from my office, and she has been offered more money than I earn,” says Kumar.
Being from a family, where his father had been the decision-maker, for a few honest minutes, he did wonder what his family and friends would say. However, later he accepted that it was money they were collectively earning. The couple moved to be closer to Ramaprakash’s office. “It was easier for me to do this as we were living independently, in the UK, away from parental pressure,” says Kumar. “In India it would have been more difficult to move cities for my wife’s job.”
Marriage, and after that childcare, according to a survey by National Sample Survey of India for 2011-2012, is one of the most common reasons for women to drop out of jobs in India. In 2011, around 50% of unmarried women in the 15-60 age bracket were in the labour force, while the proportion for married women was a mere 20%. The trend is more prominent in rural than urban women, as couples with white-collar jobs can outsource housework, childcare and eldercare—mostly seen as a woman’s job after marriage.
Sharing household and childcare work is the only way that 34-year-old Tripti Abhijata could continue to work as a full-time manager in a company in Switzerland. As she joined office back after her son was born, Rajan Thambehalli, her 34-year-old husband, took care of the house and of their three-year-old, starting his own company for quizzing.
Before having a child, both Abhijata and Thambehalli, were pursuing their own careers—Thambehalli as a consultant travelling around in Europe and Abhijata in Switzerland. After a child, moving frequently wasn’t possible. “We decided that we would move to the location of the spouse who gets a stable job first. It happened to be me,” explains Abhijata. In 2013, Thambehalli quit his job as a consultant, started his career afresh, ending up in “mom meetings”, she says.
Getting laid off is not the end of the world. Turn it into an opportunity.
In September 2016, Sangita Mukherjee was called by her manager into his office and told that due to restructuring of the company, certain positions had become redundant and she was told to resign from her job the same day.
“I had been in the company for 10 years in the administration department and had been performing well,” says the 42-year-old, “When I was told that I was being laid off, I was devastated.” Overnight, she was out of a job with financial responsibilities like an EMI for a home loan and her daughter’s education. Mukherjee says it took her a long time to come to terms with it.
Lay-offs are not personal
They can happen to anyone, even people like Mukherjee who have been performing well. One needs to understand this, explains Ajay Shah, vice president and head of recruitment services at TeamLease Services, a staffing firm. Shah has helped both individuals and companies during lay-offs, and has seen a pattern emerge over the years.
“People lose their jobs because of company restructuring or closure of a certain business and not because of their personal performance, abilities or skills,” he says, adding that it’s important to be positive and work to turn a lay-off into an opportunity.
According to a report released by RiseSmart, an outplacement and career transition management firm, earlier this year, in which 1,000 executives were interviewed, it was found that letting go of employees is pretty common both in big and small companies, especially in dynamic markets like the IT sector.
Responsible organizations hire outplacement services to help the laid off employees land another job. “Outplacement services are paid for by the employers to benefit employees impacted by a lay-off or company restructuring to help them land their next job quickly,” says Joel Paul, general manager, RiseSmart India. The job of such teams is to match an individual with a career coach, resume writer, etc.
For San Francisco-based Ritu Favre, the outplacement service turned out to be a boon as she hadn’t actively looked for a job in more than a decade. In the middle of 2016, when Favre was with her previous company in San Francisco, she found out that the organization was going through a restructuring. Lay-offs were part of the plan, including her position as a senior manager which would become redundant.
“Leaving a known company is scary. I had never been unemployed in the 20 plus years of my career; being laid off was overwhelming,” she says.
New job? When it comes to building relationships with Indian colleagues, it’s food that matters the most, according to Mumbai-based operations manager Neha Thadani. Three years ago, when Thadani joined her current company, an MNC based in Mumbai, the newness of the office was overwhelming. “It was a disconcerting experience,” says the 35-year-old, “I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know how things worked, so I decided to change that with food.”
Sweeten your new colleagues
Every day, she would bring something new to office, sweet or savoury, and made it a point to walk across to a couple of colleagues at mid-morning, introduce herself and offer them snacks. “Most people took a breather, talked about what kind of food they loved, and this camaraderie continued as our personal conversations started,” says Thadani.
The initial hesitation over, within a week, her colleagues were inviting her for coffee breaks in the evening, or for lunch, introducing her to others. Within a month, Thadani knew a lot of people in her office, from top management to her juniors, and could find someone to help her out if she was stuck in her work. “Because of food, I could find the human side to the managers and bosses in my office, and connect to them beyond the work they gave me,” says Thadani, something that she feels has helped her tremendously throughout her jobs.
Build relationships anew
Building relationships at work are as important as the tasks the employees have been hired for, according to Neharika Vohra, professor (organizational behaviour), Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. “Relationships are the glue that binds tasks and teams, so they need to be paid attention to,” she says. In the beginning it is best to observe, understand and recognize the pattern of networks within your workplace. “Take initiative to reach out to people, help someone with something you can offer, show people that you are interested in them,” adds Vohra.
Are you ready for the expertise economy? Constant upskilling and gaining expertise beyond education is the millennial way to work.
At the age of 25, Gautam Soni, who works as a business analyst at LinkedIn in Bengaluru, has already pivoted twice in his career. After graduating, he did not find a job immediately and tried his hand as a digital media consultant. Two years later, he become interested in data science and pursued a post-graduation diploma with UpGrad, an online course and certification site, investing all his savings into it.
While completing the course, he joined LinkedIn India in operations. He was encouraged to apply his learning on the operations role and in a few months, moved to business analysis, getting a 75% salary hike. “In jobs today, we face new challenges on a daily basis and it’s very important to stay updated and possess the right skill-set,” says Soni.
Soni’s experience captures work life in the age of digitization and acceleration where the world of work is going through a large-scale transition and critical skills and expertise are imperative for success. “New platforms, technologies and ways of business are sprouting constantly,” says Kelly Palmer, co-author of The Expertise Economy, “Businesses and employees need to make sure they have expertise to make these changes work for them. The career path of a future employee focuses on skill development rather than college pedigree,” she explains.
Forward thinking companies have already restructured their process in such a way that employees have the choice, and freedom to decide what expertise they want to develop. For startups like 75F, a company that makes efficient buildings using internet of things and cloud computing, upskilling is a necessity to remain competitive in a fast changing, dynamic market.
“From our CEO to a new intern, every employee in our workforce has to stay at pace with technology,” says Oindri Sengupta, HR head, 75F India. “This is why we prioritize learning and development and invest in our people to upskill.” Every new employee goes through an intensive training program and then continues updating themselves through in-house libraries, online courses, industry-relevant certifications and training programs.
The value of an individual today lies in the knowledge and skills he or she brings to an employer or an organization and millennials recognize this, says Lisa Cannell, MD and leadership professor at Darden School of Business in University of Virginia, US in an email interview. This new wave has changed how employees view their careers.
“Millennials now value skill building and development opportunities within a job as much as compensation. If they don’t get required training from companies, they find courses to reskill themselves.”
Lisa Cannell, MD and leadership professor at Darden School of Business in University of Virginia
More time is wasted on demeaning the term ‘feminist’ than on understanding and accepting it. Hear me out.
The first time I came across the word ‘feminism’ was in the first week of being at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi. I’d just joined the Bachelors in English and a teacher introduced the class to the feminist ideology, talking about how the social constructs of patriarchy were a way to silence the female gender.
As an impressionable student, I imagined her with a flamed sword, chopping down the shackles of patriarchy our lives were contained in. Outside the class, I asked this teacher if she was married. She said yes. “Ma’am, if you’re a feminist, how can you live with a man?”
The oft misunderstood feminist
Like many others, the presumptuous 17-year-old me had misunderstood the word and done it grave injustice. According to the dictionary, the word ‘feminist’ refers to ‘an advocate of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’. But when I heard it first, I twisted its meaning and made it more about gender wars rather than striving for equality.
Within this anecdote lies my lifelong struggle with the word. (The word, mind you, not the ideology, before you sharpen your Twitter swords at me.) In India, as elsewhere, the word ‘feminist’ is taken into an alternative universe, twisted and turned into a swear word.
Would you use the F-word?
In a dramatic scene in my tantric series, a man calls Anantya Tantrist, the protagonist of the novel, a feminist. It’s not a word of appreciation but used in a slattern way, to put down, as an expletive. Anantya springs out her boneblade, slaps it onto his neck and whispers: “Don’t use the F-word.” Though the dialogue was published as it is in the Indian edition, it was red-flagged by a US-based literary agent.
The moot point: Why would Anantya, a feminist in all manners of behaviour and character, someone who fights against the rigidly patriarchal tantric society, have a problem with being called a feminist? For that’s what she is, isn’t she?
This is not something dramatically new. If there was a dictionary parallel, the term ‘feminist’ in our country would imply not someone who believes in equality but someone who is a ‘feminazi’, a radical feminist, a man-hater, a sexist out to destroy the other gender(s) by not shaving their armpits and not wearing bras. The politest version of its meaning I’ve heard here, unless you’re in academic living rooms, is the quietly sarcastic ‘Oh, you are the feminist type’. with an understanding nod of sudden revelation.
What are part-time startups and why are millennials doing them?
Since June 2017, Bengaluru-based Saswati Suchipadma has led a hectic life. She is a full-time technology consultant in a multinational company and runs a handmade jewellery start-up. “I have meetings with clients in the US, and deadlines both at office and with my personal business clients,” says the 26-year-old. “All my free time during weekdays and weekends goes into designing jewellery and marketing my brand over Facebook and WhatsApp.”
It’s like keeping two jobs together, says Suchipadma. However she doesn’t want to quit either. “My technology job is what I studied for and the start-up is my passion, what my mother taught me,” she says, “and now I’ve learnt to manage both together efficiently.” Her manager at work has also accepted the start-up since her work hasn’t suffered. In addition, Suchipadma feels being in a job is actually good for the start-up as she gets more clients for her jewellery designs.
Riding in two boats
A whopping 90% of Indian start-ups fail within the first five years, according to a study titled Entrepreneurial India by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics in mid-2016. The most common reason for failure, according to the study, is lack of a unique business model and new technology.
Gurugram-based Aparajita Roy, a 28-year-old photographer and corporate trainer, is happy managing a start-up and a job while she learns more. “I am from a middle-class background and want financial stability in my venture before I quit my job,” she says.
Since five years, Roy has been working as a corporate trainer in a UK-based financial firm. Her start-up, an event planning and photography venture, began a little more than a year ago. The going has been good with 15 clients in one year, but not good enough for Roy to quit her job. “A full-time job guarantees regular pay and being in a corporate environment exposes me to a lot of business and networking tactics,” says Roy.
Startup founders are doing meetings in newer ways to save time, increase their efficiency and also be much more productive.
When Mithun Srivatsa, co-founder and CEO of Blowhorn, a logistics startup, began his company, he had a small office in HSR Layout in Bengaluru, which could seat only four people. “I did five meetings a day, and it got too stuffy being in a room all day long,” says the 34-year-old. That was the reason he moved meetings to a beautiful park nearby. “I’ve interviewed possible employees, held training sessions and discussed growth plans with angel investors, all in that park,” he says, adding that he loved the idea so much that he has continued doing what he calls ‘park meetings’ once every day, even though the startup has a bigger office now.
Founders get out of the office
“A park changes the mood, eases the context and gives you space for small talk. It’s better for heated discussions too,” he says, adding that all kinds of possibilities open up in a meeting at a park. In one such incident, Srivatsa recalls, he was interviewing for a possible senior role position on a park bench, when the meeting turned into a lengthy discussion about the startup’s vision and mission. “At the end of it, this person wanted to put in her own money into my startup,” he laughs.
Creative meetings are a walk in the park
A 2014 study from Stanford, agrees with Srivatsa. Upon researching on people meeting at offices versus walking, the study found that walking boosts creative inspiration and leads to divergent thinking, where you explore many possible solutions to a problem.
That’s the reason, like Srivatsa, Archit Gupta, founder and CEO, ClearTax, an income tax e-filing solution, keeps his Sunday meetings with his co-founder, Srivatsan Chari, at Cubbon Park, one of the popular public parks in Bengaluru. “As we talk about growth strategy, Srivatsan, plays with stray dogs,” says Gupta, 33. The relaxed atmosphere makes them come up with creative solutions for their business and also reconnects them over fond memories of growing up together. “Mobile meetings are not only good for blood circulation but great energy boosters and diminishes hierarchical boundaries, putting everyone at ease, allowing free flow of dialogue and creating stronger personal bonds,” says Gupta, who has since then turned a couple of his everyday meetings into walking meetings.
With international work teams and timing, and smartphones with applications like Zoom, Skype and even Whatsapp, meetings on the go are a norm. However, overwhelmed with a continuous stream of meetings and communication, people are taking innovative, individual routes to keep meeting fatigue at bay.
Don’t let location distract you
Bhavin Turakhia, founder of many startups like Flock and Zeta, has over 100 meetings, every month. Over the last couple of years, this self-confessed stickler for meeting productivity has taken individualization to the height, building customized workstations in all the offices he works from—at his home in Mumbai, as well as his offices in Mumbai, Dubai, London and Los Angeles. “I don’t like to waste time when I travel for meetings,” says the 38-year-old.
“This way, I literally, pick up from where I left off, no matter which office.” Turakhia has a “specification document”, which lists down what he needs in a customized chair, arm rest and desk, including a Benel-designed custom-made chair with dual motors and a sit-stand, seven-feet long desk, which costs anywhere between ₹ 80,000-Rs 1,50,000 per set. “I’ve customized this system over time, creating an exact configuration of three external monitors, monitor stands, exact lighting levels, video conference units and my distance from the entire arrangement.
This minimizes distractions for me, no matter where I’m working from,” he explains. Since travel time to his Mumbai office has increased, he has even had his Innova modified with a work/entertainment station that includes a monitor, so his meetings continue when he is stuck in Mumbai traffic jam.
The cooperative start-up structure is still a nascent idea in India. Every morning, Nirbheek Chauhan, 30, gets ready and heads to his office—another room in his apartment in Bengaluru. There, he connects with the other six members of his team, based out of UK, Greece, France and Australia, and starts work on his current project.
Chauhan works at the software consultancy Centricular, a flat-hierarchy, co-owned start-up, which is collectively managed by all its partners—who are employees as well. For clients, Centricular is a company like any other. It’s the internal set-up that sets it apart from the regular corporate model.
In cooperatives, all employees have a say
“In a cooperative, every member has a single vote, irrespective of how many shares they own in the company,” explains Chris Chroome, administrator for CoTech, the largest online forum for cooperative technologists in the UK, and a member of a software cooperative, WebArchitects.
In other words, it’s a democracy and all employees have an equal say. “Decisions are taken collectively, which means we are both the board of directors and employees of our company,” says Deepa Venkatraman, one of the founding members of Nilenso, a Bengaluru-based software consultancy founded in 2013. Venkatraman’s day-to-day routine is like anyone else’s: You work on a project, together or individually, and then shut down your laptop to spend time with friends and family.
What is a corporate cooperative?
But, rather than founders owning and operating the business, Nilenso, a “corporate cooperative”, as Venkatraman calls it, is owned by everyone. All 16 Nilenso members annually elect two executives who are responsible for making operational decisions, like staffing, facilitating meetings and interacting with external stakeholders.