Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Am I the best Dad? I think I am not!

Today, on Father’s Day, my daughter gave me a wonderful gift. Yes, every father has a day! I was glad, not because of the beautiful gift (see my article ‘Who hates gifts?’) but the effort my daughter took to grab extra pocket money from me to go to the nearby shop alone the other day telling that she needed to buy some stationery urgently. 

The question that I asked her looking at the gift and reading the words on it, irritated her a bit. Her elder brother also joined her in the displeasure on posing that to her. I had asked: ‘Am I the best Dad?’ They both joined together and attacked me for asking such a ‘stupid’ question. Though my son was angry with his sister for deliberately omitting his name in the greeting card, he supported his sister and was vehement that I shouldn’t have asked such a question to her when she took so much pain to get beautiful gifts to mark the occasion.

I clarified my statement with a supplementary one and that made them angry further. I told them that I didn’t think I am a great father.

Why I said that I am not the best?

How can I be the best dad, when I always put an inflexible cap on the expenditure for your birthday dress and never allowed to have a birthday party the way most of your friends had?

How can I be the best dad when I used to not support your case when there was a dispute with your mother over selection of an item during shopping? Being a minor you had to agree to the ‘wisdom’ of the old. (Read about my shopping skills here)

How can I be the best when I used to yell to wake you up when you sleep comfortably in your cozy bed in the morning?

How can I be the best when I used to force you to have vegetables and other dishes that you don’t like? (Despite me keep changing the food preferences: See my confusion here)

How can I be the best when I used to show a grumpy face to you after meeting your teachers? (Read  the domestic situation after every parents-teachers meet)

How can I be the best when I said you don’t require spectacles when you insisted on a pair because you can’t see the letters on the board and all your pretty classmates have them. (Read 'An eye-opening stray thoughts'

How can I be the best when I shouted at you for not making your bed and cleaning your room, even when there was a housekeeper to do that?

How can I be the best when I used to sit in judgment over you watching your favourite TV channels? (Read about this:  My son don't watch the news )

How can I be the best when I screamed at you when you raised your voice just like me, learning from me?

How can I be the best when I refused to budge your desire to have a better car? (See the arguments on the car here)

How can I be the best when I stopped you from sending you for your favourite games?    (See Why? )

How can I be the best when I used to tell you to interact with grand uncles and grand aunts instead of gluing to internet? ( See Go back to roots )

How can I be the best when I used to be very stringent regarding your extent of exposure in the social media? (See these:  10 unpleasant facts about Facebook.   Privacy in a snooping world. Your privacy at risk in Google)

Tell me, with all these unreasonable restrictions, am I a best Dad?

© Sibichen K Mathew    Views are personal      Comments welcome

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Are you suffering from advice overdose?

More than all vitamins, proteins and other nutrients, we are forced to consume loads of advice every day in life. Every other thing may be costly, scarce or out of reach; but not advice. There are many advisors all around. You started hearing them since the day you formed in your mother’s womb. I am sure you woke up abruptly from your sleep in the cozy cradle hearing the high sounding advice.  It continues all through your life - the worst would be the teenage years: Every uncle who comes home, every neighbor who monitors from her gate your entry and exit, and every stranger you see on the road end up advising you for no reason. Then it takes a dip and after a while starts pouring in once you are in the employable and marriageable age. Once you are settled, you take the baton and start advising others. It goes on.

Look who is talking??

I also sometimes get into an unnecessary and unwarranted advisory mood. Every New Year eve I resolve not to advise anyone that year. But I tend to get into an advising mode within hours. Why do I think that it is my responsibility to advise every person who spends a few minutes with me? It is absolutely foolish to believe that the other person sincerely adores the wisdom flowing from the other end! Why do I feel that it is my responsibility (who delegated that to me first of all??) to give suggestions regarding someone else’s future? Utter nonsense!!

Unsolicited advices

The worst is the tendency to shower unsolicited advice on all and sundry. It could be a co-passenger or a person standing next to you in the queue to get a ticket or boarding pass. Or it could be the impatient one waiting along with you to get his hair cut on a Saturday morning. There are many categories of unsolicited advice givers.

source for image:
Advisor heroes

It is said that if someone is not good at doing something, he will be selected as a teacher to teach that subject. If he fails as a teacher, he will be given the role of a preacher. If he fails in that, they would make him an advisor. (I was given the designation ‘advisor’ in an organization, perhaps for my failure in the earlier roles!). We can tolerate occasional advisors but not the so called advisor heroes.  Who is an advisor hero? Advisor hero is the one who boastfully narrates how he has done differently in every occasion and got success. He would be categorical to project as one person who has never tasted failure because of his infinite wisdom and intelligence. The approach of this category of advisors is in contrast to those advisors who are honest enough to share their failures and suggest lessons from such experiences. Advisor heroes will create a sense of inferiority complex in the other persons rather than motivating them.

Advisor kings

The advisors under this category consider themselves generous kings. They give an impression that they are doing a great favour by giving unsolicited advice. They not only give advice but also go on telling others about the advice given to particular persons. They compromise on the trust and confidentiality to get cheap publicity and undue recognition.

Omniscient advisors

There is another unique breed of advisors who consider themselves expert in every subject under the sun. I had come across a young unmarried omniscient male advisor (not a medical practitioner) who can even give expert advice to married women on subjects such as menstrual problems, pregnancy care and breast feeding. Next moment he will be talking on how Reserve Bank Governor messed up the money market regulations. His shallowness doesn’t permit others to ask any questions to him. He would definitely run away to another place to shower his advice.

Advice and social media

From early morning to late night, one is bombarded with ‘words of wisdom’ forwarded by people. Many times, just into a few lines of that long text, we tend to worry why the sender himself never thought of following the advice in the first place. If someone posts an experience or a thought in social media, that does not necessarily mean that the person is trying to seek an advice. Sometimes we tend to give advice in the form of comments that may not be the intent of the post and the discussion might go into an altogether different direction.

Advising in front of others

Even a psychiatrist or a psychologist prefers giving advice in secret to the person who needs advice. But some passionate advisors will give advice in public to particular person. One could see in trains and in public places, the loud voice of advisors who generously wish that ‘let others also pick up a few drops of my valuable wisdom’. There are many amateur advisors who would like to advise the parents in the presence of children, wife in the presence of husband and vice versa, managers in the presence of their subordinates etc.

99% of advice are unproductive

Most of the psychologists and counsellors would become jobless if this truth is known to the entire world. Apart from those career, managerial or technical advice, most of the advice showered by the ‘advisors’ are aimed at changing the personality or behavioural pattern of another person. But it has been scientifically proved that substantial part of an individual's personality, character and behavioural traits are based on genetic factors and rest is through environmental factors. But the environmental factors have strong influences on a person only when she or he is a child of age 5 or less! That means, even parents, relatives, teachers, friends or social institutions cannot bring in any lasting change on a person at a later stage. They can only bring in incremental changes! (But in some cases, even a small change is a big relief for the community). Therefore, the energy and effort we take in actions aimed at drastically changing another person is unproductive because that can’t result in anything enduring. It is an irony that everyone is on a frantic mission to change the other person rather than trying to adjust to the predicaments they are in. Advice overdose will make the other person more defensive and make him escape from you. Ultimately the relationships get strained.

You will become a good listener when you put a halt to your advising temptation

This is indeed an information pushing world. Everyone receives huge gigabytes of information thrown on them from various online or offline sources and from different cross sections people. They want to instantly (many times without even reading) share them with other target groups. Even in private conversations, there would be a tendency to dominate the interaction by throwing the information and ideas to the other person rather than listening to her or him. There is a tendency to advice before even hearing the other person. When we control the temptation to advise the other person, we will become good listeners and will become more acceptable to others. People look for those who listen to them patiently rather than those who pour them with advice without understanding them.

Don’t give it FREE! Charge them if you can

If you are an expert (authenticated by community standards through degrees and recognition) and if you strongly feel that you have a better solution at hand (sometimes, degrees alone would not give you expertise), then share your knowledge with those who specifically ask for it and charge them adequately, unless there is a charitable cause or the person deserves a complimentary advice. Free advice is generally not acted upon as people may not value it. There are many free seekers of professional advice. They would go to many advisors at a time akin to a market survey. It is good; as long as they are ready to incur the costs. If we approach a professional advisor, we should be willing to adequately compensate him for the time devoted, even if he is a friend or a relative, unless that person refuses to take it.

The problem for the writers and bloggers

For a priest, a preacher or a teacher, unsolicited advice are part of their mission and they don’t have a choice. They are very much in the profession of advising. But even in such cases, too much of unsolicited advising would be counterproductive.

Writers of fiction can survive without giving any advice. Stories, paintings, poems and cartoons need not contain a ‘moral of the story’ or a ‘piece of wisdom’. But for writers of non-fiction and bloggers of social causes in particular, there is a necessity to take the writing to a logical conclusion. And conclusions invariably contain as few suggestions as well. Therefore my blogs also turn into an advisory mode at the end because analysis of a subject without conclusion and suggestion is not appropriate when dealing with non-fiction themes.

Let us stop the temptation of giving unsolicited advice.  But let us always be willing to share our thoughts if the other person is sincerely wishing that from us.  

© Sibichen K Mathew                                  Views are personal. Comments welcome


Deepak Justin: Training minds with indomitable spirit

This young man who always clad in designer headscarf is not an ordinary showman, though one would tend to infer that from one glance. Look at him more closely; you will find in the twinkling of his eyes the power to radically transform you. Listen to him keenly; you will get elated to a stage where you start loving your life and people around you. Move with him in close proximity, you find the simplicity, humility and compassion overflowing from the persona that would reverberate on you instantly. He is Deepak Justin, the trainer, the speaker, the thinker, the short film maker and an amazing human being.

His friends and fans affectionately call him DJ. His trainees compete to take selfies with him. What is the magic behind this charismatic personality? If I need to express it in a few words, I would say ‘A man who can lift the spirit of others with his own indomitable inner convictions’. No wonder he has trained more than 1,00,000 people in the last 15 years. More than 50 multinational companies have chartered him for training their executives and managers not only in soft skills but also in ideas and philosophies that can make them socially conscious individuals.

It is not the titles that indicate his outstanding academic achievements in Management or Public Relations that are widely noted. He is popularly known as "The Silver Tongued Orator”, "The International Poet of Merit", "The Toastmasters International District 92 Champion for 2016". He has the potential to get conferred on him many more such titles in the near future.

Vedavathi DYR was born dwarf, grew up to be 3 ft 9 inches and she move around in her crutches since she has a damaged spinal cord and problematic back. Without availing reservation, she became an officer in a nationalized bank. She volunteered with St Vincent De Paul, an organization which works for the poor, to uplift the people who are socially and economically weaker. She had one more dream: To become an effective speaker. She was fortunate to meet Deepak Justin. He along with his friend Vinay Kamath, made her a versatile speaker in no time. There are many such examples where the silver tongued orator created golds out of raw metals. People who thought that they can never speak for an audience got transformed themselves to be effective communicators on and outside the stage. DJ says: “Dreams are a reality, because so many of my dreams have come true”. From where he gets the power? DJ often delves into his life and meditates on the inside for a significant insight.

Whether public speaking is a domain reserved only for those who are products of English medium convent schools? Can our less privileged students in government schools trained to be good speakers? Two NGOs, ‘Dream a Dream’ and ‘Ashwin Foundation’ coordinated with Deepak Justin a few years back to train the bright and hardworking students who were from the lower economic background in a government school. He narrated about the experience in following words: ‘There is a butterfly waiting in every cocoon. It was a gratifying experience to see the metamorphosis in them’.

DJ can deliver a motivational talk for hours based on just one scene from a movie. In a leadership training program he imparted a series of life lessons from a scene in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. He says, ‘I fall in love with the audience whenever I speak’. He likes to read biographies of successful people. He found that they became successful because they faced challenges and hardships. They faced discouragements – from friends and relatives, who thought that their ideas were insane. But they endured and listened only to their ‘inner soul’ and ‘inner voice’.

He shared once with his friends this incredible experience of meeting and interacting with an amazing lady from France named Madame Marie Jeanne Schmidt. She had lost her sense of vision since 40 years. ‘She wakes up every morning, goes to online prayer center to pray for the needy, the sick, the destitute and the deprived all over the world. She told me: “Even if a World War III broke out, I would know how to brace it”. When I told her, “ Marie, you have a wonderful smile”, she smiled and said, “I would never know, because it is more than 40 years since I have seen my own face” ‘. This is very relevant to a world where people go on a beautifying spree spending huge sums of money to make their appearances artificially attractive!

Anyone who sees Deepak would be very inquisitive to know why he is always clad in a stylish and colourful headscarf. Celebrities like to have their own unique signature attire. My first question to him when we had a long conversation was on this. He said: ‘I suffer from a disorder called Trigeminal Neuralgia. Triggers cause the trigeminal nerve to get excited and bring shooting pain to the face. The pain is so unbearable at times that it is called the "Suicide Disease" and people give up. Unfortunately there is no cure for the same. I have tried it all for the past 4 years.  I wear the headscarf to avert some of the triggers like the air conditioner, wind blowing into my hair etc.’ What a sweet smile he has on his face when he shared this! He started an online support group for those suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia and related disorders that cause excruciating pain.

What is the healing take of DJ on the pain some of us experience due to ailments?

‘The pain teaches valuable lessons. Pain can make you either stronger or stranger depending on how you respond to it. Pain can make you a Riddler or a Raider in the Ark of Life. Pain can give you a sleepless night or an awakening of dawn depending on what you learn from it’.

I asked a few more questions on who he is, what he does and what he feels. Let us hear his responses:

How do you convert the adversities you faced in your life to your strengths?
I believe in the credo that "In the midst of every adversity lies an equivalent or a greater opportunity"
Challenge is only an opportunity that we did not ask for. So I accept challenges and work on them consciously. I model the best in the craft. I read a lot. As a skill based trainer myself, I consciously put an effort to see what areas of my life need to change to overcome the adversity. If skills are required then I acquire the skills; if knowledge is required then I acquire the same. If a change of attitude is required then I work towards the same.

What were the key inspirations for you in life? What way they made a difference in your life?
As Tennyson says in Ulysses, "I am a part of all that I met".
I draw inspiration from people, from movies, from books, from real life heroes and above all the infinite force from the heavens above, whose grace alone is sufficient at most times

After crossing the levels at Club, Area, Division and District, you are all set to compete with other Toastmasters in the world championship of public speaking in August 2016 at Washington DC. What are the attributes of a good public speaker?
A good speaker in public is a good thinker in private. There are two ways to nurture that. Attract good thoughts by reading or listening to good thinkers. Secondly develop a discipline of articulating those thoughts into capsules that make it easily palatable for the audience.

What are the common mistakes you see in bad speech deliveries?
i) No preparation/rehearsals
ii) Lack of substance (or worse content that everyone knows). Ignorance of communication basics leaves alone the application of the same.

What are the unique habits you follow that can be inspirational for others?
I remain inspired always. I stay positive. I attract positive thoughts. I try and see good in people and try to spread smiles wherever I go.

You are a successful corporate trainer. What makes you very popular among the corporates? How do you enjoy the engagement with them?
I truly care for my participants. I reach out to them both at their personal and professional level. Participants find me affable.
I inspire them to go for their impossible dreams. I make my programs as interesting and as entertaining too in a world that is straitjacketing itself into boring routines

What soft skills you consider important for the present day employees and managers?
Lower level employees need functional and technical skills besides basic interpersonal skills.Middle to senior level employees need more people skills, communication and networking skills.Senior most executives need visionary skills.

Do you have any regrets?
All the chances that I did not take are my regrets

Any advice to youngsters?
Only advice is to be young forever. And to be young, continue to have the same enthusiasm, energy, curiosity, exploring mind, tender heart, lofty dreams and risk taking ability forever.

Deepak, wife Maya and baby Arian

What is your favourite game, food, prayer habits, film or book.....
Prayer - I commence every task with a prayer. I believe that more things are possible through prayer than what the world dreams of.
Film - I am huge movie buff. I watch at least 3 movies per week. So the list of favorite films is too exhaustive. Someday would like to make a full length feature film too
Book - My second best companion. My favorite book is The Holy Bible. It is the best work of literature, poetry, motivation, prophecy, history and above all reinforcement of goodness and kindness.

Persons like DJ can motivate us to excel amidst all adversities. But he asks us whether we really need someone to motivate us? ‘If we don’t keep ourselves inspired, encouraged, uplifted, joyful, connected and cognizant, who will?’ 

Yes, we need to listen to the inner voice and inner soul more often!

                  © Sibichen K Mathew                Views are personal. Comments welcome

Want to read about more such great persons? Read following articles

To see all articles, click Cyber Diary


For whom the troll tolls: Social Media and Criminal Defamation

It was a quiet and relaxed day for me after hectic work for a few days.  Mobile phone and laptop also got the much needed rest as I ventured out for shopping and a movie with family. Only towards late evening, while I was on my way to the terminal to travel to another state, I saw an alert from one of the fellow bloggers about a tweet circulating since morning where I have been quoted. I could read the post only after I started my journey. To my surprise I found that someone has posted a tweet in Hindi along with my photograph. The person who done it wanted to project that Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Hon Chief Minister of Delhi didn’t ‘work’ in IRS. The tweet said that I have made some comments about the work culture of Shri Arvind Kejriwal (which would put him in poor light), when he was working in the Civil Services. To give an impression of genuineness, the person had picked up one of my photographs from Google and attached to his post. Within hours, hundreds of persons shared it spicing up with their own comments without realizing that it was absolutely false information.

The moment I got access to the internet in my laptop, I responded to the abusive, false and defamatory post that could tarnish the reputation of a political leader. I also warned all those people who share the false post in Facebook and WhatsApp. I posted as follows:

Sibichen Mathew
Dear All
 It has come to my notice that thousands of persons are sharing an incorrect, defaming and abusive tweet originated from @malangmistry misusing my photo and tarnishing the reputation of Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Hon CM of Delhi. I do not know anything about his past work culture as I have never worked along with him. A complaint has been already filed in this regard. Kindly avoid sharing that post appearing in Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and other social media. Please report it as malicious. Those who share that post are warned that such propagation would invite adverse legal action. Please help me in stopping the propagation of such false message by criminal minds in case you see that in the social media. The person who posted the original tweet has given an apology.

Apology follows

After seeing my strong response, the person who created the content apologized posting the following tweet.
 “I am extremely sorry sir to bother you. Already deleted the tweet. Sorry for the inconvenience. That was just for the troll”. (Emphasis added by me)

But what is the use of tendering an apology when the abusive content created by the person has reached thousands of people who might believe it to be true?

What does he mean by ‘troll’? 

Though in its noun form it means an ugly cave-dwelling creature, in internet language it means the following as per Urban Dictionary.
‘One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
A person who, on a message forum of some type, attacks and flames other members of the forum for any of a number of reasons such as rank, previous disagreements, sex, status, etc.
A troll usually flames threads without staying on topic, unlike a "Flamer" who flames a thread because he/she disagrees with the content of the thread.
In its noun form it signifies a member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned.’ (Source)

From the above it is clear that the person who posted the content was doing it deliberately not only to harm someone but also to ensure that the false message is spread to maximum number of people. To circumvent banning, the troll took different forms under different names in various social media. The perpetrators of the crime thus knew very well the serious consequences of spreading such false messages misusing someone else’s photo to tarnish the reputation. For whom the troll tolls? What is the gain? Many times there are organized groups behind these to derive commercial, social or political mileage.

Helplessness showed by Cyber Cell stating that Section 66A is not in statue!

This incident is a fit case for criminal action and the local cyber police was contacted to prefer a complaint. Though they accepted the complaint, I was told about the lack of teeth in the Information Technology Act of India (IT Act) to tackle crimes like this after the Hon Supreme Court struck down section 66A of the IT Act. At present, skeletal officials in the Cyber Crime cells focus on cyber-financial crimes, on priority.

When the Supreme Court struck down the Section 66A of the Information Technology, many celebrated it by shouting that the right to free speech has been finally protected, without ever realizing that they or their close ones could be victims of crimes that could be tackled with that section. 
Instead of striking down the section altogether, it would have been better if it was modified to mitigate any draconian consequences of it in the light of a few past incidents by removing certain words like ‘annoyance’, ‘ill will’ etc so that the case will not be booked for trivial, harmless acts.

Recent landmark decision of the Supreme Court

It is an interesting coincidence that, just after three days of the incident happened in my case, the apex court has given a land mark decision that seeks to protect the reputation of a person. On a batch of petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy,  Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who challenged the constitutional validity of Section 499 (Criminal Defamation) and Section 500 (Punishment for Criminal Defamation), the Supreme Court upheld the validity of these sections. The court held that "Right to free speech is not absolute. It does not mean freedom to hurt another's reputation which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution".  This decision has underscored the necessity of authorities to render speedy justice in the cases filed on offences related to criminal defamation. 

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi in his submission to the apex court stated that 'reputation of a person is neither metaphysical nor a property in terms of mundane assets but an integral part of his sublime frame and a dent in it is a rupture of a person’s dignity, negates and infringes fundamental values of citizenry right. Thus viewed, the right 36 enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) cannot allowed to brush away the right engrafted under Article 21, but there has to be balancing of rights'.

Supreme Court held as follows on May 13, 2016:
One cannot be unmindful that right to freedom of speech and expression is a highly valued and cherished right but the Constitution conceives of reasonable restriction. In that context criminal defamation which is in existence in the form of Sections 499 and 500 IPC is not a restriction on free speech that can be characterized as disproportionate. Right to free speech cannot mean that a citizen can defame the other. Protection of reputation is a fundamental right. It is also a human right. Cumulatively it serves the social interest. (See the full judgment here)

Social media and criminality

In an era of vibrant social media, its increasing popularity coupled wth irresponsible use in an unregulated environment result in not only unlawful activities but also actions that result in harming the reputation of people. As per section 79(3) of the Information Technology Act, government or its agency can ask the website intermediary to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner. Also as per section 69A, the government can block access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource, if they are unlawful.

However, in cases were individual’s reputation is intentionally harmed by posting content that is false, the concerned individual has the right to seek support of the police and judicial remedy directly. However, cyber cells of police departments are not equipped with competent personnel and resources. They also show helplessness stating that section 66A is no longer in the statute. In the light of the apex court judgment, it is necessary that police authorities and other agencies take cognizance of the complaints related to criminal defamation invoking provisions of IPC more seriously and ensure early redressal.

During the course of hearing in the above cited case filed by Subramanian Swamy and others, it was reported to the bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant that in India, unlike in other countries, it takes 10 to 20 years to decide the cases filed against criminal defamation. It is true that there is a huge back log in disposing various types of cases in Indian courts. But that is not a justification for not having an important judicial remedy.

Another argument against the criminial defamation provisions is that they are anachronistic, colonial and irrelevant at present. If that is so, the message they are conveying is that in post colonial world, people can speak and write whatever they want in the name of free speech. Yes, people can use the freedom guaranteed under Article 19 of the constitution. But they should not push content that they know to be false and defaming. In that case, it is a crime and the investigation, trial and punishment should follow.

We are proud of both our print and televison media because of the sufficient restraint they have showed in delivering content. We also have a robust regulatory environment and ombudsman system both in print and in visual media. But the social media is unregulated and any person can be a publisher. It is dynamic and the content can  be manipulated anytime from anywhere using and misusing technology by unidentifiable persons. Thus any false and malicious content can go unchecked and can become viral in minutes. This has serious consequences for individuals and could also disturb the peace in society.

Incidents that attract the provisions of criminal defamation have become rampant and many go unreported because the victims are discouraged to pursue the cases citing the legal and procedural complexity and the inordinate delay in redressing the complaints. Sections 499 and 500 of IPC should continue as effective statutes to protect the ordinary victims. It can no longer be seen as scandalum magnatum - one that aimed to protect the reputation of lords and aristocrats. I wish the enforcement agencies and courts give equal priority to secure one’s reputation as they do for their life and wealth.

Views are personal.Comments welcome.

                                                                        © Sibichen K Mathew

See a related article of mine:

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Why some bosses chose to be inaccessible?

Mr Menon is one of the senior Directors in an organization. Though he is in charge of Human Resource Management, his subordinates say that he seems to be one of the most inhuman officers. Menon has given strict instructions to everyone such that nobody is allowed to meet him without a prior appointment through his secretary. Further, the secretary has been told to deny appointments in the first instance. Only if people persist and beg for a meeting will they be given a slot, which is also not immediate. He basically wants people to believe that he is very busy and does not wish to encourage walk-in visitors.

One Division Head, who had recently joined the organization, faced a serious HR issue within his division and wanted to personally meet the Managing Director to brief him. As he used to in his previous organization, he called up the Managing Director - who is just one level above him - and requested for a meeting. The Managing Director got annoyed and said, ‘Contact my secretary if you want to get a meeting fixed with me.’ The response was shocking for the senior manager. He told his colleague, ‘This is the first time in my 15 years of working that I have been so rudely treated by a boss. I don’t think I will be able to work under such bosses.’ After joining the new organization with a lot of motivation and eagerness to bring in innovations, the Division Head felt disappointed and almost felt like quitting.

Unapproachable bosses tend to keep a distance from their subordinates and often fail to understand the people around them. They wear the garb of a ‘serious’ taskmaster. Their juniors might fear them and hold back on giving them honest feedback. There can also be overall dissatisfaction in their teams.

We are used to hearing this phrase: ‘Content is the king; conversation is the queen’. Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind say that leadership is a conversation . They conducted a research project on the state of organizational communication in the 21st century and found that smart leaders engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary ‘person to person’ conversation, rather than through one-sided commands. They identified four elements of organizational conversation that reflect the key attributes of interpersonal conversation: intimacy, interactivity, inclusion and intentionality.

Robert Greene, in his 16th Law of power, advises that if you ‘make yourself too available then the aura of power you have created around yourself will wear away. Turn the game around: make yourself less accessible and you increase the value of your presence.’ However, in the post-globalized world where changes happen rapidly, decisions need to be taken every moment and the team needs to be motivated and directed to new areas for the survival of the organization, no leader can afford to play the game of hide and seek. Thus, an absence like this would not create respect and esteem.  Boyatzis and Annie wrote:‘Mindfulness, hope and compassion are the three key elements for resonant leadership.’ Being present and being respected is the new ball game. The belief that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is passé.

The need for a zero hour

Under rules of proceedings of Indian Parliament, there is a provision called Zero Hour. This is a period when any Member can ask a question concerning administration, governance or issues of public interest by giving notice prior to the start of daily proceedings to the Speaker/Chairman. Similarly, it is necessary for bosses of large organizations to give time to team members to meet him and discuss or share issues. Caroline Ghosn, CEO, the Levo League said : ‘Dedicate one hour a week to hosting office hours: open your door, block your calendar and invite your team to drop in and share.’

Here is an example of a senior officer at a large public organization of about 10000 officers and 50000 staff who holds the most important position with highly sensitive and demanding tasks. She is responsible for reporting to the highest functionaries in the government, including a Cabinet Minister. Every minute of hers is valuable. She hardly gets time at home because of the pressure of official tasks. However, the first thing she did as soon as she was elevated to the post was to send out a letter across the organization, welcoming anyone with an unsettled grievance to meet with her or send their messages or grievances at an exclusive email id monitored by her personally. . Further, she informed everyone that they could call her directly between 10 to 11 am on all working days. She strongly believes that every official is an asset and the output and overall success of the organization depends on their happiness. 

Unapproachable boss is a ‘loser’

An unapproachable boss doesn’t earn the respect of people around him. He does not get real feedback about the organization as he fails to be receptive to people. Thus, the ultimate loser is the organization itself. It is imperative that those with excellent communication and management skills are the ones who are  appointed to the top levels in any organization. Training in soft skills is also as important at the top levels as in the lower ones.  Though there may be criticism that it is wasteful to ‘apply manure at the fag end’, it is necessary to do so in many organizations, especially those where top leadership positions are filled up solely on the basis of seniority.

Heard this joke somewhere:
‘I  don’t want any callers this afternoon,’ said the boss to his secretary, ‘And if they say that their business is important, just tell them that everyone says the same thing.’
 That afternoon his wife called and insisted on seeing him. When the secretary refused, she said, ‘I am his wife,’ to which the secretary replied, ‘That’s what they all say.’

The boss needs to step out of the tower

1.            Develop keen interest in knowing about the employees:

The boss needs to have an understanding of the backgrounds of his team members. If the span of control is large, the boss should have ready access to each employee’s profile, which contains their family details, leave history, relevant medical history, recent career profile, etc.

2.            Receptivity

The attitude, temperament, behaviour and visible expressions of the boss should be such that no one would hesitate to approach him with an issue. 

3.            Enthusiasm

No one likes a boss who is lethargic, sluggish and too matter of fact. Bosses should have the ability to make the other person comfortable and forthcoming with ideas and opinions. His overall body language should be oriented towards those who come to converse with him. Who would like to interact with a person who has a disinterested air about him?  

4.            Availability

The boss should be mobile. That doesn’t mean that he should not spend time in his cabin; but he should be available for people to see him with regularity. If he is frequently away on travel or spends most of his time only with his boss or colleagues, it would affect smooth upward communication.

Question to you:            Do you have a boss like this? 

Introspection for you:   Are you one such boss??

The above article is substantially drawn from author’s best-selling book ‘When the Boss is Wrong: The Making and Unmaking of the Leader within You’, which is available in most online and offline bookstores. Grab a copy to know about how bad bosses kill employee morale.

“The book ‘When the Boss is Wrong’ provides an insight on how to become a leader who is respected. Its use of amusing illustrations, anecdotes and examples brings to life situations typically encountered at the workplace.’ (Cyrus P. Mistry, Chairman, Tata Sons Ltd)

© Sibichen K Mathew         Views are personal             sibi5555 (gmail)


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