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Orienting new managers

Sidin Vadukut

Aloha and welcome to yet another edition of Sid Says, your fortnightly dose of career tips, business sense and all round fresh managerial wisdom. This time of the year is an important one for young managers all round. Do you know why? If you answered "I know! I know! It's because Sanjaya Malakar will soon become American Idol! Woo Hoo! I love Sanjaya," then I have no option but to agree with you wholeheartedly as there is no saying what you would do otherwise under the circumstances. No. The real reason is because around this time every year a whole bunch of young and bright people are initiated into the world of managerhood. Right now, as we speak, there are a bunch of fresh new managers stepping out of business schools all around, clutching crisp appointment letters that are still warm from the printer. As responsible young managers, it is our duty to welcome these young sparks into our offices, factories and server rooms and give them a warm welcome. Yes, we should make them sing in high pitched voices while sitting in the imaginary chair position for hours while we sip vodka and laugh at them loudly. Wait! That is for freshers in engineering college! My mistake. What I was meaning to say was that these young people need our help to settle into their weighty managerial roles. The onus is on us to explain to them the lay of the land, the mechanics of our workplaces and the tricks of the trade.

(Of course once they have settled into their jobs and we have created in them a false sense of security, we will strike! We will reduce them to blubbering wrecks and eventually get them fired, retrenched, out-placed, strategically resized and so on. And keep our career paths open and unhindered. But this way, with a warm welcome, our consciences will remain clear.)

Now, I have several years of experience as a young, struggling manager. But more importantly, I get published. This, in the context of our nation's stringent academic standards, makes me an expert on managerhood. Therefore, it is no wonder that this year too, like every year, I am inundated with requests by ekdum young managers for advice on careers, companies, sectors, office culture, commodity trading, LIBOR rates and so on. So in an effort, which I hope will become an example for all you experienced young managers, I have distilled my vast body of managerial knowledge into one easy-to-read column. That too in a FAQ format that is both a globally proven way of imparting knowledge and an easy way of filling up the column inches I am allotted every fortnight .

So here goes:

Is it true that young managers are often asked to do menial jobs in their first few months in the office? Isn't this insulting to my education and self-esteem?

It is a sad truth that many young managers do often end up photocopying and couriering for many months in their first job. However, one must realise that several people have risen to GM and VP levels purely on the strength of their documentation. Once you can print large presentations on double-sided pages and then spiral bind them, you will automatically be put on the fast track for growth in most companies. So grin and bear it and remember that the alternative is actually hitting the streets and doing, shudder, sales, marketing and client servicing.

On my first day at work, I was told to create a spreadsheet model for predicting super cycles in non-ferrous metal prices on the London Metal Exchange. At business school I could not attend the session on modelling as I was out of station on a drinking assignment in Goa. What do I do? Also what exactly do they mean by `spreadsheet'?

This is an all too common occurrence with young managers who have tried to maintain a balanced lifestyle in school. Nothing to worry. What you need to do is convert the assignment into a team project. Find some other fresh recruit who is eager to please the firm. Those types are suckers for the word `team'. Tell him to take some time off from the photocopying and help you. He will actually buy the statement: "Come on, I will let you do the modelling."

I have recently joined an investment bank in Mumbai. How will this affect my life outside work? Will I have to sit late in the office?

(Author could not answer this question as he fell off his chair due to a slight choking incident brought on by wild manic laughing. He wishes you his best and will pray for you.)

Dear Sidin, I am a fresh new manager. I love my new job and I am very happy with the money I am making. Everyone here respects me. All in all I am absolutely delighted. But no one else I know is. Is this normal?

This is perfectly normal. This is because you are probably in HR.

Hi. My new boss keeps telling me that I do not focus on my job and am easily distracted. I don't think so. My question is: Is Venkatesh Prasad the right bowling coach for India?

Under the circumstances I would think so. Also you need to really do something about your focus problem. Start by trying to do just one thing at a time and then... IS THAT THE NEW MISS INDIA ON TV?

Sidin, I have been asked to move immediately to Singapore on work. Both my best friend and my girlfriend think that I should, as it is good for my career. What do you think?

If it makes career sense and there is better money involved I think you should. Also, I advise you to be open to several changes in your social life and buy lots of humour books. Just a feeling I get. Nothing specific.

Dear Sidin, a friend of mine who recently joined may have wiped out the entire ERP system here in our company when he inadvertently opened an e-mail with several pictures of Pamela Anderson. He did not mean to do this and is really sorry. What should he do as he is really scared and needs help?

First of all tell your friend to gather himself together and think logically. The only way they can trace this is if they can access the e-mail server. You, I mean he, will have to crash this server too. In fact just blow up the server AND the whole IT department for good measure. That's it with my gems of wisdom this week. I wish all you young managers the best for your careers. Till next time ta ta!

(The writer, an alumnus of IIM-A, was a management consultant before quitting to work on a book and a full-time writing career)

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