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14 April 2008

Don't Dare Show Your Versatility in Public

Lesson learnt well in The Pioneer

In my new office the other day, after I finished preparing company literature on products like power interface unit, phase change material, nano-cooled green shelters, filter-less air conditioner, compressor-less AC, etc, our department needed a French translation of the product descriptions for the overseas market. As I volunteered to translate the matter, my boss looked amused. Immediately I remembered what a curse my versatility had proven in The Pioneer. I laughed and consciously changed the topic of discussion.

Eventually, our company had to pay a translator at the Alliance Française de Delhi an exorbitant Rs 6 per word for more than 30,000 words in the company literature, a task I could have done for free — my job profile does not include translation; therefore, no part of my salary can be considered to be the fee for the task — without compromising on quality.

That night I asked my wife to interpret the look on my boss's face when I had offered to translate the company literature. I asked her if my multi-faceted character is appreciated by so many people online, why it elicits negative responses in real life. She said people love to read about characters like me, but they find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that one such person is in their midst. A reader has this problem that he takes the protagonist of a story, even if it's non-fiction, for a super-human character. That, in turn, puts a notion in his sub-conscious that it's virtually impossible for such a person to exist in real life. If you claim to be one such 'existence', either you will be called a gasbag or, if within your interlocutor is convinced about your prowess, he will feel dwarfed in comparison. Hence his insecurity. Hence his adverse reaction.

On the other hand, if letting my colleagues know what I am capable of doing is misconstrued as bragging, not letting them know that I can help could be misconstrued as my being insensitive and indifferent to my employer's need.

Please comment.


Chaitali said...

I can understand completely. A person can be good at one job, maybe two, but more than that is simply unthinkable. Maybe not everyone can keep pace with learning new things everyday, maybe they get tired, maybe they simply do not care. However, I think life becomes far more exciting if one has more than one dimension to it. You are never bored and never a bore.

In fact, I find multi-faceted individuals far more fascinating and interesting, rather than a monotonous genius. But I guess every person is entitled to his/her point of view.

Surajit Dasgupta said...

"every person is entitled to his/her point of view"

That "entitlement" cost the company Rs 30,000 x 6 = Rs 180,000 !!!

Chaitali said...

They had the cash to dole out and you got the benefit of guzzling up some free time.

Moreover, does one not need to value one's qualities and give them to only those who deserve it.... rather than squander them away to ungrateful wretches (not in relation to your story)? I am genuinely confused.

Surajit Dasgupta said...

My present boss is otherwise a gem of a person. He reminds me of Saubhik.

Chandril said...

People like to see prodigies and persons with versatile attributes on screen or in newspaper, rather than finding these geniuses amongst themselves. There is a saying in Bengali — “Genyo jogi bhikh pay na” — which means a wise man in the locality does not get the value he deserves from the locals.

From experiences in my life I have learnt that I should never go beyond my assigned job even if I can manage the issue in a better way. If I do so people will either make a fun of me or will put a braggadocio tag on me. So I will try — but I am sceptic how long I will succeed — to exploit all of my innate calibre when I launch my own venture.

Anish The Gr8 said...

It happens everywhere. Its been only 3 months since I joined my first job, but I have already had a similar experience. On the first week after training, I was not assigned anything to work on. So, I contacted my team leader and she gave me a project to work on. I completed the work on time, and mentioned the project work on my time sheet. However, I was shocked when I saw a mail from my manager reprimanding me for "wasting time". I tried explaining that it was my team leader who assigned me the work, but she wouldnt listen. The icing on the cake came when the entire team recieved a mail from the manager praising my team leader for the same project I had done.

From my limited experience of the IT sector, employers only see " if you have done YOUR job" and not "how much you have contributed to the company". I dont consider this policy correct, but I decided not to challenge it. ( Three months into my first job, I dont have the confidence to challenge the system. I will have to prove my worth before starting my quest for policy change.)

Now, when there is not sufficient work allocated to me, I just spend my time reading blogs. ( I took a printout of your experiences in the "Pioneer", and completed it in two hours) Now, I am happy, and so is my manager.

Surajit Dasgupta said...

employers only see " if you have done YOUR job" and not "how much you have contributed to the company"

In fact, the employer will be more than happy to see a versatile employee. It is the middleman between the owner and you who gets majorly psyched.

Thanks to a very broad-minded resident editor, The Statesman was a glorious exception till January 2005. I wish it gets some money to recover from its long ailment of indifferent journalism.

Mathieu said...

Your story is interesting because you have several prowness about forein languages.
Most of people dislike others ones when they are better than them, more educated than them. They think they must feel to be under-estimated.
The reaction of your boss is not very clever, sorry.
Honestly, I think open-minded and clever people must use the other ones' abilities. By this way, each one will be able to improve itself and especially to learn, to become more educated, and so on....

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.