During my first job in Mumbai, I had an interesting experience that taught me an important lesson in my career. Let me narrate the story in detail. If you are a beginner, you can relate.
It was about 15 days into the job and I was still figuring out how things happen there and what I was supposed to do.
Being the first job and far away from home, I was feeling lonely and was searching for people who I could be friendly with. I found a guy called Atul who was very friendly and caring. In addition, he could be my buddy as he knew in and out of that organisation. After all, Atul was eight year experienced in that place and i was just a beginner! Atul used to wish seniors that we might bump into in the corridors. They used to reciprocate with an occasional leg pulling which I enjoyed very much! My inner feeling at that stage was: “When will I become so confident and comfortable with all?”.
The organisation had a very huge campus and moving from one building to another required good long walk. As I was walking with Atul, he suddenly saw someone at a distance and gave a shout. The other person responded. They both conversed standing at a distance and speaking aloud. Again, my thought was, “When will I become so confident that people listen to me the way they do with Atul?“ One day, Atul told me that he would sneak out of office a couple of hours early. I curiously asked him about seeking permission to leave early.
His reply was very perplexing; he said, “Who will watch us in this vast campus? Just step out”. I envied Atul for the way he defined his own freedom. “When will I be so liberated that I could write my own rules?” (No card swiping or biometric system was prevalent during those days!) I continued to adore Atul and was getting more influenced by him. The way he related with people, the way he got his things done for him; the way he exercised his freedom…. I thought the workplace would be so nice the moment I become like Atul.
My homesickness started to wane away! However, the story had a different twist! One morning, I joined Atul at the breakfast table (now you could imagine how emotionally dependent I was on Atul!).
We finished our coffee and I was walking to the work desk.
Atul said, “Let us go to the gate for a pan!”. It was already nine o clock in the morning and I was hesitant to walk with Atul. In his own style, Atul almost grabbed me out.
It was 9.05 AM and we were at the gate. Atul was happily chewing the pan and chatting with others (how did he know so many people in the organisation? I was impressed once again). Someone offered him a cigarette and he was smoking away! I was simply a spectator – neither I chewed pan not smoked. It was 9.15 am and I was feeling very uncomfortable for not being at my desk.
Exactly at that moment, I saw a company bus entering the organisation campus and my lady boss in it. I had an uncomfortable eye contact with her and I could read something not so pleasant in her expression.
Finally, I reached my desk 25 minutes late and soon received a call from my lady boss who was of my mother’s age. She spoke to me the way that was never before.
“Remember, you are just 15 days old in this organisation; no one knows what exactly would be your performance; you need to earn a place professionally; if you follow the practices of people who are established and proven themselves, you will be wrong.
They earned it over the years; you are a beginner, don’t get carried away!“ As I was struggling to receive such straight feedback, my boss continued in a caring voice.
“Respect rules, until you earn your freedom. Respect seniors, until they give you space to get closer. Be formal, until people are informal with you. There is nothing wrong in being a little more appropriate at workplace, especially as a beginner. If you need to err, do so on the right side!”
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