Prasad checked his watch when the HR requested for the meeting. It showed 4:45 PM and there was a little more than an hour before the office timing for the day ends.
“Of course, I’ll go.” he replied politely. “And I know why I am being summoned.” he thought. Since the day he disagreed with his MD in an open town hall meeting on work-life balance, they had started sharing a silent rapport. Even after a year, the debate had not perished but the communication channel has been opened. It was no big surprise to figure out the reason to be called now.
Prasad walked to the MD’s cabin and told his PA that he was expected. MD was on a conference call and the PA assured to inform him once he was done. Prasad came back to his desk.
“Hey dude, what’s the matter? The big guy wants you?” His colleague poked in.
“Oh yeah, we have a date at 5.”
“Looks like someone more important has intervened his appointment with you.”
“That’s right! If our MD couldn’t make his appointment before 6, he’ll have to wait for mine until tomorrow.”
“I know… Pretty strict time principles uh? MD or MLA, you never budge. Some nerve you’ve got.” His colleague smiled and turned around to face his monitor, “which makes you YOU”, he added carelessly.
Prasad really didn’t have a choice. He was already juggling between his work and family in tight schedules. His wife falling sick suddenly tightened his schedule even more that he was about to snap. He wasn’t able to align with the company’s culture of stretching for long hours and extending weekends at work which he wouldn’t do even otherwise. He believes that work, agreed, consumes a major part of our life but there are things outside work as well that demands equal attention. There should be a balance!
“It doesn’t work that way dude, atleast here in this company. The philosophy is, the longer you sit in office, the more efficient they claim you to be.” One other friend told him previously over a cup of coffee, just like many others who had been cribbing to him casually on how their personal lives were getting screwed as well.
“But as long as I complete my work within the normal working hours, why should that matter? Isn’t completing work in lesser time more efficient than slogging and stretching for the same result?” Prasad argued.
“You are right, Prasad! But you are right in the wrong place!” He realized that his friend made sense. That’s when he decided to quit.
It was 5:30PM now and the PA came to his desk saying that the MD was now free. Prasad followed.
“Good evening, Shankar!”
“Good evening, Prasad! Well, not so good an evening as I’ve just learnt that you have given your resignation. I am disappointed. What’s the problem?”
Prasad was glad that the MD came to the point right away instead of beating around the bush. That’s why they like and respect each other in spite of conflict of ideas. Both Shankar and Prasad personally prefer upfront conversations to buttery, sugar coated ones. Like minded people at the two extreme and opposite rungs of the corporate ladder!
“My wife is sick and I need some time off.”
“Is that all? So how long do you need?”
“Two months would be a great time. I have decided to take a break, get things settled and then resume my career.”
“Two months it is then. You can take off for two months and come back to work. Resignation is a big step.”
“Not really, Shankar! I did request for a sabbatical break without salary from the HR and it wasn’t granted, rightfully of course as I had no leave balance anyways.”
“We can make exceptions for ‘A’ players. I’ll talk to the HR. I just accidently happened to hear of your resignation and am here talking to you. I wonder how many such people I have already lost!”
“That’s exactly the point. You have known me and we are here talking. There were and are people with similar concerns who have been and would be leaving for the similar reasons. If I were allowed a break, it should have come from the HR as it always does for everyone. I don’t want to take advantage of your influence.”
“Good! That’s why I always ask people to express themselves, express themselves to the HR or me or to whomsoever they are comfortable with. It almost never happens. They crib within themselves and call it quits on a fine day. I thought you were different Prasad.”
“I am no different from anyone who wants a proper work-life balance and I believe I did my expression when I had to.”
“Don’t go on again about work-life balance. The term eludes you to think that work and life are different entities. Work is a part of life.”
“PART of life, not life itself.”
“I didn’t say it is. I only hate the terminology. Call it work-family balance, work-kids balance, whatever, why work-life as if they both are poles apart?”
“Alright then. It’s just a terminology and I wasn’t the one who coined it. The concept still remains the same, doesn’t it?”
“I keep hearing it all the time that there is no work-life balance in this company. Do you really think so? It’s true that we have loads of work but that’s something we pride ourselves of. We leave it to the individuals to take accountability of their work. Its upto the people to balance their lives.”
“Not when there are official mails floating asking them to stretch. Not when they are set up with over-ambitious work estimates. You can’t be accountable for something that’s beyond you.”
“Agreed! We do not have proper estimates. Our customers are as demanding as we are at a grocery shop.”
“Customers demand quality and delivery, not the means adopted to produce it. Most of the extra hours are spent on rework than work, re-work because of errors that happened by tired people at odd hours of the night.”
“We are only asking our people to make centuries, we encourage them to. It’s for their own growth, for their own good.”
“We are ready to make centuries, even more. But limit the overs to 50; please don’t take 70 and 80 overs for granted.”
“What if it happens to exceed 50 overs then?”
“Once in awhile is fine. Else, call for another match!”
“Look here Prasad, every soil has its pests. The farmer should decide the pesticides he wants to.”
“The soil is fertile, Shankar. I just don’t see it fertile for my crop.”
“That’s it then, you are going in search of fertile pastures?”
“The weather is not good. I have halted cultivation for the time being.”
“You know you can influence people here, Prasad, if you want to. You have the capability.”
“Unfortunately, I am on a technical job, not political.”
“Fine! You win! You always manage to win Prasad. I wonder if your wife ever has a chance in an argument with you!” Shankar gave a defeated smile.
“Oh! She does and she wins. That’s how she married me.” Prasad returned an I-am-so-sorry smile.
“Good luck to you! You are welcome back anytime.”
“Thank you, Shankar! I do wish I would.”
Prasad comes out of the MD’s cabin and checks his watch – 6 PM sharp. He locks his machine, grabs his bag and walks to his bus-stop, remembering a few indirect incidents and unpleasant discussions that he was subjected to with his other superiors, the discussions and superiors that he entirely kept away in his conversation with his MD. He knew what he was doing; he knew he had to move on and that’s exactly what he did.