When we set standards for ourselves, we are inclined to think that the same standards apply to others around us. But, as we know, values are not standard.
We all know this and are convinced of it in our minds. But our emotions say something else; and we want to believe that our business associates think like we do and share the same values which we cherish. This leads to greater expectations and, consequently, to greater disappointments.
There is the biblical story of the 10 lepers who, when cured, were so overjoyed that they rushed out babbling to tell the whole world about the change in their fortunes; but only one went back to thank the one who had worked the cure.
Just one out of 10!
This is the story that is repeated in everyone’s life. While ingratitude does not surprise us, most of us are disappointed when there is an absence of even a word of thanks.
I had known Ravi for many years as an acquaintance. Two years ago, he quit his job as a professor in a well-known management institute and started out as a consultant. The few times that I met him, I got the impression that he was finding his path steep and uphill in his new profession.
My company had an assignment where we could use someone like Ravi for five days a month for perhaps six months. I phoned him about this and he readily agreed. He had been working with us as an associate for nearly a year, when he began to show his unhappiness. We paid him what we had contracted. We extended the contract to 18 months, from the initial agreement for six months. We helped him out when he needed work and income.
But Ravi was angry that we had not given him even more work; that we had not preferred him to other consultants on other assignments. It was not that there was not even a ‘thank you’; on the contrary, there was annoyance and resentment because we had not met Ravi’s ‘greater expectations’.
Many years ago, a large group from India travelled to Singapore to attend the Asian Advertising Congress. The trip was organised by a well-known travel agency which had booked us at good hotels; arranged local conveyance and sightseeing, and travel on airlines which were known both for punctuality and hospitality.
All went well at Bangkok and Manila. But, in Hong Kong, we met members of another group from India who were doing a similar trip and were headed, finally, for the same Congress. They were staying at better hotels and we learnt that they had paid a marginally lower amount than what we had paid.
Some among our group immediately drafted and circulated a memorandum for signature by all the group members. This was addressed to the travel agency, expressing their unhappiness with the travel arrangements and the quality of the hotels.
I still remember Ernest of Tata’s, at that time, refusing to sign this, ignoring all the pleas of his companions. His argument was that our expectations had changed after meeting the other group. Before we met them, we had been quite happy. Once again, it was ‘greater expectations - unmerited!’
George was the personnel head of a large pharmaceuticals company in Mumbai and lived in my neighbourhood. He was a product of both nature and nurture. That he was from the armed forces (retired), and was from a large family, gave him a natural sympathetic streak. The young, unemployed and the poor from around our area targeted George for a job at the pharma plant. And, most times, George was able to oblige.
But he confessed to me one day, his disappointment that only a miniscule number came back to say ‘thank you’. He never expected gifts but, being human like all of us, he certainly expected an expression of gratitude – and this seldom happened.
He only began to have peace of mind when an elderly friend asked him one day, “George, do you think because you have given them jobs, you have bought their minds and souls?”
Many years ago, on my way from Chembur to my workplace at Ballard Estate, I used to stop at the bus stop, and give a few people a lift. My only request was that there should be no conversation in the car, and no smoking.
Over a period of time, one gentleman seemed to have become a regular. The moment my car stopped, he would rush out of the bus queue, and into the car.
One day, I had to receive someone at the airport in the morning and proceeded directly from the airport to my office, after dropping my guest at the hotel.
At 11 in the morning, Mr Rao stormed into my room in the office, furious. “What happened to you this morning, Mr Vieira? I waited for you till 9.30am and then had to take a taxi.”
I was surprised he did not claim from me the taxi fare and some compensation for the inconvenience!
It was then that I realised that every favour, over a period of time, becomes a right. Mr Rao had developed his own ‘greater expectations’.
From the next day onwards, my car passed the bus stop and they would see me engrossed in reading the Economic Times. I gave lifts intermittently, so that a routine would not develop and expectations not be raised, thereby.
In many ways, managers who are trustees of wealth in Gandhian terms, need to have this streak of self-abnegation. They must give without expecting in return, especially when it comes to people.
An important part of the manager’s job is selecting people, training them, coaching them, developing them so that they may even go further than the one who trains them. And all this, without a direct compensation.
In his book Manager Today, Executive Tomorrow, Charles Vance highlights the point that ‘no one in this entire world owes you anything’ not even those closest to you.
Luckily, life has a strange way of bringing about an equalisation. If we do a self-analysis, most of us will find that we have done little or nothing for those who have done a lot for us. We have perhaps not thrown even a few bits of gratitude to them, when we expect it ourselves in such ample measure!
From The Winning Manager by Walter Vieira (SagePublishing/ Amazon)
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are "Marketing in a Digital/Data World with Brian Almeida and "Customer Value Starvation can kill" with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)