There are many times in corporate life—and even outside it—when you have to be (or seem to be) cruel to others, or unkind, or thoughtless, or lacking in etiquette, in order to be kind to yourself. There are situations that arise, where one has to put one’s foot down, or else everyone will trample all over you. You will then be busy all day, every day, without having any results or proportionate results to show for it.
Rajesh had heard through a friend that Samir of the Ganga Company was looking for a marketing manager. Rajesh got Samir’s residence phone number and called him. After the preliminaries, Samir gave Rajesh a profile of the job and the kind of person they were looking for. Rajesh said he would fit in very well and could Samir please give him some time to meet, so that he (Rajesh) could make a personal presentation?
Samir asked for a brief profile on the telephone, but Rajesh would not answer directly. He kept repeating that, in a general way, he fitted the requirement. He insisted that they meet. Finally, Samir requested Rajesh to send his profile by fax. If it met the criteria, then he would certainly be called for an interview.
Rajesh never sent the CV. He was never called. He probably did not have the qualifications and experience required for the assignment. He was just trying to bamboozle his way in.
Thanks to Samir’s firmness, to the point of being cut and dried, he had saved himself a chunk of time that might otherwise have been wasted.
Many years ago, before WhatsApp calls came into being, Suraj rang up a business associate (Chopra) in Delhi, from the US. During the conversation, he needed to give some details that Chopra had to note down. “Just a minute, Suraj,” Chopra said, “Let me get a pen and paper.” Suraj put the phone down. He direct-dialled again, after five minutes. “What happened to you, Suraj?” Chopra asked, surprised and slightly irritated. “Did the line get cut?”
Suraj was honest. He told him that he had put the phone down to give Chopra time to get pen and paper. There was no point in paying for unproductive time on a long-distance call. Suraj had to be sensible and practical, in order to be kind to himself.
Ajit had the habit of handwriting his reply in the margin of the letter, to the points raised in the letter by the sender. He attached a slip explaining he was doing so in order to save time so he could respond immediately. Initially, when he started the practice, many years ago, the receivers of these communications were surprised and even shocked. Over the years, they also began doing likewise.
Of course, this is not always possible in all situations, for example, with foreign associates or with customers. But there are many situations where it is possible, for example, branch correspondence, interdepartmental memos, etc. It may seem a little rude. It may even seem like a lack of good manners or corporate etiquette. But it is only being 'seemingly ill-mannered', to be kind to yourself and save time and effort.
The council meeting was going on and on. And all because Gopal, the sales manager, kept monopolising the meeting. He had a view on every subject on the agenda. He also had a view on everything said by everyone else. The other participants were getting restive. Suman, the director, who was chairing the meeting, could sense this.
Finally, Suman had to tell Gopal, “Now that we have heard your views, Gopal, let us see what the others have to say, and then take a vote on each of these issues. Can the secretary please minute the decision?”
Gopal felt snubbed but Suman had to assert himself. He had to be ‘cruel’ to Gopal in order to be kind to himself and the other seven present.
Jim rang up Gopal after about 16 years. They had not spoken to each other or seen each other for that long. “I hope you remember me,” Jim said. “How are you doing? And how is the family?” Before Jim asked him what the children were doing, Gopal interjected politely, “Hello Jim, what can I do for you?”
“Actually Gopal, I had phoned to ask a favour,” (but the preface was too long!) Jim was wasting Gopal’s time, especially since Gopal could easily see through this. Gopal may have seemed unkind, but he was honest and to the point.
I found out later, that Gopal had done what Jim wanted him to do but he cut out the ‘extended’ preliminaries and got to the ‘purpose’ of the call.
Cut and dried? Seemingly rude and impatient? Inconsiderate and unkind? In some way, yes. But it does not pay to be too nice to everyone. Sometimes, even oftentimes, it is necessary to ‘be cruel to be kind’ but in as gentle a way as possible!
(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)