Never Give All the Heart, For He Gave All His Heart and Lost.

“To long a sacrifice can make a stone of a heart” — W.B. Yeats

Whether we do it willingly or otherwise, it is the unfortunate truth that we often have to make sacrifices for the company we work for. Such sacrifices can take the form of time, such as having to work on a non-working day such as on a public holiday; or they can be monetary, such as having to purchase meals for the team when pulling all-nighters. However, although such sacrifices are inevitable and will have to be made by an employee at some point of his life in an organisation, it should be noted that there are times when the demands of the company are simply too unacceptable to the individual, and if made, are done so grudgingly. Thus, in this article, we will be discussing how to negotiate the demands our companies make of us, and how to better be able to handle them.

Now, to begin, there are three kinds of employees where sacrifices are concerned:

  1. The yes-man who agrees all the time.
  2. The no-man who continually refuses.
  3. The man who falls somewhere between the two above.

Majority of people will fall under the third category. In fact, it is better to fall under there than the other two. After all, the one who cannot refuse exposes himself to long term risks- say yes but fail to deliver, and you are deemed incompetent. Succeed, and you are going to be overworked. On the other hand, the person who refuses to make sacrifices becomes labelled as self-centred, untrustworthy, unreliable, and before long will either stagnate since he will no longer be given opportunities, or face retrenchment. Thus, it is better to find a balance between these two in a way that maximises one’s opportunities.

To achieve this balance, here are some tips:

  1. State clearly from the start where your boundaries lie. During the pre-employment interview, it is always important to raise any concerns you may have. This includes setting boundaries as to the sacrifices you are willing to make. For instance, have commitments outside of work such as after hour classes, say so. Your employer will appreciate that you raise such concerns before you start working for them. Imagine. If you do not mention such boundaries beforehand, and a time comes when the company requires you to work during these hours, they will be shocked to hear of your inability to commit, and have every right to demand the sacrifice of you since they were ignorant of it before. This not only creates trust issues, but also has the potential to make the working environment an unhappier place for those affected.
  1. Weigh the pros and cons before making a sacrifice. Straightforward enough. If we take into consideration what the implications of making a sacrifice are, we are able to determine whether or not that sacrifice should be made. In the event that we feel insufficiently informed, then make enquiries, seek out further clarifications beforehand.

In the event that the company’s demands are deemed to overstep the boundary between being socially acceptable and tyrannical, then it is best to refuse to make the sacrifice. However, it should be done tactfully, in a way that no one is left feeling offended or bitter. In fact, you may even want to explain your reasons for refusing to make the sacrifice, so that the company is able to understand your side of the argument.

What do you think? Have you any other pointers to give? Leave your comments in the section below.



Teamwork: It Gets Personal

While it is possible to become more socially confident individually by various means, for instance by practising in front a mirror, so on and so forth, in today’s article, we will be exploring social confidence as a team affair. Why? Because teams form a social support system for members in the professional setting:

We often choose not to conflate personal with professional, because of the opinion that these two should remain mutually exclusive. However, to what extent is it possible to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to a teammate in distress, and leave him to settle his personal problems by himself? Frankly, even if we not want to get involved, we will inadvertently get drawn in, because his behaviour will have an effect on the team.

Thus, the question which begs to be asked: why later and not now? Intervention tends to take place only when other members feel that the team’s dynamics are being affected. However, if intervention is inevitable, why not initiate it from the start in order to avoid any adverse effects from occurring?

In a way, a team thus has a social and moral obligation to look out for and take care of its constituent members. This translates into a large potential in terms of boosting the team’s motivation at work, as well as its resilience in the face of hardship — a well-bonded team is more likely to weather through difficulties than a team where individuals act individually without heeding others.

But why call it an ‘obligation’? Would it not be better if the members simply decide to look out for one another out of the goodness of their hearts? In our opinion, indeed a team should operate based on mutual care and concern, and not on individual interests. However, by making it an obligation to offer help to those who need it, it becomes easier to break down the walls which exist between people, and facilitate the formation of bonds, emotional bonds which initiate the care and concern that we want to have in the workplace.

So what exactly does this have to do with social confidence? By now it should be well established that an ideal team acts as a social safety net for its constituent members, providing encouragement, comfort, consolation, and joy. Therefore, in terms of social confidence, a good team helps its members by pull its members out of their cocoons, by creating a positive climate which promotes openness where people can voice their opinions, argue their cases, and release their inhibitions, all without being put down or judged.

But in order to tap into this potential, it is first necessary for the members of a team to come together and decide that they will do whatever they can to make the experience working in the team a fruitful and memorable one. Is your team up to the challenge?

Motives: A Game of Truth and Deception

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”— Charles Dickens

Gossip, backstabbing, schemes and plots. The workplace can be a vicious place, especially for one not well-versed in the art of office politics. Even for those familiar with the art, letting one’s guard down, albeit temporarily, can have devastating effects. Therefore, while it is not particularly ideal, it is sometimes best to approach others with caution, in order to prevent ourselves from being hurt.

That said, while it is important to be on the lookout for others who might want to do you harm, it is — perhaps regrettable — that this caution sometimes mutates into paranoia, and we come to lose our ability to trust others entirely. Thus, in this instalment, we will be exploring ways to be cautious around others, but retain our trust for others.

Firstly, it is wise to keep an ‘innocent till proven guilty’ view on all issues. It makes our lives as well as those of others very difficult when we condemn people as being guilty whom we have just met or know little about. By maintaining an ‘innocent till proven guilty’ view on issues, even while we have our suspicions about others, we do not allow ourselves to succumb to our suspicions, resulting in a better all-around climate for work. After all, the converse is a battlefield where blame grenades are thrown from one end to another.

Once we have inculcated this mindset of not peremptorily meting out judgement on others, we can proceed to reflect on what others do or have done in the workplace. Actions, after all, are louder than words, and it is through actions that we can gauge a person’s true nature. However, it is not enough to merely observe others’ actions. It is necessary to analyse the reasons behind their behaviour. Behaviour is, after all, a choice.

Thus, as an example, witnessing a person who is perpetually nice to others, while gives us an initial feeling of being appreciated, can be a call for concern, for there are two possibilities: one, the person is genuinely a nice person. Two, he could be pretending to be nice so that he can get what he wants out of others – being nice is the easiest way to make others feel obligated to you. So to analyse the reasons behind his actions, we can look at what else he does or says. For instance, does he use what he has done as leverage against others, by saying things such as “I did X for you. Can’t you do Y for me?” does he exhibit negative body language such as firing looks of irritation at his counterparts whenever they refuse to accede to his requests? If the answers to these questions are both ‘yes’, then this person’s intentions are hardly as pure as they may seem on a day-to-day basis.

By analysing others’ actions as a premise to their intentions, we are able to get an idea of what lies beneath the surface of what we see. However, such analyses are often based on many assumptions, and may lead to conflict if we misread a person’s conduct. Thus, it is of utmost importance that when we undertake to understand a person’s true nature, that we ensure that we stay rooted in reality, rooted to what is plausible, and do not get blown away by fanciful ideas and fantasies about a person’s truth.

Carpe Diem, Quam Minimum Credula Postero

“All we are not stares back at what we are.” ― W.H. Auden

Our reflections are reflections of ourselves. They depict the story of our lives, our choices, our regrets. And it is seeing what stares back at us in the morning when brushing our teeth, whenever we look into a mirror, and seeing what we look like in the mirror, that we notice our flaws, our failed ambitions, everything about us that makes us ask: “who am I, and what have I done?” But the point of this piece is not to make anyone feel depressed. The aim of this article is to encourage a lifestyle where every moment is lived to its fullest, where we live without nursing grudges, without having to rectify regrets.

To begin, it is first necessary to recognise that life is a journey through tumult and tempest, through numerous ups and downs over which we have no control, and that it encompasses many beginnings but just as many ends.

So the only thing that we have power over in this chaos is ultimately ourselves and what we do. Thus, we need to know how to make ourselves make sure that whenever we join or leave a team, we do so leaving those left behind better off than before we were there. To do this, we need to make sure that we do several things:

First, we need to grapple with our sense of time. More often than not, we think that there will be enough time to do something. Thus, we tend to take time for granted, and procrastination ensues. We need to realise that time is limited — after all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and most of that time is spent sleeping. By coming to terms with the fact that time is a limited resource, we come to appreciate our time better, and have less of an impetus to waste it in engaging in pointless activities such as playing video games.

Once we realise that time is a commodity that we need to muster, the next step is to live each day to the next in a way that is meaningful. By meaningful, we mean that one should do what he thinks will leave a positive, lasting impact on his team and community. Not to say that there is something wrong in slaving over a desk or some other mundane job that does not stimulate one’s senses as much as he would like, but that even in such mundane endeavours, it is possible to find meaning, and make changes in others’ lives for the advancement of the team and society.

By finding meaning in our lives, we come to grow to accept our lives as they are, as we live them, and we let go of our regrets, we forget the wrongs others have done to us, and we are able to lead a much more fulfilling life, such that our reflections do not weigh us down as much. So what are you still doing here? Venture forth, and live today like it will be your last!