Don’t mistake your expertise to be your handicap

Be professionally arrogant and personally humble. Never mix up the two.
Most of our strife at the workplace comes because we don’t put our foot down, we don’t say no or we don’t even express our expertise or opinions freely__because we think we are trapped in either the” boss is always right” syndrome or we prefer following the herd. Think about your work and career so far deeply. Every time you have found your work lacking meaning and purpose, and found it to be a burden, the reason would have invariably been because you didn’t feel things were being done right at work. Either culturally, process-wise or strategically. Favoritism, petty politics, bickerings, poor quality, delayed meetings, biased appraisals are all manifestations of things not being “right” in any organization. And you know always that this is not “right” but never spoke up. You have all the solutions to whatever ails your team, department or organization. Because that’s what you qualified for __ to know the “right” way of doing things. But you remain a mute spectator because you are a “good” worker, a “soft-spoken”, “amiable”, “humble” professional.
So instead of being professionally firm__even being arrogant is fine__you choose to be professionally humble. And from being an intelligent, skilled, knowledge worker, you become a grumpy, unproductive, sufferer. You carry your strife home. You put on weight. Your blood pressure starts rising. You encounter diabetes, cholesterol and several lifestyle ailments. Slowly, your professional humility turns you into an individual who’s incompetent or at least appears to be. All of this can be avoided if you see yourself as a subject matter expert. And you stick to the “right” way of doing things. Whether you are a lathe operator or a HR manager or a chartered accountant or a bio-chemist or a pilot, you are a qualified professional. Over years of being in a job, you become a subject matter expert. Be arrogant with this expertise. When you see something that’s going wrong or not being done the “right” way, speak up. And remove this fear that you will lose your job because everyone is toeing the popular line and you don’t want to be the only dissenting voice. In my 27 years of corporate experience, I haven’t seen a single professional who spoke up lose his or her job. But I have seen and still see countless corporate lambs silently suffer because they feared speaking up.
Think of a situation where you go to a doctor and complain of chest pain. The doctor refers you to a cardiologist; who orders scans and concludes that you need a bypass. Can you argue with the doctor on her diagnosis, can you opinionate, can you tell her that she doesn’t know her business? Well you can’t and you won’t. Because your Life is at stake and the doctor is a subject matter expert.
Quite similarly, my dear friend, your Life, your peace, your joy, is at stake, because you are not recognizing the subject matter expert in you. Don’t mistake your expertise to be your handicap. It is the most potent weapon in your arsenal. Use it. You will find bliss at work! Here and Now!

Don’t suffer! Either speak up and/or forgive and move on…

We sometimes don’t realize we have this phenomenal ability to forgive and move on. So we end up suffering people and situations – often endlessly!  
Two days ago, I met a young lady who was very disturbed emotionally. Her’s is an arranged marriage. Her husband of five years, she says, had let her down over an issue raised by his mother – her mother-in-law. He had apparently abused her (his wife) and held her accountable for “insulting” his mother. This incident is over two years old and even as this young lady has been struggling with this emotional hurt, her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, she’s been by his side, dutifully nursing him and helping him cope with all the pain and depression. She told me while she was doing whatever she could to help her husband, she was still unable to get over her hurt over the past and move on. “I simply am unable to forgive him for what he did to me. Agreed, my mother-in-law made a mountain out a molehill, but I can’t understand why my husband vented his fury at me. I felt trampled upon and felt like dirt. Now, when I sit by his side all night helping him deal with his pain and nightmares, I am also suffering within. I feel so much anger for him. Instead of letting it all out, I am having to control it and look after him. This makes me feel worse,” the lady told me, breaking down a few times as she shared her predicament.
I told her that she was making matters worse for her by carrying so much hurt and anger within her. She either has to express her anger – which is to tell her husband how she feels about being treated the way she was or she has to forgive him and move on. It will be ideal if she can do both. Her suffering, I told her, was coming from repressing her feelings. Since her husband is in a fragile state himself, the only way forward for her – and him – at the moment, is for her to be by his side. And since this is not the time to rake up a past hurt and discuss it, she must forgive him and pour her heart into caring for him. (Well, she has the option to leave him at this time. But she, rightly so, does not want to exercise this option.)

Her story may seem unique. But it is not. Many of us suffer from not being able to speak our minds when we must. And many of us also suffer from our inability to forgive and move on. It may not always be possible for us to forget whatever has happened in Life, but we can surely forgive others for what they have done to us. Here’s the nub: when someone does something to you that you do not appreciate, simply tell them so on their face. If you can’t speak up – send that person a text, an email or a WhatsApp message or a facebook messenger note. Then forgive that person and move on. If you have failed to speak your mind and communicate your feelings because you see no point in even discussing the issue with this person, at least forgive this person for his or her transgression and move on. The more you cling on to a hurt, an insult, an abuse, a betrayal, the more you will suffer. Interestingly, unless you “allow” someone to hurt you emotionally, you will never suffer. If you treat people with the view that everyone is entitled to their opinions and behaviors, you will never be emotionally disturbed no matter what people do to you. However, since not all of us can claim to be so evolved and mature, the best way is to speak up or move on or, in a best case scenario, do both. Never suffer anyone or anything grieving that you “wish” you were treated better. It is this wishing, your wishing, that is causing your suffering. And never the person or the event that has upset you.

Focus on issues, than on people – and always say it as it is!

When you must, simply speak your mind. Keeping your views to yourself is a good idea if you have learnt not to grieve. But if you are the sort who simmers when you are unable to express yourself, it’s best to say what you want to – openly, candidly.

Tharoor and Modi: Picture Courtesy/Internet
The papers are full of stories of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) wanting the Congress High Command to reprimand Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor for “praising” Prime Minister Modi over Modi’s pet project – the Swach Bharat campaign. Clarifying that he wasn’t pro-BJP, Tharoor has said this in his defence: “The Prime Minister pitched his appeal as a non-political one and I received it in that spirit. I am a proud Congressman and a proud Indian. In short: not pro-BJP, just pro-India.” But the KPCC mandarins would hear none of this and is seeking that Tharoor be chastisized.

I am not bringing this up here to talk about the inner-party discipline of the Congress or even comment for or against Tharoor’s sense of political propriety. I believe the incident, if you peel away the political affiliations, the overtones and the personalities, gives us an opportunity to understand how we can be focused on issues than on people. The issue here is not Tharoor or Modi, or Congress or BJP – it is about a clean India.

The tragedy though is that almost always we focus on people and miss the issue – How can I say this to him? How dare she speak to me like that? How can I bring this subject up – what will happen if my intention is misunderstood? We fear the repercussions of our being open with family, friends, in social circles, at work and often even in issues that concern our nation or the world. The reason this happens is because of a subconscious tendency that all of us humans have – which is, to be nice to people and to be seen as being nice. So, whenever there’s an opportunity to flag an issue – and debate it, we let it go saying “it” won’t be taken well or that this is not the “right” time. Resultantly, we end up grieving without having been able to express ourselves. Honestly, all of us have felt this way at some time or the other in our lives.

I have learnt it the hard way too. For several years, I tried to be content being tactful than being truthful. But I was very uncomfortable in all those situations when I was unable or I had chosen not to express myself. Over time, I have learnt that if I have an opinion on an issue, I will express myself – saying it as it is, without sugar-coating things, no matter what the issue is or what the context is. And in situations when I choose not to express myself, I also decide not to grieve or complain about the situation. I simply accept things the way they are, I accept my inability to speak about it and I move on.

Recently, we had some maintenance work being undertaken by the owner of the apartment above ours. The owner lives in Dubai and had entrusted the work to a contractor. The contractor did not bother to follow certain procedures laid out for maintenance work by our building’s management. So, for weeks on end work went on, literally above our heads, noisily, for over 18 hours daily. Towards the end of the maintenance project, the owner came from Dubai to review arrangements for a house-warming that he planned to conduct at his “new, improved” apartment. He visited us too. He apologized for the “inconvenience” that we had to put up for over four months. And invited us for the house-warming event. I told him that I could not accept his apology because he was merely saying it for the sake of saying it. I pointed out to him that he could not be “genuinely” apologetic because he has not felt our pain or understood what it means to have someone banging away at the floor above your head for weeks on end. However, I did tell him that if our schedules permitted, we will join in their house-warming ceremony.

This is what I mean when I say focus on the issue. And never on the people. When you focus on the issue, you can express yourself clearly. And candidly. It is when you bring in people and relationships (could be with anyone – between friends, in a family, with a boss, or an organization) that you become emotional and wary of expressing yourself. At the end of the day, it is always better to speak your mind and get it out of you. Or if you choose not to express yourself, also choose not to grieve. Bottomline: Don’t grieve over anything. Definitely not over your inability to say what’s on your mind!