Appreciation at workplace

I was talking to someone from my last company and this came up: why is it that I don’t get appreciated when I do a good job, but no one forgets to blame me when something goes wrong?

It definitely sounded familiar to me: in every company I have worked so far, I have heard this complaint from my peers, my reports (yes, I am guilty too) and from me. And when broached this topic with people around me, I got similar comments of not getting as much appreciation as they would like and getting more blame and problems than they can handle.

Wikipedia defines appreciation (or gratitude): “A positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. According to University of California-Davis researcher, Robert Davis, gratitude requires three conditions: a gracious individual must behave in a way that was 1) costly to him or her, 2) valuable to the recipient, and 3) intentionally rendered”

I looked around to see if a motivated manager can find the resources necessary to do a good job, and I could find plenty. There is a lot to be found on Internet: Continue reading

Change Initiatives – Managing self-fulfilling prophecy

In a previous post on taking initiatives to advance your career, I had discussed about handling peers when you take initiatives because they may cause your initiatives to fail. Here I want to talk about another phenomenon that one needs to be aware of. Here is the term I use to describe it: self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wikipedia describes it this way:

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.

In organizations, this is seen most commonly as resistance to change (in process, strategy, technology, etc.). All changes are hard, and organization-wide changes are very hard. Successful changes require 100% commitment and support from 100% of team members and leaders, which is obviously very hard to achieve. This means that every change initiative will have a set of dissenters. Here are typical behaviors dissenters show: Continue reading

Comparing management experiences in US, China, and India


I have been working in China for last 18 months or so, with one of the largest software MNC here. During this period, I have (very briefly, 3 months) been an individual contributor and rest of time I have been a people manager. Having been a people manager in India and US in the past, I now have the perspective on managing people in 3 biggest economies of the world! Given this, let me share some comparisons and contrasts across these three countries.


  1. Effective people management requires customization to individual needs – Some individuals require you to be very direct and brutal in communication and feedback, others need you to be softer in your message and be more sensitive to their emotional needs. This variation occurs in all teams in all countries and I couldn’t find any pattern of cultural or geographical preferences; an effective manager needs to be adaptable and have a set of styles to suit individuals reporting to him/her.
  2. Career growth and development is #1 concern for everyone – Most of the concerns and problems I have faced over last 8-9 years across these 3 countries can be traced to concerns and insecurities around where the career is going and whether they control their own career. Sometimes it has required effort to figure the root cause out, and some other times it has been masked by the skills requirements and weaknesses of individuals, but a focus on career topics have helped a large number of 1-1 I have had over this time. Continue reading

Career Path for engineers – Management Track vs. Individual Contributor Track

I read the article “Indian IT firms redefine career path for engineers” on with interest:

“Indian information technology (IT) service providers such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd are following multinational firms such as International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in building a technical career path for senior engineers opting out of managerial roles.

This is a shift from their traditional focus on promoting employees for managerial roles as they seek more complex projects from customers that need highly skilled people to execute them.

Now, employees can opt to be a designer or an architect and climb the ladder conceiving or building large projects.”

Having worked in product development companies in India (2000-2006), I can attest to the need to develop strong individual contributor (IC) track of growth; we struggled a lot to get our bright ICs to stay IC and not opt for management career path. Continue reading

Change Agents – can they handle change?

As a manager, I have had my fair share of changes imposed on me (and my team) because of an incoming exec, and I have done my bit in bringing in change to the organizations I have gone to. If you have been in any of these situations, you will realize that change of any kind is hard: whether it is you who is trying to change an organization, or whether you are the recepient of the change.

However, one of the things that I am realizing as I reflect on these experiences is surprising: people who have brought in changes are sometimes not as good at being recepient of changes as you might think they would be. Even though they may pump their fist and push you hard to change, when it is time for them to change, they come across as change resistors! In one of the change management training I took, they gave us a test which evaluated us on whether we embrace change, we are neutral to change, or we resist change. Now I am much more inclined to think that (assuming such tests are valuable at all) there should be two versions of the test: one to test whether you are good or bad at bringing in change to an organization, and then there should be another one to test whether you are good or bad at receiving change when it is imposed on your organization.

I will not be surprised if these two tests show different results for same individuals. Will you be surprised?

Performance Review – Weaving personal goals into organizational ones

Often times, setting goals for next year’s performance review takes into account only organizational goals set by the manager for the employee. This misses an opportunity to set the goals in a way that could benefit the employee’s career growth plan in the most direct way.

As an employee, you should look at goals set by your manager as what organization wants to achieve. You then need to identify your personal goals and figure out a way (working with your manager) to write the goals and execution plans in a manner that can incorporate personal goals without compromising organization goals. This creates a win-win situation for you and your manager. Continue reading

What do leaders/managers give to organizations?

This is performance review time, and naturally I am thinking about what I have done over the past year as a leader/manager to warrant any reward. It is always hard to figure this out, because all the work is done by an Individual Contributor, and so it is hard to be objective when evaluating the performance of a lead/manager.

Here are some values I believe a lead/manager provides to the organization and should be used for performance measurements:

  1. Judgment – Take difficult decisions even with incomplete information
  2. Mentoring and Coaching – develop better Individual Contributors, new leaders and managers
  3. Vision –Provide roadmap (new or interpretation of existing one) to employees, both for personal growth as well as for organizational growth (employees need both), do long term thinking
  4. Change Agent – Change is very hard, leaders/managers need to be the change agent by figuring out when a change is needed, as well as ways of successfully implementing change while continuing to show results
  5. Role model – Leaders are what employees want to be, and hence their behavior is closely watched and often emulated by others. As such they need to reflect right organization culture and values at all times. Continue reading

Managing Careers

Here is the background on this series, and here is the previous post on this series (Managing Expectations).

This is the final post in the series, and this tackles perhaps the most important question of all: Ravi needs to help people in his team build and grow their career as they work under his guidance. However, this takes time, patience, and some skills. How does Ravi manage this along with all the other responsibilities he has, given the fact he doesn’t have enough time on his hands given so many reports?

Career Management is the theme for this blog and I have written extensively on this topic, both from the perspective of a person managing his/own career, as well as a manager doing it for his/her reports (see Career Development and Perf Management categories for example). If you survey other resources on the net, you will find everything from survival tips to research papers, see How Not to get Laid Off, 25 Hot Tips For Managing Your Career, Managing Careers in Large Organizations, etc. However, this doesn’t make the job of a manager with 9 reports any easier, given the fact that there is no silver bullet to be used when managing your reports’ careers is concerned. Career Management takes time, and time is something a busy manager like Ravi doesn’t have. Continue reading

Managing Expectations

Here is the background on this series, and here is the previous post on this series (Managing Work).

In this post, we are going to try answering the question: How does a manager as important as him (and holding as many resources) manage expectations from other senior managers and executives without over-committing his team or himself?

If you try to look for writings on the topic of managing stakeholders, you will find very tactical things (“Managing Stakeholders“, “Project Management Success“), some useful tips (“6 steps to success“) and some philosophy (“Managing Key Stakeholders“). In any organization, there are a lot of internal stakeholders (“a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something” – matrix organization‘), there will be much more communication-related expectations, organizational cultures that are very results focused may want you to keep improving your efficiency and keep delivering more, managers (or organizations or culture) who focus on long-term growth and vision may pose stringent requirements for people growth, and so on. for any given work. For example, in a typical software product development company, a manager in R&D group typically has these stakeholders: his/her manager, managers in peer disciplines (dev, test, operations, etc), product manager(s), heads of engineering, marketing and support organizations. Typically, stakeholders exert enough influence directly or indirectly on your work to make a significant difference to the outcome (positively as well as negatively) and hence it is important to manage their expectations.

There are three aspects of expectations from these stakeholders that Ravi needs to keep in mind: