Why do we work – Career vs. Needs Hierarchy

I have been talking to many working professionals over past few weeks about their need to work and what they seek from work. This post (and the next one) summarizes my observations and theory around what I hear.

From a career and motivation perspective, there are 4 levels of employees in an organization:

  • Entry Level employees (Level 1): These are employees who are still figuring out how their career will proceed. Typically these are employees with 0-5 yrs of experience. They need a secure job that can fulfill their basic needs and they are willing to be very flexible around what roles they take up to achieve this. They are mostly unclear of their career goals and rely on their manager for all career guidance. Continue reading

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

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

Thoughts from my India Visit – Careers

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a month in India recently (August, 2008) before coming to Shanghai to join Microsoft here. I commented on the education system and related aspects that I observed. In this post, I will talk about my observations on working professionals and how careers are moving (or not). Please keep in mind that my thoughts and observations are based on talking to a few friends and relatives I met during my visits and by absorbing what media had to offer (newspapers and TV channels). While this is not a comprehensive analysis, I tried to be as objective and as broad as possible in my discussions, so hopefully you will get a good flavor.

Things that are still the same as they were couple years back:

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Measuring Career Growth – Final (career phases framework)

This is the last article in the series on Measuring Career Growth, which started off by talking about measures of success and implication of having multiple measures vis-à-vis time, and was followed by posts on financial and learning goals, followed by a post on job complexity and satisfaction. As I promised in the last post, I will try to provide some framework to handle these measures in some useful way when we engage in our career planning and review.

As I mentioned before, job complexity and job satisfaction are important measures, but difficult to quantify in any meaningful way; I have found them more useful in subjective reviews of the career plan. In this post, I have focused on Financial and learning measures and their interplays with time elapsed.

Assuming that you have defined your financial and learning measures that you want to achieve over a defined time period, following table describes various scenarios that may happen. I use a positive and negative signs to denote that actual value is more or less than planned value. This means that + is good in financial and learning column (achieved more than planned) but bad in time column (using more time than planned).

  Continue reading

Measuring Career Growth – Part III (Job Complexity and Satisfaction)

This is the 3rd post in the series on measuring career growth, and a follow-up to the post on financial and learning goals. In this post, I will talk about 3rd goal (job complexity) and also touch upon the job satisfaction aspect of all these goals, which came up in one of the comments.

Job Complexity goals: As I mentioned before, this is a hard one to measure since it changes infrequently and there are too many parameters that influence this. Job complexity come from how many of the following dimensions are involved in your regular actions and decisions: Continue reading

Measuring Career Growth (Financial and Learning goals) – Part II

This is the follow-up to my last post in which I talked about various measures of career success and the need to prioritize various goals so that trade-offs can be made when time is factored in. In this post, I will focus on two goals and their measures: financial and learning.

Financial Goals: Even though it may sound trivial or easy, financial goals should still be framed and kept around to make sure you are meeting them. Other than the obvious way of framing the goal (“X % raise over Y years”), you can also frame them in terms of utility of money. Continue reading

Measuring Career Growth – Part I

In one of my previous articles, I talked about various measures of success that one can use for their career planning and management. Specifically, I talked about 4 ways:

  1. Financial goals
  2. Learning/competencies goals
  3. Job complexity goals
  4. Career Plan goals

Note that setting any kind of measurable goal is an exercise in itself (see a series of great posts on Cube Rules about setting SMART goals)

In this post, I want to talk about time factor which plays an important role in any career plan and measure: Continue reading

Career Management when you can’t change your company

I was talking to some of my friends and this question came about: what do I do if I can’t change my company even though my career is stuck here.

I have observed this many times; discussions about career management (and growth) seem to imply a change in the current company, even though it need not be. However, to be fair, there indeed are many reasons when someone can’t change their current company even when they need to:

Continue reading