Starting Out In Your First Job? Make Sense of Work and Life

Dinesh joins his first job and is eagerly looking forward to make an impact. He is a go-getter with lots of enthusiasm and energy. His idea of success is to grow rapidly through the ranks and become the CEO. He feels that he needs to compete with his colleagues for work and takes on more and more while alienating his team. However, he discovers that at the workplace he is finding it tough to move initiatives forward and his team mates aren’t cooperative. Over time Dinesh receives feedback that he is overstepping on other peoples’ work and needs to revisit his attitude and approach. Dinesh is confused since he thought he was progressing well and success meant doing and achieving a lot.

Fiona is learning the ropes in design and often finds that her ideas are ignored by other senior members of the team. The team is quite diverse with people from different countries and ethnicities contributing to a global design project.  While ideas are exchanged very little is done with the suggestions that Fiona puts forward even though in private many team members admit they are excellent and worth driving the company forward. Fiona talks to her manager but she asks her to sort it out directly.

 Most organizations continue to hire for skill and countries such as India boast of the world’s largest bank of employable graduates. There is good news for management graduates as hiring for MBAs is rising although the number of ‘employable’ graduates is as low as 10% in countries like India further fueling the need to address issues facing the industry. While interviewing for candidates the critical factors for selection include proven abilities to lead, writing skills, academic success and oral communication. Among the concerns that the industry has are the lack of ‘team player’ attributes, leadership qualities and empathetic attitude from those expected from new hires. Often the education system in some countries teaches students to be competitive while in the corporate world expects them to collaborate and partner for success. Switching mindsets isn’t easy.



Moreover, there is a misconception about success and what it means for new comers or for that matter, anyone. Most equate it to better salaries and positions and growth is often linked to vertical ascent in an organization.  According to Peter Drucker, a leading management thinker there is no such thing as success. It was merely an absence of failure and those who didn’t think deeply about their own life’s purpose and manage themselves effectively were going to feel inadequate in the long term.

Conflicts at the workplace can be debilitating. Most conflicts take place between line managers and teams, at different levels of management and at the entry level often due to personality clashes, stress, workload, poor leadership and insufficient resources. New hires aren’t aware or ready to navigate these challenges and work through such issues resulting in mismatched expectations and uncertain futures. Career spans are reducing rapidly with the millennials expected to change jobs every year or two. While this new generation is adept with using newer forms of technology and social media they still need guidance in navigating the workplace and making sense of the organization’s goals. Just like how the millennials expect opportunities to grow and learn the organization also expects them to stay connected and give back in more ways than one. 

How can Dinesh and Fiona think about their work and purpose?

What must new hires know and do to be relevant? Do share your views.

Essentials to be a trusted communication partner | Communication Director Asia

Sharing a  recent article that I penned for Communicator Director magazine:

Keen to hear your views.

You can also read the entire edition here:


Starting In Your First Job? Know What The Future Holds

Sunita is a smart MBA student and lands her first assignment with a multinational company. She is excited by the world of opportunities in front of her. After the first two months in the job she is disillusioned by what she sees. People don’t seem to be as authentic as they looked when she interviewed, her role changed multiple times, the organization had several restructures and she faced challenges getting work done with stakeholders and her peers. Moreover, her manager made work difficult by asking her to come in on weekends and also attend office outings that she wasn’t comfortable with. Sunita is at a loss. What was she doing wrong? How did things go downhill so soon? She is contemplating looking out for openings in other firms. Will that work? She isn’t sure. If she stays, does she have a future? She doesn’t know either.



Tanu joins a workplace which is regimented and expects each employee to give up their personal traits and be aligned with the organization’s rules of engagement. He has interests outside of work including an entrepreneurial streak that helped him create a few apps and gather patents. His organization sees that as a risk and a conflict of interest that can mean potential damages through information leaks They make him sign an agreement which prevents Tanu from engaging in any form of activity outside of work unless he has explicit permission from his manager and leader. He feels frustrated by this lack of trust and autonomy from his organization and wonders if he made the right choice in joining this new workplace.

Landing a job is easy. Understanding yourself, learning to navigate the culture and having a plan that keeps you on track is tougher. These skills are much needed in a highly complex and evolving world of work and life. Every year, millions of graduates (management and other domains) enter the workplace to make an impact to organizations and add value to their careers and lives. Over the next few posts I plan to share some thoughts on what new joiners need to consider while starting out at a workplace.

I recently met a bunch of MBA students to listen and share perspectives on what they can expect and how they can be better equipped to handle work and life. In a pre-session exercise I asked the group to reflect on their strengths, how they anticipated the workplace would treat them, their personal and preferred style of working, their personality traits, how they thought they handled stress, their values and their ability to perform. From the responses I gathered, there were gaps in their understanding of work and life in the real-world. Most importantly, they had limited understanding of how to transition to the corporate world, learn the ropes and stay on track.

As the future of the workplace is shifting to working from ‘everywhere’, driven by technology and expectations of a flexible mindset (hot-desking, bring your own devices, operating virtually etc) the need for the workforce to adapt to these changes has never been more critical. They need to learn newer skills such as sense making, design thinking, new media literacy, cross-cultural understanding and social intelligence. Organizations are getting re-organized to work in clusters and smaller, self-managed teams that deliver results. In such scenarios, often there are no leaders and everyone is expected to play their part and be flexible.  Likewise, changes at the workplace can be unsettling for many new comers; re-organizations, new performance systems, leadership movements, new focus areas, acquisitions, downsizing and mergers among others.

What do you think Sunita and Tanu can do in their new workplaces?


Four Ways To Communicate Parity At The Workplace

Consider these cases.

  • A woman spokesperson in a company while discussing the topic of diversity with media nonchalantly mentions that there must be greater parity in the salaries among both genders at the workplace. This statement is picked up by other media who question the practices of the company putting the HR Head and the CEO in a spot.
  • An organization creates a campaign to educate employees on the issues surrounding sexual harassment at work. In the communication, a poster depicts a man making advances at a woman. This visual creates a bias at the workplace that only women are harassed by men even though the reported cases are equal among both sexes.

It is that time of the year (March 8th is International Women’s Day) when organizations debate and discuss plans to make the workplace more inclusive. I can already witness a flurry of action with e-mails seeking women leaders as speakers, Whatsapp groups inviting ideas to engage women employees, suggestions sought for activities that will make people ‘feel’ good during the event and notes getting passed on which events worked and which failed.


Recently I attended a forum for women leaders and as one of the few men in the room it helped to gain insights on the issues that workplaces need to address. One among them is communicating parity inside the organization. Often buzz words like transparency and openness are shared widely to convey how organizations want to make the workplace inclusive. However, there is a gap between what is said and messages that get unsaid. Events and interventions end up seeming ‘gimmicky’ and employees get the feeling that employers aren’t walking the talk when they see bias creeping into decisions taken. The world isn’t fair and the evidence is compelling.

What is visible gets attention: Most organizations tend to devote a lot of energy in increasing the percentage of women at the workplace because it is on the radar of senior leadership. Media also looks at the ratios in the board rooms and labels organizations according to their ‘inclusiveness’. Internally, managers are asked to hire more women to ensure there is a balance in the team and more diverse thinking. All this because it is visible to the leaders and sought after by stakeholders as ‘proof’ that an organization is living its code. As communicators we have a role to play in making the real issues ‘visible’ to people who matter.

Spot it, communicate it: What if in the above mentioned cases, the organization’s leaders made it a point to call out why the media message wasn’t appropriate employees would have been more convinced about trusting the firm and their leaders. Often, organizations take the safer route of letting ‘issues go by’ so as to avoid raising more dust than needed. This can probably do more harm than good in the long run. As communicators we can be the conscience keeper for the organization and call out when interventions are needed.

Focus on the year, not on a ‘day’: Look at what your organization communicates and practices year-long and not get side-tracked by the ‘days’ that come and go. Your employees are looking at a consistent experience and not a one-off showcase or event that wows them. They can see through any false promises and attempted calls for parity. In an organization of repute, the women’s washroom was located further down the floor as compared to the men’s. Sensitizing men on one day isn’t going to get results. Demonstrate that your organization walks the talk.

Respect, not roses: While not everyone will agree, your workforce isn’t going to be swayed by a splendid lunch or a bunch of roses handed by managers on a particular day. They are looking for proof that the workplace respects and treats them fairly. And that swift action is taken when someone acts inappropriately. Furthermore, they are keen to see the results of such actions reported widely, not kept for a committee to check the boxes. Look up your company policies, internal forums and other platforms for opportunities to bring in parity in the tone of voice, access to resources and to make your workplace welcoming.

What we focus on conveys who we are as an organization and communicators are front and centre of the change that can take place within.

Do you agree? What else can be done to communicate parity at the workplace? Do share your views.