This forced Work from Home seems to induce philosophical ruminations in me. Here I talk about some of my most bizarre work experiences.
I was a young, naive intern.
My boss had asked me to present two sets of data from my project on the same slide so that they can be compared.
I did that. But he completely flipped while I was presenting. “What is this? I can’t make any sense out of this. Don’t waste everybody’s time with presentations like these. Hadn’t I told you how to present the data?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. It was exactly the data I had already shown to him, and which he had wanted to be presented.
Quite baffled, I thought hard. Then I remembered a little something. He had said – “Present the data on the same slide. One below the other.” I had used the default PowerPoint template and put the two graphs side by side. Hoping against hope, I started with an empty slide and put exactly the same graphs stacked up on the slide, instead of side by side (It would have fitted better side by side). For good measure, I also asked someone at the office if there was a company presentation template I could use. I got that, applied it, and the colors changed on my presentation.
The next day, my boss was ecstatic. “This is exactly what I wanted! See, the data makes sense now.”
It is anyone’s guess if it was the graphs stacked up, or the company’s presentation template. But since then, in any new job, I do enquire about whether there is a company presentation template I could use.
Boss is the king!
I was a young product manager. Not so naive by then. So, I recognized that it is a problem for me that the product head and the engineering head have two totally divergent ideas about my project. So, I did the best I could think. I got them in a room together (one was on the video conferencing, I think, but the connection was pretty good). The meeting seemed to go very well. They agreed on everything. Once we came out of the meeting, the product head told me something to the effect that we can’t really be doing what the engineering head wanted. How long do you think I had to pat myself on the back before the world shattered?
One can’t win with the bosses, can one?
On a work call, the project leader announced. “We can’t be gathering so much data. Then the statistics stops working and we don’t know what to do with it.” I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from objecting that statistics works only when we have large amounts of data. Thankfully, it was an audio call, and they couldn’t see my body language and the literal biting of my tongue!
They weren’t my reporting manager (small mercies!), but I still had a dotted line reporting to them.
One can’t correct the bosses, can one?
I was neither young nor naive by this time. I totally believed in not just irrationality, but complete insanity of the world. I still have to admit that I didn’t see this one coming.
A colleague who was tasked with getting OKRs done for every team, “gave” me my OKRs. In a Google sheet. It had 100+ rows. With six columns in front of each. For about 4-5 odd projects I had for the quarter! And they refused to give me edit rights to “my” OKRs. Because it was for “their” reference. Yep, boss! That’s how OKRs work. Long story short, this person had done nothing wrong, it was all a problem because we didn’t have a “personal rapport” and I was the one solely responsible for that state of affairs. That “personal rapport” can’t be an excuse for not doing your job? And that little something called professionalism? Or that the OKRs aren’t “given” to people? Bah! Who cares? I could either suck up to this or have “no long term prospect” in the company. That wasn’t much of a choice, was it? No headmaster I have ever known has behaved in more headmaster-like fashion. Trying to keep the little kids disciplined through strict monitoring of homework. Must use ruled paper! Must submit to 100-rows OKRs.
Dealing with pseudo bosses with arbitrary power, utter incompetence, and huge, brittle egos is even more difficult than dealing with statistics-challenged bosses!
Howsoever, old, wizened, wise, skeptical, or cynical I grow, the world (and the corporate world, in particular) will keep baffling and surprising me.