29 September 2016 15:21:53 IST

The importance of being visible

What happens when Suresh is given ‘Good’ rating year after year?

Suresh walked out of Ajay’s office and slowly made his way to the cabin that he and the head of audit shared. On the way to his desk, he threw his laptop onto the two-seat sofa. His colleague on the next table raised his eyebrows and looked at him questioningly.

“Ajay just does not get it. Nobody gets it!” Suresh sounded exasperated.

“Another ‘Good’ rating?” the audit head enquired.

“What else can you expect from these IIM types?” It was obvious that his anger was directed at Ajay, the CFO who had joined two years ago.

Suresh was the company secretary and legal head of the company. He and the audit head reported into Ajay. “I don’t know why we waste our time having these appraisal discussions, if I am to be ultimately rated ‘Good’,” Suresh kept fuming.

The previous CFO, who had a chartered accounting and legal background, always rated Suresh ‘outstanding’.

The conversation

“How did the conversation with Ajay go?” asked the audit head, sounding sympathetic.

“Do you know what the most frustrating thing in the life of a professional is?” asked Suresh.

The audit head shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s when your boss has no background or understanding of what you do,” grumbled Suresh.

He continued, “Imagine, every time I have to not only explain things to Ajay but also prompt him on the kind of decision he needs to take.”

“But surely during the appraisal discussions today, you could have highlighted your contributions this past year?” the audit head said.

“Don’t you think that is exactly what I tried to do?” Suresh glared.

“Just hold it there, Suresh. Please do not direct your anger at me. I am just trying to help.”

“I am sorry. It’s just that I feel so frustrated,” Suresh said helplessly.

The audit head tried to help, “You know, Suresh. In every company there are functions where it is all about effectively managing the status quo. Unfortunately, the work you guys do never gets appreciated.”

“Exactly my point! I tried to tell Ajay that if there were any slip-ups in my work, the consequences for the company would have been grave. But he does not think so,” said Suresh.

“Why don’t you meet the CMD and let him know how you feel? After all, he is your second level manager,” the audit head suggested.

“He always goes by what his direct reports tell him. I am sure even the ‘Good’ rating I got last year was approved by the CMD,” Suresh felt angry.

“Look at it this way. The CMD is the owner of this company and he will always be here and be more concerned about the consequences that you speak of. Ajay and people like us come and go,” said the audit head.

“So what exactly are you suggesting? Should I first allow a problem to occur and then solve it in order to enhance my importance here?” asked Suresh.

“Well, that is one strategy adopted by many others. But I am sure there can be a more positive approach. The point you made to Ajay about consequences to the company is something the CMD would appreciate better,” said the audit head. He continued. “You better do it soon before Ajay closes your appraisal rating with the CMD.”

The meeting

That afternoon, Suresh called the CMD on the intercom, “Suresh here, sir. You would recall the legal case in that company you were a Director at. I would like to update you on the developments, when you have the time.”

“Please come over now, Suresh,” the CMD responded. The case pertained to four years ago, when the CMD was a Director at a friend’s company. The authorities had filed a case against the firm for some serious violations of the Companies Act.

Suresh took his seat, across from the CMD’s table. “The next hearing is coming up the day after tomorrow, sir. And the prosecution seems to have a strong case,” he began.

“What are the implications if this case is lost?” asked the CMD.

“We may get off with a fine. But in a worst case scenario, there could be a six-month imprisonment for you. But as you are aware, through some of my relatives, I have got to know the prosecution lawyer and have managed to keep stalling the matter till now. Let me assure you sir, that so long as I am here, nothing will happen to you. I will ensure we get away with a fine at best,” said Suresh.

“I have full faith in you, Suresh. But if the tide turns against us, please keep me posted well in advance.”

“Sure, sir.”

This time, the audit head saw a more confident Suresh walk in.

“Done,” said Suresh, “and thank you for the advice,” he smiled.

That year Suresh was rated ‘outstanding’.

He also knew that as long as this and other court cases continued, not only could he expect outstanding ratings but be secure in his job.