Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Horizontal Ladder

Now that I am almost three years into the corporate life, I think I have earned the right to make HRish statements which would make me some sort of a management guru, a.k.a a person who writes books with catchy titles which nobody reads, but everybody raves about.

I have seen senior management and HR go to any lengths to poach employees from competitor firms, and let’s face it, as employees, we are all greedy pigs, who would mouth frivolities like ‘job satisfaction’ and ‘exposure’, but in the end give in to more powerfully shallow but effective tools like ‘compensation’ and ‘designation’. Fortunately, HR and senior management are well aware of this, which is why they have devised cruel mechanisms like the ‘hierarchy’, which can be tweaked to fool the employee into believing that she is rising up the corporate ladder, when, in reality, she is just moving horizontally.

Let’s start at the top of the pyramid. In my dad’s generation, the position, ‘Managing Director’ meant something. The company usually had ONLY ONE MD, and it would usually be someone with 25-30 years of experience with greying hair and false teeth. But today, walk into any multinational bank, you would find that the number of MDs is almost equal (if not more) to the number of office boys.

Or take the title Assistant Vice President or Associate Vice President. It looks awfully impressive on your Linkedin/Facebook/matrimonial profile, but if you look closely, you are still a rat, who now has to dress better.

Then there are some companies which just create layers and layers of frill which would ensure that the employee, while being motivated by a promotion every year, would keep waiting for the good stuff. It’s like playing strip poker: you need a lot of patience and a lot of luck. For instance, you join fresh from a B school as a Management Trainee, and then within a year you are ‘promoted’ to Asst. Manager and again the next year, you become Deputy Manager, but at the end of three years, you are left wondering why you are still reporting to the same old hag of a Manager, with very little change in your responsibilities.

Finally, there are companies which are so insecure that they deliberately undermine their competitors by playing around with designations. For example, Company A recruits 20-year old fresh graduates as “associates” and promises to promote them to “analysts” after three years. Two years later, Company B poaches “associates” from Company A alluring them with the designation “analyst”. Only after spending another three years in Company B, the analyst gets promoted to an “associate” in Company B, i.e. the level he had started five years back.

There are only two kinds of designations: employed and free…

12 comments:

~ Mohit said...

HaHa. I completely completely relate to it 'coz I for some strange reason also own one of the desigantions u mentioned here. And for precisely the same reason never do even half mention it to my relatives, friends et al; except for the linkedin profile where I once removed my latest designation and junta thought I have been demoted...

But yeah,its all shallow. Very shallow. And completely unsatisfactory to self... Rat Race ... Win or Loss. Got to stay a Rat ... :-) till am at it atleast ...

Anonymous said...

Shimonti

as usual the article captures the truth with a comic tangy feeling.

Maumita

the.orchestra.of.life said...

thanks for the reminder ... that explains me why/how all people in my linkedin list have such fancy titles .. everyone seems to me a top manager of some sort .. wonder who does the real work ? !!

Akshat said...

Great post....an interesting read indeed and very true...

Nefertiti said...

@mohit
ahhh... another way to look at it is as long as you ARE in it, might as well be a bigger rat.

@maumita
hey thanks!

@the.orchestra.of.life
the work? it's for insignificant tiny rats like me :(

@akshat
thanks... it's sad but true!

Neil said...

I think your friends in HR will beg to differ.

~ Mohit said...

And height of serendipity ... The day I wrote the above comment, my designation changed ... :-) haha ...

Nefertiti said...

@neil
I am no longer friends with you-know-who...

@mohit
umm... I am still wondering what's the appropriate response to that.
congratulations?
sympathies?
or my blog is lucky for you?

~ Mohit said...

haha... Sure sweetheart ... All of above.. Except sympathies ofc ...

Anonymous said...

Hehehehe...so true! And well written also :)

Nefertiti said...

@mohit
congratulations it is then. And treat due for the contribution of my blog towards your success

@anonymous/I know who you are
now you loserly HR people have to figure out new ways to outsmart us

~ Mohit said...

Haha. Done. And for ur fabulous appraisal :-) Cheers !