We all have read fairy tales as a kid right? Remember those days when your world revolved around the Cinderellas, Rapunzels, Snow Whites or Sleeping Beauty? I, for one, loved fairy tales. In fact, to me fairy tales were like books on String Theory for Sheldon. Ok, perhaps not the best analogy, but there was a time, when I ONLY read fairy tales, and not just the regular ones, but even the most non-descript ones from all over the world, especially Greece and Russia.
Anyhow, over the past few years I have been observing some uncanny similarities between fairy tales and the corporate world. Think about it, every fairy tale would have these standard characters: the beautiful damsel in distress, the loyal (usually gay) friend, the elusive Prince Charming, the irrepressible witch, not to mention the scheming ugly sisters and finally, the all powerful, evil ogre (often green in colour).
Now, consider the typical office environment around you. Let’s start with the easiest, i.e. the all powerful, evil ogre. No points for guessing who he is: the CXO/MD who derives a sadistic pleasure in turning the fairy tale into a nightmare for every employee of the organization.
Moving on to the witch, which is not exactly rocket science, i.e. the immediate boss who reports to the ogre: usually spineless, sucking up to the green monster, petty and making life miserable for the beautiful princess and all the little people around her.
The elusive Prince Charming is also a very interesting character and almost all organizations would have at least one of these smooth talking extroverts who can confidently sweep everybody off their feet (including the witch and the ogre). This is the guy who will speak the most in all meetings, get invited to all the office parties, have all the women swoon over him and walk away with the highest rating and fat bonuses. BUT, there is one small problem. This guy WILL NEVER GET HIS HANDS DIRTY. He will delegate, he will manage and he will co-ordinate, but he will not, I repeat, will not do any work.
As for the loyal friend, he would always be the side kick: dependable, trustworthy and quietly efficient, he will be the person who will rescue the team from a crisis, he will work on weekends and holidays when nobody is around to appreciate it and he will get things done year after year, even though he barely gets noticed or appreciated. Until the day comes when he is tired of the Prince Charming taking credit for his work and he quits, to become a writer or a teacher, most probably in Kolkata.
The beautiful damsel in distress is a rare species in any company, especially if you are in a bank. It’s amazing how someone can get away with doing little or no work, as long as she has a pretty face and a bright smile. Struggling with excel? Why bother with the “Help” function when you can just shrug your shoulders and chat up the colleague at the next desk, who would be grateful for the opportunity to do your work. Of course, the company does its best to groom and retain the beautiful damsel in distress, because her mere presence increases the productivity of the rest of the ordinary folks on the floor, who will try to outdo each other just to impress the girl, blissfully unaware that the Prince Charming is already miles ahead in the race.
As for the ugly sisters, they are the most abundant species you will find in every organization: scheming, bitchy associates, close to the witch, but secretly plotting her downfall. They are the ordinary people with limited skills and ambitions, slightly cowardly, too scared to upset the apple cart and therefore going with the flow, taking pleasure in trivial office politics, but overall happy with the security of the monthly paycheck and the year end handout.
So, where do I fit in? While I started out as a bit of a Sleeping Beauty who struggled to mingle, now I am completely ingrained into the system, very much a part of the fairy tale, comfortably in the shoes of the smallest ugly sister.
While the corporate fairy tale is a long and winding story, it remains to be seen if it has a happy ending…