I have had a somewhat love-hate corporate life. It started very well. I started with an MNC named XL capital (now AXA XL) and found a fun team to work with and a year later, found myself in the starting HR team of Google Gurgaon. After that, 2 more multinationals had me as an employee – Baxter and Accenture. In 2016, after having my son, and a brief return to work life, I quit and gave myself another title of a fulltime mother.
When I look back, a lot of my life’s learnings have been passed on to me intentionally or unintentionally due to my 11 years in the corporate world. I have tried to jot down what has really come in handy so far.
- Make real connections – I think a big complaint people make in corporate world is trust. Nobody trusts nobody. You think you are indispensable but as soon as you quit, your replacement is hired within a month and life goes on. Nobody misses you really except if you made any real friends at work. I didn’t intend to do that but I ended up having some life-long friendships. Real connections do take you places. Make that extra effort – no selfish interest though! But if you genuinely like someone across teams or levels, make that effort to invest in that relationship. If nothing, you will get the gifts of friendships.
- Pick up the phone – arguments and escalations and rifts are plenty and many. I have spent rather wasted time in drafting emails to “respond” to a complaint, curated the “cc” list to ensure I respond back like a bang! Like Uma Thurman in kill bill. But it took me 2 such incidents and wisdom of a good boss to tell me WTF – just pick the damn phone and stop spamming my inbox! People who hide behind keyboards are much softer in real life. That’s my learning. Just pick the damn phone and resolve conflicts. Keyboards are useless in resolving any real problems.
- Humour comes handy – I have realised starting and ending any conversations with humour is so important. You start with humour and it gives an instant ease to the tone. Irrespective the way your conversations end – I doubt anyone can not not smile if you end with a “see you later alligator” phrase. I think it’s still valid! I have called dibs on it so find your own parting phrase but do find one.
- Diplomacy in saying No – I have learnt this the hard way because most of the times I have a lot to say. I speak or write way too much. And sometimes I don’t say anything at all just coz I couldn’t say no. Let me give you an example –
Year 1 of my corporate life
Boss – the backlog is way too much. Let’s devote a Saturday (holiday) and finish this.
[since I didn’t own a car then, I’d have to book an office cab (year 2005 of no uber ola) and that can only come at 8am so I reach office at 9am on a Saturday. Boss drove his car so I knew he would turn up at 11am. But since I was this naïve and inexperienced person, I agreed grudgingly knowing it all]
Me – Yes sure. [Inner cringe, cancelling the date with boyfriend, dreading to wake up at 7 am on a holiday].
Many days were spent thinking why I even said that. Why couldn’t I say no! I couldn’t come with any lame lie like a dentist appointment.
Year 9 of my corporate life.
Boss – there are way too many slides to make out of this data. We need to complete this deck (hate this word!) by X date (7 days to go for it). Why don’t we spend a Saturday and collate this and work on the slides.
Me – [thinking hard on how to not spoil my weekend and how to combine all my corporate learnings in the sentence coming up] I think let’s spend sometime today looking at the data which needs both of us, and which one needs one of us and divide the slides. If we are unable to divide within that hour, we will do the rest tomorrow. I am willing to extend beyond work hours on Tuesday but it will be done by Friday. I do not see a reason we both need to spend an entire day that too on a weekend for this.
Boss – ok. [on board with the plan in fact reassured with my confidence]
That day I learnt a lot about myself. It is okay to say no. Take a moment, draft a sentence and learn to say No properly. You are paid for X hours during the week. Not X+1 or X+5! Just X – it’s your boss’ problem to manage the work within that time.
- It’s okay to make mistakes – I once made a blunder as a new joiner in a firm. I offered someone a salary which wasn’t even in the budget. I don’t know what I read! But I have to give it to my boss for her calmness though very annoyed. I immediately went to her and apologized as is one of my good habits in life. It was end of our day so she said ok let’s talk tomorrow. I didn’t sleep properly that night. I was petrified. It could become a legal issue if we backtracked the offer. It needed Compensation & Benefit director to approve a special out of range salary. I was in a big soup I felt . BUT since I owned up my mistake immediately, my boss spoke to the candidate. She made him understand the situation. We wrote a nicely worded “legal vetted” email and apologised. Offered him the new reduced salary. Eventually he declined but I learnt most corporate problems have a solution. Do not panic, admit to your mistakes, go to the bosses with solutions and get it over with soon.
Shit happens, admit and move on.
That’s all folks! I may do another one super soon. Those were really my top 5.