The 2% Masala: When my manager said “I hope there’s someone to give you a job”

This is from a true real world scenario. Imagine that you are doing very well in your organization. Everybody has a healthy regard for you. One fine morning in your one on one with your manager, he says “I hope there will always be someone looking out for you with a job…”. What goes on in your mind.

The dialog begins…

After the usual morning salutations, my manager, WS, hands me an envelope. In my characteristic style, I thank him but do not open it. He goads me to open it. As I read it, he congratulates me. Well I have been promoted to the highest level in the organization – a position on the board. I was pleased to hear that. For a brief moment my heart went aflutter – how I wish my dad had lived to see this day! Then a brief moment of pride and joy. I am back to my usual composed self thereafter. WS then hands me another envelope. I just keep it. WS does not goad me this time. He just says I hope you will like what you see in that. (Later when I go back to my desk and open it – I notice it contained a letter with options and another with my  revised salary).

WS says “With this Srini, your responsibilities and commitments further increase. You along with RM and DP need to make this place successful.”

The dialog ends …

As I am above to leave, WS says “Srini, I just have one more thing to say. I hope there will always be someone out there in the market looking out for you with a job.”

I am normally not surprised by what people say, but I am perplexed that WS after moving me to the board, now wishes that I can get another job! I am lost for sure.

WS says “Srini, let me tell you why.” My anxiety level is very high and I want to know what he really wants me to do. “Srini, as long as someone is there in the market willing to give you a job, I have a risk. You can walk away in 30 days. Now imagine a day, should nobody look for you. I have the biggest risk – I am saddled with a heavy useless potato. I prefer the former risk to the latter.”

Having understood, I thanked him and stepped out, promising to myself I will do my very best to stay worthy of what I am paid for.

The 2% Masala Impact

We all speak to our managers on tons of things – good, bad and ugly. But when you continue to recollect it through your working career and you share it with people who have worked with you, you know that it was a message truly worth internalizing.

Two key takeaways from this:

1. The timing of when you communicate something matters a lot. Do you think I would have been very receptive if I had heard this on any ordinary day, or when the organization was unable to improve my job content or earnings. I would have been receptive differently – walked away straight to a head hunter to look out for a job!

2. The real message – be careful that you are not over valued way beyond the market.  [How to handle over valued situation – is another topic for another day… I have had quite a few people asking my suggestion in the past several years.] There are a wide range of reasons why that can happen to you in your career, if you are not careful. It can look great initially with a higher title, higher pay, higher role – but if the true usage is well below market you are at a risk because you have no way to grow or go out easily. You are trapped inside! That can damage you in the long run. I am hearing more of these dead-end alleys with the industry not growing at that scorching pace causing early obsolescence.

I have actually seen some very senior people join a large organization with fancy title and a big pay check. But soon the job they do is far less valuable than they did in the prior job. They put up with it and continue – because the outside world sees them as having arrived. It hurt their ego big time to say the real content of their job is bad. So the organization has cleverly used that vulnerability to the hilt. I am not advocating this – but I have seen this in close quarters.

I have repeated this story at various points to my employees, because I truly believed in the message WS left me with. It’s ideal to be paid and titled right. it’s a much simpler life even if you are a little underpaid, have an understated title – because you are never at the mercy of the prevailing situation. You will never have sleepless nights when the organization churns or changes itself. You are always market-valuable.

As always feel free to comment, provide your inputs, or any such experience you have had.

What do you think?

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