I was catching up with a close friend who has just returned from the US after a 6 year stint and obviously if you both happen to be in the same line of work the conversation is bound to steer towards discussing work culture and ethics – apart from other things of course. It reminded me of an incident almost 7 years ago and I realized that I hardly talked about it so I thought this is a good place to share. Here it goes…
It was June 2008 and I was about 16 months into my second job. I had been slogging on this job right from the beginning taking just a couple of sick leaves, to save leaves for a Motorcycle trip to Ladakh for which I had been planning for a full 6 months. Money saved, companions confirmed, route and itinerary locked, the only thing that remained now was to book the train tickets to Ambala Cantt from where we were to start riding. But not before I first got my leaves approved.
The system there was – in case you wanted more than 10 day’s leave at a stretch you had to first write an email to your reporting manager(RM) making a case for such a long absence. First of all, I hate this system (which I think is a very Indian thing). Its invasion of privacy. If I am entitled to leaves and if the managers are in a position to grant the same – they should just do it. I shouldn’t have to explain to anybody as to “WHY” I wanna go on such a long(or short for that matter) leave. Anyways, in this case I was more than happy to tell him about my plans. So I wrote the email. I wrote about how I had been looking forward to this trip for so long, how I had a hard time finding companions and that finally everything was in place.
I always knew my RM was a dumb ass so I was least expecting him to approve it promptly or wish me luck, or a word of encouragement. But what he told me – had be dumbstruck. He calls me in his cabin upon reading the e-mail and tells me : “I would have approved your leave request if it was something important but not for something like this!!!”
And in my mind I am like – “what the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Sir, what do you mean by something like this ? ” – I ask
“I mean if it was some medical emergency in your family or there was a wedding I would have approved it at once but not for something like this.”
Just WHAT do you tell this guy? I realized at once that for a lot of people life as an adult means having a 9 to 5 job, coming home in the evening and looking after the family affairs. And that’s all. You do anything different, anything outside of that predefined boundary and you are labelled as weird or asocial etc etc. They’ve no concept of somebody being passionate about some form of art, craft, theater or travelling or music or anything else.
So I am standing there, at my wit’s end, wondering what to say when he calls in one of his peers and tell him – “He wants 15 days off for a M’cycle trip to Ladakh. We can’t entertain something like this. What do you think?“. This time I wasn’t surprised the other guy nodded his head in agreement.
I knew it was pointless to try and reason with these guys. It wouldn’t have worked. I know it. They’ve been moulded that way and my arguing wasn’t going to make the slightest difference.
So I said “OK” and got back to my seat, typed my resignation letter and gave them a months notice!!! Yes, There and Then. They weren’t ready to change their position and they knew I wouldn’t change mine. So they accepted it. In fact, even if they had agreed to my leave request I had already lost all inclination to work with that firm. Was going to resign in any case after the trip. Did it 2 months before.
So yes – the Bike trip did happen in September and booooooy!!!…. what a trip it was. 15 most wonderful days of my life – pretty much shaped the person that I am now. Made some new life long friends, cemented some friendships. Never looked back in life thence.
Now I am a Team Leader and have a bunch of people reporting to me. They come to me sometimes with their leave requests and if I am in a position to grant it……I approve, No questions asked. Sometimes they give me reasons without my even asking and I cut them short. I say ‘Don’t give me reasons. I am not interested. You’re entitled to it so take it.’
Have you ever been in situations where they asked you such ‘why’, ‘where’ questions when you applied for leaves? How did you deal with it? Why do you think people ask these questions