The Colour of Banking Celebrations
“White Shirt? Not the right colour of the day. You are supposed to wear whites tomorrow, on Monday the 11th, it’s orange today” Lulu, my parrot nudged me.
“Ha-ha! I know what you are referring to. Navaratri is celebrated by wearing clothes of nine different colours, one colour announced for each day. But I have only seen ladies dressing up like that, not men.”
I had a sense that something was up on his mind, Lulu does not make suggestions without a purpose. His conversations remind me of skillful cross examinations which lawyers do. There is a question or a statement which precedes a tricky one which traps the man (or woman, why exclude them?) in the witness box.
And I was not wrong.
“Did you not read the official circular of Union Bank of India?”
“Why would I read such a circular? I am not a Union Bank employee!”
“The General Manager of the Digitization Department has published his ‘fatwa.’ He declared which colour you must wear to the office on each day of Navratri.”
“This is laughable.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Actually, it’s ridiculous”
“Yes, you got it right”
“I mean that Manager has no business to tell employees what to wear.”
“I agree. And he announced a fine of Rs 200 for non-compliance.”
“It is difficult to believe that this is true.”
“See the circular”
“Oh, yes, really he has done it!”
“You missed one point. What if an employee is not a Hindu? It’s not their festival. Can they be ordered to wear colourful attire and celebrate?”
“That’s another dimension.”
“Corporate managers are accused of seeing everything in black and white, here is a manager who wants to see colours and Employees’ Union reprimands him, lodges protest against him. Internet trolls him.”
“Ha-ha. The Manager unknowingly acted like a matador flagging a muleta to the bulls. The feel of power is blinding.”
“But he thought he was entitled to do it. Wearing attires of different colours is a part of celebration. People celebrate something out of joy, happiness and yes, willingness. It cannot be mandated.”
“You are so right Lulu. I have never heard of a directive to celebrate something. Possibly it happens only in North Korea.”
“You have missed the point.”
“Now what’s that?”
“Let me tell you a story. There was an old man who used to sit in his garden. School going boys and girls made fun of him commenting on his looks, apparently bad choice of clothes etc. The intelligent old man once called those boys and girls and announced – ‘I know you make fun of me. From tomorrow you will earn one dollar a day for taunting or commenting on me.’”
“Yes. The boys and girls were stunned too, and they enjoyed taunting and making fun of him. After a week he called all of them and said, ‘Hello, I have to tell you this – the rate has changed, now you will receive 50 cents a day for taunting me or making funny comments.’ The boys and girls grumbled, but the continued. And then came an unexpected twist.”
“After a week the intelligent old man said, ‘Hello, the rate stands revised, now you will receive only 1 cent a day for taunting me or making comments.’”
“What happened then?”
“The boys and girls refused to do it, ‘who will do it for one cent?’ they said! You see the old man achieved his goal.”
“Monetize any voluntary activity and kill the fun. That’s the message. Penalizing is another version of monetizing. Rewards and punishments have one thing in common. They take fun out if a voluntary pleasurable activity. Unfortunately, to the Corporate world, ‘managing’ means using rewards or punishments. ”
“That’s a ‘colourable’ exercise of power! Hmmm …. I remember a quote I read recently.”
“P. J. O’Rourke said, ‘Let’s reintroduce corporal punishment in the schools – and use it on the teachers.’”
“I get what you have on your mind….., ha-ha!” said Lulu, my parrot as he nibbled chillies.
Vivek S Patwardhan
(Story of the old man: Courtesy: ‘Punished by Reward’ by Alfie Kohn)
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” **** “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”
The black swan syndrome no more.
The unruly ascent of the masculine in our worlds has meant a disregard for mutuality in so many spheres. This circular is another sign of unbridled determinism of an ambitious person with distorted vision.
The blurring in positions of power are the new thresholds of our dystopian social experiences.
Not a matter that Lulu should be burdened with, lest his wings are heavy to lift.
Perhaps GM of Union bank wanted to make life of employees colourful by mandating use of colours in Navratri.Life becomes fun with over zealous actions of such persons. Surprisingly it was not reported in media. The story of old man rewarding young boys for taunting was interesting. It shows how reward and punishment can be used to modify behaviour. Thank you Sir for sharing nice blog . Regards
Very nicely written sir!!!
A very apt example of how power makes human being corrupt out of their own illusions and mandate other stakeholders’ to follow anonymously without the will, the majority of the time. That is why it is profound that along with the monitoring part (Affirmative or dissentient), the more important factor which plays a vital role at the workplace is how you motivate your employees with the emotion of EMPATHY and how they may own their respective portfolio rather than building the same by issuing a CIRCULAR!!!
Thanks for sharing the wonderful article Yes, last week this was reported in the Press too
A few thoughts came to mind 1)Many years back the trend was to have “Friday” dressing..the debates on what is allowed and not allowed would be there. The HR colleagues would carefully draft it to manage both the expectations as also face upto the Leadership questions
2) The attempt often to have some “fun n informal’ work atmosphere is there – most offices and employees plan a colour for the day etc There is also some song n dance at times
Perhaps, our Senior Executive referred in the article has heard/read about such “best practices “ and wanted to make a point ?? Or did the person get a developmental feedback to focus on People ?So he went forth perhaps to change his approach and be Informal ‼️
As reported, this was not a bank wide resolution/ order that was released all across as I can make out. However, given the current scenario wherein media/social media is thirsty for news —-it gets prominence !!!
Nonetheless, a learning for all in these times on how to avoid getting into the limelight for wrong reasons