An Ode to Dealing with Tough Managers

Photo by Jonathan Borba

Recently, I posted being concerned about my performance appraisal this year as the previous ones did not go well. I have some news to share – I finally got good feedback! This is a reason to celebrate, as my head was clouded with self-doubt over the past year, and I questioned my work quality. “This is the only type of work I believed I was good at. Am I not as good as I think?

When managers take time to appreciate your work, your confidence hits a different level. It’s the type of reassurance every hard-working employee deserves.

Needless to say, I am over the moon. If you had gone through my past appraisal posts, you would know how distraught I was. I gave it my best this year and wondered if it would be enough as my confidence was quite shaken. But it ended well (this year, at least). Now, the challenge is to maintain this level of performance.

I am not exactly sure what I did right this year, but I am sharing one key takeaway.

I know the internet is filled with advice on avoiding interacting with difficult managers as much as possible. I did this initially. I was intimidated by my managers and found it challenging to reach out to them. They weren’t particularly friendly either. So my solution was to avoid them. My advice is: don’t.

Try increasing your interactions with them to a point you no longer feel intimidated by their presence. I started asking questions regularly, reaching out for discussions, and becoming more proactive. Initially, it felt tough, as anyone would feel uncomfortable interacting with someone who intimidates them. But then, things started getting better. My fear was gone as I trained myself to approach them more. This helped me ask better questions and seek their help if needed. This, in turn, improved my work.

I realized they weren’t criticizing me on purpose. I did lag in some areas. When you are only given negative feedback, your first impulse is to escape. I almost thought about quitting, thinking maybe they disliked me for other reasons.

At this point, I can’t help but think how many employees must have quit their jobs because they couldn’t take criticism. We see posts about “work where you will be appreciated.” Sometimes, we need to take time to reflect on whether it is really them who should work on appreciating us or if it is actually us who need to make improvements.

Yes, some managers will not like you or your work, no matter how hard you try. You need to change your job for peace of mind in such cases. But often, that’s not the issue. Sometimes we overthink and overanalyze things and make decisions on the spur of the moment. Like quitting. When we quit, we stop ourselves from learning from our mistakes.

Learning only happens when someone points out the areas you need to improve. Some managers communicate this empathetically and effectively, but some might take a different route.

Not every manager excels at communication. As long as a supervisor doesn’t abuse or resort to toxic, manipulative techniques, employees should reflect on what is needed, reach out, ask questions, and work accordingly.

I Created 3 Bank Accounts To Manage My Finances. Here’s How It Went.

Photo by Expect Best

I first read Monika Halan’s Let’s Talk Money a year back. In the book, she talked about the importance of having 3 bank accounts to manage finances.

  • Income Account – This account can be where you receive your salary, rental income, cash gift, etc.
  • Save-it Account – The second account is for saving/investing. Keep in mind not to transfer any amount from this account to your spend-it account later on. This account is for saving, not spending.
  • Spend-it Account – The final account is for managing your expenses.

Monika Halan instructs you to transfer a part of your income every month, without fail, to your spend-it and expense accounts. This enables you to have a hands-free approach to managing finances.

Previously, I had two bank accounts and felt it was more than enough – until it became difficult to track my expenses. I used to micromanage my finances through an Excel sheet. After much introspection, I realized it would be much easier to have a separate account for expenses alone. Another reason was that I realized I was being extra stingy because I couldn’t properly track and compartmentalize my money. That’s right. I did not know how much I was spending, so my solution was to spend less. I decided to start a new bank account to give myself a breather.

My first two accounts were in a public bank (my income and spend-it accounts). I decided to try a private bank next. I wanted a bank with good customer support and technology, and I ended up going for a digital-friendly bank. The account opening was entirely online. You have almost every bank in India with a digital onboarding process nowadays. You can open an account within hours. I sat through a video-KYC process, and that was it. The welcome kit, containing the debit card and checkbook, was mailed to my address in a week.

Now that my expense account was in place, I slowly started transferring my expenses to my account each month, which was 40-50% of my income. I wasn’t restricting myself from spending what I could anymore. I could see I had the budget for it in my expense account.

The thing with being in a perennially “saving” mode is that you forget to indulge and pamper yourself. So having a third account helps. My expense account is also connected to UPI, and I use it for all my POS transactions, ATM withdrawals, automatic subscriptions, etc. The funds are deliberately kept limited in this account to ensure I would not lose any part of my savings in case of any online/offline security breaches. Would I recommend the three-bank approach to managing your finances? Definitely, it has made my job easier.

An Ode to Women Taking Financial Decisions

Photo by Bich Tran

This is a topic close to my heart. As a single woman in her 30s, I often find myself having to deal with people second-guessing my financial decisions. I am always told to consult a man before taking things further. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely okay with consulting experts. The keyword being “experts.” This is a gender-neutral term not limited to men. If they had told me to consult an expert instead of a specific gender, I would have been fine. But that’s not the case. They pinpoint the gender – it should be a “he.”

In my experience, people in India are skeptical about a woman’s money-managing skills. There’s an absolutely valid reason for such cynicism. Over generations, men have been handling money, and women have been doing household chores. This mentality is deeply ingrained in us. It is only now that the roles are shifting, more women are joining the workforce, and men are learning to handle the kitchen by themselves. In the past, this role-shifting was unheard of, which might explain why breaking away from it now takes some conscious effort. It does not come naturally. People tend to look at you with distrust if you take up a role that goes against the gender stereotype.  

“I rather my husband not cook. He might make a mess.”

“I rather my wife not handle finances. She might make a mess.”

These dialogues are not fictional. They very much exist – especially in Indian households. True, some women may not be good at finance, but that applies to men too.

Here’s an actual conversation with my mother:

Me: “I have decided to invest in Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs).”

Mom: “Oh! Why don’t you consult XYZ uncle about this?”

Me: “But what would he know? He’s a mid-50s person who distrusts new investment schemes.”

“Okay. But are you sure?”

“Yes! I have done my research, and I understand this product well.”

That was the end of the discussion. My mother looked at me with doubt etched all over her face. I had to convince her that I was making an informed decision.

To date, I have not made a poor investment choice. I read both the pros and cons of all investment schemes before selecting. I stay away from products I do not understand. I avoid systems that are too risky. I only invest in government-regulated schemes, not impulsively, but after going through much examination. However, all this research is still insufficient for society to stop doubting my capability to handle finances. Because I am a woman. Instead, a man who has done half the study is trusted more because of his gender.

Women are encouraged to be financially savvy and aware. But my question is – when we do become financially literate, are there people who would trust us to efficiently handle our money?