An Ode to Moonlighting, Sunlighting, and All Kinds of Lighting To Keep Your House Lit

Employee Mental Health Office Joke

If you aren’t yet aware of the term “Moonlighting,” here’s the definition – it’s you working for another company once your regular day job is over. Lately, many CEOs in India are losing their cool over their employees moonlighting. They feel cheated because they want their subordinates to function at their best capacity during day time. Yes, it’s mostly the CEOs and the high-level management already receiving big paychecks who are vociferously campaigning against moonlighting. Any surprises there?

I can’t help but think, why would companies want to micromanage the after-work life of an employee? The office in itself is a breeding ground for micromanagement. If the employee’s daily work is suffering because of the extra responsibility they took up, yes, they should face the consequences. Quality of work shouldn’t be compromised. But in companies like Wipro, employees aren’t getting sacked because of their work quality – it’s purely for the reason that their employers found out their “dirty” little secret. Employees should be warned if their quality of work is far below expectations – whatever reason it may be – moonlighting, sunlighting, or rainlighting. But snooping around to see which employee works secretly to earn an additional income is downright obnoxious and toxic.

Some founders and CEOs are partners in multiple firms but do not face the consequences. The culprit is always the layman trying to earn those few extra bucks. Money and power rule the world. This universal truth holds even here.

The empathetic approach would have been to ask the moonlighting employees at Wipro how much they would need to stop working two jobs. This wish is idealistic since companies would be unwilling to pay that much. The companies want to have the cake and eat it too. They will do bad (paying low) but do not want the bad consequences (employees looking for better opportunities).

Let’s look at the positives of moonlighting (if done correctly):

  • The employee gets additional income.
  • A creative person needs an outlet. A second job that fulfills this criterion can boost such an employee’s spirit. It would make them happy to continue the daily grind the following day, even if the current job is not fulfilling those creative needs.
  • Employees will not be frustrated that their company is unwilling to pay extra. Frustration and financial stress can deteriorate work performance more than moonlighting.
  • A company that accepts its employees’ needs will earn a good reputation overall. Its employees would be willing to work much harder for them.

The cons of moonlighting:

  • If done incorrectly, i.e., the employee doesn’t get enough time to rest, the quality of work can suffer in both jobs. This is something that can easily be corrected, however. Balance is key.
  • The high-level management. I am unsure whether the big bosses will ever come to terms with it. It might be because they are overthinking it. It’s only recently that companies have deviated from the usual archaic work style and are embracing the digital. Previously, the high-level management used to overthink work from home because they were worried if work would ever get done. But covid taught everyone that it is possible to complete their work at home by leveraging the power of the internet.

On this world mental health week, let’s hope our employers reflect on what an employee’s mental well-being actually means to them. Does it mean cutting off their freedom? Does it mean micromanagement? It’s certainly not free yoga classes or an unlimited amount of eatables. “A happy wife makes a happy life” is a famous adage. In the case of organizations, “A happy employee makes a happy company” would be apt.

Maybe it’s high time our companies stop being preachy and finally walk the talk. Sometimes we need more than just freebies.

Update as of 18th October: TCS has been the most empathetic so far. To quote the COO, “The consequences (of taking action) will be that the person’s career will be ruined. Background check for the next future job will fail for him…We have to show some empathy.” Kudos to them for pointing this out.

Update as of 21st October: Employees at Infosys are now allowed to take up external gigs under some conditions. Better something than nothing!

An Ode to Rewatching Movies

A still from Wake Up Sid

It was an irregular day in my life. I had not watched any new movies or tv series in the last 4-5 days on any of the OTT platforms I had religiously subscribed to. This is huge, considering I never went a day without new content.

I realized the moment you subscribe to something, your mentality shifts in that direction of wanting to make the most out of it. You want to get your money’s worth. And once things turn into a habit, there’s no looking back. OTT platforms had become a habit. Not watching new movies or series in the last few days didn’t stop me from zealously adding new items to my watchlist, but I wasn’t tempted to start any. Was it saturation? Was I tired of the new?

Out of the blue last night, I felt like rewatching a 2009 Hindi movie – Wake Up Sid. I remember loving it the first time I watched it. I did not remember any of the dialogues. I only vaguely remembered the feeling it gave me back then – the mushy, soft, warm kind. I was curious whether I would feel the same way again. So rewatch the movie, I did.

It’s a rarity nowadays to watch a movie twice, mainly because you are subjected to many choices. Why go for the old when you can make way for the new? With the rise of OTT platforms, we have more on our platter. We add items to our watchlist, just like a shopping cart. We start multiple movies or tv shows and taste a bit of each, just like a buffet. Movie watching is no longer an immersive experience. It feels like a chore we need to finish quickly because we are already eyeing another.

There was a time when we used to watch and rewatch our favorite stories. By the time we were done, we were able to crack dialogues in the movie as effortlessly as the actors themselves. I do not remember lyrics or movie dialogues nowadays, but that’s understandable. Things stick only when there’s repetition.

I feel when we have more choices, we tend to become confused. Human nature is such that we are tempted to try everything readily available. Nowadays, surrendering yourself to one experience has become rare. There’s a mishmash of multiple experiences that you are driven to partake in simultaneously.

I couldn’t stop smiling while watching Wake Up Sid. The emotions are all contemporary, very now. It has aged like fine wine. Everything in the movie from 13 years back is still relevant today – the angst of a man who’s disinterested in regular office work, his journey to understand himself and his goals, and gradually falling in love with a passionate, ambitious woman. A woman who says with conviction that she’s not interested in him but her actions and expressions prove otherwise. Sid is very relatable, and so is Aisha. When the characters fall in love, you end up falling for them too. Their charm is such. The magic of good storytelling is such.

We don’t make such movies anymore. Is it because love stories are nowadays made with the male gaze in mind, or is the female gaze less fashionable? I doubt it’s the latter.

Would I get back to any of the movies released nowadays ten years or maybe twenty years from now? Would I sit and rewatch with a smile or cringe at the corniness of it all? Only time can tell. I think it’s about time our Hindi filmmakers resumed making feel-good movies again — so that the romantics, like me, have a decent movie to cuddle up to on a dreary, overworked weekday night.

A Review of My Annual Performance Review

My Review of Annual Performance Reviews
Photo by mentatdgt

After all the non-stop cribbing about my performance reviews and facing severe anxiety due to them for the last two years, I am relieved to announce that I did not get any bad reviews this year. So far, anyway. My anxiety is always on the lookout for some bad news, so it is with some apprehension that I open my inbox each day. Probably my anxiety might last till the end of this year.

Things that might have contributed to some relief this time around:

  1. Regular feedback sessions – I made it a point to seek constructive feedback from my manager regularly. I did not wait for him to provide it to me.
  2. Asking more questions – I realized I should be digging deeper into what they wanted so I could help myself. Asking more questions was the way to go.
  3. Pushing myself – I was a nervous wreck after the last performance review. So I had to shift my mindset from my default self-pity mode to learning mode to make way for improvements.
  4. Better management – The manager did better this time. He was good at providing constructive feedback immediately after a task was completed.

If you get a bad annual performance review, try the above approach before completely giving up on the company. It hurts quite a bit when your work isn’t appreciated. Your first impulse might be to quit the company but take any feedback with an open mind, see if the remarks are legit, and work towards implementing them.

I think a part of me was waiting for this performance review to check if my best was good enough for my company, based on which I would have redefined my future plans. There’s no point moving forward if your employer cannot see the hard work you put into your projects. You can work all you want, as hard as possible, but if your employers turn a blind eye or start criticizing every little thing you do, all your effort is wasted. It is one of the main reasons why I feel a constructive work environment should be given precedence over money: getting more money does not always guarantee more happiness. You need a non-toxic environment to function to your best capacity. Money is essential, yes. We are not working for charity. But the side effects shouldn’t be loss of sleep, unending stress, and depleted family time.

Getting back to positive performance reviews, you would want your boss to know you are completely involved in your work, so you may have to speak to them often. Ask them doubts, questions, and share suggestions, even if you aren’t in dire need to get them answered. If there’s nothing to say, dig deeper. There’s always something to discuss, however major or minor it is. The point is to be as proactive as you can. Take the first step in getting things done. Getting work done silently is undervalued in most companies (sadly for us introverts), and putting on a show is the need of the hour. Unless your manager is as understanding as Adam Grant, you wouldn’t need all these tips, but the reality is something else.

Even though you can manage things independently, your boss also requires validation for their work, so give that opportunity to them – make them feel involved. Sometimes, it takes a slight shift in our own approach toward work to change our current company to the dream company we’ve always wished for. It is more or less like a relationship; you and the company must make an equal effort. So this year, I want to tap myself on the back for not giving up, coming out with a plan to better my work, trying out a different approach, and checking patiently for outcomes and feedback with an open mind. My motivation doesn’t come from money; it comes from my work being valued. Being a single, unmarried woman, I do not have many responsibilities, so I can do away with chasing money. Yes, money is a great plus, but more compensation means nothing if we are disrespected or overworked.

Being a Loner in an Extroverted World

Photo by RF._.studio

I have always been a private person, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In distress, as far as possible, I prefer to process my situation without involving a second person. Venting and ranting bring relief to many, but I regain my composure by pondering over my issues – the ifs, buts, and whys. Of course, this is not always healthy because I end up bottling my emotions and eventually bursting like a volcano.

I have lost friends or faced misunderstandings because people could not understand my introversion. I was never rude to anyone, but I simply could not find the energy to pick up the phone and keep in touch. This would upset those who expected more from me and wished to be in sync with my private life. Being a single woman, everyone is curious to know whom I’m dating, why I’m dating him, and what my future plans are with him. I find this intrusive, even if well-intentioned. Maybe I have no future plans with him, but would they understand that? Mostly no. To add to that, I never found the need to discuss my life events, scrutinize them, or share every little info with friends. I find the process exhausting and find it difficult to manage many friends as I get older. I am good as long as I have one listening, non-judging ear. Yes, even we loners wish to be heard sometimes.

In friendship, I realize that communicating regularly helps build a deep connection. This is why extroverts have many close friends. Keeping in touch comes naturally to them. The more friends they have and the more socializing they do, the more fulfilled they feel. Loners, like me, prefer to have that one good friend, with whom we can talk without restraint. We want to invest our energy wisely without draining out. This may give us an impression of aloofness as we are not actively seeking new friends.

What I find uncomfortable about discussing my life is that most would expect a follow-up story. If timely updates are not shared, questions arise. It is why numerous anonymous posts asking for advice are seen on Reddit. There are issues you are wary of telling your friends and family, no matter how close you are to them. You want to talk about them, but without the responsibility of being answerable to anyone in the future. I don’t have a problem sharing my life events, but it’s the questions thereafter I have an issue with – because you never know when they will stop.

My hesitation is not entirely inherent. I cannot put the whole blame on nature. It is part contrived as well. Experience has taught me that some things are better left unspoken. Recently, I let go of my inhibitions and, in a state of vulnerability, told a few friends at a party about my brother-in-law’s infidelity. I was feeling disoriented and needed someone to confide in desperately. I regret it now because what I did in the process of revealing something private was enable my friends to openly judge my sibling’s life, probably till the end of time. My brother-in-law and sister sorted out their problems, but the judgments did not stop. It is difficult to forgive and forget a terrible event in your life when there’s someone constantly reminding you about it. “My brother-in-law took my sister out for dinner.” “Oh, is it? (smirks and eye-rolling ensue)“. After facing the judgments, you hesitate to share your issues if you know there’s a remote chance that the situation might improve later. And what happens when you stop talking about such intimate parts of your life? Friendships become stale.

Self-reliance can be a boon as it teaches you to be independent, but it’s a bane if you wish to establish a solid network. I love to keep to myself most of the time but also love sharing ideas. These conflicting interests can prove overwhelming at times.

I sometimes envy extroverts. They come fully equipped into a world exclusively built for them. While they start life from ground zero, introverts have to start from minus 10. Introverts reach ground zero sometime later in life when they begin to understand the art of faking extroversion. Being an introvert, socializing never came easy. I have now learned to put up a façade of extroversion to please the people I love and work with, but I end up exhausted by the end of the day. I would wait to get back home and be myself. Finding a partner, who gets my true self, is difficult. They usually fall for the extroverted side I reserve for the world and back off as soon as they learn I am not all that. I have been called “weird” for not liking parties and being quiet. But now I am in a space where I get the solitude I need and a partner who is comfortable with my solitude.

According to Susan Cain’s Quiet, most introverts develop this dual personality to keep up with the extroverted world around them. Society expects them to be outgoing, jovial, and giving – such energy consumers for the quiet. It might be impossible for an extrovert to understand how much energy goes into socializing because mingling comes naturally to them. When the whole world is geared towards extroversion in all forms of life, an introvert has no choice but to conform and act as if they fit right in.