An Ode to Saying Please and Thank You at Work

Say Thank You at Work
Photo by Polina Zimmerman

How often have we dealt with authoritative emails at work?

The ones that sound unnecessarily aggressive and bossy, instead of courteous yet firm.

After my previous rant on surviving performance reviews, I looked into a couple of emails of supervisors generally well-liked at the office, and those who weren’t.

The ones who were liked (Batch A), were polite and empathetic in their emails:

  • Could you please finish this task by Saturday?
  • Thank you for completing this!

In contrast, the ones who weren’t liked (Batch B), wrote their emails like this:

  • Do this by Saturday!
  • Dead silence after completing any task

See the difference? Would you like to get emails from Batch B? No one is fond of unnecessary aggression.

It is such a refresher nowadays to hear supervisors being polite. A “Thank you” or a “Please,” even if formal makes you look humane and not cold and distant. It motivates employees to do better. Politeness does not mean being weak. You can be firm and polite!

Something Batch A does often (to show the emergency of the situation):

  • Please send this across by Saturday! This is very important.

No unwanted aggression here. A simple message that conveys the seriousness of the task. Most people are smart enough to get the gist of such a message.

Employees perform their best when their supervisors are empathetic and kind. The attrition rate (the rate at which people leave) is always high in companies with bad managers. A 2016 survey in India showed that employees are willing to stay longer and work harder if they were well appreciated in their companies. About 59% felt they were unappreciated by their bosses. That’s more than half of the survey sample! No small number there. Sometimes, all it takes is a “thank you” or a “please,” to make things better.

So why are we so stingy with appreciating others or using cordial language at work?

Each supervisor is shaped by their own experiences in the corporate world. Some might have faced similar situations, a boss being too self-centered or supercilious or manipulative, and they end up thinking this is the only way to climb up the career ladder.

Sadly, this is partially true.

A recent study disturbingly stated that narcissistic, manipulative people tend to become CEOs faster (29% more) than their less self-entitled peers. We look at people at the top for inspiration, and we see a lot of them acting entitled and impolite, and we think “That’s how we become successful.

But is it really? Is this the downside of being successful? Should we dump our emotions, empathy, kindness in the garbage in the quest for power?

I have been in the corporate world for so long, and I have seen and experienced so much, that the first thought when I see a CEO or a leader on LinkedIn is not Wow! I want to be this person,” but “How many people did you demotivate and destroy to reach where you are? How many fake stories have you cooked up to save yourself, by shifting the blame onto your juniors? How good are you at playing politics in office?” This seems very dark and harsh I know. But it is mostly the truth. There are exceptions but the many leaders I have seen have sold their souls to the corporate devil. They will do anything to get on the super boss’ good books and won’t hesitate to drag anyone else down in the process.

Sometimes, from what I have seen, I feel it’s best to stay away from the rat race.

So you don’t end up becoming a rat.

An Ode to Not Telling Everyone Everything

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels

I am into a new experiment nowadays.

Over the past one year, I have been trying not to announce all my latest material possessions, achievements and personal milestones online.

Why? To find out if I can enjoy them without the world getting to know.

I used to be obsessed with posting everything on the gram. Every little thing. “If it’s not online, it never happened,” applied to me. But then I started getting agitated – when I didn’t get enough likes, when my friends or relatives whom I thought are close didn’t respond as often. It sucked out the joy in me and I felt I was getting more and more negative with every passing post.

It was then that I decided to cut back on announcing everything online.

I realized, weirdly, once online, a personal achievement didn’t feel personal anymore. It is now out in the open for the world to judge. It kind of loses its value (for me, at least).

Exposing something that’s near and dear to you has its cons. Once it’s out there, after a day or two, when the comments and likes dwindle down, you lose the high. And then you are looking for the next high. Another super hit post that can derive the maximum likes and comments. You forget to just “sit” with your latest achievement. Your high is not linked with your achievement anymore, it is linked to those likes and comments.

I realized by not posting online, I was able to extend this high. Savor it like slow-cooked food instead of junk. The type of soul-food that’s healthy for you. A high that lasts for days, weeks and sometimes even months. You look back at the milestone and it still seems raw and precious, not yet exposed to anyone’s judgments. It is something that I am enjoying and appreciating a lot honestly.

This is not just applicable for achievements by the way, it can be a selfie that you love, a video you took to capture the beauty around you, a beautiful moment.

Sometimes, the intensity with which you feel about something is not reflected by the people around you, and we all know how big a mood dampener that can be. Our highs might (just might) end up not feeling like a high anymore. Something gets lost in the whole process of displaying things online. For me, it feels like whatever I have posted about has been disconnected from me, and now it’s up to the others to give it value.

I keep telling my friends that if ever there comes up an old-school social media network, that doesn’t rely on validation like likes, I would gladly join it, and ditch the others.

Most of my posts are limited to Insta stories nowadays and are aimed at providing information that others might find helpful in some way – on what I have used, the benefits, cons if any, experiments, thoughts. Rarely about what I have achieved. I share that with my loved ones, but not online.

The rest are for me to savor. For my mind alone, for my heart to hold dear.

An Ode to Saying No to Dowry

Photo by Baljit Johal on Pexels

Yet another day in Kerala. Yet another dowry death.

Vismaya, a 23 year old, who died days after sharing her pics of abuse with a relative, has yet again prompted many to chant “A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter.” Her parents were very much aware of the abuse she was going through, so was her brother and cousin, but unfortunately, not one of them could save her. There is no single person to blame here. Almost everyone is at fault, including the society.

I am a divorcee. Fortunately, my parents were super supportive, and gave my safety the utmost priority when I chose to leave my husband’s place after yet another episode of abuse. The day I left home was the day my parents came to know that I was facing physical and emotional trauma over many months. I did not want to worry them. Maybe Vismaya felt the same. The difference was, my parents did not tell me to compromise.

Mine was an arranged marriage. My parents and I were, are and always will be strictly against dowry. We always had made it clear when a proposal came by that no dowry would be given. My in-laws and husband said they had no demands, though traditionally their family practiced it.

On our wedding day, amidst all the flurry of activity, it felt odd when my husband quipped happily “(So and so) told me you are wearing a lot of jewelry; that I am a very lucky guy.” It was a hint of what was to come.

The emotional blackmail began on the first day of marriage. My ex-husband’s old relative, with a full authoritative tone, told me to put my jewelry in a locker at their chosen bank. When I naively told him that we usually put our jewelry in our own lockers, he was adamant that I keep it in a new one at the current location. This was odd to me, because I have never heard of such a thing happening in my family before. The women of the family always kept their jewelry in existing lockers. There was no question of transferring or shifting it to the husband’s place. Plus, it is so redundant – why open another locker when you already have one? There can only be one answer.

I consulted my mother, who panicked and told me not to do anything till they arrived. So I kept stalling their attempts to put my assets in their locker. My mother came to visit soon and took away the jewelry. This angered my ex-husband, and things (predictably) went downhill from then on. I remember asking him “Did you marry me for my money?

Physical abuse soon began. Not enough to get me hospitalized, but enough to give me bruises. “There are so many women getting hospitalized, that’s what real physical abuse is!” – he justified his actions to me. I forgave, but could never forget because he would keep repeating it. At the end, I ended the relationship and walked out. I realized my tears did not matter to him, nor my well being or happiness. I was married for just one year.

To all the unmarried women who are reading this, this is something you should note. You will hardly see anyone talk about this anywhere online – how dowry nowadays is rarely mentioned before marriage, camouflaged and hidden, all ready to make a move on its prey when the time is right. Many predators, cunning to the core, have realized that this right time to get what they are eyeing, is not before marriage but after it – when the woman is the most vulnerable, getting accustomed to a new place, confused and dazed. No one is explicitly going to use the word “dowry” but you will get to know from their actions.

Please remember, your current assets are yours alone. This needs to be strictly mentioned before marriage. You need to underline your deal breakers, so that there is no room for confusion. If after marriage, you decide to mutually hold future assets together, that is entirely up to you. But do not let anyone emotionally manipulate you into gaining access to your safety and security. Once you lose control of that, you lose control of your life.

I survived the worst phase of my life because I had solid support. Whenever I see a death or abuse case, it feels overwhelming. A lot of “if only” phrases come to mind.

  • If only, the family had supported her enough. Instead of telling her to compromise, they had told her to come home or “We are coming to pick you up” instead.
  • If only, the victim realized her life is not meant for suffering, to endure everything in silence. That staying married, even if toxic, is not the ultimate goal in life. Happiness is.
  • If only, the society made it easier for women to call it quits when her relationship with her partner becomes irreparable. Instead, mostly, we are told to compromise and adjust more.
  • If only, all men had the guts to strictly say no to dowry, go against tradition.
  • If only, a man’s parents did not put social status on such a high pedestal.

If only…

Many women, like Vismaya, would then still be alive.

An Ode to Questioning Biases

I have been increasingly questioning my biases lately.

Social Media Bias

How my opinions are largely formed by what the media is showing me. Sometimes, never bothering to look at the “other side.” A kind of blind faith that the news portals will show me only the truth and nothing but the absolute truth.

This belief was shaken up quite a bit when I understood that a lot of times, the media chooses to pick a side and highlight only that part of the story. We never get to know why “the other side” acted the way they did, said the things they did. It is well hidden. We never get to know the full picture. There are times I have made that extra effort to know more.. and have been amazed at how well the media hides bits and pieces of relevant information. The kind of information that wouldn’t have agitated the people so much if it were to be revealed alongside the flustering headline (or at least at the top of the news article). Add to that the social media’s personal opinions, which again, most often than not, do not give the complete picture.

With all this excessive one-sided information, a person who used to feel concerned about the issue in a healthy way before is left extremely agitated, angry and restless in a matter of minutes. The issue won’t leave your head. It stays with you when you sleep, it is the first thing you think of when you wake up. You snap at the drop of a hat, refusing to see any other angles. This keeps happening each time a new issue pops up. Imagine the stress your body has to go through, taking the world’s collective burden on your shoulders. In short, it just messes up your mental health.

I have had to log out of my social media accounts multiple times in the last one year just to calm myself down and to dissociate from all the noise. During such moments I often think, is social media a boon or a bane?

Information Bias

A large number of social media influencers (the ones who review movies) are largely influenced by critics and the media. If the critics say it is a good movie, they will say it is a good movie. If the critics thrash a movie, they will say it is the worst movie of the decade. I was so caught up in this information bias, that I was afraid of saying that I liked a movie that the majority hated. I was also afraid of saying I did not enjoy a movie that the majority liked. Because then, the movie shaming begins. Your taste in movies is questioned.

It is the case with almost anything, not just movies. If the general review of a product is positive or negative, you are expected to have the exact same view. Herd mentality in such cases is encouraged. If you step out of the box, you are questioned.

That was until I got out of that zone and said to myself “You know, I laughed watching this movie. It is funny. It worked for me. Why should I ashamed of something that kept me entertained throughout?” I started being open about liking the movies I really liked (even if they weren’t critically acclaimed) and not liking the movies that I truly did not (even if they were liked by the majority). I was being true to myself and that felt good.

I realized there were more people like me out there, shying away from voicing their true likes/dislikes, when I started getting messages (in private) that they liked/hated the same thing too.

Halo Effect

When you admire a person (it could also be a celebrity, politician or government), you tend to believe that everything the person does is justified – whether good or evil. We refuse to believe they are human after all – prone to mistakes. We forgive and forget. This is a bias I am trying to overcome as well. Trying consciously to notice and acknowledge those errors even if I like the entity very much. To hold them accountable if feelings were hurt, and not to give them the status of a superior being who is incapable of mistakes.

I have been reading up on biases and media bias is something that struck me the most. When you seek more information about something, weirdly enough, you start noticing these little things that you used to ignore before. You become aware of the biases that are now part and parcel of your daily life.

It is a scary thought to reflect on, that you can be manipulated into believing something that is constantly thrown in your face, as if there is no other truth.