Important Life Lessons Learned in the Past Month

As mentioned in my last post, I had a whirlwind of a month. It was emotionally stressful, and I was in an overthinking mode. But all’s well that ends well. Thankful to the universe for every little blessing.

With each unchartered experience, you learn something new. Lessons that overshadow the learnings of the past. Here are some things I realized in the past month alone.

Indian managers often act like robots when there is a personal crisis.

The bigwigs did not share any emotion when I gave my reasons for a leave request. No “hope your mother feels better soon” or “hope everything goes well.” What was I expecting? Humanity in the Indian corporate world is a myth. We preach on LinkedIn with the most quotable quotes, but actions prove otherwise.

For the top-level, nothing warrants a response unless it is related to work. In fact, I got dumped with more work and some uncalled-for criticisms on the day of my mother’s hospitalization, even if I had notified my issue well in advance. On that day, I must have thought about quitting at least 10 times. But keeping the robotic virtues aside, the company is quite good. And, of course, you have bills to pay. So you carry on.

After my mom’s heart procedure, a few colleagues asked how my mother was doing. The number of people from top-level management who enquired about her health? Zero. My stress was there for them to see. Yet, none cared.

People often tell you to keep your professional and personal lives apart. I follow and believe this to a large extent. Still, when someone is going through a tough time, I make it a point to provide some motivation, whether a junior or senior. My conscience does not let me rest otherwise.

It was alarming to see the level of indifference from senior managers. Is this what professionalism is all about? Killing your empathy? Another point to add to my An Ode to People Who Are Not CEOs post.

We are giving importance to the wrong things.

For most of our lives, we stress over trivial things – relationships, work disputes, earning more money, materialistic gains, etc. But all it takes is one medical emergency to see the true light – that nothing comes above health.

The last month was a major eye-opener for me. I learned that I should be thankful for each day for all the miracles it offers, no matter how small and no matter how insignificant it may seem to be. It also showed how important it is to keep our physical and mental health happy and stress-free. If I had to choose between peace and more money now, I would undoubtedly choose peace.

Most people will be unavailable.

The people you know will primarily be available only through words, phone calls, and social media messages. But very few will physically show up when you need support, including your siblings. Ultimately, you will have to deal with most of the things yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have a big family or a huge friendship circle; there will be a lot of routes you will have to navigate by yourself. It will be overwhelming and frustrating, but that’s just how life is. You live. You learn.

Regular medical checkups and second opinions are important.

In India, we do not prioritize our health. Many do not have health insurance, especially older people, because it is expensive. We do not get annual health checkups done. This needs to change.

It was during my mother’s regular health checkup that we spotted a variation in her ECG. The doctor did not take it seriously. He declared it as anxiety and aging and told us to let it go. Big mistake. We should have asked for a second opinion.

Always treat minor variations in your tests with great seriousness, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or genetic disorders. Always get a second opinion.

Social media can be deceptive.

In the past month, I did not reveal anywhere online that I was stressed (except for this blog which is unknown to many). I posted memes as usual because it was a form of escapism for me. It might be the same for many others. Things might just be an act. Never take social media too seriously. There might be a lot happening behind the scenes.

Korean drama is like medicine.

When you are having a stressful day, there is nothing like a good Korean drama to melt your worries away. This is important because it made me realize how feel-good entertainment is sorely lacking nowadays. Stuff that people like me can relax to and feel a bit better at the end of the day, even if the emotion is superficial.

Almost all movies and tv shows are dark and serious, with the focus being on realism. Why aren’t there more light-hearted, feel-good, clean, romantic stuff? Looking at you, Indian cinema. Enough of reality. Bring back the escapism.


Photo by Pixabay on

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.

An Ode to Finding a Passion Outside Work

Photo by Pixabay

Recently, I talked about the distress I experienced due to excess work. I felt exhausted, working day in and out, and was in severe need of some me-time. I had been “at it” for two years since the start of the pandemic, and I was close to burning out.

Thankfully, I got some time out recently – when my manager went on vacation. I was ecstatic at first. There was no urgent work; it almost felt like I was also on holiday. But then I started experiencing something that I had never experienced in my two years of pandemic-induced erratic work hours – the insufferable boredom that comes with having no work. Was it a withdrawal symptom, a side-effect of having burnt a copious dose of after-work oil? When you finally get some breathing space, you have no clue what to do with it. You are left grasping at straws.

The first few days of zilch micromanagement felt like a dream to me. But by the second or third week, boredom took precedence, and I started actively looking for tasks to self-initiate. A few questions that crossed my mind –

  • Is this what retired people go through? They are relaxed and happy the first few weeks of retirement, but many develop a sense of despair later on.
  • How can I stop myself from feeling this way?
  • Why do we always have to be on the move? Why are we so averse to relaxation?
  • What is the optimal amount of work you need daily to keep yourself happy?

Of course, I do not have the answers to all questions. I am not a researcher or scientist. I apologize if you came here looking for answers. However, I can tell you something from my personal experience:

I am happiest when I have at least half a day’s worth of solid work. The type of work that requires my complete attention, work that takes my mind off all kinds of distractions. When I am consumed by an optimal amount of work that meets my skills, I enter this state of flow that ignites my happy hormones. This “work” that I am talking about is not just restricted to office work; it can be anything – cooking, playing a sport, writing, learning, dancing, singing. The point is that it should be something that is immersive and consumes your entire interest.

It might be why experts recommend having a passion outside work. Once you’re retired, this passion will keep you alive and kicking. For workaholics, finding that excitement outside work might prove challenging. They hardly get the time to pause and seek activities that may have the potential to improve their quality of life in the future. One possibility for such plodders is to go part-time post-retirement in context to their work (maybe consulting). But if you have decided to step away from office work, as most of us plan to do post-60, finding yourself a cause or a passion becomes imperative.

We feel our best when we are in service or when we can provide help in some way. Finding your “Ikigai,” as vouched by the long-living Japanese, is essential to one’s overall well-being and happiness. I am not yet sure what my Ikigai is. I enjoy writing, but I haven’t yet sat down to see if I could write for half a day, nor do I know if this exercise would cater to my emotional health eternally. I did some sewing the other day. It made me feel alive. Maybe Ikigai can be a bunch of things – a heady concoction of multi-colored magic beans that contribute to our general well-being. You can embrace each of them as per the mood and season, mix and match, exercise portion-control, and tuck them away in your customized, personalized happiness jar. All it takes is some time to figure out what those magic beans are.

An Ode to the Sandwich Feedback Method and Why You Should Use It

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels

The Sandwich Feedback Method is a kind of feedback model that allows leaders to formulate any kind of feedback to their subordinates positively. This kind of method ensures the employees do not feel demotivated or left with negative feelings after a performance review. You might have seen this technique being used in Shark Tank.

It is arguably the best way to provide feedback to someone, but not many use it. I have never seen it happen. But it is one of those dreamy feedback mechanisms that I hope would be the norm someday.

There are three layers to the sandwich method:

  1. Start with a positive message: Tell your employee what you admire the most in their work. If they are disciplined, hard-working, innovative, and eager to learn new things – you can start by saying that. If they had done something noteworthy in the last couple of months, point that out. Often, employers skip mentioning the positives at the time of feedback. When you say positive things first, you make the employee more comfortable and open to what’s coming up next – constructive criticism. This does not mean you have to lie. Look deeper into how the person works or interacts; you will always find something worth complimenting. If you can’t find anything, chances are you’re facing a mental block that is stopping you from seeing the positives. Try harder!
  2. Constructive Feedback: The second layer is the meat. This is where you provide the feedback that could have been construed negatively by the subordinate if it were to be given first. Keeping it second in line gives the employee enough time to develop a positive mindset about what’s to come. Constructive feedback, even if it’s the second layer of the sandwich method, should be handled with care. Do not appear brash and rude in the name of honesty. Repeat the sentences back to yourself and ask, “Would these words hurt me if I’d heard them from my boss?” If yes, reframe the feedback. Avoid an accusatory tone, and provide solutions on how they can implement the feedback you have given.
  3. The Final Slice of Happiness: Now that you have given your feedback, finish the session with a positive message again. Something to the tune of, “We know you can do what is expected. You are capable.” A final motivational note can inspire any employee to kickstart what is required of them.

The Sandwich Feedback is a method that I wish my employer used often.

When an employee leaves a performance review or feedback session feeling more motivated than dejected, you know you are a good leader. Feeling discouraged can rob a person from doing their best possible work out of anxiety. Fear-mongering is not the characteristic of an efficient leader and should be avoided at all costs.

The Sandwich Feedback Method can also be used in your personal life to provide feedback to your friends and family members.

Give the Sandwich Method a trial run and see what happens. You have nothing to lose anyway. It’s a win-win situation for all.