Recently I was introduced to a network at a social gathering in Bangalore. Even as our conversation veered towards different topics, we got ourselves drawn into a conversation that centered on recognition of performance in the corporate world. Some of the people in the network were working as Property Managers / Estate Managers in a well-known MNC firm that operates pan-India and is involved in facility management services and property research.
I could sense an empathy with the friends when they told me that their sincere and earnest performance had become a bane for them. One of them had been a property manager in this firm for close to 7 years without any promotion. Another friend had quit this firm in a matter of 3 years. A bit puzzled, I asked them what made them leave a multinational organization?
The answers were a real revelation. One of them said, “ Once you are elevated as a Property Manager, you can work as a Property Manager for the next 10 years without having any ambition or any kind of aspiration for career growth. You can’t even expect a promotion. The increments offered are dependent on contract renewal by client. The business model of this firm is dependent on contractual obligations with clients in the real estate sector”.
Another friend chipped in, “Working in a MNC definitely gives a high. But the problem is that when you are an outsourced employee working at a client site in a real estate firm, you are always branded as a contractor. While the IT industry also outsources in this fashion, there is a lot more dignity in IT jobs than in jobs such as facility management”.
I had to agree with them that admin and facility management jobs are thankless jobs. A sincere performance may never win you accolades but one minor aberration can have disastrous consequences. My views were echoed by another member of the group who said that employees could not stay on in this firm due to two reasons. The first reason was the firm’s hire and fire policy (which in most cases was to appease the client). The other reason was the location of posting.
When property managers or estate managers have to work in far-flung locations in a city like Bangalore and have to hazard a long drive on a two-wheeler to go to work, they are forced to throw the towel at some point of time. It is actually a double whammy for these service personnel. They get hammered by the clients and also have to face the flak from their primary employers.
Another friend remarked, “ On numerous occasions, facility managers are forced to create a deliberate nuisance value at client site so that they are transferred to some other site. The lucky ones are absorbed by the client and this is more of an exception rather than the rule.” But all of them converged at one point that their good performance actually became a stumbling block for future career growth. If a property manager is sincere, responsive and outstanding, then the clients do not want to leave him. The primary employers are also not keen to upset the apple cart. So, the status quo continues.
A few days later, I happened to speak to the service engineer who had come to our apartment to attend an elevator breakdown call . A Diploma holder in Mechanical Engineering, he has been working with Kone for close to 7 years now. “They do pay increments every year; however I sense a feeling of stagnation. I regret the day I decided to join the elevator industry. The nature of work is monotonous and there is no scope for job rotation. After working in maintenance, I may be moved to installation. But then the story is repeated there too. Then it is a mammoth task to change fields. Moving from Kone to Otis or Johnson or Thyssen Kurup is not going to change my predicament because it is the same situation everywhere. I can’t aspire to be a service manager as the number of service managers in a region is limited. Even if a service manager resigns and a vacancy arises, it needs a lot more than merit to get that coveted promotion”.
As I listen to him intently, he pleads with me, “Sir, I am getting married next month. Please can you help me get another job. I do not mind changing locations but I do not wish to be in the elevator industry any more”. A few words of comfort from my end assuages him.
Isn’t there a clear trend emerging? An outstanding performance, a sincere effort and diligent completion of tasks can also be bottlenecks in career progression. It is easy to get stagnated. Those who are happy with the status quo take it in their stride but those who are ambitious experience a feeling of suffocation. Even in white-collared jobs, a promotion is always a result of several factors. Being outstanding in your domain of expertise is not enough. An executive needs to know the tricks to get himself noticed.
Some multinational organizations have rigid policies for job rotation/ cross functional exposure. Organizations like Bosch always look at internal hires for cross-functional assignments. It is not uncommon for a HR manager in Bosch to have an earlier stint as a production supervisor in a factory. But organizations like Bosch are few and far between. Among the Indian firms, Tatas have always espoused the cause of cross-functional exposure of employees.
An outstanding performance can be rewarded by way of promotions, cross-functional exposures and international assignments. But it can become a pain point if organizations allow an individual’s excellent performance to stagnate. If one observes carefully, then things like competency mapping, job enrichment, job responsibilities, Key Result Areas, Performance Measures are all framed in such a manner that leaves lot of room for tweaking them as the situation demands. For instance, some new rating systems, although objective and robust, are used by organizations as tools for head count reduction.
To end this article on a humorous note, one of the candidates was asked to explain about his weaknesses in an interview session. He replied that he sometimes got so immersed in his tasks that he did not recall the last time he had had a cup of tea with other colleagues. The panel remarked that he was an introvert and had poor interpersonal skills and rejected him. Another candidate replied to the same question as – “ I need my daily fix of non-work interactions with my colleagues and drinking tea is my weakness”. The panel remarked that the candidate wasn’t focused and earnest towards his job and if he was selected, he would only end up increasing the refreshment bill of the firm. This candidate too was rejected!