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The smile on ‘the pink slip’

By G. Balasubramanian

Aswin knocked at my room. “May I come in sir?” his voice was low. “Yes Aswin, please take the seat.”

Aswin sat down and suddenly started sobbing. “Hey what is happening?” I asked.

“Sir. I am fired. They have given me a pink slip.”

“Is it? The HR says that they can have only one person as per the head count and they retained Niveda and fired me from the post.”

I listened patiently with compassion. “Sir, I have a family to support. At least, Niveda has her husband who works in a senior position in a company and needs no financial support. I trusted my boss, sir” He lamented.

I remembered the words of Brene Brown in his book “Daring Greatly” - “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement. Trust isn’t a grand gesture – it’s growing marble collection.”

There are many like Aswin who ‘trust’ the organizations. For example, Bela and her colleague Ashutosh had met me a few days ago to find whether they could get an employment somewhere as the company had given the ‘pink slip’ to near one-third of their employees as the investors have lost their ‘hope’ on the organization and funding has totally stopped. The company is having no liquidity and is facing a crisis, almost leading them to insolvency.

The “Pink Slip” on my table – a little ‘paste-in’ slip in pink colour smiled at me. “Why are you smiling?” I asked.

The slip replied, “This is how I smiled at the Boss.” I retorted “Smiled at the boss?”

“Yes. I just told him – ‘you should be happy now because you were waiting for some reason sooner than later to bid a goodbye to Aswin. He smiled back and asked me ‘how did you know?’ I replied to him that I am the watchdog on the table of many bosses like you.”

I became suspicious about the ‘pink slip’ on my table, “Hold on. I also smiled at Aswin as soon as he got the slip with my colour,” I was excited to know why. “I asked him ‘Aswin, how many times have you read those famous words of Dr. Abdul Kalam which cautioned you – “Love your job but don't love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you”.

Pink is indeed a celebrated colour, often associated with finesse, romance, grace and glamour except when it comes to the ‘termination’ of the love of any organization to their employees.

Smriti was given just a day’s notice to leave the organization. She was indeed furious. “Everyone worked against me. They don’t tolerate my growth, my social skills and my intellect. And in particular, my immediate boss, Josephine who joined with me and got an early promotion. She has been waiting to see me out of the organization.”

The only thing Smriti forgot was that when one finger was pointing at Josephine, the rest of the four fingers were pointing at her. During her last four years of association with the organization, she never subjected herself to any self-reflection. She forgot that she was evaluated only on her productivity and competencies which could be assessed rather than her social skills. Says, Patrick-Bet- David in his book “Your next five moves” – ‘Ask questions that go below the surface.”

Very often many employees engage with ‘grass-hopping’ questions and do not go below the ground reality to understand either themselves or their relationship with the organization. This mismatch grows continuously over a period and then erupts like a volcano that has assimilated its energy for a long time.

“Being thrown out” of an organization because the employee is not subservient to a boss, or not a party to either irregularities or sub-standard performances, is indeed painful. It does happen in many organizations. The so-called ‘pink’ colour of the ‘pink slip’ indeed acquired blood-red colour in such cases. “Objective Assessment” of people in an organization is a ‘fair play’ game to be played by all in an organization. Sometime the ability of mid-managers to influence the senior level executives with their opinion because they are listened to, proves fatal to the organization.

While the terminologies like ‘cleaning’, ‘disrupting’, ‘re-engineering’ are frequently used by the senior management team to justify their action, they need to understand that it need not necessarily start with the head counts. “Empathy” and “Compassion” are two words which overrule “productivity” and “profit” if one must consider the holistic growth of the organization. Oftentimes, the message of the ‘pink slips’ have a catastrophic effect on the brand and social wealth of the organizations.

Aditi, who received the pink slip a couple of months ago was in touch with me. “Sir, I am yet to get another job, I don’t know whether I am a failure in this profession.” She was indeed defeating herself. I replied “Listen, the fact that you are out of an organization doesn’t really mean you are a failure. Possibly, your skills are not matching to what they need That neither describes nor creates a narrative of failure for you.” I continued “even if you deem that you are a failure, remember the words of john Killinger who said “Failure is the greatest opportunity I have to know who I really am.” A failure doesn’t necessarily take you backward. In his book “Failing Forward”, John C. Maxwell states ‘Tell yourself. “I am not a failure. I failed at doing something. There is a big difference.”

It is important for the organizations to know that giving a pink slip to an employee doesn’t absolve them from their own past failures to train and position the employees on the track of their expectations, or for that matter the future responsibilities of ensuring a safe and smooth survival of them for a given period, as an exhibition of their own value profile.