Three days back a young girl in her very early twenties came to our office for an interview for the post of a customer service executive. She looked very attractive, well groomed and wore a genuine smile. She was very vivacious, her face lighting up when she spoke about her desires and clouding when she spoke about her current plight. I enjoyed the conversation with her immensely.
She was without a job for two months. She left her previous job with an airline because of continuous night shifts. She regretted the decision, sometimes.
The objective she mentioned in her profile was to grow as a professional in the aviation sector. When I asked her whether she viewed a customer service job in our company as a stop gap arrangement, she nodded in agreement. She candidly told me that she wanted to work in the aviation sector. It felt refreshing and easy to speak to someone not wearing a mask.
In fact she told me her dream was to use a job in the aviation sector as a means to going abroad and settling there. During the brief period she worked with an airline she felt awed by the charm and aura of the people traveling by flights. Her dream was to experience that type of life.
She said she grew up cocooned in a small town, ignorant of the possibilities in this exciting world. Having lived in Chennai for three years, her world had opened up. Doing law was her other desire apart from going abroad.
As we conversed, I dearly wished that she would get a decent job with an airline and all her desires would find fulfillment. I suggested to her that taking up a customer service job could scuttle the chances of finding her dream job. She seemed to understand readily, though there was that tinge of sadness in her voice thinking about her current jobless plight.
So, she smiled, took back her resume from me and left, half disappointed. I do not know how to describe the feeling I experienced then. It was a mixture of sadness, satisfaction, pain, happiness and doubt wondering whether I did the right thing by dissuading her.
As I write, I really wish that she would find the resolve to stay focused on sailing towards her dreams and reaching her destination. I do not have the right to evaluate the rightness or wrongness or her dreams. It is after all, her life and her dreams.
It is absolutely a delight to see people venturing out, birthing new desires and covering distances to find their promised lands. Their desires give them wings.
With time, some people dilute their dreams with compromises. Often the companies they work in make their dreams numb.
In the evening, that very day, I sat down with one of our customer care executives, alarmed by his poor performance. His take was that customers respond better to female voices. Then he said he worked very hard without taking rest, eager to get result for the company. I agreed with him on that.
Then we did a few mock calls together. He studied in a Tamil medium school and so he lacked confidence, he reasoned.
I made him understand that the important thing is to feel enough as he is, while speaking to customers. And, communication is not so much about any language, as it is about the emotion behind what is communicated – in whichever language. And to imagine those on the other side as friendly people. And, finally, to offer solutions for their needs rather than go on and on, about us and our services.
He seemed very eager to do well in his work and learn but he lamented his poor grasp of English. I offered to teach him, provided he showed interest. He latched on to the idea and said he would get the grammar book I recommended.
Late in the evening and the days following, I thought several times about the power I wield to show the way for the people working at Service Square. My response to situations can help make the lives of people. Or break their spirits. They are very fragile. They can also be helped to become very strong.
When I create a climate of enjoyment at work, people in the company produce more. When they dread their work, hardly any creation happens. That turns into a zero sum game for our organisation and the people concerned.
More crucially, we lose an opportunity to make critical, long term difference in the lives of people. Being in business is a very serious business. It comes with huge responsibilities.
Creating a positive impact in the lives of employees happens when there is genuine caring – not on account of the many HR practices aimed at employee comfort.
A few years back a very large corporate organisation which had roped in Service Square for their employee loyalty programme made us run from pillar to post to collect five months accumulated pending payments. The reason was their account department did not find the time to get the necessary approvals from their legal department. Starved of funds, our service levels dipped.
For this large corporate organization, their employees were their concern as they impacted their profits. We as a vendor did not figure in their scheme of things except as an afterthought. According to them, we were not part of the profit generating machine, payment made to us was an expenditure, after all.
The truth is, everything is inter-connected. Just like trees are an extension of our lungs. That is the eco-system sustaining us.
Sitting with our customer care executive and offering to teach him happened as part of a flow. It was not part of a premeditated HR strategy.
The day before yesterday, I was very rude with someone in our office. He has not returned since then. Probably he needed to go, but I could have done it with grace and consideration. ‘Handle with care, glass inside’ reflects a reality about all relationships.
I am blessed to be in a position where I can make a huge difference in the lives of people.
Not because of what I do for them.
Only because of how I express my beingness inside.