Sunday, December 12, 2010

Skip Level Meeting : A Completely Imaginary Story

[Disclaimer : This post is completely an imaginary incidence. I am working in one of the "Great Places to Work" and my employer has nothing to do with this and any opinion expressed here is solely my imagination.]

'Skip level meeting', in an abstract sense, means a meeting with your boss's boss (manager's manager). It is very uncommon and will only happen if there is a 'special' need for it. Only in a few companies this 'skip level meeting' is part of the process. You know, generally, managers have the ability to screw up the life of his team members and this skip level meetings give a slight chance for the employees to screw up the life of their manager :) by complaining about the manager to the manager's manager.

[Jumping to the story. I don't know what names I can give the characters as it has to be the names which has nothing to do with any of my colleagues/manager in my career. So, let me go with my school mates names. Lets say, Kumar is the employee (the hero), Venkat is Kumar's manager and Sekar is the Venkat's manager.]

"Come on in Kumar. Please sit down.", Sekar invited cordially with a smile. Since this meeting was not requested by Kumar, and since Sekar's attitude was very pleasant, Kumar got some confidence that is not going to be a 'you screwed... bla bla bla' kind of a meeting. At least, he thought like that at that moment. "Thanks Sekar", told Kumar and sat on the chair meant for him.

[Lets skip all the parts where Sekar tells Kumar that he is doing an excellent job and he is a valuable addition but he needs to be more proactive and improve his communication skill. I think in all the meetings with the managers, the sentences 'you needs to be more proactive' and 'you can improve your presentation skills a bit more' will invariably be present.]

"So, Kumar, are you happy with the team?"
"Yes Sekar, I am very happy with my team. I have no complaints."
"I sensed that your relationship with Venkat is not smooth. Is there anything you want to tell me about that?"
"I don't know how and where you got such a wrong information, Sekar. I am having a good relationship with Venkat."
"It is completely okay Kumar. You can tell me. Think of this as a 360 degree feedback. Your name will not be used in any of the assessments."
"But the 360 degree feedback was over couple of months back right? I have been honest in filling that. I am happy with my team and my manager"
"It is okay even if you haven't been honest in your feedback. I wont use that against you. I want everyone working in my team to be happy"
"Well... I am happy here."
Sekar's cordial smile faded away. The smoothness in his speech was gone now. He looked more serious and continued...
"You know what? This is the problem of IT industry. Manager's can screw the employee life. They are given a great responsibility, but most of the managers think of the responsibility as mere power. Having personal favorite employees and screwing others even though they are good. I don't want such things happen in my team. I heard that Venkat openly insulted you when you missed a tough deadline. So, if you want to discuss anything, or if you have any complaints, please let me know. I will protect you."
"Sekar, I agree with what you told about managers and their responsibilities. I agree that Venkat scolded me in front of everyone when I missed a deadline. But I have no grudge against him. I can't let one simple incidence to judge him. Also..." 
"But...", Kumar stopped talking when Sekar started to say something. There was a moment of awkward silence and Kumar continued, but this time, Kumar was not very polite. He maintained a strong eye contact and told every word of it heavily, so that Sekar understands that Kumar has understood what was happening.

"I understand that even though managers have the power to screw the employees, they need a reason, at least a dummy reason, to screw their life. I am pretty sure Venkat wouldn't have done anything to me because of the incidence. He is a good person and a good manager, whether I like him personally or not. I don't want to...", Kumar's voice trailed off. He didn't want to continue and he didn't need to continue as Sekar is smart enough to understand what he was about to tell. Which is...

"I don't want to give you a reason to use such a trivial incidence to screw with Venkat's life. You are his manager and you have the POWER to screw him even if you get a simple negative feedback about him."


Gunasekaran said...

Wow! Carefully worded.Never slipping up by changing the name of the characters somewhere, like instead of "Kumar" writing "I.... I mean.....Satesh" for example.

And, also a well written article(story).

Subramanyam said...

My understanding of managing IT is pretty straight forward, the team should work as a unit especially when in doldrums

When venkat toils kumar`s image for a thing that kumar has screwed up (I assume not intentionally or even otherwise) venkat on the other side might have questioned or even fire him for that, but not do any thing silly infront of the team

It will make kumar feel more stupid, invariably venkat got personal and most probably this might even repeat( unless he is biased already)

And from sekhar`s point of view,whose job is to straighten *** of stupid manager`s is not wrong at all.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
~Abraham Lincoln

Vijesh said...

Well, narrated. Close to reality. Some of the Indian managers wanted to save their own skin before putting their team in front.

P.S: Comment disclaimed

amudhan said...

Thanks dad... :) I am very glad that you liked this story.

Yes, I agree with you. The twist I planned for this story is 'Sekar pretends to care for Kumar only to get a negative feedback to screw Venkat. He is more evil. Venkat, on the other hand had scolded him on that day may be because his wife added more salt in his food :D and nothing personal. Kumar still believes that Venkat is a good guy (as a hero, he is very mature and understanding ;) )' The quote from Lincoln is too good yaar... Thanks for leaving a comment Subramanyam...

Thanks for the comment Vijesh and it is true that everyone wants to save their own skin first ;)

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