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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING UNCTUOUS

Most of my brethren in the software fraternity may not be able to relate to this, but conversely, I must adduce my timorous inability to relate to most of them too. So we are about even.

I have always been curious in trying to fathom how culture at work is affected by the way individuals address each other. My education ( Ed—Watch it, Son—Education is the lighting of a lamp, not the filling of a pail ) impelled me to surmise that in the Big Bad Corporate World, “suits” said “Sir” before, after and in a sentence. ( Ed—Sentence—yeah, that’s the mot juste for a corporate existence )

Not a bit of it.During my first day at work (used in the most liberal sense of the term ) , the General Manager peremptorily halted my inane soliloquy on why I had chosen my career in the way I had by asking him to call him by his initials. I gasped, my colleagues gasped, the AC gasped –what was this bloke drivelling on about? How could we, Teething Tyros, call Him , of colossal field experience and one who was in the field before any of us were even born, address him as an equal ? He cheerily reassured us saying that what he had asked so innocently was no different from the way everyone in the firm had addressed him ever since he began.

We got used to it, gradually and reluctantly.

This World Vision of seeing all laity as belonging to one of two diacritic camps, the “Sirs” and those who “Sir”, had congealed with the long association with the Army where any other form of opening a dialogue is deemed on the Road to Perdition.

Did/does it make a difference ?

Now I would be the last person to aver that this gesture, as glib and perfunctory as it may be, engenders Equality, Unity of Purpose, an esprit d corps and all of Monsieur Fayol’s precepts. Yet, it did appear to make a difference to the levels of intimacy and approachability with a superior in every transaction. Perhaps a .8 on Correlation –unsure on Regression!!

It did leave an unwieldy imprint on my then impressionable mind ( Ed—Impressionable--You ?Have you even heard of Truth ? ) because the next time I heard an acolyte use the dreaded three letters, to someone who was about three years older, I almost gagged trying to suppress my mirth.

Again, I am not wholly convinced whether all the bonhomie and goodwill that the two individuals had enjoyed owing to their Life Stage had been frittered away because of the mere utterance of an unwelcome word.
Perhaps, it was foisted upon the situation. Perhaps, it did not beleaguer them as much as I envisaged. Perhaps, they were friends after all.
But I won’t wager on it.

Another angle to this whole story was covered in my protracted factory stints. There is the Union, which as the name suggests, is a body created and maintained to perpetuate the febrile and frenzied ideology of an era long gone. In most circumstances, the sapient Leaders are seasoned veterans, Harbingers of Insight and hence rather long in the tooth. As both entities play a role, at times, literally, I have encountered most situations overwrought with politeness and gallantry. But when the chips are really down, in other words the business end of proceedings, the veneer lifts and the Dreaded Name of the Individual is used.

So where does that leave us ?

I guess, the Relationship governs the Terms of Endearment.

To purr, with love
To a cur, with hate.
But to a Wretch,
saying Sir is my Fate.

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