WHEN THE PRINCIPAL SOURCE OF ONE’S INCOME is a salary, the thought whether one is adequately paid for what one is doing inevitably crosses one’s mind and such thoughts gain intensity during performance appraisals – regardless of whether one is being appraised or whether one is evaluating his or her subordinates. The attainment or otherwise of key performance indicators is sometimes very hotly discussed and sometimes, too late in the day, questions are raised on whether they were even set properly.  All of this is an annual ritual which we eventually get reconciled to although this may also be the time when the more ambitious (more competent?) among us begin refining their resumes in search of greener pastures.

AT LEAST OCCASIONALLY, IT PAYS, I think, to take a hard look at what we individually do, our contribution to the organisation we work for, how indispensable we are and indeed about how useful we are to the society we live in. If, day in and day out one is always busy one is seldom troubled or tickled by such thoughts. But this reflective exercise, if and when conducted with honesty, can be a very humbling experience.

I WAS THROWN INTO A LONG SPELL of introspection on all of the above during the wet vacation I had in my home town in Kannur recently when we were mostly confined indoors on account of heavy rains. The catalyst for this thought process was the elusive plumber and a great book that I stumbled upon. The plumber did not turn up despite repeated calls leaving me aghast at my own helplessness in fixing what went wrong (a leaking tap)  and I could not help wondering how poorly equipped I was in terms of what is generally termed as “life skills” or “skills for survival”.

QUITE HONESTLY, we should consider ourselves truly educated only when we are in a position to provide solutions to the issues that we encounter every day and the issues in question are not necessarily confined to what we face when we report for work at the office.  One cannot of course be a jack of all trades to the point of driving plumbers and electricians out of employment but we do need to cultivate basic “do-it-yourself” skills and to this end, I think, IKEA, in its own unique way has encouraged those of us who loathe physical work to assemble the stuff that we buy from them for our daily use.  I  keep wondering about the kind of reactions one would elicit, say, in a job interview where MBAs are taking part,  if  one were to ask the candidates to sew a missing  button on a shirt !

IF SOMEONE WERE TO ASK ME TO SUGGEST A GIFT for a friend or colleague this Diwali or Christmas, I would strongly recommend  Matthew Crawford’s beautiful, life changing work The Case for Working With Your Hands Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things is Good” (Penguin Books).  Besides running an independent motorcycle repair shop, the author has a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Chicago and is a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.  The book does not actually destroy the self-esteem of people in white-collar jobs but instead beautifully persuades us to reflect on our attitudes towards work and encourages us to cultivate “hands-on” knowledge prompting one to confidently say “Let me make myself useful” so that we not only do meaningful work but are also “self reliant” to the extent possible.

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