It's all in the attitude

My sister, an avid electronic engineer, is a workaholic to the core and a stickler for appropriate corporate etiquette and responsibility. She rightly endorses the importance of an equitable and congenial attitude, which she says is indispensable and a sine qua non in the corporate ethos.

“A bad attitude is like a punctured tyre; you can’t get anywhere unless you change it,” she would say. I learnt this vital lesson the hard way, that when one points a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back.

One bright, balmy, spring-scented day, I was in the school where I worked as a teacher. As bad luck could portend, I realised rather belatedly that for my middle school class of 30 students, I had asked the office assistant for 30 xerox copies, but she has given me only 29. I accosted her and asked brusquely, “How could you make this mistake? You have put me in a spot!”

In retrospect, I surmise that one less xerox copy would not have caused a tsunami and that I should have seen the “bigger picture” of the office assistant being a sincere, conscientious employee with relatively few complaints rallied against her. The element of human error is always there in clerical work and, in fact, is really no big deal.

However, I was new to the school and was keen to be as perfect as possible for I was on probation. So, I flew off the handle and chastised her for her faux pas. In my haste, I didn’t even look back to notice her miffed and morose expression. The next day, I approached her again for another 30 xerox copies, but was a trifle surprised when she snapped back at me.

“Ma’am, take the xerox copies once yourself so you will be able to gauge the precision that has to go into this seemingly ‘simple clerical job.’ One has to be patient while keying in the exact number of sheets for countless classes having different sections, see that the sheets are aligned properly and then count the accumulated sheets correctly. Do the job just once and this will make you discern that an office assistant’s job is no cake walk – and at the end of it all, there is no cake,” she said dryly.

I felt ashamed of my harsh words from the previous day. So, I did do the job myself and noticed that it was mechanical work, but required patience and persistence. I admired the office assistant for being at it, hour after hour, day after day, because I knew she needed the job.

That day, I decided that my sister was right – I badly needed to mend my attitude, which any day gets you more altitude than aptitude. When my sister heard my story, she agreed that sincere work should always be appreciated and that minor human glitches overlooked.

However, practical as my sister is, she gave the incident her own twist. “It’s not so much about small insignificant mistakes. The lesson of this incident is: ‘To be in good terms with all at your workplace. When you’re living in the water, you just can’t afford to fight with the fish.’”
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