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What if all managers came with self-published manuals?

How to work with me
Last Updated : 24 August 2021, 12:10 IST
Last Updated : 24 August 2021, 12:10 IST

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Our relationship with our immediate managers and supervisors affects our experience of working at a company. This is mostly true whether you work for a start-up, a multinational company or a medium enterprise; it holds true even if the company has a rigid hierarchy or follows a ‘flat’ structure.

The manager remains the first among equals.

Most people have spent several hours performing a ‘vibe check’ — trying to guess the manager's motives and mood, dissecting the tone of voice, the curtness of the text message or email. If things were hard when we were stuck at work, they’ve gotten doubly hard since then.

But a relatively new trend of the “How to work with me” document — a written manual to navigate your professional relationship with your manager — is trying to change that.

The ‘manual’ first popped up on my timeline when Jayadevan P K, an evangelist at a leading SaaS (Software as a service) company tweeted about it.

Shared as a one-and-a-half page long PDF document simply titled ‘Work with me’, Jayadevan lists his working style under broad headings like ‘Communication’, ‘Accountability’ and ‘Approach’.

For instance, under Communication, he says “Sometimes I get too excited about work or an idea and might get in touch with you on a weekend or off work. Please don’t feel pressured to respond unless it is an emergency.”

“A lot of times when you are managing people you don’t set expectations right. It is important to set the ground rules for a relationship,” Jayadevan says, adding that while these manuals are common in the Silicon Valley in the US, the trend is fast catching up in India.

Psychological safety

One of the key concepts these documents want to address is the issue of ‘Psychological Safety’. The term is broadly used to define a workplace where people feel comfortable disagreeing with those in position of power (like a Founder or Manager), raising issues and concerns, providing constructive criticism or even asking difficult questions without fear of reprisal.

The rigid reporting hierarchies in most Indian companies, especially with our proclivity to venerate age, experience and job titles, often means the absence of ‘psychological safety’.

“I like to work with people in a culture where there is a lot of psychological safety. We work as equals. We argue ideas, we argue data. Everyone is able to bring value to the table,” Jayadevan says.

‘The introverted leader’

For Prasanna Krishnamoorthy, the co-founder and partner at Upekkha Accelerator, the manual helped them cut to the chase.

Krishamoorthy shared a document of his co-founder, running into 9 pages, with at least four pages of book recommendation. One point reads: “If urgent, call me directly. If I did not pick the call please text me I will get back 100%.”

Krishanmoorthy and his team
have been working remotely for several years now, even before the pandemic. The presence of the documents provides a useful guide to working with a person they have never met.

“I am an introvert, the other co-founder is an introvert. We like to do a lot of work on text. Sometimes it is tedious to tell people over and over again ‘How will it be like to work with us’.”

But aren’t these documents a bit ostentatious? Isn’t there concern that potential employees might find this disclosure off-putting?

“I used to think that when I first saw this document,” Jayadevan says, “but it is really about setting the rules of engagement.”

“Nobody is forcing you to read it. It is an optional thing, If you want to work with me, you can read this and this is a good way to work with me,” Krishnamoorthy says.

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Published 24 August 2021, 04:29 IST

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