When I was much younger I used to work for this Japanese company during semester holidays. The first year I was hired as a temp through the local Labour Dept to fill-in the receptionist post as she was on maternity leave. My job consisted of answering calls, patching them through, greeting visitors, arranging interviews for potential employees – all the mundane things that receptionists are supposed to do.
There were two Shahruddins in the company, one was the Chief Engineer, the other was the line supervisor on the shop floor. One was management and the other was union. The Union Din used to hang out around the reception and bitched about Management Din – it was the usual laundry list of complaints: too much work, too little pay, uncaring bosses et cetera. Being a temp, I had a lot of sympathy for Union Din, as I too had too much work and paid so little. I had very little contact with Management Din, but the stories I heard was enough to make me suspicious and wary of him.
After 2 months the receptionist came back to work. I must say this for myself, even when I was just a temp receptionist, I was a kick-ass temp receptionist. The (then) Managing Director, Mr Kuwabara, decided they wanted to keep me for good and offered me a (bonded) scholarship and an internship with the company for the years to come.
The next year I came back for the internship. This time they placed me in different department each month i.e. Purchasing, Accounts and Logistics & Procurement. Then, other HODs discovered that I was good for other things too. Management Din was one of these HODs. He involved me in Budget Planning, ISO 9002 implementation, put me through Kaizen training, the works. But soon the holidays were up and I had to go back to school. The Managing Director again took me to dinner and asked me to come and join them again the following year.
So I went to work for them again for the 3rd time. By now, people were familiar with me. I still handled the reception from time to time when the receptionist went out for lunch. But the bulk of my work was HR-related – from organizing events like Family Day and annual dinner to doing payroll and calculating overtime for the factory folks. That meant I had access to time sheets and performance evaluation reports; and I sat in management meetings to help take notes though I was too junior to understand what was discussed.
One day as I was handling the reception, Union Din came and started to chat. I understood his issues clearly and perfectly. But because I was (by then) familiar with Management Din too and with his budgets and plans for the shop floor including his limitations and the challenges that he faced, I no longer felt any animosity or anger or suspicion towards Management Din. It took me 3 years to reach that point, but I remember thinking to myself how different a story sounds when you have a better understanding of the situation from both sides. It didn’t mean that I have less sympathy for Union Din or that I needed to take sides; it simply meant I grew up and understood that it would always be a question (and a struggle) of balance – be it a balance of power or money or fame. Both Dins wanted the best for the company and for themselves; both had a idea of how the other should operate; both had issues and problems to manage. They talked and debated and argued; and I am quite convinced they hated each other’s guts, but that’s the way it is – you win some, you lose some. You just have to learn to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Anyway, by the end of the 3rd year’s internship, I had been exposed enough to understand that working in the manufacturing sector or in certain professions was not my cup of tea; I had also figured out that wanting to do something is not the same as successfully doing something. So I went to see the MD to thank him for the opportunity and told him I would not be taking the scholarship and would not be continuing my internship with them next year. He still took me out to dinner; and told me that I should do what was best for me, and that I if apply myself the same way I did when I was temping as their receptionist, I would be fine wherever I go. He asked me what I learned from the three years that I spent with them. I said I learned that there is always two sides of a story. He laughed and said that is true, and there is always 6-sides to a dice, but only one can come up at every throw.
There is a moral in this story somewhere.
Feel free to disagree.
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