Guest AuthorPrabodh Sirur

‘Employee non-engagement’ and three kinds of managers

By | Prabodh Sirur | Vice President – HR at Manipal Technologies Ltd.

I am going back forty years. Sharing my insights from my experience of three kinds of managers.

We were around a dozen clerks working in a government bank in its audit department.

Our role was a bit strange. Let me elaborate to give you an idea about the pre-technology days. We had 200 plus audit officers who would audit our branches spread across the country. They would write down their findings during audits and move to the next branch. They would return to our office after about two months carrying a big lot of manuscripts. The typists would, then, type all these reports and give the typed sheets to the auditors. Each auditor would then call one of us to do the ‘calling’ (calling in our vocabulary was – reading out the whole manuscript to the auditor so that the auditor could verify the correctness of the typed sheets). It was a tiring job; our voices would go hoarse by the end of the day.

But when these auditors were out for the next audit tour, we would be free. For days together we had absolutely no work. Our gang would sneak out for movies or find some new restaurants and spend time together.

Our role was managed by an Administrative Officer. The officer had many administrative tasks; managing us was one of them. My stories are about two administrative officers who came in succession. These stories are about ’employee non-engagement’ (I assume this is a valid English word). I doubt if we knew anything about the new world terminologies such as talent management, talent development, competency enhancement etc. I do not intend to find fault in these managers but want to highlight how we managers lose an opportunity to contribute to people, lose out on creating possibilities of serving the nation.


Our first Administrative Officer – an attendance register in human form

Photo credit – Career Intelligence

The first Admin officer was only interested in ensuring that we came in at 10am and left at 6pm. He would religiously log the in-time and out-time. And deduct one day’s leave after three late comings. He never bothered us during the day. He did not care what we did during the day. It never occurred to him that he was wasting the organisation’s money by not using us in some way during the lean time.


Our second Administrative Officer – keep people ‘busy’

Photo credit – Dilbert

This officer was more evolved than the previous one. He wanted to ensure that the organisation’s money was not wasted. He did not want us to waste our time. So every now and then, he would form teams of two and ask each team to take out all audit reports from the cupboard, arrange them in alphabetical order, create a list and paste it on the cupboard. We would ask him the purpose of doing this exercise every fortnight. I don’t remember his response. But I am sure he didn’t have any great motivational answer. He was happy that the organisation’s resources were not wasted. He did not want to know if this task added any value to the bank. He did not realise what impact it had on our minds. He felt really satisfied that he was working better than the previous manager. We continued this mindless exercise till a new officer came in.


Is there a third kind?

Phto credit – Indiamart

The real manager nurtures people. He/she assigns challenging tasks to people thus bringing value to the organisation and to the people.

We all were in our early twenties and aspired to become officers. An ideal manager had various options to help us in preparing us for the promotion test.

We were all freshers and knew nothing about banking and finance. An ideal manager could find ways to help us learn.

Most audit reports had some common observations. An ideal manager could ask us to conduct a study of all audit reports and create a checklist of these common errors; and to go to different departments to find corrective and preventive ways. That would have helped us in knowing more about how the bank functions and helped the bank, in turn, in creating awareness to its branch employees about how to avoid mistakes in future.


Do you see opportunities in your role to nurture people and also add value to your organisation in the process? Don’t you feel that growing your people is one way of doing a service to the nation?



Whenever I create an article, I want to write something about Impressionism. Impressionism is my source of inspiration. It reminds me to think about innovation and about challenging the status quo.

Impressionism (1860-1890) is a 19th-century art movement. It was started by painters to challenge the then existing style of painting. They re-defined painting as an impression of one’s mind rather than what is seen by the eye. They turned the artistic establishment upside down with their revolutionary new approach to painting.

Today I want to remember Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910). Cross is acclaimed as a master of Neo-Impressionism. He was a significant influence on many famous artists. Cross’ work was instrumental in the development of Fauvism (the art movement succeeding impressionism).

This painting, Les cyprès à Cagnes was painted in 1908. It is now housed in Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Photo credit – Wikimedia

Reprinted with permission & originally published in LinkedIn

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Ramesh Ranjan

A Business Consultant, Executive Coach, Visiting Professor, Content Manager & Editor. Ex IIM NASSCOM LRC, ex VP NHRD Bangalore Chapter, ex VP-HR@Schneider Electric, Head HR@ APC, Caltex,Co Systems, Natural Remedies.

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