Friday, January 27, 2012

A Story of Hospitality

Anoop woke up with a start in the morning. He looked around while trying to shake off his disorientation. He reached for his watch which was on the table that stood by the bed. It read 08:30a.m. He cursed under his breath and jumped out of the bed. He was late for work.

Anoop was working in the Hospitality department for a major Information Technology company based out of Bangalore. He had joined the company six months back after completing his Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree. The job did not hold much charm to a BCom graduate, but the pay was good and Anoop had made peace with the nature of work. He had found a 1bedroom apartment near the company office and was slowly settling down into his new job and surroundings.

He brushed and performed his daily ablutions with haste. The day was of huge significance to him. That day was his first appraisal at his job. He did not want to be late. He knew for certain that his manager in the hospitality department, Mr. Rangarajan, would invent reasons to reduce his rating and he didn’t want to give him further fuel by turning up late in the office.

Anoop reached the office by 09:30 am. He ran to his cubicle, sat down and glanced at his manager’s cubicle. Rangarajan was already present at his place intently peering at his monitor. Anoop quickly logged into his computer and opened up a spreadsheet which enlisted all the notable work that he had undertaken during the past 6 months.

The intra-office communicator flashed suddenly. Rangarajan or Ranga, as he was popularly known, was summoning Anoop to his cubicle.

‘Showtime’, thought Anoop while he took a deep breath and got up from his seat.

‘Good morning, Anoop’, Ranga greeted Anoop with a smile.
‘Good morning, Ranga’ Anoop's voice was feeble and tense.

‘So how are you today?’ Ranga was delaying the inevitable. Anoop wanted to tell him to cut the crap and get on to business, but one doesn’t say such things to one’s boss. So Anoop replied, ‘I am doing well, Ranga. How are you?’

‘Good, good.’

Ranga thought for a while and repeated, ‘Good good’. Anoop knew that that was one too many ‘Good’ to be true.

Ranga finally seemed to find no further reason to delay the discussion any further and so he began, ‘Anoop, you have been a very good performer during the past six months of your tenure here. But at the same time I have not seen many out of the box thinking from you related to the work.’

‘Out of the box thinking? In Hospitality Department?’ Anoop wanted to laugh at the reasoning of Ranga but then again one doesn’t do that to one’s boss.

‘Yes. Out of the box thinking. In the hospitality department, we are concerned with the well-being of all the employees of this company. You have obviously handled the tickets and the other requests fairly well. But what I expect from you is to take up more initiative.’

Anoop was confused. At first, it was out of the box thinking and now it was initiative. He wanted to tell Ranga to make up his mind. But Anoop said, ‘Ranga, I think I understand. Could you please give me an example of the sort of initiatives that I could showcase to improve my performance?’

Ranga was not prepared for such a question. He seemed stumped for a while. But Ranga had not become a manager without facing real time contingencies.

He said, ‘Look, Anoop, the role of hospitality is to enable the software engineers and the folks in the delivery to perform their work without any hassle. But let me tell you a secret. That is the motto to the outside world. This is business. If the company can get those people to work their asses off without giving them ergonomic chairs and notepads and cups, then the company would be very happy. That is because; the company wants to reduce the overhead costs. And that is where we can show initiative’

Anoop was beginning to get the picture. He nodded his head vigorously to indicate that he was following Ranga’s reasoning.

Ranga was happy with himself and happy that his protégé was picking up the tricks of the trade so quickly. So he felt slightly magnanimous. So he said, ‘Anoop, tell you what, I will give you two days time to come up with some new ideas to reduce the cost to the company and I will consider that also for the appraisal. As of now, your appraisal is ‘Met Expectations’. If you can come up with some good ideas, I will increase it to ‘Exceeds Expectation’. How is that?’

Anoop couldn’t believe his luck. He was getting a chance to increase his rating and that too from Ranga. ‘Maybe I judged Ranga too quickly’ thought Anoop.

Anoop went back to his cubicle and opened up a new spreadsheet. He titled it, The Avenues of Cost-cutting. He worked on the list throughout the day. He skipped his lunch and he did not leave his desk for snacks. By evening, Anoop composed a mail to Rangarajan and attached his spreadsheet full of suggestions and immediately walked over to Ranga’s cubicle.

Anoop insisted that Ranga go through the list and give his feedback. Ranga was impressed to say the least. Ranga realized that each and every point in the list could prove to be real cost saving options for the company. Without much hesitation, he forwarded the list to the top management.

Ranga and Anoop did not have to wait for more than an hour before the reply to the mail arrived. The top management was ecstatic that such vibrant people with such exceptional ideas were present in the company. The top management also assured that the ideas will be implemented on a company-wide basis. The mail showered praise on Ranga and Anoop and assured that they would both be given ‘Outstanding’ as their appraisal rating.

The next day, a simple mailer from the Hospitality department went out to all the employees of the company. It read:

Dear All,

Greetings from the Hospitality Team!!!

As a part of reinventing the institution that is our company and ensuring a new paradigm shift in the outlook of the company towards saving energy and natural resources, we are in the process of revamping a few of the policies related to Hospitality and the use of facilities in the office.

1.       The toilets shall no longer have toilet papers. If anyone needs a roll of toilet paper a request will have to be raised and it will have to be approved by the manager

2.       If an employee raises more than five requests for toilet paper in a week, the sixth time onwards, he/she will be provided sand paper rather than toilet paper

3.       Each employee will have to swipe their id cards to get a cup of coffee and if the employee consumes more than one cup a day, detergent powder will be mixed instead of sugar in the subsequent cups  and the resulting calamity will not augur well for the employee considering the points 1 & 2 above

4.       Water coolers shall function only after swiping the id cards of employees and if the employee consumes more than two cups of water, recycled water shall be provided from the third cup onwards

5.       The number of chairs in each four member cubicle will be reduced to three. The chairs shall be available to employees on a first-come-first-serve basis. The employee coming late will have to stand and work for the day or sit on the floor as per his/her preference

6.       The notepads and pens shall no longer be made available unless the employee submits his/her previous notepad and pen to the Hospitality department and proves that the notepad/pen which the employee has taken previously is completely exhausted. (Note that pictures drawn in notepads/scribbling on notepads are not considered ethical and such employees shall no longer receive the stationary item)

7.       Employees are hereby encouraged to buy their own coffee mugs and in case employees need company issued coffee mugs, an approval letter from the manager accompanied by an undertaking from the employee will have to be submitted. In the event of the company issued coffee mug being lost or broken, half of the month’s salary from the concerned employee shall be remitted to the Hospitality department as fine.

8.       Air conditioning and fans shall no longer be available to employees. In each floor a designated kiosk will be kept air conditioned and employees can avail that facility for fifteen minutes per day. If an employee exceeds the fifteen minute deadline, employee forfeits his chance of going into the kiosk ever again

The change in policies shall underline the commitment that the company has towards conserving energy and we hope that all the employees will cooperate with us.

The Hospitality Department
We are here to serve
P.S. Any employee found making fun of/discussing the above policies shall be referred to the HR department for appropriate action



The mail created a few ripples throughout the company. But the dissenting voices quickly died down when the Hospitality department showed that they meant business.

The land value around the company went up and many private parties set-up restrooms around the company premises within a month. Rumor has it that some of the owners of the restrooms are industrious employees of the company itself

Anoop and Rangarajan received several awards for their farsighted ideas and their commitment to conserving energy. They received ‘Outstanding’ as their appraisal rating