While reading the Analysis of a Case Study by Achal Bhagat in BusinessWorld , I came across a framework, which he calls as the web of rationalisations. I found this very useful and fascinating to understand my own situations in life and career. I think this framework with more thought and modifications can be applied to understanding organization culture, career planning and even conflict management.
Achal Bhagat says :
All of us travel our life's journey on four dimensions in parallel :
· Abuse to dignity
· Helplessness to control
· Alienation to togetherness
· Suffering to purposefulness
We spend our lives charting course in these dimensions in various domains of life like work, relationships, leisure, communities etc. We like celebrating events that allow us to feel a movement forward, and feel sad and angry when we stagnate or move backwards. Each time we move away from dignity, control, togetherness and purpose, we panic and feel that we may lose all and forever.
All of us are caught in this "one step forward three steps backward trap"Our movement on purposefulness by achieving the sales target makes us feel more alienated. As we feel more isolated, we need to control our environment more and more. The more we do that the more we suffer, because we are going against what we think ourselves to be. We are in a spiral trying very hard to shoot our way out of it. Obviously, the harder we try, the more difficult it becomes.
I found this framework very elegant because it does not say one need is higher or lower to the other. It says these dimensions are running in parallel. Also, working on one dimension, has impact on the other dimensions. This explains why even high-achievers often do not feel happy about themselves.
This framework also can help in understanding why some organizations have high attrition rates, even when they pay very high salaries and give fancy designations to their employees. By the same token, why some organizations, even though, they do not pay even industry standard salaries retain employees for a long time. It all boils down to what each individual employee is feeling in each of the four dimensions within the confines of the organization.
Using the above framework, I could reflect on my own decision to stay on with one employer for over 13 years and also, why I decided to move on when the score on two dimensions moved backward. This framework helped me to understand that choosing to stay with an organization goes much beyond the conventional measures like compensation, promotions, job description etc. HR experts say that "People join organizations but leave the boss". The role of the boss, in determining, three of the four dimensions in work-life is significant.
Personally, I rate the last dimension as the most important. If one is moving forward on the purpose dimension, one can accept backward movements in the other three dimensions, one can still get a sense of fulfillment. Organisations which have a greater purpose, which goes beyond making money for the shareholders, are often able to retain and inspire their employees even if the job is relatively lower on other dimensions
Given the complex interplay of each of these dimensions, it is pretty clear that one cannot have it all. Also, trying harder is not going to help. The trick is to identify one's own comfort zone on each of these dimensions at a given point of time in life and then find an organization or career that fulfils these needs most of the time.