Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Comparisons are invidious

by KParthasarathi Tuesday, April 15, 2008
As a young manager one Saturday afternoon I was talking leisurely to my boss on a variety of subjects. During the course of this long chat, he praised a colleague of mine. He was telling how impressed he was with his work, his intelligence and his ability to present knotty cases in simple manner. As he was speaking, I was unconsciously squirming in my seat. When he proceeded to shower his praise on my colleague’s ability to carry his team and his motivational powers, some sort of illogical jealousy grew in me. I was wondering why he was telling me all these and whether there was a hidden intent behind it. Doubts assailed my mind whether he considered my colleague better than me. I too toiled hard for long hours and was considered a capable manager with promising future. All the bosses under whom I had worked had always spoken of me in high praise. Despite this knowledge I started mentally comparing myself with my colleague and giving ratings on various attributes. When the boss found me glum with a long face, he said in a puzzled tone that he was just mentioning about my colleague to me as he knew we were very close friends. He added generously that he was not making any comparisons.
Nevertheless when I returned to my cabin, I was involuntarily worrying myself whether I too would merit such an appreciation from my boss with a lurking doubt that I may not. It is human nature that if the boss criticises someone, we are comfortable and feel assured that we do not suffer from such demerits. If he praises someone, we feel insecure with jealousy. Our moods keep changing constantly by comparisons. They invariably hurt if the person compared with is spoken well off. We relish the failures of others and are inwardly unhappy at the success of others. A couple of days later when the colleague about whom the boss had spoken dropped in to my house with his wife, I mentioned about the chat and the high opinion the boss had for him. I made the gratuitous remark that he probably ranked highest in the estimation of the boss. It was then my friend mentioned that he too had similar experience a few days back when the boss it appeared showered encomiums on me. We realised then that this was one strategy of the wily boss to get the best out of his managers.
I remember my attempts to motivate my daughters by comparing them with their friends. Little did I realise that this was a big mistake and counterproductive. In many instances I learnt from my wife that my daughters were better than their friends and that I should not be taken in by appearances. No man is hero to his valet. Likewise we know our children very well with all their weaknesses while we know very little of others. My friend’s daughter was learning music along with my daughter from the same teacher. I found that girl picked up the lessons fast and was able to sing with lot of confidence in a loud voice. Whenever asked she would readily sing unlike my daughter who had to be cajoled and persuaded. The other girl, I learnt, had the habit of humming the music all the time and was also practising regularly. My daughter considered music as an imposition and went to the classes in deference to her mom’s wishes. She practised on the day there was the class and that too after several reminders from my wife. Nevertheless she sang well and the teacher was happy with her effort but I always nursed the opinion that she was not putting that extra effort as the other girl. The result was clearly manifest when they sang together. One evening I told her that she was under no compulsion to learn music if she was not interested and that I was making no comparison. I also mentioned that she needed to be prompted by her mother almost daily indicative of her lack of interest. This pricked her self esteem. She replied that she liked her lessons and that she would need no more goading. It was then my wife pointed out that every child has its plus and minus points and that my daughters excelled in studies and sports and other extracurricular activities. This remark soothed the injured spirit of my daughter. We were surprised to see the change in her and soon she was on par with the other girl participating in all music tournaments.
Comparisons should not be invidious but gentle and oblique without hurting the esteem of the individual. One should compare one’s achievement with the goals set and not with other individuals. Comparing crudely with others can make one bitter and spoil the friendships invariably.

1 comment:

  1. good expression:unconsciously squirming in my seat.

    great sense of humour: inwardly unhappy at the success of others.