How my manager defied the Dilbert Principle


Here is a gem from Scott Adams' hilarious comic strip, Dilbert -

"The basic concept of the Dilbert Principle is that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage : management."

Stereotypes exist for a reason. Managers and bosses are stereotyped as incompetent, useless, stupid, cunning, biased, diplomatic, lazy - I'm running out of adjectives here.


Popular culture has taught us that people don't quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

They quit a boss who micro-manages, is technically challenged, who sets unrealistic deadlines, dumps inordinate amount of work and later takes all the credit for it.


For a blogger then, this subject is a god sent goldmine. In fact, many months back, a friend had suggested me to write a post about it.


Now, is the time I should write about him.

My first manager as well as mentor - Uday Kiran - is leaving Citrix after having worked here for over 7 years. My association with Uday in the last two years has played a key role in shaping my career as well as my personality. Criticism comes easy to humans, but appreciation requires effort. And it is worth putting in the effort for people who matter. This is the reason why this post exists.


It is sacrilege, but I'm actually going to praise my (ex) boss without expecting a raise or promotion in return.


Creating a product and writing code is considered to be the real deal. 'Management' is just the fluff stuff (but kinda important fluff stuff). Therefore, more than the reports having to impress their mangers, it is the managers who need to earn the respect of their reports first.


The single biggest reason for Uday being a highly effective manager is that he is no manager at all! <insert surprised_pikachu.jpg>


He is an out-and-out nerd disguising as a manager. His fingers itch to write code when he is forced to sit through a long, boring meeting. His brilliant mind, sharp as a tack, is often busy geeking out over the latest in technology. He possesses a child-like curiosity, a quality which I have seen very few people retain beyond their college years. Naturally, he has earned my respect.


I believe, every successful relationship in life, both personal and professional, is the outcome of a very fine balance between familiarity and disparity. Two people being on the same wavelength leads to a certain comfort and camaraderie. At the same time, they should be dissimilar enough to be in a constant awe of the other person's qualities they lack in themselves, leading to a mutual education.


Knowing that Uday and I have the same style of working was an immense relief. We both love challenging the status quo, deride vestigial corporate processes and see right through somebody's bullshit. We share a love for coming up with quick, hacky prototypes and taking risks. As Reid Hoffman and Uday often say, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."


At the same time, Uday complemented the many skills I lacked. I have never been street-smart, so he shielded me from a lot of 'stuff in the street' and graciously let me take the limelight for our combined efforts on multiple occasions. He evangelized my work to others, knowing very well that I am not good at doing it myself. He cocooned me in an environment away from petty politics and other distractions so that I can put my head down and do what I love - code. He helped me improve my interpersonal skills, teaching me how to delicately sandwich criticism between appreciation, instead of being blunt. And I have experienced first hand, how this technique brings out the best in someone.


I am immensely grateful that I got opportunities to work on multiple products and technologies in a relatively short career which, perhaps, would have escaped me had I reported to a different manager. Getting to work on challenging and exciting projects is a reward unto itself.


I am reminded of my trip to Chennai this year to apply for the US Visa (for which, again, I have Uday to thank). In nervous excitement, all I could hear was Uday telling me to book an Uber. So, I proceeded to book an Uber trip all the way to Chennai, when in fact all he wanted me to do was book a cab till the Bangalore airport. Uday has been infinitely calm and patient in scenarios which have unnerved or frustrated me.


Uday took and continues to take a genuine interest in my life beyond the working hours. Side note - He is the one to point out that this website of mine has performance issues.

We have conversations on topics ranging from philosophy to Tinder. And dare I forget, we are both cricket freaks and love coming up with cricketing analogies for everyday life situations.


What I have written is not my experience alone. Every single person who has worked alongside Uday would echo the same sentiments. When so many people hold you in high regard, you must be doing something right.


In return for the numerous lessons I have received from you Uday, I have just one humble advice to offer - do not try to change your style of management. Sehwag would never have been effective had he tried to be conventional like Dravid.


Goodbyes are always difficult. But, goodbyes are not an occasion to lament what we are about to lose, instead they are a moment to celebrate what was fortunately handed over to us.


It was minutes to midnight when Uday cleared his cubicle and had one final look at it, as always trying to fill in the sombre moment with his witty remarks. And as I placed his carton full of paraphernalia that he had collected over the years, onto the back seat of his cab, the only words I wish had escaped my lips then, were - "See you on Monday, buddy."

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© 2019 by Agnihotrish