By Suma Varughese
When you operate from strength instead of weakness, you free yourself of other people’s power over you, says Suma Varughese
The family was gathered around for Sunday dinner, savouring Mom’s delicious puris and channa masala. Nisha, however, had not yet come. She could be heard talking pleadingly on the phone. “Please don’t quit,” she was saying. “I really need you.” The other person said something and she replied, “Ok, I will do your project for you.”
After a while, she joined them, looking stressed out and taut Absentmindedly, she helped herself to the food. Dad asked curiously, “What was that all about?”
“Oh, Dad,” said Nisha, “You know that I have just taken over the editorship of the college magazine, right? It is turning out to be such a headache. No one in the team wants to do anything, and they all act like prima donnas. And they keep threatening to quit. I just don’t know how to handle them. I find that I am dancing to their tunes, when they ought to be dancing to mine. I just can’t seem to get them to mind me.”
“Poor baby,” Mom said, comfortingly.
“I heard you offer to do someone’s project,” said Dad.
“That was Ankita,” said Nisha grumpily. “She said that unless I did her English project for her, she would quit the team. We are supposed to go to press in the next three days and would you believe, hardly any article is in as yet? I can’t have her quit on me!”
“Would you rather have her blackmail you?” Dad asked quietly.
Nisha started at the sound of the word. “Blackmail sounds rather harsh, Dad,” she said.
“But that is exactly what it is. Are you going to allow her to walk all over you? How will you ever win their respect? Or get them to mind you?”
“But what do I do?” wailed Nisha. “I can’t bring out the magazine by myself, you know.”
“Sweetheart,” said Dad, “You have to operate from strength and not from weakness. The more you allow them to push you around, the more people are going to take advantage of you. One of the foundational principles of being a good team leader is to operate from strength.”
“How do I do that?” asked Nisha.
“You have to prove, both to them and to yourself, that you can do without them. That you can bring out the magazine by yourself if you have to. Once they know that they are not indispensable, watch how they change their tunes.” He added, “Being part of the editorial team of your college magazine is very prestigious, right? They won’t want to lose out on that opportunity. But remember that it is part of human nature to exploit weakness, so do not display it. And one more thing, make sure that your magazine and the quality of the writing is so good that people will jostle with themselves to get their articles into it. Then see the fun.” Nisha looked uncertain, “That’s all very well, Dad, but how am I going to go to press in three days’ time? It’s impossible.”
“Do you have at least one person who can write out the articles other than you?” Dad asked.
“Yes, Ganesh is solidly behind me.”
“Can you both do the articles within the deadline?”
Nisha looked uncertain, “I guess so, if we leave behind everything else, but what about the editing, and the designing and everything else?”
Mom said, “I can lend you a hand,” she said. “My editing skills are awesome, as you young ones would say.” Nisha clapped her hand with glee.
“And if you have a grid in place, I can do the graphic designing,” offered Avijit. “Oh, wow,” said Nisha, her eyes shining.
“And I will do the proof reading,” said Dad.
“And I will make hot batata wadas and ginger tea for the editorial team,” chipped in Aji.
“Hurray, the Sathe family strikes again,” cried Alka, greatly excited.
Nisha looked as if she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Oh, you guys are simply…”
“Awesome!” everyone cried in unison.
After the laughter had died down, Mom turned to Nisha.
“We’ve all been through what you are going through, Nish,” she said. “It’s not always easy to handle responsibilities, and the temptation is to placate people and get them to help you anyhow. For instance, I faced the same problem with maids, especially when you kids were small, and there was just so much to do, in addition to doing the writing. These women knew they had me where they wanted me, and they exploited me. Their demands used to be outrageous. They would keep asking for salary hikes, which I would obligingly agree to. And all the time, I would get more and more angry. Finally, I just decided that come hell or high water I had to prove to myself and to them that I could do without them. So the next time one of them asked for a hike, I said no. She threatened to quit. I told her to go ahead. She did, and I worked like a donkey, cleaning dishes, washing clothes and doing the house. Dad and Aji chipped in too, and by the time I managed to get someone else, I had realized that at a pinch I could handle the work. And you know what, I never let any maid bully me after that.”
“Bravo, Mom,” said Nisha, clapping. “Well, I am your daughter and I have your genes, so I am sure I can follow your footsteps too.” “Attagirl,” said Dad.
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