5 Things not to do at work

Botch Conference calls
Read through the instructions carefully before you dial in. There is a reason why the good people at Cisco took the pains to create a 30 page user’s manual filled with hieroglyphics at single space type and size 3 font. You do not want to be in a conference room filled with your peers and seniors, dial some random numbers and hear this on the line, “Hello dear, this is Mollykutty. How is the weather in Gulf? When are you coming next? “

Mix up Relatives
Keep track of all your relatives, whether you are on talking terms with them or not. They come in really handy on those Mondays when the previous night’s Heineken hasn’t metabolized in time for you to make it to the office. Remember their names, use an excel sheet if you must, but never, ever, make the mistake of killing your third uncle once removed two times in a year.
Choose the wrong ringtone
This is the simplest advice of all, and one that could so easily be overlooked. Cell phones have an annoying habit of ringing every time someone tries to call you. You do not want to be engaged in a deep conversation with your boss on how to improve the monthly sales of paper towels in Gurgaon and have your phone shout out “Jimikki Kammal” midway through the discussion. The song is great to build rapport with Jimmy Kimmel or to launch the careers of young dancers in Mollywood, but it tends to ruin the atmosphere when it comes to office decorum.
Get caught stealing stationery
Really. Grow up. Everyone knows that the easiest thing to do in any office is steal stationery. It’s a no risk, high gain deal. I myself have been running a very lucrative black market in office supplies, specializing in wet markers, for years now. I have a tried and tested method that has never failed to produce results. Of course, you might have to wait a bit if you want heavy duty items like paper shredders or scanners. And you would have to pay extra too, because an order for a paper shredder would mean that I have to work from the office on weekends. The real trick, however, is not to brag about it near the water cooler or on social forums. It’s how amateurs get caught.
Get drunk with your boss
This is the biggest no-no of all. The sort of professional debauchery that characterizes office space interaction nowadays will ensure that sooner or later you will find yourself sharing drinks with your superiors. The trick is to get them drunk without crossing the threshold yourself. The negative consequences of failing to keep count of your Heinekens could be many. For instance, you might start reminiscing, and blurt out how the last time you had this many Heinekens, you were so wasted the next day you didn’t feel like going to office, and had to kill off uncle Damodaran from Ottappalam.

Spreadsheet models, IIM grads and performance pressure

A recent study by a popular market research agency which shall be nameless (but whose name rhymes with Liam Neeson) has established that male south Indian IIM grads are highly sought after by marketing companies for overseas postings. The study went on to explain that let loose in a hostile office environment in a foreign country, these guys are prone to curling up into a foetus position and typing furiously at their laptops. Now, if they are IIM grads, some of those keyboard fiascos may actually turn up something productive, which can then be unleashed upon their unsuspecting colleagues. Like spreadsheet models.
Now, this wouldn’t be too bad, except that these models are then used by others to design company strategies. I usually try my best to avoid being suckered into designing any such models. Not that I have anything against spreadsheet models. I love my Playboy and FHM magazines as much as the next guy. However, I draw the line at looking at them. I do not mess with them. Nor do I mess with Excel.
The worst mishaps occur when you are invited to random meetings with the subject “RE: Fwd: FY 11-12 Y2K Dhobi Ghaut profit after tax”. Interns and fresh recruits attend such meetings blindly, while seasoned veterans steer clear of them. These are the meetings in which some senior member would suddenly turn to you and say, “So Sandeep, we seem to be having some problem with the consumer off take of white towels in Dhobi Ghaut. Why don’t you take a stab at solving it?  While you are at it, code it into a model, so that we can analyze the financial implications of the solution.” Faced with such random data overload, my usual response is to panic and accept everything.  The last time I tried to use an ATM in Singapore I accidently chose the Mandarin language setting and promptly transferred all of my savings to the Communist Party of China.
But Indians will be Indians. Especially South Indian IIM grads. If caught out, we don’t blame fate. We buckle up and try to deliver. The trick is to find the right forums on the web to scavenge modules from. Then you reshape those modules, fit them together with your marketing knowledge, and finally weld them tight with some flowery jargon and a colorful title.
It will all go smoothly until someone actually tries to use those models. For instance, my “Y2K Dhobi Ghaut – White Towel paper” marketing strategy still delivers a profit after tax of “about 12.5 kgs”. It’s not that I don’t know how to correct it. I could easily invest in an online course to develop my skills in excel programming. Unfortunately though, all my money is in China.