Why are you here again?

Productivity is inversely proportional to stress. If a person is at ease with himself/ herself and happy, he/ she can think clearly and act quickly. In effect the productivity increases. I have realised that the best way to keep a person relaxed at work is to have a happy and peaceful environment. But the nature of many, to be precise most jobs is such that maintaining a peaceful environment becomes tough.

On top of this, if there is constant bickering and dissatisfaction in the team, it leads to an even more vitiated work place. Again, dissatisfaction and bickering are the chicken and egg cycle, one leading to the other.

One of the main reasons for dissatisfaction at job, that I have come across, is the perception that the other person is not doing his/ her job and I am being made to do that. Every organisation is designed in such a manner that there is a job specified for each person. If the leader can spell out the policy unambiguously and demonstrate clearly with his actions that he is impartial and would ensure that every one does his job, I have experienced that the team remains happy and united. In such a scenario, the team members would happily accept additional responsibility knowing well that when he/ she is in need, the rest of the team will contribute. This is one exception where I think, rebuke should also come publicly, to demonstrate that not cooperating with the team is not appreciated.

I was the Chief Engineer of a submarine. I inherited a very hard working and sincere team of two officers and twenty four enlisted men. the work environment on a conventional submarine is, by its nature, a bit more stressful than other jobs. In addition to seeing the same unshaven faces twenty four hours a day, lack of sunlight and clean air one has to deal with extremely cramped spaces, heat and in case of engineers deafening noise of diesel engines running in a closed pipe. 

The day I took over, I announced a very explicit policy – no one is irreplaceable, and everybody will go on leave as planned. Domestic emergencies would be handled separately.

As the space onboard is less, the submarine squadron has additional people posted as leave relief for the submarine crew. But then squadron has its own limitations when there is a general shortage of men. As a result, there was a perception amongst the enlisted men that squadron would not provide leave relief (somebody will not do his job) and I will not get leave when required (I am being made to do extra work).

My crew proceeded on leave as planned without exception.

I made it a point that I would be standing in the Squadron Engineer Officer’s office before every sailing seeking the leave relief for my men. The standard interaction with the Squadron EO was, “ Why are you here again?” … “ Sir, I am sailing and I need three guys.” … “ What about your guys?” … “They are on leave as per planned leave forecast.” … “Why did you send them?” … “Sir you hold my leave relief, I want them.”

95% of the time I got leave relief for my men. 5% of the time the remaining crew did longer watches happily so that one of them could be on leave. I had a very happy crew, with no bickering and very high productivity just because they knew that they will get their due as their leader would ensure everyone does his job.

And all I had to do for such a happy dedicated crew was to answer the question… “Why are you here again?”

Cdr Rajesh Sinha (Retd)'s profile on LinkedIn