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  • Writer's pictureGirish Karnad

Should We Applaud Mediocrity?

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

Every morning I am welcomed with a spate of good morning messages on WhatsApp. Most of them are just plain good morning wishes, while a few of them try to communicate a message or a learning. And there are some which try to be funny and lighten the mood. One such message caught my attention today - "To applaud a politician because he has built a hospital, a school, road etc. with public money is the same as applauding an ATM because it gives you your money."

While that brought a few chuckles to brighten my morning, it also set my thoughts rolling. What is a politician's job? Should he get applauded or rewarded for doing his job?  I remember during my early career days, I proudly presented my achievements to my boss during a mid term review. I was shocked when he said - "Girish, don't you think this is all part of your job?  You were anyway supposed to do these things. Show me something that you have done differently or something beyond your job. I would be delighted to see that during our final review at the end of the year."

An employee may respond to such feedback in different ways. One way, which is also the most common one, would be to take offence, decide that he does not have any future in this organisation and start looking out for another job. Another way would be to take the feedback positively, do a course correction and confidently go back to the boss for the next review. Most managers resist giving frank feedback, and even rate the employee well, fearing that he would take the first course of action.

When I was unwell and my regular doctor was not in town, I visited another doctor practicing nearby. He took great pains to understand my problem and spent quality time with me. It did not matter that his English was not good. It was the warmth and care which did the trick. He still sends me messages with health tips regularly. I now know which doctor I would visit the next time I have a problem.

The question that arises is whether it is a corporate scenario, a profession like a doctor, or the case of our politician, should we be applauding someone for just doing their job? If we are doing so, are we encouraging mediocrity? Taking it even further, if the trend of rewarding people for just doing their job continues, would we be building a mediocre nation?^

^ Connect with Girish Karnad on his email id to develop and establish a meaningful performance appraisal system for your organisation.

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