A day in my life as an HR Manager

From the moment I opened the door of my office to the moment I sit in my car for another 45 minutes’ drive from work to home, I feel like I am standing in the battlefield (karmabhoomi) like the confused but humble Arjuna opening his mind and heart to receive the sacred knowledge from Lord Krishna, in pursuit of his duties (dharma) and actions (karma). I too can be compared to Arjuna, the seeker, and though my Lord has no specific name, I know He comes into my life and guide me in the performance of my duties. As a Human Resources Manager, I have to be a fine strategist, a wise jurist, an attentive listener, a confident coach, an inspiring speaker and a true business partner. These are roles that one has to perform simultaneously in order for a Human Resources Manager to leverage his value proposition for the company.

Every day is different in my life as a Human Resources (HR) Manager. Every day, there’s a new story: from an injury at work to an unexpected case of violence at work. I am consulted by everyone: from the General Manager to the Helper in our factory. I spend half of my day in meetings. Too many things happen in the life of an HR Manager, or at least in my life.

Let’s start from the beginning. When I normally reach office, one of the first things that I need on my table is my black coffee with very little sugar. Without the smell and taste of coffee, I cannot be productive. I know perhaps it’s just a mindset but that’s fine; I love this mindset. I need my coffee to kick-start my day. I usually don’t have coffee at home. I wake up early, drive to work and grab my coffee. Then, I would plug in my laptop and make sure I am ready to start another productive day.

“Knock ! Knock ! Knock !” and it begins. An employee has to see me for something that he or she would like just to see me, and not any other members of my department. When I listen to them, I take note where required. Even though I am overwhelmed with other tasks, I never show to the employee that he or she could have spoken to my assistants and officers in this regard. I make sure I give him or her the attention and respected required. At that point in time, I am rather a coach. I listen, advise and inspire.

At 09:30 a.m., in my current job, our coordination meeting starts where all managers come together to discuss the priorities of the day. It’s an interesting platform for me to communicate about upcoming HR projects, policies and procedures and matters of concern to the managers. On many occasions, I come up with presentations to help the managers understand something. I normally make sure as many colours and visuals as I can to educate the managers on sensitive topics, for example what does the law says on harassment at work. I conducted a series of presentations over the past five months, including risk assessment as per the OSHA 2005, interpretation of some clauses of the Employment Rights Act, communication at work (I used an analogy of the spring season in Calcutta versus the market of Calcutta to demonstrate how messages flow from management team to front-line employees, and how these messages get distorted due to noise in the environment and reach the targeted audience in another form), and so forth. HR Managers are not managers sitting behind a desk. We are people managers. We have to defend both the interest of the employees and that of the employer, taking into consideration the legal imperatives around this relationship of trust between employee and employee.

At any point in time, the General Manager can ask any information, guidance or advice, and as an HR Manager, I have to step into my role as an HR Business Partner, to provide the service (s) required. I cannot say something which I am not confident about. This is why, I am in an ever-learning mode. I plan to start a fourth degree soon, after completing some certified trainings which I am undertaking.

In the afternoon, I sometimes visit our dormitories to make sure we are up to the standards and we are enforcing harmonious living among our foreigner employees. On other busier days, I have to attend the Industrial Court or governmental authorities. On calmer days, I would rather be behind my computer desk trying to work on some management reports.

But truly, I use what the Gita as my tool to perform my duties. I put emotions aside, and perform my duties. The Gita has helped me largely in my role as an HR Manager and it will continue to help me throughout my lifetime.

That was a glimpse of my life as an HR Manager. I know it’s a disorderly narration but there’s nothing planned here. I just wrote, in simplest words possible, what came to my mind.

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Journeying into the Democratic Republic of Congo – how it started?

It wasn’t too long since it all began. That call at the golden hour was the most unexpected call. Yes, I was called for an interview to work as a contractor for the United Nations. I thought, despite the call, that it would be almost impossible to secure the job. The first interview went on well, and then came the second that was a real challenge but I overcame. Even thought the interviews were completed, I was not too sure of getting the job. Days later, when I was walking by the beach with my cousin, I received a call from the UN contractor and I was offered the job of Deputy Human Resources Manager, to be based in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The first few minutes after the call filled me with excitement and enthusiasm but after that, I was confused and anxious. Several questions crossed my mind. Should I really accept the job offer? Should I really quit everything and walk into the uncertain? I know DR Congo was a ‘war-torn’ country. Then, should I really make that place home. Should I go or not, and this was the final question? My mind was telling me yes, but my heart was in a denial state.

Eventually, after much reflection and consultation, I resolved to go for this unknown adventure. Nothing was easy. Yes, I was going to the ‘world’s most dangerous city’ as it is referred to on the internet and that was Goma. I left all the comfort and embraced Goma – a small town, destroyed recently by the active volcano, located at the border of Gisenyi – Rwanda, nestling in between national parks and surrounded by Lake Kivu. The standard of life was low, as I expected, but soon I realised that the standard of hearts was not low. People were full of love, compassion and peace. Perhaps because they’ve been through a lot, and by now they’ve reached a deeper understanding of life.

I was soon a child of Goma. I got promoted in less than three months of service as the Human Resources & Compliance Manager, overseeing a heavy fuel supply operations for the United Nations. One by one, good things came to me. I reached to people living in the remotest part of the town, befriended them and listened to them. I offered them as much love as I could. Through social media, I tried as hard as possible to tell people about Goma and about DR Congo as a whole, and I hope to some extent I have succeeded.

After spending 1.5 years in this amazing part of the world, I am now back in Mauritius for another adventure. But one day, Africa – the continent will call me again. 

Are we not all seekers?

Are we not all seekers?

While some people search for love, others are wandering miles and miles in pursuit of healing. In the course of my travels around the world, I have been seeking too. Sometimes I sought happiness, while sometimes I looked for peace. Every time, there was one thing or more that my soul was feeling the need to acquire, or to be bestowed with. I remember when I was in a small coffee shop in Bunia, a town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, not too far from the border of Uganda, I dived into a deep reflection which I am sharing with you through this post.

No matter what I have been searching for, peace or happiness, the eventual quest was for Truth. I understood with time that I am all that I was searching for. I am peace, happiness and light too. It was of no use to search any further when I realised who I am. I felt then an emptiness in my heart even though I understood that happiness, peace, light and so forth are within me. The emptiness was the personal relationship that I could not create with God even after years of sincere attempts. There was something I was doing wrong. Reading the holy books at the age of 18 was not enough. I subscribed to different school of thoughts, movements and religious groups to grasp the depth of their teachings. I studied the sacred Gita and mastered its 18 chapters. I went for Biblical classes and attended prayers in churches. I began reading and researching other religious scriptures. All of these, I still do. In simpler words, apart from being a student of life, I feel that I am being a student of cross-comparative religious studies. I still go to church, temple, meditation classes and so on.

By doing all this, I begin to understand and accept my version of Truth. I begin to create a personal relationship with God. I begin to live the truest purpose of life. It’s such a blissful feeling to have been on this quest for so long, and to be able to see how it all gets demystified gradually. Everything seems to be clearer and I think the greatest contribution in my life to create this personal relationship with God was my stay in DR Congo for almost 1.5 years.

I encourage readers not to live a mundane life, not to surrender to the temptations of this comfortable world and not to underestimate the power of God’s plan. Everything happens for a reason. The universe is listening to each of us. To make your life meaningful and to create a personal relationship with God, you must start seeking too. There are other school of thoughts which do not believe in seeking, and promote rather being, accepting or surrendering but I am glad I found my way.

To conclude, I just remembered one verse from the sacred Bible which I am sharing with you:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”  (Matthew 7:7)

Why law knowledge is fundamental in this new era?

In 2015, I enrolled for a Bachelor of Laws degree with the University of London, on a distance learning mode. At that time, I completed a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in human resources management but nevertheless, instead of taking going for a doctoral degree, I thought a lot before eventually, subscribing for a law degree. I studied at my own pace, with frequent breaks, while traveling the world and while working abroad. It was not an easy journey. The UK law standards, compared to the Mauritius law standards, are higher and as a result, passing a law module in a first sitting is a true achievement. I had to study till late nights on my own and dig into each distinct law arena by myself, without face-to-face guidance. While the University of London puts at the disposal of its students countless materials, gives access to umpteen online academic libraries, and ships reading materials, it is not enough. A law student has to look beyond what is given. Among the modules of the law degree, I grew fond of criminal law and contract law.

So far, I have told you about the nature of the law degree. Now, I will tell you the reasons why I opted for it. First and foremost, I went for a law degree to deepen my understanding of the law and to understand my rights as a human being. Secondly, it was to complement my, at that time, weak acumen of employment laws which would help me become a finer HR (Human Resources) Manager. Thirdly, I did it to help others by using my law knowledge to guide them come out through their legal problems.

Though I had those goals at the onset, the law degree served me more than I expected. I improved my legal writing drastically. Legal writing is very distinct from scientific, journalistic or academic writing. It is an area of study on its own. I got inspired to go to the BAR, which is something I may or may not consider in the future. Going to the BAR is a big decision, and it will depend on my aspirations in the next five years. I might choose to venture into the legal arenas in the future or I might choose to remain in the paralegal arenas. It will depend but it’s not an actual priority. Studying law helped me become more assertive when I speak to employees at work. I am a better counsellor. I speak based on facts. I am more confident in handling disciplinary matters. I refer to legislative provisions and interpret them in an artistic manner to employees and to management team. Law has helped me understand that each word is unique and not all words can be used interchangeably. For example, I recently conducted a presentation in view to train the management team on employment law. One of the topics that I presented was the difference between agreement and contract. Though we might think that these two words can substitute each other; they don’t, at least in a legal context. An agreement is mainly an offer and an acceptance between two parties without the intention for the agreement to bear legal weights, that is without the intention of the promise to be adjudicated by a court of law in case of breach. However a contract contains a promise, a consideration (refer to Currie v Misa for the precise definition), capacity to contract, intention to be bound, an agreement (offer and acceptance), and certainty and completeness. If I have to write, I can write pages on this but this blog post has another purpose.

So beside the initial goals which I had, studying law has helped me much more, even to become a finer person with sufficient legal acumen.

In this era, where human rights are being questioned and violated every second, knowing your rights are important. But wait, this is what people speak about: rights. What about duties? Yes, that’s the purpose of the law too. Know your duties; not just your rights. You have to remain within the purview of the law when you act or when you fail to act. Law knowledge will set you apart, will change your way of seeing things and will help you respond clearer to people. For example, if a police officer stops your car and asks for your driving permit, do you know you can ask him or her some questions before you hand-over your driving permit to him or her? Police has limited, not unlimited powers, and once we know those powers and what are our rights, we can ask the right question, be it while handing over our driving permits or while facing a search warrant.

To conclude, ignorantia juris non excusat is a legal principle holding that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. I was at the industrial court recently, for work purposes, and one of the defendant steps into the witness box whereby he failed to comply with the law with regard to his legal duties. He was still condemned. If you don’t know the law, that’s your problem. The constitution is public. It is for you to go and read. Equip and empower yourself. You don’t need to study LLB for this. Start by reading simple law books, legislative provisions, online legal materials and so forth. In short, know the law to know your rights and your duties. 

Week-days versus week-end

I had a great weekend. What about you?

Sometimes, but what about the week ahead? How do I make it great? I cannot go on road-trips with cousins during working hours. I cannot sit for hours by the beach. I cannot have endless cups of coffee around the island. I cannot do all that I can do during my weekend. So, is there a way to make the week great too?

Yes, there is. I can come up with a new initiative at work. I can complete a work has been pending since long. I can listen to my colleagues. I can show gratitude to people around me. I can provide valuable insights in meetings. I can be more positive. I can do all that I cannot do during the week-end.

You might be wondering now why have I made this contrast between week-end and week-days. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my own state of life, my aspirations and my potentials. Then, I realised that we, as a society, tend to go by the flow. We accept whatever is given to us, de facto. We are to a large extent a ‘consumerist’ society. In the same way, we have defined what week-ends are made for and what week-days are made for. For the majority of us, week-ends are made to relax and week-days are made to work.

Let me tell you that this thinking is wrong. Whatever I have said above has a purpose – to let you realise how you went by the flow in accepting the flow of life too. It must not be like this. It is not like this for me. I am blogging from a coffee shop on a Monday. Does this mean that I am less productive, or that I won’t get things done at work? No. It means that I have a life, that I wish to live. I find rest in my work too. I rest my spirit, heart and mind. I rest my emotions, and follow the call of duties. I find ways to make my day meaningful, not just with work but with moment of self-evaluation too. Likewise, I have work a lot during week-days and at night after official working hours too. I am productive. I make things happen. I am responsible.

In other words, I have decided to own and take control of my life. While planning is important, I do not go entirely by plans. I respond to the call of my heart, mind and spirit. I do things because they are important to me and they don’t disrupt my peace. I have eliminated the notion of week-days and week-ends. I have only time. I take it and I make it right.

If this makes sense to you, I hope you will try to apply it in your life too.

The fear of loss

What is yours that you fear of losing? So big and deep this question is, but deeper is the answer.  We are all scared of losing something or someone. The fear of loss cuts across all hearts. In a certain way, it has become something natural in human beings.

We fear of losing our loved ones, our favourite bag, our car, our house, our most preferred watch, our personal computer and mobile phone, and so forth. But if you stop for a second and give this subject a wider thought, you will understand that we do not fear of losing things or people, we fear of losing the “gain” that our relationship with the things and people provides us. For example, Mr. Ram has had a red car for the past ten years and he was so attached to it. One day, he met an accident and his red car got entirely damaged. At first instance, we might think that Mr. Ram has lost his car, which is not deniable but if we dig deeper, we will accept that Mr. Ram has in fact lost the comfort that his red car used to provide him. In other words, Mr. Ram will no more have the same comfort that his red car used to offer him when it was in good condition. His relationship with the car was so strong because he was winning something out of it: comfort.

In the same way, we are attached to things and people because we are getting something out of each relationship. The shocking truth is that this applies to our families and friends too. This universal rule leaves no one untouched. Fools are those who continue to get attached to things and people; wise are those who seek detachment in every relationship. By detaching ourselves from things and people, we eliminate the greed to obtain something from every relationship. We are able to live without the things and people, when they are not around because we cease to be dependant on them and on what the relationship with them offers.

Detachment is a discipline, to be practiced and embraced.

Who said it’s going to be perfect?

Who said it’s going to be perfect?

No, it’s not going to be perfect. We can’t expect people to be perfect. We can’t expect circumstances to be perfect. By setting the bar of expectations too high, we are asking for a world where one single mistake or one single weakness disqualifies an individual from being competent or productive. It is crucial for us, in this modern era, to respect the fact that people and circumstances cannot be perfect, and consequently, we must lower the bar and create the climate for people to reflect on their shortcomings, to learn and to grow.

As Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Create the context for people to progress, instead of judging them.

Right versus wrong

What is wrong and what is right?  Have we ever pondered upon this fundamental question that draws the crystal-clear line between morality and immorality? Throughout my travels, I have met thousands of people and had the chance to converse about this subject with many of them. Many told me that what is right or wrong is very subjective, that it depends on the self-definition of what is right and what is wrong. I was told that others can impose the definition of right and wrong on someone. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

Though to some extent what is right and wrong is subjective but not entirely. We live in a society made of norms, that is a normative society. In this normative society, we have laws that dictate what is acceptable and what is not. We cannot go against the norms of a society, otherwise we will fail to live together and we will sow only division among ourselves. Hence, we are to bound to respect the norms of a society. We cannot go against them. Now, laws do not dictate the nitty gritty of our lives. They do not go at micro level, giving people the liberty to make their own decisions based on their subjective acceptance of what is right or wrong. In this case only, one can listen to his or her heart.

One example will help better understand what I mean by subjective and objective morality. Subjective morality is our own version of what is right and wrong. Objective morality is the version accepted commonly by the society. For example, killing someone is a crime, is illegal, is considered heinous and is unacceptable by the society. Hence, this is a norm in the society that we have to adhere to. Saying something bad to someone in view to hurt the person’s feelings is something that we must weight by our own judgment. If we do it, it can be bad for someone and to someone else, this act can be just acceptable and fine. This is an example of subjective morality; where the law does not go.

Hence, we must never say that we define entirely what is right and wrong. This does not make sense, at least to me.

What does it take to be certain of oneself?

It’s Saturday again. Another work-week has gone and millions of people around the world are still juggling with their ideas, struggling to define their life’s purpose, or fearing to make the right decisions. We all go through this. But what does it take to be certain of oneself? How do we know that we have finally arrived at the right business idea, identified our true purpose or made the right decisions in life?

I am writing from a small coffee shop at this moment, and just before you wonder why I am writing on this subject, it’s because these are the thoughts that are racing my mind at this point in time.

So, let’s get back to the subject. What does it take to be certain of oneself in life? I don’t think it’s trial and error, time or opinions of others. To me, certainty has some symptoms. Have you ever engaged in some duties where you feel abundance of happiness while fulfilling them? Have you ever donated your money in some orphanages, homes or schools where you felt great about yourself and you wish to do it again and again? Have you ever spent time with a homeless person and just before saying goodbye to him or her, you wish to come again and hug him or her? This is how the universe speaks to you. Are you listening enough? The universe is telling you that those acts that when you do them, you feel limitless happiness, great about yourself and wish to do it again and again, those are acts for which you have been sent to do. Those are acts that complete you, that add meaning and value to your life and that give you a reason to live. These acts are the symptoms that the universe is communicating to you. Listen more. There’s so much the universe wishes to tell you but we are not good at listening enough.

I think that when you engage in something, and you wish to understand whether that specific work, idea or project is what what is meant for you to undertake, you must ask ourselves three major questions to be certain that you must pursue them:

(i) Are you happy about the act you wish to undertake?

(ii) Are you happy while undertaking the act?

(iii) Are you happy to repeat the entire process?

Eventually, certainty is happiness.

Why are people greedy?

When I grab a cup of coffee in the evening, after a tiresome day at work, I ponder upon so many things. I try hard not to overthink and I believe to a large extent, I am successful at this, as I do give a clear direction to my thoughts and make sure that they are constructive, and not the other way round.

Today while driving back home, I was wondering about something: why people have turned so greedy and egocentric? It’s true. These days, no one has time for the rest of the world; everyone is self-centred. We want to possess luxurious things, live a life of comfort and some goes to the extent of even boasting about their lives. We do all this at the stake of others. We can put others at disadvantage just to protect ourselves, and for our own interest.

Let’s take for example a tree laden with fruits. An greedy person will think about eating the fruits or bringing the fruits for his family, while a selfless person will think about what will happen to the birds who have only this tree to feed on. I wish we could all think like this: much larger. We must not mix our benefits with the benefits of the society. We must put others first. We must think for others, even if those people have hurt us, betrayed us, insulted us or so. When we become so selfless by nature, we sow the seed of love in our hearts, and we eradicate the word “greed” in our lives.

It is possible and it starts with self-discipline.