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Author Archive for Usha Surrao

Living in an Age of Paradox

Paradoxes include self-reference, circular definitions and confusion about abstracts.  The Merriam-Webster defines the word as ‘an instance of a paradoxical phenomenon or reaction’ – go figure!

Late last year I travelled to the subway, during the morning rush hour, on a Mississauga transit bus.  The bus was on time, but that was where the joys ceased.  The bus was so full; it left one feeling empathetic to all those sardines in a tin!

The noise level in the bus was well over the tolerable mark. The school kids on the bus were speaking at the top of their voices to friends who were further back in the well of the bus.  Another kid had the music on loud and even though he had on his headphones, people a couple of rows away from him could enjoy the rap music.  One wonders how long he will have his auditory powers intact.  An older gentleman sitting behind this boy asked him to lower the volume, which was ignored and met with a rude stare.  The gentleman went up to the driver – no mean feat in such a crowded bus, and came back to his seat vexed.  Obviously he had got no help there.  His return prompted a few sniggers and snide comments from the music-lover’s friends.  From the comments it was obvious this was a ritual of sorts every weekday morning.

Everybody speaks of ‘polite Canadians’ and one wonders where that species exists – in someone’s mind, away from the crowded metros, or in the far-distant past of this great land!  If the incident I witnessed is any measure I believe the phrase ‘polite Canadian’ will replace the all-time favourite oxymoron ‘honest politician’!

The phrase ‘oxymoron’ made me think of the paradoxes HR faces everyday.  Ask any CEO and he will speak at length on the complexities of global business; what happened to complexities of global talent management, leadership development and future competencies — HR is not rocket science, right?  Job security is another favourite oxymoron that is touted by most companies. A long, long time ago people spent entire lifetimes working for the same organization, even if better opportunities presented themselves, people rarely changed jobs.  Today, job security in large organizations is not guaranteed.  Even government jobs seem to be following the general trend.

Will HR as we know it today become extinct? Generalists have been replaced by Strategists.  HR is not only about people, compliance and policies; it is all about knowing the business, following the trends and being early adopters.  Is HR finally coming of age and is it finally getting the recognition it deserves or is it still the policeman with the rule book? Just the same wine in a different bottle?

Loss and HR

Charles Darwin said – It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

When you lose your job, you not only lose your source of income, but also your work relationships.  Unemployment is a rude shock to your system, like a life-changing event, read loss of limb?  You experience anger, stress, anxiety and depression, not to mention feeling disheartened.

Why do we work?

  1. to earn money,
  2. to use our talents, education,
  3. to have some purpose in our lives,
  4. to be a useful member of society

When I found myself ‘in transition’, I initially felt free.  As it stretched on, I got bored.  My good friend, Bonni, kept a close eye on my yo-yoing moods and suggested I meet with others in my predicament to get a better handle on things.  Believe me, it was the best advice I ever got.  Meeting and talking to others meant I could recreate the lost relationships with like-minded folks and brought back purpose to my life.  The second piece of advice was don’t waste time learn something new.  I signed up for a couple of courses.

I also started attending the HRPAP ENG monthly sessions to meet more folks.  At one of these sessions I learnt just how lucky I was.  Thanks to the good advice I had received, I had not hit a nadir of self-pity and depression.

As I write, I’m trying to recall the good advice I’ve received. Some that touched a nerve or just made me think :

Financial prudence : Be aware of the loss of a regular pay-check.  Learn to cut your cloth by the new measure. 🙂

Social Intelligence : Forget your natural instinct to crawl into a shell, go out and meet people, either in your field or just volunteer – be amongst people.

Game Plan : Plan your day just as you did when you were in harness.  Set up your calendar, have deadlines and organize your papers, desk and thoughts.

Upskilling : Learn something new – you can find a lot of ‘free’ courses that are not a drain on your pocketbook.  You could try coursera.org; the courses are 10-weeks long and you have weekly quizzes and tests – keeps you on your toes!

Emotional Intelligence : It’s EQ that enables you keep it together.  EQ is self-awareness plus self-management, takes practice, motivation and discipline.  A bitter pill at first but pays off in spades.

Shalini’s 14 point blog about emotional health had a good point at number 11 – never give up.  Someone I met earlier this week mentioned – never get disheartened if you don’t get a response to an application, you need to try again, but change something to keep it fresh and new.  It’s this which makes me go on…and believe that I will succeed to get back in saddle, sooon……I hope!!!