(This article is a work of fiction; any resemblance will be purely coincidental or may represent a figment of reader’s imagination!)
Love it or hate it, but Corporate World is a very happening place in Pakistan. Think of it as a social club which include people from couple of FMCGs, Telco’s, OMCs and Banks; just like any other club this also follow some rules, though mostly unwritten.
Rule #1: Flair for drama gets you places
My first real encounter with corporate life and culture happened at IBA many years ago. I think it was the spring of 2000 (or the early summer as you don’t experience any spring in Karachi), when I saw a notice on the Student board that CEO of a well know FMCG company will be visiting IBA as a guest speaker. Looking back, I think that was the best piece of theatre I ever experienced, complete with a dramatic entry, a rousing welcome mostly reserved for rock stars and a tragic ending because everyone started crying.
Let me explain, this CEO personally drove all the way up to the entrance of the lecture room in his brand new Mercedes (thank God he didn’t insisted on bringing it into the class!), he entered the classroom flanked by two good looking ladies on his side and after a lengthy intro by an overzealous classmate of mine he started his speech.
Half way through the speech, gist of which was that he is God’s gift to this world; he suddenly realized that some of the male students are more interested in his two colleagues than him.
He changed the topic and finally revealed what those two ladies are doing there; they were there to showcase how much he valued diversity in his organization and he has selected these two ladies to provide them personal mentoring and they will be shadowing him for next 6 months, in the same breadth he encouraged the ladies in the class to apply to his organization once they graduate.
Hearing that, all the guys lost interest in them but that did electrify the female population in the class. After that the lights went dim and we were told to watch a movie clip which inspired the CEO every day and enabled him to achieve such greatness, and half way through it, with tears in his eyes he asked us if we felt moved and motivated? And we all obediently nodded and some of us did actually shed a few tears..
Rule #2: Wear your religion on the sleeve, but take it off when not needed
My fist day at job was a Friday and all management trainees were told that we will be spending the day with head of our department.
The head of my department happened to be a very religious guy (the kind that’s cheaper by dozen in Pakistan’s corporate world). After receiving a lecture on his brand of religion, me and the other guys in the department followed him to the mosque to offer the Friday prayer. On lunch we got another long monologue on the benefits of being a good Muslim with emphasis that we should not worry too much about this life (meaning career) and only focus on life after death and that is his formula for success. Half an hour later this same head of department was yelling on the office floor at the admin staff. Reason? They forgot to upgrade his room to the executive floor in the hotel for his upcoming trip.
Few months later I was travelling with the same executive on a trip to England and I happened to overhear his conversation with a European Colleague where he was lambasting how boring and suffocating life in Pakistan is while sipping his red wine and asking her if she could recommend him for a role that’s open in her organisation in England!
Rule #3: Not all Farewells are created equal
Farewell parties are common feature of most offices, but don’t think that all farewells are created equal, there are three kinds of farewells.
When an employee is fired or leaves at a bitter note; farewell would mostly consist of low key gathering in office cafeteria with tea/coffee and samosas and some politically smart colleagues will find excuses not to attend. In other case when an employee leaves on a good note but is moving to another organization; the farewell will be upgraded to a lunch with better attendance.
The most interesting one is when someone senior gets promoted and is moving outside of Pakistan! This farewell usually takes place at a fancy restaurant and is positioned as a surprise and would involve many days of planning by the employees who will make sure that the person whose farewell is being arranged is fully aware of their efforts (so much for the surprise). The party itself is replete with melodrama, emotional speeches and in few cases even crying and sobbing! Even if you don’t feel like crying do make an effort.
(To be continued…)