Mis(sed)- Communication

Naina was livid!

She was extra careful about shutting the door behind her as she came out of her boss’ cabin. She was afraid she might bang the door hard enough to splinter it to pieces.

“Of all the aggravating people!” she fumed to herself with a clenched jaw and smouldering eyes. What on earth was his problem? There was no pleasing him! No matter what you did, he could always be trusted to shoot holes in it. “Damn and double damn!” She burst into her cubicle and flopped vengefully into her chair.

As she sat there simmering with a self- righteous sense of injury, the entire issue replayed in maddening technicolor in her mind.

At the eleventh hour, Naina had been bull-dozed into attending a family wedding she had no wish to attend. She had appraised her boss Aniket of the entire situation and also told him that she was still trying her best to wriggle out of it. He asked her to call and let him know if she has to go. She promised to do that.

She couldn’t wriggle out of it and was compelled to go. Before leaving home to catch her flight, she called up Aniket. His handphone was switched off. When she called his home landline number an old man received the call. It was obvious that he was rather hard of hearing. He told Naina that he was the family’s caretaker. Apparently, Aniket had gone out with his entire family and could not be reached.

Repeating herself many times, Naina explained the message she wanted the old man to convey to Aniket. She asked him to repeat it to her. Finally, sensing his peeve, she rang off. She would have preferred to have spoken to Aniket personally, but she was sure the old man would convey the message. Even if he did nothing but tell Aniket she had called, it would be enough. Aniket would be able to guess why she called. With an easy mind on that issue, Naina boarded her flight and mentally prepared herself for a joyless family excursion.

She had returned late the night before, utterly depleted from a trip worse than she had expected. Not only was it terribly hot, but for two days she had had to live deep in an interior village with no amenities. The worst of it was that she felt completely cut off from the whole world. There was no mobile connectivity at all!

The moment she stepped into office in this morning, she knew there was something wrong. Her team-mates looked at her pityingly. To make matters worse, her cubicle neighbor Rajiv had drawn his extended thumb around his throat indicating a beheading. Utterly confused, she was about to ask him what was wrong when the intercom on her table buzzed. It was Aniket, asking her to come to his cabin immediately. Still not suspecting anything, she picked up diary and went.

The reception she got was the biggest slap in the face she ever got. For fifteen minutes she was berated for being irresponsible and casual towards her work. Of all the things Aniket could have said, that hurt her the most. She was proud of her dedication, sincerity and sense of accountability to her job and her team. To be accused of being the opposite was intolerable to her. Her brain shut down and she stood mute, fighting tears that threatened to breach her strict sense of office decorum. By the time she stumbled out of his cabin, however, her shocked tearfulness had given way to a towering temper.

“Hey pretty lady..!” said a voice. She looked up to find Rajiv’s familiar and friendly face. Then the dam broke.

Between sobs, she narrated the entire story to Rajiv. Rajiv was surprised. “But, are you saying you called and left a message at his home?! He told everyone that he’d asked you to let him know if you were leaving and you had just disregarded his request and scooted off..!”

“You know I would never do that Rajiv.! You know how particular I am about keeping people in the loop and keeping my communications clear and unambiguous. How could Aniket accuse me of lack of accountability?! I have no option but to put up my papers now. I can’t work with someone so unreasonable!!” Her voice rose a little in righteous anger.

“Naina, I understand your anger. It was not right of Aniket. But to resign?! You’ve always loved this place! Don’t take a hasty decision you might later regret!”

“But what can I do Rajiv? Aniket has undermined my sincerity and dedication. You know I am very serious about my work. To be accused of being casual is not something I can take. Where is the trust I deserved? You’ve known me for over four years, have I ever done anything in this time to give you the impression that I am not responsible?!”

“No, you haven’t Naina. You’ve always been very accountable not only to your superiors but also to your subordinates and peers.”

“I can’t work in an atmosphere of such distrust Rajiv, surely you can see that? It is true that I love working here. It is also true that I am going to miss all of you. So far away from home, you guys have been the only family I’ve had. Aniket should have asked me where I was. Surely I deserved a chance to explain? Why on earth did he not call me?”

“He called you Naina; we all did. But we never could get through to you. Later your phone was switched off.”

“Oh damn! I forgot that!” Naina fell silent, looking woebegone. She realized the reason for Aniket’s anger. Not being able to connect with her, and never suspecting that she was going to a place where there was no connectivity, must have angered him. To add to it, her phone was later switched off! Naturally he assumed she had disappeared without a word!

“Rajiv, I’ve had such a rotten time! I went to this horrid village in the back of the beyond where I was totally cut off. To make matters worse, I’d forgotten to take my mobile charger with me. If I’d known I’d get into so much trouble, I’d have called Aniket very half an hour from a pay phone. Or I’d have killed someone. Or DONE something..!” Naina was tearing up again.

“I think you must go and talk to Aniket again. Tell him about your call and the old man to whom you conveyed the message. It looks like the old man not only forgot to deliver the message but didn’t even tell him you called. In the absence of a message, naturally Aniket would be angry and upset. Things got aggravated because he couldn’t talk to you.

“As for questioning your accountability, don’t take it to heart. I know he thinks very highly of you. It was probably his anger talking today. Moreover, when we don’t expect some to be irresponsible, we get far more annoyed with them than with someone who constantly lets us down. Come now, dry you tears and have some water. Resigning from the job is not a solution. Go talk to him. Shall I come along?”

Smiling gratefully, Naina nodded. She really hadn’t the guts to face Aniket alone again.

In half an hour, the whole issue had been clarified with Aniket. His caretaker had indeed forgotten to convey Naina’s message. Aniket was most contrite and apologized sincerely for having jumped to conclusions without giving Naina a hearing- especially in light of Naina’s past record of exemplary work ethics. Naina, happy once again not to be thought irresponsible and assured of Aniket’s esteem, was quick to forgive him.

“Today’s lunch is on me”, he told his entire team. “I’ve learnt today that hasty assumptions hurt people and hence undermine trust. Thank you for your mature handling of the situation Rajiv. Thank you for clarifying Naina. If you had taken offense at the way I behaved- something you would have been justified in- instead of helping to clear my misconceptions, things could have turned pretty ugly.”

“Well Aniket”, quipped Rajiv, “jumping to conclusions is yet to be declared an Olympic event!”

Everyone erupted into laughter!

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24 thoughts on “Mis(sed)- Communication”

    1. Yes Alka! Our communication breaks down often. Unfortunately, our patience wears even thinner. We don’t consider, we don’t wait for clarifications. We just assume and conclude. 🙂
      Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo

    1. I will certainly read your post Proactive Indian. Thank you for coming by… 🙂

      Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo

  1. Tell me about it! AND the worst of jumping to conclusions is the way we keep ourselves unhappy too. Someone does not take your call – ‘He does not like me any longer’ instead of ‘Maybe he is busy’ AND so on and so on. I think we humans are geared to think of only those assumptions that hurt us the most OR those that reflect the worst on the other person. Take your Aniket, for example. I can quite understand this sort of jumping on a person in the heat of the moment. BUT, if after time to reflect – days in fact, he could not even start with asking, “Where were you? And why were you out of touch?” it is the worst case of ‘calling a person a dog and hanging him’ particularly when the past record indicates that she was not the sort to leave people in limbo. Personally, I would never stick with a person like that – since it would mean that repeats of this thing will keep happening and I would always be put in a position of having to salvage the situation. Too high maintenance 🙂

    1. Suresh,

      On one hand, I can’t help agreeing with you. Aniket is surely a high maintenance guy. If he couldn’t have the patience to wait for an explanation, who is to know he won’t do it again? The only thing that prevents me from writing him off is my optimism. People do change, they do learn better modes of personal conduct; the do gain wisdom. I hope the Anikets of the world will learn better ways of leading and interacting.

      Simultaneously, I also hope that people like Naina will be magnanimous enough to give such people a second chance. May they always have a Rajiv to pour oil over troubled waters.

      Thank you for your detailed comment. Great to see you here! 🙂

      Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo

      1. Ah! I, on the other hand, have a different kind of optimism 🙂 I am optimistic about meeting people who will NOT be high maintenance and I think life is too short to be wasting time on the high maintenance types when I can put it to use in interacting with the low maintenance chaps. And, as for magnanimity, I have come across too many people who take magnanimity for weakness – too many people learn ONLY when they have to pay a price for misbehavior and think what they are doing is acceptable if the other person forgives and forgets 🙂

        Like I said earlier, it is one thing for you to let loose in the heat of the moment. And, when such a thing happens, I do forgive though I would not be as forgiving if it repeats again and again. If you have had time for contemplation and still cannot think of alternative assumptions about the other person’s behavior, it only indicates a mind that thinks more like a sewer than anything else 🙂

        1. I wish I could tell you how delighted I am with your reply Suresh!

          I agree 100% with you. Forgiving once is all very well, but if a similar incident occurs again and some Aniket thinks he can just keep insulting people on his team, he will need to learn his lesson the hard way.

          There is nothing more insulting for a sincere, responsible and conscientious employee to be accused of being irresponsible- specially when they’ve done all they could at their end to keep people in the.

          The truth is, this is a true story. I was the Naina and my Aniket happened to be a very senior lady. There was no Rajiv. When I tried to clarify her wrong assumptions, she spoke for over 20mins telling me how idiotic her caretaker was and how fed up she was of his. In view of the pain he was giving her, she DEMANDED that I accept my irresponsibility in behaving as I had!!

          I will let you guess the rest. 🙂

          Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo

  2. Good that they sorted out the misunderstanding and misconceptions. And the best thing is that they did it rather soon enough. Sometimes when things like these are allowed to simmer, even small misunderstandings get hardened and relationships get sour. And then it is too late! But this quick jumping to conclusions business can be really unproductive in any relationship – whether at a place of work or in personal life.

    1. Beloo, exactly! If allowed to simmer, something as trivial as this can completely ruin a relationship- professional or personal. It is impossible to trust someone so shallow as to accuse someone without giving them a chance to explain! And no relationship can work without trust- not for the long term.

      Thank you for reading this… 🙂

      Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo

  3. ha! I wish I had a boss like Aniket! Why? He apologized for his mistakes.. not many managers do. somehow that position means a person has to have the biggest ego ever created!!

    Mis-Communication is the poison in all relationships. Be it at work or personal life.. its always better to talk it out and sort out things before things get worse.

    I’m glad Naina had Rajiv to help her calm down. Not many colleagues turn out to be friends either.

    Super story Dagny. The message is strong and clear. Loved it!

    1. You said it Pixie! At least Aniket had the decency to apologize… and in front of the whole team too. But of course, I’d have preferred it if he had not created the situation in the first place.

      Rajiv;s presence was surely a blessing. But a Rajiv will not always be there. In that case, either of the two parties- Naina or Aniket_ could have taken up Rajiv’s roll.

      I am delighted you liked the story! Thank you! 🙂

  4. Sadly, in high pressure office settings these days, people hardly take the time to think rationally. Jumping to conclusions and making hasty decisions is the norm.

    1. Not only in professional environs Rickie. I see a rampant impatience in all human relationships. People seem to take a malicious pleasure in assuming the worst of you at the drop of a hat. It’s like all your past interactions were irrelevant for they taught them nothing about the person they were dealing with! Such fragile egos… so quick to take offense! Sad really!

  5. This happens in daily life too. I have jumped to conclusion when my kids have not returned home on time and have failed to receive my call. I have been the Aniket. And I have learned to be more patient according to me 🙂

    1. Janaki, Only you could have been as humble as to say that you’ve been an Aniket too. The rest of us have only identified with Naina and forgotten the time when we were an Aniket to some Naina.
      Thank you for your humbling comment! 🙂

  6. Well, all’s well that ends well I suppose 🙂

    There are some who jump at our throats even with communication; glad Aniket wasn’t one of them.

    There are some who stick to their initial reaction and lose out on a lot; glad Naina wasn’t one of them.

    Sometimes, there isn’t anyone who cares enough to calm such a misunderstanding; really glad Rajiv was there. 🙂

    Beautiful story from a beautiful writer with a beautiful message. 🙂

    1. As you very pithily observed, all is well that ends well. Thank God for what all three of them did. And of course, there is no reason why the rest of us can’t emulate them. 🙂

      Thank you for your ‘beautiful’ compliment Vinay! 🙂

  7. Lack of communications can destroy relationships, in particular, in an office where we are expected to uphold the moral etiquette. I was hooked to the narration of a teary-eyed Naina, an understanding Rajiv and Aniket, the boss. Still, somehow, I feel Naina should have spoken directly to the boss..I see some sense of irresponsibility here on her part.

    1. It isn’t easy to speak your mind when you are being judged without being given a chance to explain. In an ideal situation yes, perhaps Naina should have asserted herself more aggressively. 🙂

  8. Oh yes this is a very common problem at work… even something as small as not acknowledging a task you are given can cause issues.. managers start assuming its not bring done.. and I don’t blame them managers for it.. communication does play that important a role.

    P.S- Don’t know how I missed out on the alert for this one 🙁 got here a tad bit late

    1. Absolutely Seeta. This is a very common scenario at work.

      Dont worry about being late. Better late than never, right? 🙂

  9. First of all, I have seen many pricks as bosses. Some of them enjoy insulting their juniors at the drop of a hat. They sort of take pride in their ass-holiness. Sorry for the expletives here. So, it was nice of Aniket to apologize when he realized that he made the mistake. I just hope that this incident will add to his wisdom and will allow him not to make the same mistake again. I agree that miscommunication is often the cause of relationships breaking apart. And then I’ve also come across people who are so difficult to talk to. You want to discuss things with them but they will either give you a cold shoulder or clam up. I have ended up becoming frustrated with such folks. Great post, Dagny! Haven’t we all faced this jumping to conclusions and been a victim of it. I have also jumped to conclusions about others and ended up feeling rather foolish and contrite at times.

    1. Oh don’t let us get started on those who enjoy belittling others! As for your use of French…. 😀 😀 I dont mind. Sometimes you just gotta let it rip.

      People who are difficult to talk to after an altercation are truly a bore. I know people who sulk and play the martyr. They make me so MAD! I mean, hey sunshine! I am pissed too you know! You can’t carry on as if you are the only injured party here!

      And when I jump to conclusions… I feel horribly stupid. But the earth never opens up and swallows me. I guess Sita had the bulge on the rest of us in that issue at least! 😀

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