Are you a J in the office?

Have you noticed how, in any organisation (including yours) only thirty per cent of the people on staff pull their weight. The rest goof off, duck the load or simply pass the buck.

By Bikram Vohra (Between the lines)

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Published: Sat 26 Nov 2011, 8:56 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:54 AM

What makes it worse is that the bosses at each level start to shovel the work to a select few whom they trust.

Actually this trust thing is load of rubbish, basically, they know that that specific individual will deliver so they use the ego massage route.

“Trust you.” “Know you can do it.” “Give it to old J, he knows what he is doing.”

Oh yeah. So old J is stuck with three nights work to ensure that the corporate report is ready for the big meeting in London and his wife is angry because they have had to cancel two functions and the kids are saying, Dad who? But old J, he can be trusted and he can deliver so he slaves away and produces this gem of a report and then what happens.

J stays home while boss and half a dozen mini bosses trot off to London for three days of fun and frolic and the report plus six copies that J wrote is the centrepoint of the meeting and the deal is made on the strength of it and everyone pats everyone on the back and goes off to celebrate even as old J is sitting in front of the bank manager requesting a loan for a second hand car.

What compounds the situation is that J will be called upon the next time a decent piece of work has to be done and he will go and do it because that is the way he is made.

You might ask what exactly is this ‘way he is made.’

He is susceptible to blandishment. Naturally disciplined, he responds to authority and praise from a superior becomes a command. Good old J, he’ll do it. And good old J, he will.

This suits everyone else because they can bask in reflected glory, play golf, socialise, sharpen their networking skills, play interoffice games, build their careers, map out options, throw malice, plot, have working lunches, pass judgement on the work done by the other few mini- Js in the office and fine tune all their hard work and research and even take the credit for it.

Touched up the report, Sir (to the man on top.)

Not bad, J, I just cleaned it up a bit, good effort ( seeing as how you did 99 percent of it and I added two lines.)

Bosses have been known to use the praise bait with ruthless abandon. The moment they spot a J in the ranks they know they have a winner who doesn’t want the spoils and is happy just being vaguely acknowledged. The trick lies in feeding him occasional dollops of praise like feeding a horse a handful of peppermints.

Now, all this wouldn’t be so bad, after all one takes a job to work and work well, but what makes the Js different is that they seldom get reward. Along with their promotions come leg ups for goof offs, apple polishers, the office politicians, the survivors, the acolytes, the outright crooks.

No difference. Each gets the bonus, the increment, the promotion. All too often J brings up the rear because though he is seen as the dependable one he is not always recognised as a leader. His profile is muted.

Naturally, he is the only one too busy working to create the right images.

Then what happens. Since he is overloaded he short circuits and can’t handle it all. One day, he falls down on the job. All the others have no track record to maintain so when they fail it doesn’t stand out. In the case of a J the failure is glaring. It shrieks its presence.

Disappointed in you, says the boss.

J cringes with shame.

Depended on you always, says the boss, and you let me down.

J dies a thousand deaths.

You are my man, I have always backed you, now you do this to me.

J flip flops on the floor in disgrace.

Now, he will work twice as hard to redeem himself and settle for even less reward while the majority sit around being judgemental.

Sometimes I wonder if life would function in an office if there were no Js around.

Bikram Vohra is Khaleej Times Editorial Advisor. Write to him at

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