Monday, March 27, 2006

Guilt


Lurking in my office with the temperature at 40 Celsius outside. Assailed by guilt because the air-conditioner is on full blast. Which probably brings it down to about 30 inside my room. Bliss in comparison. I just need to pop my head outside the door to confirm that.

Guilt because I’m cool while the vast majority suffers. Let alone the people on the streets or out in the burning tracts of my old district, most of the people in my own office don’t have air-conditioning. They will, once we shift to our swank new upper floor over in the business district, they’ll even have ergonomic chairs and a recreation room and piped music (I also have some vestiges of guilt because I’m listening to Water of Love the most awesome version of Telegraph Road while all they can hear is traffic), but right now they’re perched on wooden chairs with handkerchiefs wrapped inside their collars, vying to park their poor sweaty butts in front of the fans.

Guilt because air-conditioning is bad for Mother Earth. It fuels a cycle of global warming. More ACs equals more CFCs equals higher temperatures equals more ACs, even before one takes into account the effects of the higher power generation required. Further guilt because I used to whup people who cut down trees, so this makes me a sort of whiskey priest. Even more guilt because this air-conditioner runs at the tax-payer’s expense.

Can I justify the environmental and social cost of keeping myself cool? When it’s too hot (say above 35 C) I get the most splitting headaches all the way down my neck. I can’t work. Am I pampering myself here? Should I work all the same even if I have that headache? If I work better without the headache, do I provide enough incremental value to outweigh the costs involved?

Which brings me to an evaluation of my contribution. When I took charge here I posited the HR “rule of 1-2-3”. Pay them twice as much as they think they’re worth but ensure they produce three times as much. The second part is tough to implement in a government organization, even my Board can’t sanction pay raises or even performance bonuses. I’m still trying to make it up to the high performers through perks, the sort of stuff that the private sector would laugh at but still stuff that makes a difference to my men’s working conditions. As for myself, in the three months after I landed here I managed a financial re-deployment that brought in about 4 times as much my annual Cost-to-Company. And before you start up, Friend Curlilocks, yes, that does include the valuation of accommodation and phone and car AND the power bill for my AC!

Besides, if I bust my ass for four more days, I have a realistic chance of finishing my first full fiscal in charge with a surplus at least 8 times higher than last year’s deficit. Therefore by the yardstick of profitability and CEO’s accountability, I can do what I bloody well want.

Of course that’s not the point. What I worry about is, does the work that I do make a difference to the man who needs it most? If I improve the bottom line for this organization, does it make sure that even one family gets one extra meal a day? I know, stupid bleeding-heart idealism. I tell myself that, but it still worms its way into my head.

What really gets under my skin is that I don’t do enough to lighten my load of guilt. I enjoy the good life when I can get it. I spend what I earn and I usually get my money’s worth. I don’t bribe the Fates and my conscience with hair-shirts. I don’t spend weeks every year working with people who make me feel like scum and bring tears to my eyes. Well, Conscience, I have news. I’ve done that. For ten years and more, I did it my way. When I could have been sitting at home, I was out walking muddy roads in the dark till midnight. When I could have sat in my office and reviewed other men’s work, I was out there in the sun till I didn’t know whether my feet or my head hurt more.

But then I was paid to do it. I AM paid to do it. Does that devalue the effort? Does it mean I have not paid my dues?

Somebody tell me, please.


**** ****


16 comments:

Tabula Rasa said...

Worry not. Fifty years ago someone called Leon Festinger discovered that people paid to do a certain task devalued that task much more than people who believed that they were doing it because it was intrinsically valuable to them. The way I see it, as long as you do your job well, you deserve what you're getting. Right? If you believe your net contribution (to society or whatever) would be greater if your a/c was off, well, then go ahead and turn it off. But if that would only result in a net loss of benefit, then it's not worth it as far as I can see. Why the guilt, JAP? If you can pull your weight, you deserve what's coming to you. The people in the office outside will get their air-conditioning eventually. And your getting paid should in no way tarnish the value of your work. Lor-e jaan, dada.

GREATBONG said...

Way to go JAP...have to congratulae you for the excellent work you are doing. The State needs more people like you.

panu said...

How about this?? If you were paid to do it... you are worth every cent. Now don't feel guilty, because in life, circumstances create all. If you are at a place that many covet but few receive, then be happy for what you got and enjoy it to the full, because life is too short to live in guilt. Especially when you get things that others think you deserve

the Monk said...

dude, chill... ;)

Prerona said...

who knows! great music btw

Sue said...

Can you please tell me exactly which dept. you're in charge of? Then I can help you pile the guilt on. But I need more info before I can be of help.

Ph said...

Capitalism. Or. Guilt.

Urmea said...

Er well, not just chatting...

Agnostia said...

What is this space anyways? And JAP, (I refuse to address the person who pretends to imitate the 'best loser in the history of literature' and then feels guilty about ... heat and air conditioner? And then goes on to describe the entire process of ... what? Talk about reinventing stream of consciousness!

km said...

JAPda, Water of Life? Or Water of Love?

What would we be without guilt? Happy, well-adjusted people etc...

Rohini said...

If you start thinking like this, there's no end to this guilt of being successful. I use ACs that are bad for the environment while others swelter in the heat. I drive to work and pollute the air while others sweat it out in the local trains. I use a washing machine and a dryer using up precious power and water while others wash scrub away for hours. And so on and so forth...

But if we didn't let ourselves have these creature comforts (with a side serving of guilt of course) then what's the point of working hard and earning all the money? Why do it if you are going to live a life as difficult and uncomfortable as someone half as intelligent, hard-working and affluent as you...

Priya said...

Uff ki Nyakaaaa!

shakester said...

it is fine. free yourself of the guilt. come on, jap.

eve's lungs said...

What are you trying to justify ? Your perks ? The AC in the office ? Forget it - that goes with your job and you're getting it because it goes with your office . How are you compensating ? That's more important - if you've actually succeeded in putting improved work practices into place in a govt organisation and actually succeeding ,then I'll say you're worth your CTC (inc the AC ) If you're giving the guys working with you a sense of worth , then that is compensation enough ,always assuming that they'll sustain it when you're gone .
people in offices such as yours should never have such pangs of guilt .We need more of your ilk in this state - I second greatbong's comment

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

T Rasa - Thanks for the reasoning, but I’d already got that far. You do address the basic reason for the guilt – that I may be more than earning my keep. But do I don’t do enough outside my job?

Arnab – Thanks, though your assessment is based on my little bit of trumpet-blowing (and the deal that would have been the icing on the cake couldn’t be closed in time)

Panu – the most relevant line, “life is too short to be lived in guilt”. Thanks.

Monk, Prerona – (wave)

Sue – you’re all heart

Ph – d...UH?

Urmi – what else? Not posting, anyway

Agnostia – whom were you addressing, then?

KM – correction made. You’re right, it’s cool to not be well-adjusted.

Rohini – hedonism plus ego, killer combination. I so agree.

Shakester – thanks. Oh, and you too, Priya.

Eve’sL - I believe I’m good at my job, the issue is whether that’s enough. But thanks.

J.A.P.

feedo said...

stop worrying about the earth. It can take care of itself. You take care of your needs to make you productive.

Remember, if God didnt want us to use A/Cs, he wouldnt have allowed them to be invented. Thus, you have the blessings of the divine deity to cool yourself off.