“Some people have to think, others have to work,” said Mr A, my boss, in one of his thoughtful moods. I had been cribbing about all the work being pushed in my direction, being somewhat frustrated over the load of thankless work I was struggling to complete.
It is but a rare occasion when Mr A reveals some of the skills he has honed over the years, and today seemed to be one such. Satisfied over resounding success over a matter of water dispenser to be installed in his office room, he was ease with the world, and probably thought there was no harm in helping a mere junior.
“Work, you see, is injurious to health. Both in terms of mental peace, and in destroying your regular life rhythms,” he continued. “But it has to be done, and someone has to do it. But there is another job to be done – planning, thinking and guiding. The success lies in doing the second type of job, not the first.”
I am not too quick on the uptake, and, I admit, my careless response to the profound statement was, “I know.” The response hurt Mr A, as it should have. He lapsed into a sullen silence. I thought over the matter for some time and said – “And that division of labour is done on basis of education or seniority, right?”
With a pained expression, Mr A did his duty – of correcting me. He said, “That is where most people are wrong. It is the individual who himself decides what job he wants to do. Nobody assigns these jobs.”
Seeing total incomprehension on my face, Mr A decided to educate me in the basics of work life. Here is how the conversation went from here on.
Mr A: You find some people to be working and some not working. Right?
Mr A: But who is generally rewarded, who gets the best review, who get all the training assignments?
Me: The non-workers (I said with some heat).
Mr A: Why? Don’t you think they must be doing something right?
Me: Psycophancy? Luck? Connections??
Mr A: You haven’t thought over the matter adequately. They are not idlers, they work harder than you workers. They are the planners, the thinkers and the guides.
Me: (With growing agitation in my voice) and what planning is being done in our organization?
Mr A: Don’t get upset; understand. They plan for themselves, think about themselves and guide people in the direction that will benefit them. Believe me it is a hard and a skilled job.
Me: And harm the organization.
Mr A: You don’t get it. Think of all the people who are getting all the awards and the accolades, not only in our office, but in our society. You realize how hard they have worked to project themselves.
Me: Some people, if you would have noticed, have done great work for which they are rewarded. Societies would not work but for these people (I blurted).
Mr A: (In a resigned voice) And most of the rest of the awardees? Are they also doing great work?
Me: (I kept silent)
Mr A: Either you can work, devotedly, or project yourself sufficiently to be the rewarded. Generally, you cannot do both.
Me: But people will find out you are useless, in the long term.
Mr A: One, they are not useless. Second, no one finds out. Third, there is no long term.
Me: (This got me interested) ???
Mr A: The Thinkers have great uses. The bosses depend on them for knowing what is happening in their organization, and in their own careers. The Thinkers generally belong to the class of ‘bosses’, so there is natural empathy and rapport. They also assist bosses in getting work out of the ‘workers’.
Me: The juniors, you mean.
Mr A: You are confused, young man. This has nothing to do with seniority. There is a basic, genetic difference between the two types.
Mr A: And they are not ‘found out’ as you term it, because their’s is an accepted and a highly rewarded role in the first place. And anyway, it takes skills to become and remain a Thinker.
Mr A: (Pained) You are not getting it. The organization, and society, will function with both. You have to decide which side you are on. I am on the Thinking side, and I will tell you why. Work, is not only injurious to health, as I pointed out earlier, it also leads to mistakes and ‘short-of-expected’ outcomes. There is hardly any ‘return’ from work, apart from more work.
Me: (I had to agree, since that is my experience, and I nodded.)
Mr A: The ‘working’ man rubs his bosses the wrong way by often not agreeing with the fancies of those above him. He also irritates his family by being ‘absent’ or ‘absorbed’ and generally ruins his personal life. The Thinking man has all the time to talk to and agree with the bosses. He is found at home and at the parties, and is generally a non-frustrated, fun-guy. He can project his achievements everywhere.
Me: What achievements? (I retorted sharply)
Mr A: Whatever that strikes his fancy. And that is where his skills come in. He knows whatever is going on in the organization. He is ‘attached’ to a lot of work that is being done. He keeps himself updated with the outcome – he is there to share credit when the outcomes are good, and knows the culprits when they are not.
Me: And the bosses don’t get to know the difference.
Mr A: Some do, some of the times. But nowhere there is only one boss. And the Thinker is ‘in’ with all the bosses. So he has to manage some awkward questions sometimes, with the skills that he has. No big deal.
Me: And the workers – they don’t rebel.
Mr A: Ah, that is the beauty of the system! They do not. Because they have the choice – to become a Thinker if they want to. Most of them dream that, you know.
There was little that was left to be said beyond that. I looked at the work piled up at my desk, resolving to think like a Thinker from now on, and dreaming of success, and rewards and happiness. But also knowing, deep down, that it will probably remain just that – a dream. As I am a ‘worker’ at heart, and there is no ‘choice’.