Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Dilemma : The Curious Case of the Unwilling Emailer

The Dilemma : The Curious Case of the Unwilling Emailer

There is a very popular story in Indian Mythology called  Vikram aur Vetaal. Vikramaditya was a very powerful , popular and just King.  The legend says that the King,  in order to fulfil  a vow, had to carry a corpse (betaal) on his shoulder to another plac -  in absolute silence. Enroute, the Betaal would narrate a story and pose a question to the King . If the king knew the answer , he had to reply. Else ,his head would  be split into a thousand pieces.

I present this series of episodes based on real life scenarios. At the end of the incident, there will be a question which you will have to answer. The correct answer will be rewarded with a surprise prize J.

Once upon a time,, in the peaceful land of Project “Eutopia”, a team member named “Disruptus”  arrived. Disruptus was moderately good at his work. He was part of an important module and did his work satisfactorily. Sometimes the peace was disrupted, but the leader managed the situation by talking to Disruptus.  He needed regular doses of feedback. One day, there came a need for a team leader for his module and since he was the senior most in his team , he was chosen for the role.  This role required him to check his emails from home and respond to them as appropriate. 

Manager :  Congratulations ! You have been assigned the role of the Team leader. You have wanted this role for a long time. So I hope you will make the most of it and do your best !
Disruptus : Thank You ! I will try my best !

 M  : You have bigger responsibilities now.  So it is inevitable that you will have to check your emails regularly from home and see that the  project work goes on smoothly.
 D : But I do not have internet connectivity at home !
 M : Not a problem. The organization has a policy where it will reimburse you certain amount of money for your connectivity.
 D : But the reimbursable amount won't be enough!
 M : The difference is negligible . I assume that you will do your personal work also which you will have to pay for yourself.
 D : I don't want to spend on the down payment of Rs. 2000. I would like the organization to pay for it.
 M : Our policy doesn't cover this payment and we cannot make  an exception for you since this will set a precedent!
 D : I have spent 3 years with the organization.  Don’t I deserve to get a small thing like this from the organization ?

What should the Manager do ?  Please post your reply in the comment section below.


  1. If Disruptus wanted this role for a long time then he would have also known the responsibilities associated with it. And now when he have achieved it then he should play this role to his best and should manage all the tasks related to this role effectively. The manager should say "As you were waiting for this position so you might be aware of the roles that you would have to play in which checking emails from home was also part of your role. So, if you are a good team leader then you should find ways to complete your role instead of getting dependent on anybody."

    1. Hmm. Well , even after this , if Disruptus insists that the organization should reimburse the one time payment even though the policy does not say so ?SAssuming that he is an important member of the team What should the PM do ?

    2. Theresa Santoscoy9 August 2012 at 10:45

      Part of PM responsibilities is to understand the expectations of all parties involved in the project. One thing the PM can do is have an analysis done to see how the cost of the product and the profit of its benefit for the member in question to use at home. I think if the one time payment keeps an important memeber of a team happy then make the policy excetion but note in your project closing the terms in which a policy was altered and give the benefits for justifying this change so in future projects others can use this information to understand all the requirements. Having to work from home may have become a new requirement for the project so this would be considered in the future on similar projects. I think if the value of the payment shows in the effective ability to control the project then it is worth the investment and noting in the closing.

  2. Organization Policy First. That can not be bent for one Person. The Manager should find other competent Guy to take on this work. But he need to discuss with that guy about the responsibilities on this job first and then should ask to Lead the Project.

    Moral--> Competency never come with only Seniority..

  3. Ratnesh, You mean to say that Disruptus should not be given the role ?

  4. Disruptus should be team member. With this kind of attitude be does not deserve the role. He sbould have accepted tberole and then gentlybroached the subject. Leadership roles needz the right attitude

  5. Probably a wrong team leader with so much out of focus interests has been selected... Manager need to be taught how to sight a right person...

  6. Disruptus is not suitable for being a team leader. Leadership roles needs the correct attitude. If he wanted this role, then he should have accepted it and should have worked around his problems. If I were the PM, I would have removed him from the team siting his attitude as the problem.

  7. Anurag Singhal3 July 2012 at 22:31

    The PM in this scenario if Disruptus does not agree with the amount, which the organization is providing as a bonus, can be given options.
    1. As a Lead he is responsible for the communication management and he should do it promptly either by putting extra efforts at office or from home. Also if he is not interested with the reimbursement part, he may in that case pay the entire net bills by himself.
    2. If first option does not work out, inform him that if he is not ready to take the role at this time due to personal reasons, the leadership may choose the next best fit for the requirement.
    3. Give Disruptus 1 day time to think upon it and come back with response.

    In the above 3 options, the management is clearly giving an opportunity to Disruptus to move up the ladder. Options and sufficient time have been provided and he is made aware that an alternative is ready if he cannot take the responsibility.

    1. Anurag, Right ! A very balanced and sane approach !

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Every problem comes with the solution.
      here the answer is simple,Firstly if Disruptus does not his roles and responsibilities,he is not fulfill the eligibility criteria for the position.
      Secondly,As a person moves ahead in his life more and more obstacles come.
      one day he will definitely get a reward for his tasks or even more than that.

  9. All very sane replies, very real-worldish, and eminently implementable. :-) Let me provide a contrary point of view, just to muddy up the water a bit.

    Assumption: Disruptus--lovely name!--is critical to the continued success of the project.

    Solution: PM approves the purchase and monthly bill reimbursement as a project expense which will run for the duration of the project. Once project ends, the facility is discontinued and withdrawn.

    1. Dongle: Rs1,100 (Tata Photon Plus, for example)
    2. Monthly bill: <Rs1000 (this is cost of the plan)
    In USD terms:
    1. Dongle: $19 (@Rs55.3 per $1)
    2. Monthly bill: $19 (@Rs55.3 per $1)

    Duration of project (let's say): 1 year
    Total cost (in USD): 247 (you'd also take this as an annual cost for an annuity engagement)

    Too much expense for a critical success factor? ;-)

    1. Indranil,

      Well, a different take indeed !

      So, you mean to say that the PM should not think about the organizational policy but do it from his own project kitty ? Hmm ... Will not set wrong precedents ?

    2. :-)

      Ananya, the toss-up is between sticking to policy and failure of engagement (project). At times it may make sense to adhere to the spirit of the policies rather than the text?

      We do tailor processes to suit specific needs of projects, don't we. So the PM could approach his boss and seek sanction of this deviation... for a paltry $250 a year... I'd think it is worth a try at least! What do you say?

    3. I thought of this option right after reading the problem statement - Indranil beat me to the posting!

      In this approach the organization policy is not being violated, I'd look at it as the policy evolving with technology. The organization owns the Tata Photon dongle and provides it to the employee for official use. It is reasonable to assume that the official use is covered within the base plan and employee pays for any extra use. The dongle is returned to the company when the project ends or when the employee leaves, depending on how the company judges it.

      Consider it similar to the official laptops issued to employees at positions of leads and above - which is so very common now, and it fits the picture.

      - Ashish

  10. your choice of name for the employee Disruptus indicates a different problem. If your intent was to throw people off then that might have worked with my initial reaction. The comments others have posted are excellent set of options :
    1. Option 1 He knows the rules if he has been with the organization for 3 years so why is he bringing it up now?
    2. Option 2 The project is more important and Disruptus is necessary to make the project succeed so figure out a way to pay for it and move on. As someone else calculated its $247 dollars for a year

    So principle versus getting the project done. I normally will select get the project done if i can afford it in the project as i am very results focused.

    However the troubling part remains for me is this a pattern with Disruptus to do this on every occasion? If there is a pattern at the end of the day the manager has to make the call is it worth it to keep making exceptions for Disruptus.

    1. Aseem, The point about the worth of making exceptions is what I like ...

  11. A growing need to integrate Project Management and Change Management is being seen to ensure that projects do not fail. In the extant case,
    1. There is a clear evidence of prevalence of attitudinal issues displayed by Disruptor which were discounted when appointing him as Team Leader. Hence no point in making a correction by trying to get the horse in front of the cart.It is typical to find many high performers with attitudinal issues.
    2. In a dynamically changing environment organizational policies are meant to support operations and not act as a deterrent to outcomes.
    3. Not a single project has been delivered without cost over runs and hence there is no point in being tyrannical by fixations on policy supported by ''distrust'' that D will use internet for personal purposes. How many employees do use internet during office hours for personal purposes?
    4. Success of a project should be measured using EVM and not CBA ( that too a few dollars). Internet costs should be weighed against '' project crash value'' and loss of customer trust and resulting brand value over many other potential projects.
    5.It is not uncommon these days to see corporates amending Vision, Mission and Strategy to align with market demands and competition.
    6. Many times it is observed that the entire project is put to high risk for some frivolous issues like the example provided.
    7.It is also a fact that more time is spent in holding meetings for decisions ignoring cost of meeting where multiple departments heads are found to waste time.

    No point in burning the whole hay stack to find the needle, when a magnet can be used to find the needle. As rightly put above, what is the cost of a critical success factor.

    A very good post by Ananya as always bringing out real time issues, which have simple solutions.

    1. SMG, Wise thoughts. Read my next on the Dilemma series :