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AQoL Feb 2021 | Mr. Krishnan would not do overtime

Most people, certainly most men, are deeply committed to building a successful career. They aspire to rise high in the organisation, take on greater responsibility, and earn more. Most are obsessed with doing well at work. Krishnan was consumed by a different purpose.

I was the Area Sales Manager in Hindustan Lever (now Hindustan Unilever or HUL), for the Eastern Region in India. I had to travel extensively over the vast territory, almost every week. Two gentlemen formed my support team in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sankaran was my secretary. Krishnan, the other staff member, was responsible for invoicing, keeping records, doing analytical work, and so on. They were in their forties, or early fifties and I, a callow twenty-six, was their boss.

Both were excellent at their work. Krishnan was meticulous, sincere, accurate, and quick. He would rustle up whatever information, documents, and background information I requested. I could rely on him for accuracy of information, and advice – he had been on the job for twenty years, or more.

He was punctual, always arrived and left on time. Though he almost always finished his work before the end of the day, there were occasions when I needed him to stay back in the office a little longer. Sankaran stayed back when it was necessary but Krishnan never did.

The compulsion?
He would have earned overtime pay for the extra time. But he never stayed late, never earned overtime.

He was part of the unionised staff, and senior to me in years. So, I never did more than make a request. And he always politely declined.

I was curious to know what his compulsion was that he had to leave at 5 PM sharp. Did he have to tend to someone sick or old at home? One evening when he declined yet again, I sat him down in my room and asked why. Why did he never stay back, even for a half hour? He apologised and explained.

Krishnan’s role at home
For years, he said, he had been tutoring his only son through school. He would take a bus to be home by 6 in the evening.

After a quick shower and coffee, Krishnan would spend a good two hours teaching his son. He would go over his class work, home work, and prepare him for the next day at school. Every day. He was determined to ensure his son graduated from school with high grades so that he could get admission in a good college. “As a father,” he said, “what more can I do for him except to give him a good start.” He hoped the boy would make something of himself.

In spite of the occasional inconvenience, I could not but admire Krishnan’s sense of purpose and his dedication to it.

What do you make of Krishnan? Do you think he displayed leadership? How?

Do share your thoughts. I hope your views will lead to a rich exchange of ideas.