Rationality in the corporate world

Think you’re smart! So what? People with high IQs are everywhere in the corporate world. And now, with everyone pushing the EQ button, thanks to Daniel Goleman and his best-selling book on Emotional Intelligence, your IQ has very little chance.

Think you’re the best performer in the company, overshooting your sales targets for the last four quarters, and expecting a promotion to come out of it this year? Kill that idea right away. Don’t expect your future to be decided on merit.

Believe what you may, brainpower and hard work are not the only ingredients needed to get ahead in the corporate world. Sure, these things help, but there’s a lot more required to make those career moves you’ve been dreaming about.

Organisations, and people who lead them, are not always rational. While you may believe that you’re part of the team because you are the right fit, or your MBA background outshines everyone else’s, it could very well be because you’re good-looking or you’re nice to people in the office that you’re considered for a promotion.

A friend of mine – and he was told this at his final interview – was once hired by a multinational firm because of his good looks. Yes, it works for the guys as well!!

Can being nice to people help you in getting that job you’ve been waiting for? You can bet on it. I was once hired because the interview board checked for feedback from the receptionist and the managing director’s secretary (who escorted me into the interview room) and found me to be the nicest and most polite of the four candidates for the job.

In one organisation, I was promoted, even given a performance award, because I once stood up to a particularly tough Director during a business conference. Apparently, the other directors of the company took notice of this, appreciated my ‘fighting spirit’ and rewarded me in my next appraisal, in spite of a not-so-good performance level.

Sometimes, corporate rationality actually borders on prejudice. I know of a financial services firm that doesn’t hire non-vegetarians because the CEO, a pure-blooded Hindu Brahmin, forbids it. An IT company rejects applicants who are divorcees because it believes divorcees are mentally unstable. An engineering company doesn’t hire women because the CEO feels women are bad for the business: they distract men.

Strange? But true. That’s what passes for rationality in the corporate world.

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