I've got the power

The free hand - a mythical concept which has been in existence ever since the term 'management' was invented by a group of orangutans figuring out how to nail a bunch of bananas (ok, I lied about the orangutan bit, but there were definitely some bananas involved). It is meant to be an empowerment tool that serves to motivate and nurture employees and prepare them to assume more responsibility. However the chances of this definition actually being implemented in the real world are as remote as the odds of the orangutans returning those bananas, even it there is a world famous card and a curvaceously crafted star actress being waved in their faces.

"Never trust boss who says the decision is your own, soon the issue will come back and you will cry and moan." The high pitched, heavily accented oriental cackle, and Chai-La, the mystical Chinese tea boy, had disbursed his morning ascetic pearl into the unsuspecting ears of Ram Shankar, as always with the customary tea cup, nestled in Ram's fingers.

Vikas (Ram's boss) had been away, incommunicado for a week. The office speculation was that the (in) famous Russian pole dancer who he used to chat with, was in town and Vikas had felt it was an opportune moment to learn the 'Russian tongue shuffle'. Thus, he had excused himself by saying it was merely a case of paying lip service to some pressing issues for a while (which it was) and had zoomed off into an unspecified direction leaving behind an excessively overburdened and outrageously confused Ram Shankar in his wake. His parting words to the young chap were, "Don't wait to get in touch with me for any decisions, act like you are captain of the ship and just move ahead. I am backing you all the way."

Those words, after rather lazily tracing some motivationally challenged, elliptically orbital paths in Ram's mind, had settled and resonated in meaning, inflating Ram Shankar's ego and chest dimensions almost to match those of his stomach. He felt wondrously alive and detected a distinct surge of electricity running through his veins making his hair stand on end, until he realized that he had absent mindedly inserted his pen into a three pin socket.

Nevertheless thus 'charged', he had attacked each day with a ferocity that would have done a pack of teen age girls entering a shoe sale proud. And the days, as also the various assignments, had zipped by.

When Vikas resumed, looking a little odd with puffed and bruised lips, the first thing that he did was ask for a status update with Ram. Ram felt, for once, that he was in for some praise. Everything over the last few days was running extremely smoothly.

"Things will change when boss is back, as things need to get back on track," Chai-La's sermon for the morning had Ram a little bewildered. What could possibly go wrong? He had performed a minor miracle over the week. Even PP (the creative director of the hideous moustache fame) had a few good things to say about him, and if you were in servicing that was as rare as a meeting ending without an exhortation for the need of 'out of the box' thinking.

"What has been the progress on the market research brief that we were supposed to initiate?" asked Vikas, scratching his head in a bellicose manner.

"Well the research has been initiated, it began three days ago," answered an elated Ram.

"What?" screamed Vikas, touching the high octaves, causing an ageing Indian ex-captain to momentarily take his eyes off the ball and nick yet another one into the waiting slips.

"I only asked you to initiate a research brief."

"But you told me to take decisions; I was in charge you said."

"You don't know the sensitivities on the account, now talk to the research agency and stop whatever has been initiated.

Figure out how the costs will be absorbed."

"Don't you even want to see what the brief was?"

"At my level, I don't need to. I just can sense things becoming issues."

Retorted Vikas, with his mood visibly uplifted. Ram felt his morale sag like the male interest in a Ms. World pageant after the swimsuit round is over.

"What about the new press ads needed for the Gujarat market? Can we see the creative? When are we looking at releases?"

Ram's mood perked up again.

"We have already begun the campaign, one ad has already appeared and the others are due over the next few days." Ram replied, beaming ear to ear like a reality show participant waiting for the audience vote to come in Vikas's clapped his hand to his forehead and slumped back into his chair.

"Why do you take these decisions? How much do you know of the brand?"

"But I presented it to Mr. Bose (the client), he approved it, in fact he said this was the most incisive idea that the agency has created over the last year."

"Mr. Bose wouldn't know an idea if it stood up and slapped him, get PP over here." Interrupted Vikas, then seeing PP pass by hailed him.

PP sunny disposition vanished the moment he set his eyes on Vikas.

"PP, our boy here…"

PP brightened and slapped Ram on the back, "has come a long way, I never knew he was that smart, he hardly gets in a word when you are there. He has helped create and sell some cracking work."

Vikas was clearly unimpressed with the endorsement.

"I was going to say that he has caused enough mayhem and was going to tell you to stop work on the campaign, we will give you a new brief."

"Why?" boomed PP, always eager to combat his nemesis.

"Because I head the account and it's my call."

"Its better for the account when you are away, take leave more often."

"This account is with this agency because of the relations that I enjoy at the client end. I have the final say on everything!"

They were standing toe to toe, just when the referee, oops sorry, the President motioned them both into his room in a manner that meant that the rest of the afternoon was gone.

"I want all the releases stopped by the time I get back, also you better reverse all the bright decisions you have taken when I was away," hissed Vikas, closely resembling an extremely agitated viper as he left the cubicle.

PP offered Ram a sympathetic smile, and a wink of encouragement.

Ram sat in his chair, a little stunned by the course of events. His brain seemed to have shut down. He was trying to contemplate what all he would need to do to reverse the 'Vikas effect' and the ramifications on his esteem and his job list were immense.

"Never take decision when boss is away, when he is back he will make you pay," those wise words of wisdom, the express delivery of the teacup and Chai-La had vanished into a page of a textbook on empowerment that was lying on Ram's table. The page was titled. "How to use empowerment to keep subordinates motivated."

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