Different strokes for different folks!

One of my service engineers and I were scheduled to meet at our office at 9.00 am one morning and proceed to a customer’s factory to meet the customer at 10.00 am. I reached our office at 8.55 am, but the service engineer reached at 9.10 am. He apologised for being late, but I was terribly upset and gave him a stern lecture on punctuality as we drove towards the customer’s factory.

Since I had kept a buffer of 15 minutes, we managed to reach just in time for our meeting, only to find that the customer himself had not arrived. When he came in at 10.30 am, he apologised, explaining that there was unusually heavy traffic that morning. Both my service engineer and I knew this was not true because the customer had used the same road that we had. Obviously, he had started late from home. Instead of pointing this out, I told the customer it was OK.

I realised that I was using different yardsticks for my service engineer and for my customer. In fact, I realised that my behaviour in most similar situations depended on who the other person was. Whenever a supplier or service provider, say an electrician or a plumber, would be late for any appointment, I would give the person a severe dressing down. However, I often tolerated the unpunctuality of my customers, bank officials and others because offending them could affect my business interests.

On the way back to office after our meeting, I explained to my service engineer that ‘practical considerations’ had prevented me from reacting to the customer’s unpunctuality in the same way that I had reacted to his latecoming. I’m not sure if he accepted my explanation, but from that day, I have consciously tried not to speak harshly to juniors, suppliers and service providers when they are unpunctual. I believe that if I cannot speak out against the unpunctuality of my customers, bank officials and other ‘important’ persons’, I have no moral right to be harsh to other ‘not-so-important’ persons in the same situation.

Don’t we all have ‘different strokes for different folks’?

Late for a meeting? The ‘not-so-important’ person is unpunctual. The ‘important’ person is normally punctual, but she/he got delayed due to factors beyond her/his control.

Doesn’t work hard enough? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a lazy bum who has no initiative. The ‘important’ person is ‘not in the rat race’.

Didn’t achieve the desired result? The ‘not-so-important’ person didn’t put in enough effort. The ‘important’ person was unlucky.

Tipsy? The ‘not-so-important’ person is drunk. The ‘important’ person is mildly intoxicated.

Eats too much? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a glutton. The ‘important’ person is a gourmet.

Drinks too much? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a drunkard. The ‘important’ person is fond of drinks.

The ‘not-so-important’ person is corrupt. The ‘important’ person is ‘street smart’.

The ‘not-so-important’ person is finicky. The ‘important’ person is methodical.

Don’t we consciously or unconsciously believe that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”?

Shouldn’t we all believe and practise that “All animals are equal”? It’s not easy, but let’s try.

11 thoughts on “Different strokes for different folks!

  1. 🙂 Valid. Sadly hard to practice. And by the way, I dare not scold my plumber – selfish interests naturally. If i have a leaky system tomorrow I can’t handle, he will be the most important person. In any case, being nice to service providers makes good sense. And that’s how I once got the refrigerator service guys to come attend to my fridge during a weekend (the warranty expired on a Saturday…naturally) 😀

    Being nice always helps, Pro. I am usually only harsh with myself. And that is beneficial too. That being said, it drives me nuts when someone is unpunctual.

  2. Lack of a sense of punctuality is one trait that I can’t countenance.
    Our people need to be sensitized or forced into being punctual, as it is taken for granted.
    Traffic-jam hold-ups is a common lame excuse. This has necessarily to be factored in when there are appointments scheduled.
    I’d rather be 5 minutes early than 5 minutes late.
    In civic citizens’ meetetings if they don’t commence in time. i take the chair and get started . now they start in time, more particulasrtly if i’m invited!

    • I hate to say this, but our people cannot be sensitized into being punctual. There must be a generous dose of coercion and/or penalty. See how the most unpunctual persons are very punctual when it comes to paying electricity/phone bills, boarding trains/flights, etc.

      To use your favourite expression, “Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante!”

      • Sensitisation is too mild a term. I use the arms-twisting approach. So-much-so either the people turn up in time or call me half an hour later. A common excuse proferred by the hosts is “there should be a sufficient audience before the chief guest arrives.” That doesn’t mean that those who turn up in time have to be penalized into waiting!

  3. Ha ha ha don’t forget It’s Indian Stretchable Time. It actually has become a fashion to be late for most functions & other stuff. The later you arrive, the higher your status. But honestly whenever someone is late, I don’t give a hoot if he is my boss, I let him know subtly that I am upset. Mostly I tell them it was fun chatting to your secretary the past whatever time.

    • Feroze, it’s time we Indians bid goodbye to the “stretchable” part of it all. It must be remembered there are others who have striven to come in time.
      In one event organized by the Mumbai police on crimes and senior citizens, most senior citizen invitees threatened to walk out en masse after patiently waiting for 15 minutes. They started off sans the Chief Guest!

  4. As usual one more post of yours which provides ample food for thought, and not just on the punctuality front, but also on the ‘different strokes for different folks’ aspect as well 🙂

    I do try to mildly get my point across to my superiors as well when I feel that they are using different yardsticks for different people when they should be objective, but it has met with mixed results so far. While some of them understand what I am trying to do, others have taken severe offence at being corrected and given me a dressing down 😀 But then, I guess that is part and parcel of the game, isn’t it.

  5. So true, Pro. We do have different parameters for different people. Sometimes we’re not even aware of this. I think acknowledging this is true is the beginning of the process towards being more fair. Thank you for sharing!

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