Ask the Doctor

Made to move cities (which you hate), to resign or not to resign, have a boss that is over-qualified but knows less than you? Read on to get the best advice from Sandeep Goyal

I have been working at this agency for five years now. Last month I was told that I had to move from Mumbai to Chennai. I asked for the time frame. I was told it is a transfer and I could well be in Chennai for the rest of my career. My
family is in Mumbai and I have a family home here. However, because I had no
other option, I moved to Chennai a few days ago.

I just hate the city. I don’t speak the local language. The food is so different.
The work environment, too, is extremely different from Mumbai.

I don’t think I am going to be able to settle down here. I don’t want to move my
family here. It would be too disturbing for them.

The only positive in the job is that I am at a much more senior level in Chennai
than in Mumbai. I now have a team of about 20 people reporting to me which for
me is a new experience, which I am quite enjoying. Also, I think they all look
up to me more because I am from Mumbai, the Mecca of Indian Advertising. They all think I will be able to share with them and teach them the best practices
of the industry because I have been in Mumbai so many years.

Apart from the above, I desperately want to go back to Mumbai. I am an Art Director with 10 years experience and currently carry the designation of Associate Creative Director. Should I take leave and return to Mumbai and hunt for a new job?


Dear Mahesh,

I really do not know if moving to Chennai is such a horrible situation. Let us start with the positives. You yourself say that you are at a much more senior level in Chennai than you were in Mumbai. That should be a reason to be happy. You yourself say that you now have a team of about 20 people reporting into you which for you is a new experience. I think that is not just a new experience, but also a valuable experience.

You say you are quite enjoying the attention and the adulation of your new team
who look up to you for learnings and leadership, more so because they see you
as a better professional simply because you are from Mumbai. They are looking
forward to your sharing experiences and best practices with them. I think that
is an enviable situation to be in.

My personal experience is that sometimes working in a smaller market like Chennai allows you to bloom at work. The demands and pressures are somewhat lesser. The expectations too are lesser. The competition is lesser. All of this allows you to work better, learn while you teach, imbibe while you grow, progress while you settle in. A location like Chennai will also allow you more free time. There is hopefully going to be lesser commute time. Work hours are also likely to be less punishing than in Mumbai.

Also, because of your relative seniority you can take on leadership roles on
clients and earn their respect and gratitude. It is also your opportunity to mentor younger colleagues. Also your opportunity to look at business development, and other higher challenges. So, Chennai is obviously not a terrible choice. It has its opportunities and its compensations.

On the personal front, moving to any new city is always a challenge. My advise to you is to give it a fair chance. Perhaps you are still too new there. Open up your mind. Start to enjoy the city. Enjoy the differences rather than seek the comfort of familiarity. New experiences can always be enriching. You just have to have an open mind. Housing in Chennai is likely to be better. As I said earlier, the commute will be better. Get yourself a car. Get independent in the city. Food too is something you need to explore. There are sure to be places where you will like the fare. Give it at least three months to settle down. If you make a proactive
effort, for all you know, you may just start to like the city.

Quitting is always an option but quitting without giving the new opportunity a full chance, to me is not doing justice to what is already on the table. Think about it.

I have just got a new boss. He is 10 years younger than I am. He is an MBA from some hot-shot institute abroad. He then worked in a famous multinational firm.

I am a non-MBA. But have been in the business for 15 years now. I have done well in the profession without a formal degree. I find it very insulting to have this
young boss suddenly on top of me.

I have been faced with a similar situation earlier too some years ago. The
earlier boss was also an MBA and came with some fancy experience in large
multinationals. But he knew nothing about advertising. He was a disaster with
creatives and even worse with clients. Every time he would get into trouble, I
had to step in and clean up the sh**. It almost became a daily occurrence.
Instead of being grateful, he would get aggressive and rude. Thankfully, he got
another job and moved on.

I foresee a similar situation with this new arrival. I don’t want things to get
unpleasant. I also don’t want to quit my present job as I am well settled and
comfortable both with the organization and the work I do. Do advise.


Dear Sanjeev,

I can empathize with your situation. I also
fully understand what you may have been through with your earlier MBA boss. But then we neither choose our parents, nor do we choose our boss. Sad reality of life.

I have seen a situation just like yours some years ago with a friend of mine. He too was much perturbed by MBA bosses. Well, in his case, he thought if you can’t lick them, then why not join them. You would be surprised but what he did was that he actually quit his job and went to do an MBA!

You may not want to emulate my friend above, but then if the angst stems from having a better qualified boss (at least on paper), then the only option is to either match up or exit.

In your current scenario, the easiest escape is to ask for a transfer internally. That may provide a solution for now. But there is no guarantee that the situation may not re-occur with another MBA surfacing.

Also, may be you are over-reacting to the MBA bit. An MBA is no longer a novelty. Perhaps it was when I joined the profession 30 years ago. Today, an MBA degree is quite commonplace and the huge gulf between MBAs and non-MBAs that existed a few years ago has narrowed primarily because most new entrants in any case have an MBA degree these days, though not all may be from ‘famous’ business schools.

Make peace with the MBA aversion. Treat your new boss as just your new boss without the MBA getting your goat. Give him a chance. For all you know he is actually not a bad guy.

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Q. While working on a client project, I figured that what the client is wanting to get us to do in advertising is actually an over claim. The claims we are being asked to make in the advertising are far from the truth. I am far too junior in the agency hierarchy to challenge the client though I did warn the person I deal with that we could get into trouble. But I was ignored and the higher-ups in my own agency have chosen not to confront the client or ask for clarifications. What do I do? Just keep my eyes and ears shut? Write an internal memo to my boss? Write to the client?
Priya J.

Dear Priya,

I understand your concerns. I do not want to condone either the behavior of your client or your superiors. But I want you to sit down and introspect on whether you are actually reacting to a real issue or are you overreacting to a client brief. Is there an intention, a real intention, to cheat? Deceive? To mislead? Or is the client trying to turn and twist facts, squeeze out some very minor data advantage or feature or functionality, to somehow create a product differentiation and therefore claim product superiority?

Having been in advertising for well over 30 years, I have seen hundreds of situations such as this. The concept of ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP) is long dead. With over a dozen brands crowding every category, there is very little to differentiate between brands and almost none has a competitive advantage to communicate. Given that scenario, brands have no choice but to rely on either me-too claims or sometimes resort to a little deception. It happens in advertising every day. I am no one to get into the ethicality of it but most clients will take a chance on the tiniest advantage that they can claim and then tom-tom. Most such cases end up with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), dragged there by competitors. Most such advertising gets pulled up, sometimes withdrawn. Clients are fully aware of the trajectory of such claims in the market and 99 per cent of them will still choose to follow that path. They will run the campaign for whatever time they can till it is asked to be taken off-air. But in that short run of the campaign they will try to achieve some advantage over competitors in the market place. By the way this is true of even big clients like HUL or P&G or Colgate who are under ASCI purview all the time in a constant game of claims, counter-claims and over-claims. Even Airtel and Jio are contesting each other these days, in fact in court. This is part of everyday work.

At the ad agency, working on client briefs requires a mature out-look and understanding. You are neither required to stand in judgment on client ethics, nor is it your job to be complicit in cheating the customer. Client briefs have to be taken at face value and the job of the agency is to deliver communication to those briefs. Unless there is a serious case of defrauding the customer, some amount of hype and puffery are part of the game, and do not merit extreme reactions.

I suggest you take it easy for a while. Watch how it all proceeds. It will be a good learning for now and for later. You will surely emerge wiser and better informed, if nothing else.

Q. My ex-boss with whom I never got along in my previous agency, and left to join here, has come in as my new boss in my current job. I cannot believe my bad luck. He is of course behaving as if we are old friends and nothing ever happened between us. In fact in the six weeks he has been around, he has been awfully nice to me and has even taken me out for a drink twice. So far I have just played along. But from past experience I know that he is quite nasty and cunning. Most importantly he does not ever back you up in any client matter. Sooner or later he will be back to his good old self (or bad old self) and that is what I fear. Should I start looking for another job?
Swapan S.

Dear Swapan,

It’s alright, things happen. That is life. My only piece of advice to you is not to hold your past experience with the boss as a mirror to the future.

People change. They mature. They become nicer to work with sometimes. And I say that sincerely. I have seen that happen umpteen number of times. The boss you worked with earlier was younger, perhaps lacked maturity, perhaps lacked experience, and perhaps also lacked conviction. The passage of a few years could have added that maturity, that experience and that conviction. So do not pre-judge the guy. Give him a chance. He may actually have changed for the better. Since he is not referring to any negative experiences of the past, in fact making you out to be a good colleague from the past, there is no reason for you to try and change that script.

I think you need to put past prejudices to rest. Be natural. Be calm. Just flow with the tide. If any precipitate action is needed, wait for any negative signals before starting to react. Also, don’t go looking for negative signals. Proceed with the premise that this time around things will be better than before. And hopefully, they will be.

Q. My office used to be in South Bombay. Our agency has now shifted into the suburbs. This has suddenly added at least 60-90 minutes each way to my commute. Also the travel is very difficult. If I take the train, it is very crowded and uncomfortable. If I take my car, it is very tiring and also very expensive. I have been in this agency for 15 years now. I love the work. I love the environment. I have been well settled for a long time. But this change of office location is really wearing me down. There are others too in the office who are complaining but we all know that there is no alternative. Should I quit my job?
Donna W.

Dear Donna,

There is no easy answer to your situation. Offices do shift. It is part of life. Nothing any one of us can do about that. Check with your management if you can work flexi-hours. May be start early and finish early. That way you can beat the rush. Or work some days from home. Or see if you can use a chartered bus. Or join a car pool.

You seem well set in your job. It would be a pity to give it up because of the inconvenience of the new office location. As they say in India, ‘adjust please’.

Our columnist, Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.

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Second thoughts about returning to a once loved career? Unstable political climate causing job insecurity? Ask The Doctor

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Q. I was running a very successful design company for almost 25 years. I was then approached by an international firm who made me a really good offer for the business. I agreed to sell. I even agreed to a partial earn-out. The earn-out lasted three years but it was not a very good phase for me. The buyers dominated the business and the decisions they took were not always in the interest of the business. So, I made very little money from the earn-out. The only saving grace was the money I got paid at the beginning of the transaction, which had no strings attached except the transfer of my majority shareholding in the business.

The foreign buyers have run the business aground. In the last two years since I exited, the business has become loss making. Many of the big customers are gone. Most of the senior staff is gone too.

I have been approached by the top brass of the company out of their global headquarters to rejoin the business. My role will be that of a CEO.
I feel very awkward joining back the company I used to own. And this time as an employee. I have actually just got used to being on my own. I teach. I write. I have been travelling of late. Going back to a full time job will un-do all that I have done to unwind over the past couple of years.

I still love the work, and sometimes miss it. But having said good-bye, I am not sure how it will be to go back. I need your help and advice.
J. P.

Dear J. P.,
Yours is not an easy decision. One part is emotional. The other part is rational.
Let us first address the emotional part. Your major mind block seems to be whether to go back to the company you once owned. That one is easy. Steve Jobs also went back to work at Apple. In fact his second innings at Apple was a much bigger success. So, while it may initially feel somewhat awkward, you should really not hesitate to go back to the company you once built. The awkwardness will melt away soon as you spend a bit of time in familiar environs.

As far as being owner versus CEO is concerned, it should really not matter. As CEO you will be the boss. To the common employee, that is all that is visible.
As far as the question about having now built a new life … teaching, writing, travelling … is concerned, yes it will be difficult to give up and get ‘caged’ again. This is a very personal call and I cannot help you with it. The only input I can provide is that you can again get into the retired mode in a few years. You have already tasted that life and doing it again sometime from now will not be difficult.
Now to the rational part of your decision. If you decide to re-join the company, I suggest you ask for three very important clauses in your contract: 1. A fixed tenure where if the company shuts down or decides to ask you to leave, you will get paid for the entire tenure. For example, if your contract is for 3 years, and for whatever reason your employment is cut short earlier to that for whatever reason, you will be paid for the full 3 years. This is necessary because you say the company is in very bad shape and this is a protection you must insist on. 2.

Ask to be given a free hand as CEO. Ensure you can hire and fire. This will help you rebuild the team. And rebuild the business. 3. A substantial performance bonus. If the foreigners are bringing you back to turnaround the company, then they must be prepared to adequately compensate you for the effort. Please agree on achievable milestones and calibrate a performance bonus plan linked to those milestones. This will ensure that the bad experience that you had in your earn-out is not repeated.

Over all, my advice is to give it another try at the old company. Go back with positivity. Go back with enthusiasm. But make sure your employment contract is weighed in your favour. A second innings may actually be more enjoyable than the first. Go for it.

Q. I am based out of Qatar. I came here about two years ago to work in an international ad agency. The money was very good compared to what I was making in Bangalore. Also, the agency brand name was extremely good. I moved my family too to Qatar.

Work wise, Qatar is a dead destination. The political problems have further reduced the volume of work available. Frankly I don’t know how we all get paid. I go to work every day in the fear that the agency will shut down and I will have no job. So far it has not happened but it just may happen any day.
With the help of some friends I have found a job in Muscat. The salary is much lower and the family will not be able to stay with me.

I tried finding something in Dubai but nothing has worked out.
I have been in touch with my old employers in Bangalore but they do not seem to need any body right now. I am very distressed and very very scared. Please help me.
V. Y. R.

Dear V. Y. R.,
You are obviously in a difficult situation.
Qatar was a good place to work in. But, yes, the political turmoil of the past year or so, has obviously impacted the economy. I do not have ready access to the situation in Qatar but with oil bouncing back, all Middle Eastern economies are likely to revive, and some of the political tensions may actually ease out.
I do not know if you are overacting to the situation in Qatar. Having taken your family there, and with the very few options that you seem to have, why don’t you just take it one-day at a time. I am not sure your agency will shut down quite as soon as you make it out. Perhaps the overall bearish sentiment is getting to you. Qatar is a very rich country. They are not dependent on oil. Their economy is capable of taking some hits. Given your circumstances, I would urge patience. Sit tight.

Muscat is not half as good an option as Qatar. You have already said it that salaries are much lower and your family may not be able to move there. Dubai is surely a possibility because there are many many more agencies located there and the work is across MENA. I would suggest you continue to explore opportunities in Dubai. With Dubai 2020 Expo not very far, opportunities may multiply, and many more may open up in the very short run. In fact, I suggest you spend a few days post Ramadan in Dubai. It may be a good time for job hunting. Till then, I suggest you continue to work in Qatar. Do not psyche yourself into believing that all is lost and the agency will shut down tomorrow. Businesses in these countries have far more resilience.

Having moved your family to Qatar, show patience and maturity. Bank on hope. At least do not give up on hope. For all you know, your worst fears may not actually come true.

Our columnist, Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.
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Is laziness curbing your enthusiasm? Want to turn entrepreneur at 60? Ask The Doctor!

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Q. I don’t work for an ad agency or in the media business. I teach at a University. I have a problem and I thought I should seek your advise. My writing work keeps piling up, what do I do? I start writing but am not able to complete it. For example I have a document ready, an edited volume of 100 pages lying with me for last one year. I simply have to make corrections and give to the concerned person. I am not able to get down to working and finishing what is at hand. Similarly, I have a few half-done papers, I had written a piece for a leading newspaper but they did not publish. That is also lying with me. Advise me on what to do.
Dr. P S

Dear Dr. P S
In the Guru Granth Saheb, it says, “Man jeete jag jeet”. Win over your mind, and you would have won over the entire world. For a highly educated and well developed mind such as yours, my advice is simply to conquer the mind, control the mind, channelize the mind, and then you actually need no help.
You need to first figure out whether your problem is 1. Inertia or 2. Laziness or 3. Writer’s block. Now, that is for you to introspect, and decide. To me it looks like a combination of inertia and laziness. How do you get out of such a mindset?

Step #1: Let go of the past. This is very important. And difficult. It takes practice. And then more practice. Whatever has gone wrong in the past, whatever didn’t work out the way you intended, let it go! Banish it from your mind and focus on the ‘here and now’. Past failures and rejections will hold you back if you keep dragging them forward. They will inhibit your productive thinking and feelings needed to establish effective solutions and results. Cut those chains. Tell yourself that your future is today onwards.

Step #2: Change the way you think. Our thoughts are governed by our attitudes. Our attitudes influence the actions we take. You need to work on improving the quality of your thoughts. That will automatically impact and improve your ability to take action. Shift from negative thoughts such as, “I can’t reach my goal because I just can’t get started”, to “I have done this before and done this well. This time too I am going to do it. It may take a bit longer but I will do it”. So please guard against negative thoughts. Think positive.

Step #3: Limit your association with negative people. You may not realize it but you may be surrounded by people who always see the glass as half empty. Such people tend to influence the way you think and behave. You would do well to shed such friends, co-workers and even family. This may sound difficult but if you try you can actually limit the time you spend listening to their moans and groans. If faced with a situation where you have to spend time with such negative people, choose instead to read a book or listen to music. But minimize interaction with negativity.

Step #4: Seek out sweat sessions. Sometimes, an effective way to get out of the neighbourhood where blocks like to hang out (our heads!) is to engage in any high intensity activity or exercise. Whether this involves a casual stroll or something more rigorous, anything that gets you into a different environment, preferably one with fresh air and nature, should do the trick. Any activity that will cause you to become present and grounded in the ‘now’ is great for jump-starting your creativity and circumventing mind blocks (e.g. Gym, Yoga, or Dancing?).

Step #5: Change the environment. This is essential to disarm mental blocks that don’t seem to go away. Our brains are pattern making machines, that’s their job, they make patterns based on our thoughts, words and actions. Very often, our blocks result from us getting stuck in an unwanted pattern of thought, which becomes a routine, which eventually becomes an unwanted rut. A great way to ‘reset’ an unwanted rut, which inevitably leads to the same dead-end destination, is to change the environment we have become so used to. Clean up your desk. Add colour, perhaps nice family pictures, to the room you work in. Put in a nice lamp. Perhaps a couple of nice cushions. Change the curtains. It will all help.

Last but not the least, tell yourself you are going to overcome whatever is holding you back. There is great power in auto-suggestion. You are best when you self-help. Yours is not a unique problem. Lots of others suffer from similar issues. So, get out of self-pity and try some of the steps outlined above. I am sure you will come out stronger and happier.

Q. I work for a very small ad agency. The owner is an old friend. His kids have grown up and moved to the US. He too wants to join them there. He wants to either shutdown the agency or wants me to take it for free, and run it here from. We have been in business for nearly 40 years. I have been at the agency for 35 out of those 40 years. We were small, about Rs. 4-5 crore in business with about 8-10 employees. I know and understand the business intimately. I know I can run the business even after my friend leaves. But I am almost 60 years of age. I am just not sure whether at this stage of my life I should turn entrepreneurial. I may not have to pay anything for the business but an agency as small as ours actually lives on the razor’s edge with monies always very tight. There is no real chance of bringing in newer clients or new talent. We just don’t have the ambition or the capacity to invest. My children are also not interested in joining the business. Sooner or later, the business will have to shut. It is only a question of now or later. Do advise.
Madhu K.

Dear Madhu,
The choice is entirely yours: to keep going, or to retire. I agree with you that turning entrepreneur at 60 is not easy. If you have spent all your life being an employee, quite content with your monthly pay cheque and never to be bothered by the pulls and pressures of running a business, taking charge of this small ad agency may not be easy.

I would like to ask you a contra question. If you were to retire today, what are your plans? If you are happy to be just home, spend time with the family, and pursue hobbies perhaps long forgotten, then just take the option to leave and let your friend close the agency. If you have not worked out in your head what you want to do if you exit work, then think about it. I know many professionals who actually miss the work they were doing once they retire. May be you still have 3-5 years of work life left in you to enjoy.

If the risks associated with the agency are not too much, I would recommend you take it over. Your friend is being very kind to hand over the business to you at zero cost. You keeping the agency alive will surely keep your mind occupied (and productive), and you would have done a noble deed in keeping your 8-10 employees gainfully employed. Give it a try. If it all works out, then no sweat. If it doesn’t work out, the business was going to be shut in any case. My feeling is you will succeed. And enjoy the experience. Entrepreneurship can be heady, howsoever late you start. Good luck!

Our columnist, Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.
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Difficult boss running down your work? Stuck in a creative rut? Ask the Doctor!

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Q. I have a big problem with my boss. She tends to always run down my work. In fact she ensures that none of my work gets entered for the awards. If I have no entries, I obviously have no metals. I am very frustrated. My boss is actually very ‘bossy’ and she is not even open to have a conversation on this subject. What can I do?
Ashish J.

Dear Ashish,

I normally counsel patience and dialogue. But there are work situations where this may not be possible. For that you are the best judge.

Also, I do not have a complete picture of the situation you are in. How long has this lady been your boss? Was she always difficult to work with? Is she difficult with everyone or is all her stiffness targeted just at you? Is there, in your understanding, any particular reason for her to run down your work? Is it just in her nature not to be nice to her subordinates, or is she generally negative to her peers too? Many of these questions could help give me a better understanding of your work relationship with your boss.

If the lady is difficult by nature, which means she is difficult with you but she is also difficult with everyone else, then dealing with her becomes easier. At least you know that you are dealing with a monster. My advice in such a case is to outlast the boss. Just sit tight. Think that you have just drawn a bad card and next time around you could have better luck. Just quitting the job and moving on does not necessarily mean that the new boss in the new job will be a nicer person. As they say you cannot choose your parents and your boss. All a matter of luck.

If the lady boss is particularly nasty to you, but more pleasant to others, then you need to have a one-to-one chat with her, howsoever much she may resist. In my experience, ‘bully’ bosses tend to avoid such one-to-one meetings as they have no logical reason to explain either their behavior or their dislikes. Hence, a showdown such as this, normally helps bring down some bit of the animosity especially if the boss discovers that you are not a complete push-over.
Finally, there is always the option to quit. But as I said earlier, that too is a gamble. There is no guarantee that the new boss will be any better.

I suggest you ask your lady boss for a formal appraisal of your work. Drop her a mail so that it is on record. Then follow it up with a verbal request. I think the meeting will not be very pleasant to start with as the lady will try to cow you down but if you are firm and stand your ground, the conversation may become better as it progresses. You may actually find a more amicable relationship taking shape as days go by. If this doesn’t work, you can always ask for an internal transfer. Or quit. But if I were you, I would first have that conversation with the current boss, howsoever much difficult.
Good luck!

Q. I seem to have the equivalent of a writer’s block in my work as an art director. I am just not being able to come up with new ideas or good work. This problem has been going on for almost 3 months now. No one is complaining at work but I know that I am not producing anywhere close to my best. I just have a feeling of helplessness and feel a void when I sit before the computer. My output is therefore very mechanical. I have tried yoga. I have even enrolled for meditation. But so far the results are just the same. Please help.
Pradeep O.

Dear Pradeep,

You are not the first or the last creative guy to have a mental block. This can happen because of fatigue. It can happen because of the drudgery of a boring, repetitive job. Or it can happen because you are stressed at home or with other personal issues.

My first and foremost advice in such a situation is introspection. Only you know what is worrying you or bothering you. If you can identify that cause, the rest becomes comparatively easy. If it is sheer boredom, then the answer is to look for a job change, internally or externally. If it is fatigue, the answer is to take it easy and perhaps go on a holiday. If it is some personal stress, the right thing to do is to try and resolve that personal situation before it hurts your work. You could well say that all of these are generalized and vague pieces of advice. But the reality is that your deliverance is really in your own hands.

Many many years ago, I had a colleague (by the way he was a client servicing guy, not creative) who ran into a problem similar to yours. Every morning he would come to work, and then not feel like doing anything. He would not want to meet the client. Or write a brief. Or chase an art work. He would just sit at his desk, and generally hibernate. One day, he and I had a long chat over lunch.

The next day he applied for a month’s leave. He went and joined music classes. I don’t know what he actually did at the music school but whatever it was, it gave him the necessary release from his personal state of inertia. A month later he was back, charged up and happy. He continued to go for evening guitar classes but at work he was back to being the good servicing guy that he always was.

You have to find that one thing that will rejuvenate you, revive you. This personal panacea varies from individual to individual. Don’t give up on the yoga or the meditation. It will eventually help.

Would recommend you buy and read a book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles. I think this book will give you some interesting insights that may help you in your current predicament.

Unfavourable changes at work forcing you to consider quitting your job? Ask the Doctor

Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.

Dear Sir,

I have been on one client business for five years now. Last week, in an agency-wide reshuffle, I was assigned to a new group and a new set of clients. My earlier client was a large FMCG business. I have now been assigned to one B2B business and to an e-commerce client. I am not comfortable with my new portfolio. Should I quit?

Arundhati P.

Dear Arundhati,

It does take time to adjust to a new client or a new set of clients, especially after you have been on one client for five years. So, there is nothing untoward that is happening to you.

I think what you need is a bit of patience. What you need is to tell yourself that you are going to enjoy the new portfolio of businesses. The first battle is the battle of the mind. You first need to win that.

To me, your e-commerce client seems like an interesting business to be put on to. There is so much to learn, so much to imbibe. If I were you, I would start by reading up everything on e-commerce as a category on the net. Then go to YouTube and check out all the ads in the category. Then spend all the spare time you have at work or outside work, browsing the sites of your client and those of their competition. Also, I would pick some small items from your client’s site and order them just to experience the goodness of the purchase cycle. Try the same with competitor sites. Basically, immerse yourself in the business of your client. In a few days, I am sure you will understand the client’s business far better and want to contribute your learnings and your experiences to the business.

A week is too early to make up your mind that you are not going to enjoy the new businesses that you are on. Give it time. You will settle in.

Dear Sir,

I am 23-years-old. I started out two years ago as a copywriter with my present agency. My work partner was also fresh out of design school. We made a good team. Last month he quit. I was shifted to work with an art director who is almost double my age. Somehow, he does not give me the right vibes. Also, he almost tries to behave like my boss rather than work as a partner. He has very rigid thoughts and tries to impose them on me. I tried having a chat but he brushed me off as a ‘child.’ I don’t want to work with him. My creative director too does not like my partner but considering his seniority in years, he tries to avoid a confrontation. I am caught in a very unhappy situation. What should I do?

Joe M.

Dear Joe,

Not getting along with your work partner is truly an unhappy situation especially so, after your previous partner and you enjoyed good rhythm together. But such is life.

I think part of your problem is that you are ending up comparing the current partner with the earlier one. What is weighing down the comparison all the more is the age factor. Somewhere in your mind just because the new guy you are working with is much older, you have decided that you do not like him. My view is that you are being far too judgmental and have not had an open mind on the issue.

Look at it this way. Maybe working with someone older, will give you a more mature canvas to work with. If the other guy has about as many years of experience, as you have in age, maybe you should work with him wanting to learn more rather than just wanting to be an equal partner.

Many years ago, I moved up to the position of the President of the agency that I worked in at that time. I was barely 35 years of age. With my elevation, I also needed to shift from Delhi where I was based, to Mumbai, where the agency had its headquarters. So, I was in a new (and bigger) assignment and in a new city. In my new position, I had a colleague who was at least 15-18 years older to me. I think at one point he was also in the running for my job but he now had to be satisfied with a position that reported to me. I could have decided to distance myself from someone who was at least a past competitor. But I decided that this older colleague could actually be my mentor in my new job and in a city I was new to. He had the experience and the outreach, also the maturity I lacked as a young President. The older gentleman actually took me under his wings though technically I was his boss. I actually welcomed his sagacity and his being protective of me. The difference in years between us just melted. He and I became great friends. He was a great mentor and a great supporter. He is now retired and settled abroad but we remain in active touch and are good friends to date.

I would recommend you give your older colleague a chance. Show some respect. Show that you are willing to be mentored and guided and that he can be the ‘senior’ partner. I think you will slowly start to enjoy and benefit from the relationship. 

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Ask the Doctor

Insecurity in the workplace due to the idea of AI encroaching on your job, or being sidelined at work because of your small town background? Sandeep Goyal has the right answers to help you deal with workplace woes.

Dear Sir,

I come from a Hindi medium background but went on to do an MBA from a good business school in Mumbai. Despite that, my vernacular origins have kind of stuck with me. This is my second agency job. In both the jobs, I have been assigned to Indian family businesses, actually SMEs rather than the large multinational accounts at the agency.

I am beginning to develop an inferiority complex. As far as I can see, I speak good English. My accent is fine. My body language is good. I dress well. I look good. I have my own car.

But I am being accorded a second-class citizen status and I think it is only because of my Hindi medium background. I feel very humiliated
I have a colleague. She is Anglo-Indian, I think Goan but now from somewhere in Bandra. She is always dressed in Western clothes and speaks only English with some occasional toota-foota Hindi. The moment she joined, she was assigned to our largest global business. And she is not even an MBA.
All of this discrimination rankles me. I have tried to have a chat with my boss but he thinks it is all just in my mind and that all accounts are important to the agency. In fact, the ‘local’ clients are tougher to handle, hence need a more-experienced hand like me. To me, it is only sweet talk.

My frustration is reaching a point of no return. What are my options?

Shambhu N.

Dear Shambhu,

I would recommend you read my book, ‘The Dum Dum Bullet’. It is available online and at most good bookstores. I wrote the Dum Dum in 2004 and it covered my personal journey in advertising from when I started as a rookie to when I became India’s highest paid professional CEO.

I did not come from a Hindi medium background but my small town origins were equally disadvantageous. I had no issues with the English language; in fact, I am a gold medalist in English literature. Also, I did my MBA from one of India’s best business schools. Hence, it has many similarities with your profile.

In the Dum Dum, I actually describe my frustration at being assigned to what you call ‘local’ family business type of clients when I joined HTA-Delhi. I was put on to a small textile mill account, ‘Bhilwara,’ in a back-of-beyond place by the same name in Rajasthan. I was also assigned to handle ‘Gagan’ vanaspati from Rajpura, about 250 km from Delhi. This was a product of Amrit Banaspati Company, a family concern. HTA-Delhi was in those days one of the biggest agency offices in India and handled a large part of Nestle and HMM (now Glaxo Smithkline,) the two largest and most visible multinational accounts in Delhi. I was given no part of either of these multinational businesses.

I would travel to Bhilwara once a month by the overnight train. Sometimes more often. The folks at Bhilwara were perhaps not as sophisticated but there I met a young Marketing Head, Mr. Sunil Chaddha with whom I built up a good rapport. Because of my intense servicing of the business, my desire to understand the client’s marketing issues, my good equation with Mr. Chaddha, his growing confidence in me, my ability to deliver good advertising and the mutual understanding that we were starting to build up, Bhilwara started to grow as an account. The client gave me a lot of respect and freedom. I gave the client my best. Bhilwara moved from being a down-market cheap textile brand to an aspirational, top-of-the-league ‘worsted’ range under a new ‘BSL’ brand name. But most importantly, I made lifelong friends with Mr. Chaddha who now lives and works in Dubai.

Moral of the story is that ‘local’ businesses are not really bad businesses to handle, provided you go in without a bias in your mind. In fact, when I quit HTA, the Bhilwara business moved with me to Trikaya (now Grey.) Quite an achievement for a young account supervisor and testimony to the fact that if you serve a client well, he will reciprocate.

Some years later I went to work for a small agency called Interact Vision, a part of Mudra. Interact was totally dedicated to handling small Indian entrepreneurs and participating in their big dreams. At Interact, I helped launch Symphony air-coolers for Achal Bakeri, a young architect turned entrepreneur. Symphony became a market leader in no time. I worked with Piruz Khambatta at Rasna. I worked with Narayan Bhai and his son Darshan Bhai Patel at Paras on Moov and D’Cold. I worked with Rajiv Manglani at Meena Bazaar. I worked with Chhimi Dorji at Bhutan Board. Every single entrepreneur was unique. Each one ambitious. Each one sought out my talent and used it to the fullest. Most of these brands remain market leaders even today, after 25 years. And most of these clients remain my close personal friends.

So, Indian clients are not bad to handle. Either as work or on your CV. Your boss may be trying to placate you by telling you that you have been put on to ‘local’ businesses as you are better and more experienced. Believe me, he is actually correct.

Last but not the least, after having worked to make Bhilwara a success back at HTA-Delhi, I went to see my boss and asked to be put on to Nestle. I did not want to be moved off Bhilwara. I wanted to handle Nestle too. My boss had no choice but to oblige. I was given the Maggi sauces account. I went on to handle one of the biggest FMCG launches ever. Finally, I was the chosen one when the Horlicks (HTA’s biggest single account) came available. And I look back and know it was all because of a small brand called Bhilwara out of Rajasthan.

So, don’t lose hope. Your time will come. Enjoy your current businesses. Excel at them. The multinats will queue up in due course. And for God’s sake, let the Goan lady not worry you. She is in any case not to blame for anything you may think is happening to you, good or bad.

Dear Sir,

Will AI and blockchain actually rob me of my job? I read all these articles in media and get pressurized. I am 40+ without an MBA. I joined advertising at 18. I learnt and grew on the job and grasped all the new tricks of the game as they came along.

But to be honest, all this talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and similar stuff scares me. It all seems so complicated and unreal. But experts in the business say these technologies are now at our doorstep. I just feel very uneducated and inadequate.

I have considered joining Coursera but find the content of the courses very challenging.

Do you think the challenge of technology is actually as real as everyone makes it out to be? At least in India, at least in my own work environment, it all seems far away. But then I could be mistaken and that is what is giving me sleepless nights.

Jacob P.

Dear Jacob,

Technology will encroach the advertising business. Whether sooner or later, I do not know.

Media buying and in a way the design business and the film business are becoming more and more machine-dependent. And technology-dependent. And software-dependent. And dependent on algorithms and machine logic. So, it has started. The acceleration is a function of time.

Will your job be affected? Right away, no. Medium-term maybe. Long-term surely. So, AI, IoT, Blockchain, Cloud, etc. are no longer terms from some distant thunder. They are clouds that may rain tomorrow morning. You have no choice but to carry an umbrella to work.

I am much older than you are. I wrote the CAT exam when I was 50 years old. I managed a very good score and have spent the past five years doing my PhD from one of India’s best B-schools.

So, it is never too late to start. Learning has to be a continuous process even when you start to work. So do not get overwhelmed by Coursera. They are obviously a little tough at first, but I am sure you will get a hang of them soon.

I checked for options for you. There are many courses in India with both online and off-line components. You could choose Blockchain courses from those offered by Simplilearn, Edureka, Intellipat, CollaberaTact, MindMajix, Nobleprog, NareshIT, TekSlate, Kelly Technologies or Open Source Technologies. All of them come with good credentials and good recommendations. Details should be available on the net.

As far as courses in AI are concerned, local options in India include courses like the PG Diploma in Machine Learning and AI – offered by Upgrad and IIIT-B, Foundations of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by IIIT Hyderabad, Master of Technology in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Hyderabad, M.Tech. Computer Science Specialization In Artificial Intelligence conducted by UPES, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Training run by Techtrunk, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Training in Hyderabad organized by AnalyticPath, Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree conducted by Udacity, Artificial Intelligence Training- a Zekelabs course, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) scripted and run by myTectra, Artificial intelligence & Machine Learning Training in Bangalore mentored by Zenrays. This is of course not an exhaustive list. I am sure there are other options.

Go enroll in one of these courses. It will do you a world of good. Especially to your self-confidence. Good luck!

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This week, Sandeep Goyal has all the answers be it quitting your secure job and starting your own business or even being overworked and under-appreciated in your work sphere

Dear Sir,
I have been working at a very large ad agency for the past 8 years now. I am an art director by training and am now a Creative Director. Most of the work I do these days is in film. I have done over 50 commercials by now besides a lot of documentaries, training films, audio-visuals and more. Besides scripting and ideation, by now I have learnt a lot of cinematography and film craft. I am especially very good with editing and graphics.
I have a very close friend who is in client servicing in my agency itself. He is
an MBA but is very good with music. He and I have done at least a dozen
commercials together and have great vibes as a team.
My friend and I want to start a film production house together. Our only fear is whether we will get enough business. So far while I did all the work on the
film, I never had to go looking for a client or go looking for an assignment.
My friend who will be my partner is also not very senior and does not have the outreach to get business from clients. If we get the assignments, I am sure we will be able to do a good job.
What do you think?
Arun V.

Dear Arun,
I think setting up a film production house with your friend is a good idea. You seem to have the necessary exposure and experience. Your friend and you also seem to have complementary skills and as a combination you could do well together. There have been many past examples of agency colleagues coming together to form partnerships and then have a good innings together in a film production unit.
I can readily recall the example of the now famous film producer Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (of Rang De Basanti and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag fame) who used to work at Ulka Delhi. He was a client servicing guy. At Ulka, Mehra worked with a young copywriter called Vikram Oberoi. Together they worked on the famous, ‘Fill-it-Shut-it-Forget-it’ campaign for Hero Honda in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Mehra and Oberoi earned a lot of accolades for their work. They decided to partner together and set up a film production unit. They were immensely successful together till they parted and went their respective ways some years later. So, a partnership between a good servicing guy and a good creative guy can lead to good results.
As far as scouting for new business is concerned, your first hunting ground should be the agency that you currently work for. If your interpersonal relationships internally are fine, your current colleagues can be your biggest source of business. They know you. They know your talent. They know your competence. More importantly they know that you know the culture and clients of your current agency. My belief is if you handle it right, your current colleagues, the other creative directors at your agency will support you. Work on that.
Also, list out all colleagues who may have left your agency in the last few years and moved to other agencies. Worth visiting each one of them and telling them that you are setting up on your own, and need their support. You will be surprised by how many will actually help.
Last but not the least, go talk to all the producers you have worked with in producing the 50 commercials you say you have been involved with so far. Do not see them as competition. Instead see them as friends and mentors. Many of them may have projects offered to them which they cannot handle either due to pre-occupation or other prior commitments. They may pass these opportunities on to you. Of course, much depends on relationships.
Leads for work can come from anywhere. A young friend of mine who launched off on his own, got a project lead from the music director of one of his earlier projects who tipped him off on a new commercial for a client he was currently working on. Networking in the film business is very very important. Another youngster got his first project with the help of the equipment rental company. A client asked the head-honcho of the rental firm for references. This youngster’s name popped up.
Go for it. There is enough opportunity out there. Work will happen. Especially if you are good. 

Dear Sir,
One of the Account Directors in my agency quit recently. As one of the senior
Account Group Managers, I was handed over his portfolio of clients, in addition to the work I was already handling. This has been so for almost 3 months now. I took on the responsibility, and the challenge, believing that either this would be a temporary arrangement, or I would get promoted to Account Director. Neither has happened and I am really over burdened.
I am not being able to service the clients I already had because in the new portfolio I need to travel at least once a week to Pune and that takes away a full day. Also, one of my Account Executives has quit and I have no replacement. I have tried speaking to my VP but he tries to shrug off the matter every time we discuss it. I am now getting worried about both client satisfaction and timely deliveries at work.
Since ours is a fairly large office, there is a big fat layer of top management. I kind of hesitate to bring up my problems beyond the VP but as of now it seems no one is aware of my work load, or cares about my future.
I am very anxious and increasingly getting depressed. Do advise.
Ashwin P.

Dear Ashwin,
Work never killed anyone. It is all in your mind.
If I were you, I would take the enhanced work responsibilities with a smile and run with them. Your VP may be evasive but he has no choice but to reward you with a bigger title and better compensation if you deliver with the increased work load. You can be sure he is watching, and so is the rest of your agency management. Hence cribbing or crying will not be of any use. On the other hand, delivering the work to satisfactory levels despite a heavier load will get you rewarded, sooner rather than later.
What is happening to you has been happening in advertising for years and years. The first thing to realize is that agencies load extra work only on to those that they think can shoulder the extra load. The second thing to understand and appreciate is that those who succeed with the extra work assigned to them become fast-trackers in this industry.
Advertising works on the principle of the stress test. You pass the stress test and your future is bright. You don’t take the stress well enough, you are consigned to the rubbish bin. Simple.
As a budding youngster you must also realize that when you think you are not on the management radar, it is not necessarily true. Most managements watch the progress of young hi-potential managers quite closely without letting them know they are being watched, lest they come under pressure. The right thing to do is to give them higher levels of responsibility (and authority), and then let them function without too much visible supervision. It helps young talent do their best without fear of failure.
Think of yourself as ‘the chosen one’ rather than ‘the damned one’. Work hard. Enjoy the work. Results and fruits of the hard work will automatically follow. That much faith you have to have in ‘karma’.
So, buck up. Get yourself better organized.
For a while, just grin-and-bear it. Then it will soon be time to gin-and-beer it!

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Ask The Doctor

Boss trouble? Overworked? Should you shift jobs or no? Sandeep Goyal answers all this and more in this week's column

Dear Sir,

I have been working with a boss for the last five years. He changed jobs three years ago and I moved with him. Again, last year he decided to shift and I shifted with him. He has now decided to move to a new job again and has arranged to take me along. Of course, the designation and the money are better but I am very happy with my current job. It’s a big agency and I am on a large multinational business which gives me a lot of exposure. My boss is 10 years older than me and somehow in a hurry to become an agency head even if it means moving to a really small outfit. The one he is headed to and where he wants me to join him is much smaller than our current employer and with clients who are of no comparison to the ones we work on currently.

I want to tell my boss that this time I will not shift with him but I feel he will get very angry and misunderstand my intentions and reasons. I really respect and admire my boss but this one time, I want to take my own decisions.

Do you agree with my decision not to follow my boss into his new assignment? And how do I tell him that I am not coming along?

Rahul M.

Dear Rahul,

I kind of agree with your decision not to follow your boss into his new assignment. If you are in a good agency, working with a good client and are not dissatisfied with the current job, there is no real need to look outside. Just because your current boss, a good boss you have followed around for some years, has other plans and ambitions; it should not automatically impact your life.

Having said that, let us look at it from the perspective of your boss. He obviously attributes some of your growth in the profession to his mentorship. And that may actually be true. That he has taken care of you every time he has moved also means that he is fond of you and trusts you as a team member. That brings in the element of loyalty. This loyalty is actually two-ways. He has so far exhibited his part of the loyalty by arranging a place (with better designation and better pay) for you too, every time he has planned to move. Obviously, he expects you to reciprocate. It may be an unfair expectation but he thinks it is only keeping your end of the bargain. Partly true, partly not true.

Have you had a chat with your boss? Have you asked him his motivations for moving to a much smaller agency? If you are that close to him, despite the 10 years age gap, it may be fair to ask him this question. It may also explain perspectives on the new job that you may not have thought about. It is also possible that in the course of discussion, you may get your boss to see the futility of moving on so quickly, that too to a job/company that may not have a long-term promise. I suggest you have that chat. It will help.

Should you decide not to have the above chat for what so ever reasons; to avoid an unpleasant situation, why don’t you write an email to your boss telling him that this time you may not want to move jobs alongside him. Why I’m suggesting that is simply for matters not to get uncomfortable or emotional face to face. In your email, suggest that both of you meet and chat. The mail will take the sting out of your rejection.

Dear Sir,

I work for an event management company. The work is enjoyable but very tiring. Unlike my friends in ad agencies and media agencies, my hours are much longer and my work involves a lot of physical energy. I am at work sites from dawn to dusk. In fact, through the night, when the sets are going up and rehearsals are taking place. I am also on red alert during the actual event. I just feel very fatigued with my work. Should I move to another business? I hesitate for two reasons. First, because I have worked only in event management all along. Two, the money is better here. There is a third reason also. I get to travel a lot, which I like.

Do let me know what do you think.

Shipra S.

Dear Shipra,

These are the perils of the job. Long hours at work are today becoming a part of almost every job. So just moving to an ad agency or to a media agency may not make life easier.

What you have not said in the mail above is if you are careful about your diet and the timing of your meals. This could have a lot of bearing on your health. With your kind of a job, it is not easy to maintain a healthy diet. More so, to keep tabs on your meals. Making sure both these are addressed suitably, could partially help in getting you to feel fitter and healthier.

And there is, of course, the need for good physical regimen and exercise to keep fit. Even if there is no gymnasium where you may be working, in most places, there is always somewhere you can go for a jog. Do that. Without fail.

When you feel healthier and fitter, many of your work-related lows will surely go away. 
Your problem is not your work. I think it is your current lifestyle where you are not doing enough to look after yourself. Do that and other issues will resolve themselves on their own.

Good luck!

Dear Sir,

There are a lot of my colleagues who are going to the Goa Fest. I have not been selected to go. Should I just take a leave from work and go? Will it be misunderstood by my agency management?

Joe C.

Dear Joe,

If I were you, I wouldn’t take leave from work and go attend Goa Fest in your personal capacity. It will send out all the wrong signals at work. Not worth doing it.

There will always be Goa Fest next year. If they did not send you this year, they will surely send you next year. No point getting worked up about it.

Scooting off on your own is actually easy to do but your boss or your management may see this as a kind of unnecessary cocking a snook. It may jeopardize your position in the agency. Such things are not normally taken kindly. As I said before, best to avoid.
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Ask The Doctor

What to do if you are an Indian whistleblower caught in a global ad fraud speculation or need to join a company that was supposed to take over your current company but didn't? Sandeep Goyal answers...

Dear Sir,

Our television network is small but we specialize in some genres and excel in them. But we have been in all kinds of financial trouble for the last couple of years. Then, towards the end of last year, one of the larger television networks stepped in to buy us out. While the due diligence process was in progress, the new owners also sent in some senior managers to start the process of integration and to relook at our entire working processes. Though I am quite junior in the company, I caught the attention of the representatives of the new owners and was assigned new responsibilities far higher than I was doing earlier. The due diligence process meanwhile ran into problems and the buyout deal got de-railed. Earlier this month, it was called off.

Now that old management has again taken over the daily running of the company and I have been relegated to my old job. I tried to contact the seniors of the company that were trying to buy us out and I have been offered a job in that larger network. My current employers have come to know of this and I have been threatened with legal action if I leave. I am both very confused and very scared. I come from a very poor background and do not have the money or resources to fight a big company. At the same time, I am no longer enjoying my old job as I had got used to the more challenging and wide role.

Please advise.

Madhusudan P.

Dear Madhusudan,

I can both sympathize and empathize with your situation. But whatever you do, you have to proceed with caution so that you do not fall between two stools.

The relevant part of your question to me is that you have a job offer from the larger network but are being threatened with legal proceedings by your current employers.

The first thing you need to ascertain from your potential new employers is that they did not have a ‘no-poaching’ clause in their take over deal with your current employers. Normally, such a clause would exist in any take over situation especially if there is a due-diligence period where the buyers would have access to current employees of the seller company. The ‘no-poaching’ clause ensures that if the deal does not go through, then the potential buyer does not deliberately denude the targeted company by enticing/attracting the seller’s employees, leaving the seller devoid of talent. I suspect your current employers would have had some such protection in their sale agreement with your new employers and would use the same to go after you, should you decide to quit and join the other side.

You may also want to read up your own appointment letter which may have a ‘non-compete’ clause prohibiting you to join another television channel for a specified period of time. My experience is that courts have not really supported these one-sided ‘non-compete’ clauses for junior staff in most of the litigations on the subject but do not forget that irrespective of the outcome of such legal actions if you end up in court, your time and resources will be drained.

Another possible ground for your current employers to prevent you from joining the new organization could be your being privy to sensitive and confidential data and demand a ‘cooling’ from you. This is more applicable to your new employers as failed suitors for your current company than to you as an individual, but a smart lawyer can make life miserable for you in any case if your current employers decide that you have ‘stolen’ company data to take to competitors. I have known this to happen and though the final outcome favoured the employee, there was a lot of harassment and nastiness in the entire episode.

My advice to you is to ask your new employers if they will stand by you in case of a legal situation and look after your legal costs. My guess is ‘no.’ One, you may not be senior enough for them to stick their neck out especially after the failed take over/buyout bid which may have many clauses with serious repercussions. Two, they will want to avoid a legal situation in any case.

Your best bet is to take up an assignment with another employer for a short while, with the consent and buy-in of your new employer, on the understanding that you will join them after a bit of ‘cooling.’ This circumvention could well be arranged by your new employer itself as they are a large network and could get you fixed up with one of their vendors or associates for a while, provided of course they believe you are worth all the bother. This is not an uncommon or an unethical practice. It just helps everyone ‘cool’ down and avoids legal options from being ignited.

Dear Sir,

Of late, I have noticed that a lot of digital buying that we are doing on behalf of a particular client is being done in a very hush-hush manner. I think a lot of ad fraud is happening, including a lot of fictitious use of ad bots. I think the client is fully involved in what is being done. A separate team has been taken out to just handle this client. So, it means that the top management of my company is complicit too in what is being done.

I am neither part of the team that services this client, nor am I in the same department that does the digital buying. But in the course of my own work, I am well aware of what is going on because my function in finance also deals with internal audit. I did mention that something was amiss to my boss but he said I should not waste my time poking my nose into matters that did not concern me.

I am very uncomfortable with the situation. The top management of the client at least needs to know what is happening. It is a global client.

What should I do?

Rupa S.

Dear Rupa,

Whistleblowers in this country are still not looked upon very favourably.

Before you make any move, level any accusations or initiate any dialogue, make sure that the information you have is 100 per cent accurate and unimpeachable. What you are alleging is corporate fraud and that is a serious matter.

The accusation that the client and your agency management are complicit in perpetuating this fraud is an even more serious allegation. If it involves a global company, then it has even more sinister and serious cross-border implications. Frankly, an agony-aunt column is not the forum to discuss such serious matters.

You have really two choices as I see them. One, follow your boss’s advice. Shut your eyes. Look away. Keep quiet and mind your own business. A safe choice for now. At least until the time you are 100 per cent sure that ad fraud is actually happening. That may involve more digging from your side and may warn the fraudsters and get them to cover their tracks or suspend their activities.

Your second choice is a one-way street. Escalating the issue openly or confidentially or even anonymously is sure to impact your job, including being asked to leave if the eventual investigation does not support your allegations.

You may want to discuss this with your family and a good lawyer if you really want to proceed in the matter. Please fully understand the repercussions of your proposed actions. Sometimes matters of conscience need to be fully weighed too for their fullest consequences as lots of reputations and legalities are involved. Not for a moment am I suggesting that you should not follow the path of righteousness, but all that I am stressing is that taking any precipitate action in a matter like this must take into account 1. Why are you doing it? 2.What will you achieve? 3.Why will anyone listen to you? 4.What if your allegations are not proved? 5.What if the whistleblowing actually works to your professional detriment and you are labelled as ‘unreliable’? And of course, there is always the issue of defamation involved if you are proved to be wrong in your allegations.

Think before you leap.

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Ask the Doctor

Sandeep Goyal on making the right career choice, becoming an entrepreneur, data theft and more, in this week's column

Dear Sir, 
I'm pursuing my final year of Bachelors in Visual Communication. I will be completing my degree in the next month and hence it's crucial for me to make career decisions now.

I'm interested in branding, media management and public relations. I also want to establish my career in broadcasting in the near future. I have already done an internship in PR for a period of 45 days.

I wanted to ask you if it's possible to get started in PR and branding at the same time. Because PR and branding are two different streams. I know it may be challenging or difficult to establish a career in both the fields at the same time, but these are my passions and I want to take these up as professions.

Should I take either of these first and later jump on to the other or start working on both of them in the beginning itself? Also from a salary package perspective, which field is more rewarding and demanding?

If possible, can you also throw light on entrepreneurial opportunities in both?

Please help me in this regard.

Shashank B.

Dear Shashank,

You seem like a nice and ambitious boy to me who wants to achieve a lot in the shortest possible time. Ambition is certainly good to have. But it is important to channelize your ambitions and calibrate your expectations.

Marketing, branding, PR; are all interconnected. But unless you get to be top management, you cannot do all of them in a day’s work. For now, you have to decide which one to join and stick to that field. PR is a good starting point, more so since you have done your internship in that domain. But be clear that you should not look to make a switch in six months or a year. If you join PR, plan to stay there for at least three to five years so that you learn the business and hopefully excel at it.

Moving from PR to branding (which I think you mean advertising) will not be easy. All domains are getting to be specialist functions and switching from one to the other is not very doable. With a visual arts background, you should be actually in art direction. Or is it that the course is called visual arts but they broadly teach advertising and communication?

Your future plans to move to broadcasting are even more confusing. Career planning is not like partaking in a buffet where you can have a little of everything as per your taste and move on. Career choices have to be taken with some thought and then stuck to. If you eventually want to be in broadcasting, then do not waste time in PR or advertising. Look for a job at a TV channel or a production house.

Just make up your mind.

I think the last part of your question is on entrepreneurial choices in the future. The answer to that is simply that going into business on your own is always an option. But it is better to gain experience at someone else’s cost before you get started on your own. Also what size of business you will end up building will depend on capital employed, your outreach in the trade and the amount of hard work you put in.

My advice to you is to focus on the choices at hand. Take a piece of paper and write down the plusses and minuses of all the options. Choose what seems like your most preferred option. Apply for and get a good opening. Then endeavour to do your best on the job. That way you will learn and grow.

All the best!

Dear Sir,

I have debated with myself on whether to ask you this question as it will get published and noticed. Finally, I decided I must get the matter off my chest. 

I have a colleague who works with me in the media department. For the last few months, I have noticed that he has started freelancing. He stays late and then uses all the media databases in the agency. Most of them cannot be accessed remotely because of firewall protections and he has no choice but to work surreptitiously within the office. I think what he is doing is completely unethical. In fact, he left a trail on the machines last week and I figured that he is actually doing planning and analysis on a brand that directly competes with a brand we handle. He therefore literally stole all the analysis done on the category almost table by table.

I have wanted to report him to our media head but I know that he has family issues and needs more money. But I think stealing company data is very wrong.

I can warn him on a personal basis but that may lead to unpleasantness.

Please advise.

Tanmay J.

Dear Tanmay,

You are being wise and conscientious in surfacing this problem.

Your colleague is doing something that is not ethical. It needs to be reported to your seniors. But before doing that it is only fair that you have a chat with the erring colleague. If you do it right, there will be no unpleasantness. Just tell the guy that you have been noticing what he has been doing. You know that his freelance is actually nothing short of stealing from the company. And that he needs to stop forthwith. If he stops right away, you shall treat the matter as closed. If he persists, you will have no choice but to report the matter to the agency management. I think your colleague will get the message. If he doesn’t, I think it would only be right to report the matter. Stealing data is serious stuff.

The problem that you are witnessing is nothing new. This is a malice frequently faced by many organizations without being actually detected. It is bold and ethical of you to decide to confront the issue. Data theft in India is becoming a menace. Most organizations do not have enough security protocols to prevent unethical employees from thieving.

Before you finally report the matter, that is if you have to, just make sure you have enough evidence to nail your stealing colleague. If you take the matter head-on, be fully armed with evidence. And do it before you confront your colleague lest he tries to cover his tracks and make you look foolish.

Dear Sir,

Annual increments and promotions will be announced in early April. In our agency, no proper appraisal system is followed. Most of the increments and promotions are based on the assessment of the superior manager.

I have been with this agency for three years. My increase every year has been average. On the other hand, I believe I am a good performer and my only misfortune has been that my bosses have been changing very frequently and that has worked to my disadvantage.

Will it look improper if I tell my boss that I need to be formally appraised and that I should be adequately rewarded with a good increment and a promotion this year?

Anupam J.

Dear Anupam,
There is nothing improper in asking your boss for an appraisal. It is a matter of right within any organization to be given an annual appraisal. Unfortunately, in most organizations, HR practices are either not strong enough or rigorous enough to allow an employee a fair chance at self-appraisal followed by a meticulous rating by the boss.

Before you ask for the appraisal, get yourself fully prepared with what you are going to say in your support and favour. Identify achievements, focus on successes, point out occasions where you have gone beyond the call of duty and of course, highlight any positive client feedback and awards.

My only word of caution is not to expect too much from this appraisal. If the organization does not have a robust HR culture, then such appraisals end up most times being cosmetic and superficial. So don’t be disappointed if after the appraisal too, nothing much comes out of it. Nevertheless, no harm going through the motions. You have nothing to lose really.

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