Monday, November 30, 2015

Social obligations and professionalism



You must have experienced being assigned to do tasks and your name being put into committees without your consent. When making a program, many times we do not approach people before printing their names in the program. When organizing an event, we do not request people first before assigning them as in-charge of this or that. And when you see your name being printed and distributed, you feel ‘socially obligated’ to carry out the assignment. This is the way things work. If we ask people beforehand, they may refuse, so we first print their names.   

If you feel socially obligated and carry out the work well, chances are that you will be assigned more and more in the days and years to come. We ought to do our best whatever assignment we are given to do. But when such assignments become unlimited and uncontrolled, things can go wrong. We see people hopping from one meeting to the other. One can be so occupied with attending meetings, organizing programs and events, involving in this committee and that union works, and end up having no time for family or doing one’s primary work/vocation. If we are not focused and are involved in too many activities, chances are that the quality of our work will go down. 

To excel in one’s profession, there is a need for detachment. We need detachment from external disturbances so that we can focus and concentrate on our professions. But the way our society is, it is so hard to detach ourselves from the many social obligations. If some people do not show up for some social events, people start to talk behind their back. So, many times, we have to say ‘Yes’ when we want to say ‘No’.

We end up having people who are generalists but without any specialty. We produce mediocre and average people who are not excellent at anything. For example, a person may be a middle ranked government employee. He is also a wedding steward, treasurer of a youth organization, assistant general secretary of village welfare union, in-charge of accommodation for a church mission conference, and so on besides the many unofficial family responsibilities. We produce a lot of average ‘Jacks’ who know a little bit of this and that, and are in shortage of ‘Masters’, people who are really good at their trade and are known by it.   

We also end up trying to fit square pegs in round holes. I sometimes am assigned duties for which I have neither the training nor the experience. For instance, not all have the gift of public speaking. But if someone is rich enough, we make them speakers. Our chief guest speeches are generally awful. We overwhelm talented people to do all sorts of unrelated and irrelevant things and do not allow them to develop in a focused area.  

A friend in a city said that he was sometimes threatened by his tribesmen for not being active in the tribe’s activities. They asked him silly questions like, ‘who will carry your dead body home?’ But he was not deterred. His focus in his calling made him to excel and he has become the person to go to, when it comes to his line of work. The courage to say ‘No’ when we want to say ‘No’ is not easy because of the many social implications. But refusal to toe the line of the society has become a necessity if we want to excel at anything. Our society should also learn to allow the space for people who need detachment, be it a government office worker, thinker, entrepreneur, artist, writer, or a farmer so that he/she should engage his undivided attention to excel in his/her trade. It is for the good of everyone that we have quality people over quantity.

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