The Corporate Orphan Syndrome !

9–10 hours a day. That is roughly about 50% of the time spent in office. There are stories of happiness, sorrow, anger and a bucket full of emotions that people go through at office. Most of these are captured in articles on management, leadership etc. A lot has been written about the introvert as well but not much on the orphan. I think it is an important topic to cover even though this may seem like a pessimist post. I was discussing this with a friend. His view was that work is a small part of life and it is important to be clinical about the ups and downs that come with the job. While I partly agree with his view but I think it will be difficult for people who are passionate about their jobs to be clinical about the journey. The Corporate Orphan Syndrome is something that is not nearly clinical. I don’t know if there is such a syndrome that exists but it is my way of expressing based on my observations of people and their stories related to work.

What is COS? It is a feeling where one feels like an orphan without any career anchors. This has led to depression in some cases. Based on the conversations with many people, this is prevalent in the middle management layer. These are people who have been extremely busy delivering and have not had the time to build anchors. They view their anchors to be immediate managers whereas that has not been the case for them. When I spoke to all these people, there were few cases of false positives where the problem was different than their own assumptions. But few of them had genuine issues and were starting to hinge on depression. The scenarios were no different than we see in people management. The top issues were:

Lack of recognition of their skills from immediate and skip level supervisors

Lack or absence of communication on their career paths from the managers/organizational representatives

Gross underutilization of their skills leading them to doubt their own capabilities

Absence of anchors with respect to career

So these issues do seem like regular ones but with a deep impact. So what was missing to resolve this situation? There are some approaches that come to mind as I have dealt with all these in my past delivery experience.

The first route of letting the manager know that there is an issue and following the protocol ( skip level, HR) to resolve the problem at hand. Is this syndrome also caused due to a change in role or being newly promoted. The cause can also be absence of immediate career change opportunities relevant to the skill set that an individual wants to pursue.

I have mentioned about career anchors multiple times. To me they are your go to people who have experience and can steer you in the right direction with respect to career. I always thought managers were supposed to be playing those roles but I have found that not everyone wants to play this role. Most of them want to stick to the deliverables and do their bit. But somebody has to tell you that “you have talent and I will help you wherever I can” to these people. Sometimes that’s all they need. It is not a big deal to solve this problem. They need someone who is genuinely interested and believes in them. The rest will be taken care by hard work and determination. They need someone to just hear them out and provide some direction.

If you spot one of these people, then adopt them. The joy of seeing them succeed is what no hike can provide. I have had the privilege of helping a few and am happy to see them shine in their own potential.

As always, the opinions and references are purely personal.

This was published in my personal blog initially.