When I describe the book “101 myths & realities @ the office” as ‘manageable’ it is neither meant to be a poor pun nor an underhand slight. That descriptor, along with ‘accessible’ have been so often used that they tend to take pole position in reviews that have little positive to say about the work they are reviewing. Here, that is not the case. Rai’s hard-won advice, along with his level-headed approach to problem solving, presented itself to this inexperienced English-language student without a moment of impenetrability or condescension.
In a series of important yet simply-written sections (given titles such as ‘promotion’ and ‘working relationships’) Utkarsh Rai has taken his extensive experience of the business world and remembered it. Remembered being at the bottom, maintained perspective while near the top and explained the different points of view to us at home. Having read Rai’ detailed yet neutral descriptions of trials and tribulations of working in a hierarchy and his short, easy-to-understand solutions for each, it is easy to see why Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (the CMD of Biocon) has recommended it “to every organization to use as a reference manual”. I read the book in one sitting, immersing myself in Rai’s reasoned approach to failure and success. However, it would be just as useful to come in – perhaps redfaced and fuming upon hearing the difference between your salary and layabout-Johnson’s from the next cubicle – and, once you had cooled off, throw yourself into your most comfortable chair and look up your problem (it is almost guaranteed to be covered). Having read the appropriate section I am willing to predict what my reaction would be. I will be annoyed. Annoyed because the answer presented to me is the answer – plain, simply put and unavoidable. Annoyed that there is no wiggle-room, no scope for misinterpreting Rai to mean “you’re right the world is against you” or “he’s probably related to the boss” or anything other than “this is what you perceive, this is what is happening and this is how to fix it”. Annoyed that I was so furious before and annoyed that I can no longer be that way (because there are few things more pleasurable than a nice bout of indignation). Annoyed that the answer presented to me makes so much damn sense. I will be annoyed that I can no longer be blissfully ignorant of what I actually need to do to remedy my erstwhile ire and then I’ll hopefully set about fixing it.
You may be quite aware that I am in no position to judge the complete effectiveness of such a business-manual. That has been done already – by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Som Mittal and Nandan Nilekani, three business leaders that certainly are in such a position (not to mention Rai’s personal portfolio). However, I can vouch for ‘accessibility’ and ‘manageability’ the two terms I am reclaiming for this review. No longer will they insinuate that something is lacking in content or unambitious – here they will mean clearly presented, unmistakably useful and infuriatingly insightful. So yes, Utkarsh Rai’s book 101 Myths & Realities @ the Office – condensing his twenty-plus years of business experience into 283 pages – is both manageable and accessible