Family Business: Tensions and Disharmony rise proportionately
with rise in Uncertainty and Stagnation…A True Story
(Raju Swamy: September 14, 2009)
There were eight people in an elevator of a well-known multi-storied commercial building of again a well-known city. These eight people worked for different organizations but were familiar to each other because the daily routine of morning entry and evening exit was almost the same, every day. Not necessarily together in the same elevator.
On a normal end-of-a-busy-day evening, between Floors 13 and 14, the elevator stopped. Elevator stopping in-between floors had happened before, but for a few seconds only, and not very often. So not really a problem: it was 5.43 pm. At 5.43, the Elevator Group, as we will now identify them, was a reasonably happy lot. End of a normal stressful work day, and hopefully, the beginning of a de-stressing evening and night before another normal stressful tomorrow. They were quiet, and expectant.
At 5.45, the elevator had not moved. The alarm switch was pressed. Mobiles did not work in the elevator. The Elevator Group now spontaneously reacted with mutual hope and encouragement: “these things happen, you know. I was stuck like this last year and……we came out….there had been a minor short circuit which had been set right…etc.”
It was now 5.48. There had been no response to their pressing the alarm button. No re-assuring noises outside. Fortunately, the elevator light was on. Still an atmosphere of mutual hope, but fidgety.
At 5.51, the first signs of enquiring restlessness: “what was wrong….never happened for this long….,”etc.
At 5.52, a Leader of the Elevator Group emerged, from among the eight. Cheerful, bubbling, comforting, experienced, knowledgeable, definite….made everybody feel that the situation was absolutely normal in such a circumstance. Yes, a little discomfort, but not to worry. Motivated some small chat, smiles, and even laughter.
The minutes now seemed to get longer.
At 5.58, the Leader was looked up to expectantly for an answer. He had none. In fact he was irritated at people expecting him to know everything!
There were no other claims to Leadership.
At 6.01, the Elevator Group was Leaderless, Answerless, Hope-less: is this …. elevator going to move? When??
At 6.06, there was universal unhappiness, that such tough luck had befallen all of ‘them’: The Elevator Group. Mutual Sympathy. Lessening Hope. They were also beginning to feel a little hot, and sweaty. And discomfort and worry could no longer be hidden. Why was nothing happening?
At 6.10, one of the Elevator Group Members as if revealing a triumphant discovery said that this elevator’s capacity was actually Seven, NOT eight! And because there was an eighth person on board, the elevator was stuck and giving the rest a bad time.
At 6.11, a feeling as if a lifeboat had been thrown at them. Yes, that must be it. But who is No.8?
By 6.15, there was no Elevator Group. Instead, there were eight suspicious, unhappy, angry individuals. Who is the culprit? And why could the culprit not have waited for the next trip??
At 6.18, somebody threw up a guess that the elevator stoppage was deliberate….
At 6.19 the elevator moved. There was dead silence. And mutual avoidance of looks. The small sign which was now visible when one of them moved towards the front said: ‘Elevator Capacity: 10’.
If in 36 minutes of uncertainty (and consequent ‘stagnation’), if eight normal people could begin to let imagination run wild, and develop mistrust towards each other…..
& Advisor to Family Business
PROMAG Consultancy Services
Apt. 206 Brigade Rathna
42 Ranga Rao Road
Bangalore – 560004 INDIA
Tel. +91-80-26676298/ Cell: 9845271498
Strengthening Family Dynamics for Family Business Growth…….since 1985