The Glass Menagerie*

Ministhy Dileep | October 18,2013 04:22 pm IST

The relationship between Human Beings and Glass is a strange one. Humans inhabiting glasshouses have made interesting subjects for masterly plays**.

By experts ranging from Ibsen to Tennessee Williams to Arthur Miller. Whether it was a frustrated housewife banging down the doors of the Doll's House or the broken up dreams of the girl in the menagerie or the death of ubiquitous salesman… we read and appreciated. And conveniently forgot.


If there is one thing the corporate world can consider changing for improvement, it might be its attitude to Glass. The attitude that non-breakable, non-emotional, objective, ISO-9001, bound, buffeted, bolstered Rubber inhabit their clinically clean environs. The moment emotions are displayed; the remark is - "Non-stable, Uneven temperament." No broken glasses inside, please. (P.S. Literally and Figuratively).

Meaning to say, go home and beat up your near and dear. We don't give a damn. But if you cry indoors, we will call the Admin Dept. Pronto.


Tough. Especially since the corporates happen to be glass menageries themselves. Wherein people can bleed to death. From wounds delivered subtly by shrapnels. One smart-ass comment, a simple put down, a glare, an open abuse, a sophisticated barb. And remember, people in glass houses are not supposed to retaliate by throwing stones. So the stone ends up in the heart. And stays lodged with the broken pieces within. Till breakdown time.


Leibnitz once said, "Everything outside is a macrocosm of the microcosm inside." Very deep. But without translating it into the great planes of thought a la, Shankara's Non-Duality, let us try relating it to Glass. Could it also mean, in a simpleton version, that if the glass inside is broken and bleeding, the red could ooze outside and color the vision?


If so, a productive day at work is a reflection of everything being picture perfect inside. The glass mosaic well designed. The pieces at place. So what of the day when the pieces are in a flurry? Internal bleeding, perhaps.


It is precisely to avoid such exigencies that "Team Building" exercises have been created. To develop sensitivities about Glass. Within the neighbour. To "bond" on a different plateau. To sigh happily at the fact that the workaholic slave driver GM happens to have a terrific sense of humor. And to heartily appreciate that the handsome PR guy (who reduces the females to a mere pulp with his supreme good looks) has a dental problem. Somehow, makes him very human. And infinitely more likeable.


(Too many bland faced relationships at work resemble what Tagore said, "The mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It hurts the hand that uses it." To get human consideration, one probably has to expose one's human traits. Even if it is a bad tooth).


Not to forget that your own popularity chart might get a booster when the team appreciates your singing skills. Getting to know the "True You" as they summarize neatly on the chart paper. Acknowledging the fact that all of us are dwellers of the Glass Menagerie Limited. With severe cutting up tendencies.


Typical team building exercises designed for fun and frolic would include "Moon light Rafting", wherein an assorted team ranging from messenger boy to GM gets to build a raft from scratch (From a mind boggling variety of items starting from scotch tape and balloons!) and cross the river. Without drowning anyone. Very vital, that sentence. For more often than not, drenched GMs are seen laughing helplessly as the M-Boys lend out a helping hand to draw them in from the water. Along with the deflated balloons. Hopefully, the exchange between the top honcho and the lowest-in-the-hierarchy-guy gets warmer after the exercise.


Organizational Change and Development experts design such efforts to get people to come together. And share. However, even those stalwarts haven't been able to change the wrong perception. That honest analysis and a frank sharing of one's personality traits is something meant for weaklings. Even after the famed JoHari Framework*** has become part of any worthy Team Building session.


Only those exercises that encourage frank discussion, conducted in a safe environment, can elicit frank responses. Safe meaning metaphorically safe. In which the participant is made to feel secure that his frankness is not going to go against him in the forthcoming Appraisal meeting. Now that is a tall order. (Especially when the menagerie is also home to crawlers of the four-legged variety). Besides, there is nothing more harmful to a team than a "Backlash Effect". That arises when a Team building Exercise has gone awry. Wherein platitudes are mouthed and no one ends up wiser on the human traits of the cohabitants. The Glass being thicker on the other side, perhaps.


Yet, it is in the time of utmost skepticism that such human exercises are most needed. To collect the glass pieces. Of human hopes, dreams, ambitions. Of Human Bonding****. (Ironically, it is the Training Budget that gets slashed first when a corporate feels a downslide). The true need of the hour is "To rage, rage against the dying of the light" as Dylan Thomas wrote so beautifully. The small flickering flame called "I want to be human at my workplace too." The light fast dying out due to too much wind.


Blowing from a corporate culture encouraging apathy, non-emotionalism, and utter objectivity sans human frailty. Gales and typhoons of detached, stiff-upperlipped relations with colleagues. The tornado resembling Linus (Farroby?) in Sabrina***** - the one of whom they said, "He thinks Scruples are currency notes in Russia and Morals are paintings on the walls." No light in a Glass container stands a chance against such ideal corporate citizenship - made of Vulcanized Rubber.


Still, when you see someone bleeding quietly, (very easy to identify, the face sags), you could remember the glass menagerie. And try applying first aid. With kindness. If the whole team bleeds, do not delay. Call the Training Department. And order "A HUMAN BONDING." Served Fresh. On Cut Glass.



Ministhy S. is PG (PM&IR) from XLRI-Jamshedpur, and currently, an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She has written five books - 'Unequal Equations', 'Learning with Tippy Tortoise: Tales for Kids', 'Happy Birthday: Poems for Kids' and a novel published by Dronequill Publishers, Bangalore....