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Don’t turn your horse into a donkey!
Vivek Saha | Mumbai | Tuesday, 22 September 2015

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An interesting fictional story on how changing the horse of a winning team to a donkey cost the team its very existence.


This could be the usual story in any of the Indian corporates. So, it will not be surprising if many of the readers can relate to the characters.

The story starts with Mohan, the boss. He has three people reporting to him – Akash to be referred as A, Biswas to be referred as B and Chivas, the C.

Mohan is a hard-working guy and is considered to be a good resource in the organisation. In order to accomplish his projects, he is quite dependent on his subordinates. His team members, who realise the same, also estimate their individual importance in the team and perform accordingly.

Let’s observe the performance and roles of these three team members.

A is an above average performer. He is high on energy and is always ready to take on newer challenges. He is highly ambitious, and for him the sky is the limit. A also happens to be an attention seeker, and Mohan, who is aware of this quality, uses it to his advantage. Mohan knows that A will perform any task, which will keep him in the limelight. In other words, A is like the dependable Hanuman in Mohan’s team, who will rescue him from any difficult situation.

B, on the other hand, is an average performer who does what is told. However, he will not go that extra mile to get the project completed. His peers consider him to be a performer, but not an initiator. He prefers to follow than to lead a team. As a team leader, Mohan certainly has faith in B’s capabilities, but knows where to draw the line and how much to rely on him.

C, the last one in the team, is a below average performer. He needs continuous guidance and support to accomplish any task. He is rated as a slow performer by his peers and colleagues.

Mohan realises that in order to keep the project going, he has to have someone to pitch in for C’s incompetence. He has only two options— use either A or B.

As evident, B is reluctant to perform that extra task because of his very nature, so in a way Mohan is left with only one option, that is A.

Since A is always keen to perform extra and is an avid initiator, he is more than happy to complete what C has left undone.

And things continue this way!

As time passes, Mohan starts assigning more work to A, even tasks which are not part of his KRA (Key Result Areas).

If earlier, A left his workplace at 8 pm, he now leaves at 10. However, this does not bother A. His bigger goal keeps him motivated. He expects a ‘superb’ rating at the end of the year, at the performance review.

Everything goes fine, till one day, an incident changes the entire ecological balance.

Incidence 1: It is a fine sunny morning of the 13th of October, 2013. C comes to Mohan and asks for seven days of leave for Dipawali. Mohan is quite generous and asks C to take three more days and increases his vacation to 10 days. What prompts Mohan to be so compassionate with an underperformer?

The reason is simple. Mohan does not consider C to be adding any value to the team. On the contrary, he is glad that C will be away for at least 10 days.

The outcome —both Mohan and C are happy.

Incidence 2: It is a not so fine morning of the 18th of October, 2013. A comes to Mohan and asks for six days of leave to attend his best friend’s wedding.

Mohan refuses to oblige. He fears for the project, deadlines et al. He says some nice words to A reminding him how important he is to the whole team and how his performance is the key driver for the project and also a great influence on the others.

Finally, A gives up his wish and nods in acceptance. However, A is not too happy with the outcome, and this is just the beginning.

The incident forces A to realise that in this team it is going to be difficult to be rewarded in a positive way.

He starts believing in the old saying – ‘The reward of good work is more work’.

The fact that he is unable to attend his best friend’s wedding keeps pinching him and the fact that C is sanctioned leave bothers him even more.

Finally, it is time for the annual review—time to be awarded for the hard work one has put in throughout the year.

Unfortunately, the organisation has decided not to grant any employee with the ‘superb’ rating that year. All team leaders are asked to rate their reportees with either ‘good’, ‘not so good’ or the last one – ‘perform or leave’.

Mohan is in a dilemma. He is a lenient boss and does not like to make anybody unhappy. So he does exactly what is expected of a lenient boss.

He decides to grade everyone at par with a ‘good’ rating assuming that it is confidential and none of his team members will learn about each other’s ratings.

Unfortunately, however, A learns about the ratings of B and C over a cup of coffee. He is shocked and shattered.

A is flabbergasted by the fact that despite so much of extra effort he is kept at par with B and C. He has not received the reward and applause he deserves.

This leads to a high level of dissatisfaction in A and finally, he exits the organisation.

Who is the ultimate loser?

The organisation, of course.

What about B and C? Are they affected too?

The answer is ‘yes’. B realises that in this team extra work will never be awarded and it is better to stick to his current way of working. He is not motivated to put in additional effort and continues to work in a relaxed way.

C also learns his share of the lesson. He realises that in this team ‘no work’ is rewarded with more leaves and eventually a ‘good’ rating as well.

He continues to be a leech in the team, sucking the blood of the organisation’s resources as well as money to grow further.

Vivek Saha

Lesson – What went terribly wrong in the entire scenario?

It was Mohan’s judgement and the way he handled his team. Though Mohan identified the horse of his team, he kept burdening him with more load and finally converted the horse into a donkey.

At the same time, he knew that he was unable to change the donkey in his team to a horse.

In the entire process, he went terribly wrong in rewarding the horse and considering him at the same level as the donkeys and ponies of the team!

This eventually resulted in the sad demise of what was actually a ‘winning team’. Amen!

One should remember – ‘A horse in the race will only be able to win, if he is fed properly.’

Who do you relate to? A, B or C ?

(The author is HR Manager at Godrej and Boyce.)

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Monday, 19 October 2015


  • Comment Link Jyoti Wednesday, 23 September 2015 posted by Jyoti

    Hi Vivek,
    Awesome ... Indeed this is the scenario with most of the Org.

  • Comment Link ravi lokhande Wednesday, 23 September 2015 posted by ravi lokhande

    Hi Vivek,

    Story was very good and practically applicable. Really good one. Entire year boss knows the who is the horse and donkey but on appraisal day he wants to be saint and treats equally.


  • Comment Link Aditi Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Aditi

    Very true story of any corporate set up

  • Comment Link Saurabh Nigam Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Saurabh Nigam

    Indeed, a write-up everyone can relate to. Good one.

  • Comment Link Capt. Nanmeet Singh Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Capt. Nanmeet Singh

    Vivek good story.. it happens all the time

  • Comment Link Deepali Kayande Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Deepali Kayande

    Nicely narrated the real incidences of corporate life in form of a story.
    Good Job! Looking forward for your next article.

  • Comment Link Strafford Fernandes Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Strafford Fernandes

    Interesting Take on this Recurring Phenomenon ! Good Managers no only need to identify their horse but learn how to balance the load on the horse as well.

  • Comment Link Sujit Roy Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Sujit Roy

    Hi Vivek,

    Your story says a lot, good lesson for all managers :}

  • Comment Link Namrata Panda Tuesday, 22 September 2015 posted by Namrata Panda

    Hi Vivek,

    You are indeed bang on ... I could relate to this story so much .

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