“It’s my last day tomorrow. So, I’ve got something for everyone.” said Pooja, a young intern at my workplace. She was holding a chocolate bar and a personalized hand made card with a message inside it.

I opened the card to find a message written for me, exclusive to me, based on a moment or two she had shared with me. Everyone else in the team got something similar, something very personal. Surprise was an expression that was on everyone’s face. I was left speechless by this simple act.

Having spent six years in the corporate world, I’ve only seen (and you’ll agree with me if you have been here for a while) the whole thing running on a ‘quid pro quo’ policy. ‘You scratch my back, I scratch yours’ is the de facto behavior in most employees. That world works like that. It’s a rat race.

When I entered the corporate world, I didn’t have any nice expectations. So it didn’t disappoint me. I, like many other smart survivors, learnt to ethically win the rat race. Hard work, smart work, right thing at the right time and a little bit of not-so-dirty-politics form the ethical part of the race. Backstabbing, being a manager’s slave, crab mentality of not letting others rise are among the strategies that are not so ethical, but yield faster and better results than the former.

Six years on, I have stuck to my policy of “colleagues can’t be friends”. It’s hard to explain to a friend why you got promoted while she didn’t. Sometimes friends turn foes, even if not foes they don’t remain friends anymore. A small misunderstanding can ruin your relationship with a colleague in a big way. Then there are groups that form around you, and you don’t join them for lunch. So on.

Which is why I was genuinely surprised at this innocent, true to heart act of the intern. It’s not something we see everyday. Not in that pure form. Of course, there are many who are best friends with each other, but it won’t work if you’re competing with each other. It won’t work unless you decide to cooperate. My own experience is that such cooperation lasts only till the time your manager decides to favour only one of you two.

So when the intern handed over the card with a message inside I was moved. It was a unique way of thanking the team members. The message itself left me surprised because she had paid such attention to each and every person around her.

I guess the magic lies in the fact that freshers’ experience of the corporate world is from the outside – they don’t deal with ratings, promotions etc. They don’t stay with us long enough to see the ugly side.

That brings me to a question I’m asking myself. Should I share this article with her? Will it fill her mind with prejudice when she enters the corporate world? I did take her email address thinking I’ll write a thank you note for her and give her the link to it. I guess I won’t do that now.

Let her mind stay pure as long as it can. For I know, when she sets her foot into our world as an employee, she’ll fall, then fall again, to eventually learn to rise and master the art of survival in the corporate universe. – ethically or unethically.

Thanks Pooja,

– V