Applying learning from Yagna in the corporate world

First things first! This article is not about religion or Hinduism.

We all go through several training programs in our corporate careers. Few of them are good, some are okay and then there are several, which test your patience. Most of us dread the boring ones, especially the ones in which we find it almost impossible to stay awake. When I started my career, I used to be one of the diligent folks who take copious notes during the training in the hope of revisiting them later. However, after some time, I learnt that the ‘revisiting the notes’ part of the learning journey is a flight of fancy. I do try and retain the handouts from the training programs, but when one has been working for more than two decades, retaining all handouts is impossible. Hence, I changed my technique, especially for pieces of training that I think will leave an impact. The day after the session, I try and recall an interesting scene from the training and also construct a sentence (or two) about the key learning that I have derived from the program. This trick helps me recall it almost instantaneously even after several years have passed.

Now that I have shared my little secret trick with you, let me also share one key learning that I recently recollected and am trying to apply in my personal and professional life. A few years ago, I had attended a leadership offsite, which was based on extracting the learnings from Hindu philosophy and applying it to modern management.

“An organisation is a set of people who are heterogeneous by nature and behaviour. A successful Yagna (exchange/collaboration) requires people to be clear about what they want, what the others need, and be willing to give first before getting in return.”   

That’s how I would loosely describe my learning from that training. Let me take you through a few definitions before I explain it. This is not a religious article and I don’t claim to be an expert in Hinduism, hence the following definitions may not strictly coincide with those given in religious manuscripts.

Yagna: A worship ritual, usually performed in front of a fire. Yajna or Yagya can loosely be translated as a sacrifice or offering to the Devtas.

Devtas: They are the ones who are invoked in a Yagna and are offered the sacrifice in return for blessings or favours.

Yajman: The person performing the Yajya. For our article, it’s you!

Asuras: They are the ones who believe that they have been denied what is rightfully theirs or have been cheated.

Rakshas: They are the ones who take things forcefully from others. Also, those who only take and never give anything in return.

Yaksh: The one who hoards wealth.

Now let’s revisit the first sentence of the learning I shared above – ‘An organisation is a set of people who are heterogeneous by nature and behaviour.’

Let’s think of a typical organisation – your organisation – and try and apply these definitions. There will be several powerful people from whom you need to take favours to get the work done. It could be budgets, information, approvals, technical guidance, etc. However, they do not give anything till they get something first – these people fit the definition of Devtas. Some people hoard wealth / information and will not part with it – they are the Yakshs. You may want to pause and think about specific functions or people!

Let’s move to those who are powerful and take away things forcefully. They may not beat you like the Rakshasas of ancient times, but they either bully you into submission or use their power and connections to get their way. They also take credit for work done by other colleagues. Most importantly, they never give anything in return. And, then there are the cribbers, who always have an issue with the management or their bosses. During coffee/smoke breaks or in gossip sessions, you can hear them say things such as, “I deserved that promotion. My boss is biased and he gave that promotion to Shruti, who does nothing”, or “My boss never appreciates my hard work”.

We meet all these characters in our organisations and have to deal with them on a day to day basis. However, before moving on to the Yagya part, let me also share with you one more insight. If you think carefully, you will realise that at different times in your career journey, you would have behaved like several of the archetypes mentioned above. Sometimes, you are giving like the Devta, other times you are hoarding information to block the progress of someone you don’t like (just like a Yaksh). There are times when you are frustrated and crib about the unfair treatment meted out to you, like an Asur. And maybe, just maybe, at some point in time, you may have taken credit for someone else’s idea or work. Of course unknowingly, as we are all Devtas at heart!

Not only do we deal with these different archetypes in our work environment, our behaviour as individuals keep on shifting with time and also with different people. In essence, we are all these archetypes rolled into one!

As I have overshot the word limit, I will cover the part of how to perform the Yagna in part two of this article. Till that time, try to discover the archetypes in your organisations and also within your persona.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pradeep Wadhwa
Co-founder & Principal at Kritical Edge Consulting
Pradeep is a seasoned communications professional, having witnessed both the client side as well as the consultancy side of life (in equal measures) for close to two decades.

Fortunate to be part of building and protecting reputation of leading organisations and brands across a variety of industry verticals, he has recently founded his unique C-Suite Consulting firm, Kritical Edge.

Previously he has worked in leadership roles with ReNew Power and PepsiCo India among other roles.

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