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The Washerman Syndrome

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Ramayana has been one of the most respected and most referred to epic when it comes to principles and morals.  It is an epitome of upholding Dharma and sacrificing self, in every situation. It puts other before the self and hence teaches us lots of lessons. Though the management world likes to refer more to Mahabharata, I believe that Ramayana also teaches us a few things about leadership, especially gullible leadership.

Remember the famous episode, where a simple Dhobi ( washerman) comments on the fidelity of Sita( wife of Lord Ram) post her return from Lanka where she was abducted and kept by Ravana. Lord Ram on hearing this comment decides to abandon Sita in order to uphold the rule of Dharma and have a smooth sailing with his kinsmanship and life changes completely after this comment. Ram and Sita are separated for more than a decade.

Just one irresponsible statement by a washerman and the life completely changes for a pregnant Queen and she & her to be born children are subject to hardships of the jungle instead of the royalty of the Kingdom.

Keeping the mythology aside and also not commenting on the vulnerability of Ram as a leader, I would here like to bring the attention to the loose comment and irresponsible statement by the washerman. He gave a loose comment and somebody’s life changed completely. Don’t we also do the same things in our day to day lives? Reputations are built not only on actions but also perceptions and perceptions are formed by what people comment about each other at the watercoolers or in informal gatherings. Be it personal relationships or professional, perceptions form a very important basis of strengthening or damaging any relationship.

Ideally speaking we should not be talking about any person behind his back, but then human beings love gossiping. Not all have a heightened sense of judgment about people, therefore is not qualified to talk about the character of any other person. I have in my life seen many qualified candidates being rejected & many deserving not being promoted because someone suffering from the Washerman Syndrome, dropped a loose comment & someone acted as a gullible leader like Ram and took decision basis those comments. The reverse is also true – many undeserving rises up the ladder because of wrong perceptions being delivered to the decision makers.

You cannot go and change the leader and his way of screening perceptions, but you can definitely save yourself from falling prey to the Washerman Syndrome by not talking loosely about your colleagues or friends or relatives. Do not comment on anyone’s capability or character unless and until you have been a witness to it in first hand.Remember, the change starts with you !!

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