I like the reputation system in stackoverflow.com. It allows one to up vote as much as you like but if we wish to down vote, will reduce the receiver’s reputation, it will also reduce our own reputation hence making it a serious choice. Why I like this system is, this is very much like how someone’s reputation grows or reduces in real life.

Reputation does not show up in numbers in real life, so one can not say whether their reputation is on the rise or fall in the immediate turn of events. Workplaces are getting more and more co-operative. Research also shows that a motivated individual performs lot better than someone working with the guidelines from super efficient processes. Every individual gains powers through position, authority, rank, knowledge, skill etc. One of the powers gained is coercive power, which when used never leaves a positive note.

It is very common in schools, cadet corps, military where reward and punishment is like carrot and a stick. In the office environment it is in the form of hikes, assignments,  promotions. In a co-operative environment where work gets done based on trust and motivation, use of coercive power can provide super quick short term gains. This can make people in power, fall into trap of getting something accomplished when trust and motivation does not get them through. What will not be realized is that the trust on the person in power goes down and the recipient’s motivation level will further go down.

This creates a vicious cycle of usage of coercive power and loss of motivation until the healthy workplace culture turns into an order and serve office. My first hand experience of witnessing this on few teams will never make resort to this power. Let us keep the work place symbiotic.

I read somewhere that your spending pattern varies according to the denomination of currency you have. If you are out shopping and have 500 rupees as a single note then the first buy is delayed as long as possible but the entire amount gets spent soon; if you have 500 rupees as five 100 rupee notes then the initial urge to spend is less but it takes longer to spend the entire 500. I thought this might not be true until I observed my snacking habit on weekends. I have the habit of snacking on biscuits in the evening while watching TV, most of the time I end up eating the entire pack. One weekend I ended up buying individually wrapped biscuits instead of the regular pack, to my surprise I did not consume even half of what I used to have regularly.

How the seemingly expendable wrapper can alter the behavior or consumption of someone? Our brain is wired or conditioned to be in a state of anxiety neutrality which in other words is a comfort zone. The inertia to stay in the comfort zone will be too great that there must be a strong justification of the increase in comfort or well being has to be justified in order to come out of the comfort zone. Niggles play an important part on how someone either breaks a bad habit or catches a good habit. Most of the bad habits are niggle free to catch on and will cause utter discomfort when quitting, a great example is smoking. In my case the individual wrapper is a niggle which prevented me from consuming more than what I require.

Every workplace has lots of niggles, I have seen people not using the intranet site just because it requires a password or times out frequently. A very good example so far I have observed is the reading habit and the library policy. Man power shortages have reduced libraries in many small/mid size companies to mere shelves with locked doors. Checking out the book through a system is mandatory even for reference to prevent loss of books. While this may sound to be a fool proof system to save books from getting lost, it defeats the purpose of books as there is an entry barrier.

Some niggles are not too obvious, my mom was finding it difficult to get used to cell phones and was next to impossible to keep her phone on. One weekend spent a good amount of time trying to get her into the comfort zone of using cell phones, but she said if all that you want me is to have a phone then get me a landline where I can lift the receiver to speak and put it down to switch it off. She was right, I was trying to force my way of using phones which is very new while she had used phones the old way for 40 years. Niggles prevent effective communication between developers and clients across different timezones over the phone, the same client who had relied on many senses is now forced to rely only on hearing. This niggle may cause the person to avoid calls and stick to more comfortable form of communication.

If the urge to catch on a good habit is strong or the potential benefit of overcoming the niggle is tangible and big enough then the niggles on the way wont matter much, but if we don’t understand what they are or what the benefit of overcoming it then we would perform less efficiently than what our resources, time and environment permits us to do.

It is dark when I go home

When I started my career, my typical work day started by 8 am and ended by 5. Lots of sunlight both during the morning and evening commute (My dad and his friends had such a lifestyle for 30 years). During my school and college days there were not even good TV programs beyond 10.30 pm. Globalization and outsourcing has forced many of us to work from different time zones for the same set of goals, which has made it mandatory that working hours between the two zones overlap even if it is 12 hours apart.

Biological evolution is too slow compared to the technological revolutions. Any thing happening in the technical world is not adapted by us, instead it gets retrofitted into our system. Scientists often point out the importance of circadian rhythm and critics try to prove other wise by staying awake for days together. People have stopped measuring sleep records because brain is so capable of putting sensory organs to sleep without the individual being aware of anything which means there was no way of proving wakefulness. Micro sleeps are a result of large sleep debt and it is the one which causes many road accidents and critical errors (Chernobyl accident happened when the staff worked on double shifts). Sleep also restores the body, processes memory (removes noise and indexes) and there tons of other things which are beneficial and still under research.

Circadian rhythm helps us to get a healthy sleep wake cycle which will reduce the dependency on stimulants and relaxants. The current lifestyle has become largely transactional and time spent on basic necessities like consuming food, sleep are considered to be a low yield activity. This makes us prioritize activities which outright give the illusion of bang for the buck. Since our body is still wired very much to the sunlight availability as it used to be just few hundred years ago, the body clock gets affected very badly because of erratic sleep wake cycle. Some long term health issues are considered (yet not proven) to be because of bad sleep hygiene.

One solution to fix easily would be to start work early and reach home before sunset. That therapy could be available free of cost as well and it helped me when I was following it. The traffic was light hence faster commute, within 2-3 hours of sunset I was sleeping which in my opinion was the soundest sleep I ever had. Early morning coffee and newspaper in the breezy balcony (Even in Chennai summer) was heavenly.  I have succumbed to the team’s requirements and now altered to my lifestyle of starting work almost near noon and ending late. Now it is dark when I go home.