IMAGINE the plight of Damocles who had a sword perennially hanging above his head, anxiously waiting for it to fall in his neck any minute. The anticipation of death must have been far more dreadful to combat than the actual blow. So too at the workplace: most employees are constantly in dread of being transferred. This can affect performance adversely and have an almost prophetic influence on events in reality. A vague fear of the future can disturb one in the present, At the end of an appointment letter, the employee is warned that he may be transferred to any department or branch of the organization. This is meant to be subtle preparation for an eventuality that may happen, or on the other hand, it may not happen at all. But one tends to read into that unvarnished statement the ominous possibility of a transfer: it sounds almost as threatening as flogging or other such punishment.
A transfer has, unfortunately, become synonymous with punishment. The rationale behind a transfer is to make sure that no employee stays too long in a place for his performance to reach a plateau beyond which further growth cannot be envisioned for him. It is also intended to keep him on his toes professionally; remaining ensconced in one place can breed smugness and indolence. Keeping him on the move sharpens his wits, broadens his perspective, adds to his repertoire of skills and widens his horizons. The employee should be given adequate notice so that he is mentally prepared and can organize the mechanics of the move accordingly. Some consideration ought to also to be given to the timing of the move so that it may coincide with the beginning of a new academic year for school or college- going children. While the place to which one is transferred cannot always be a metropolis with adequate schooling facilities companies that care for their employees do keep this factor in mind when they decide to move a person. Often, an employee whose son has just finished high school may be shunted to a place which has no colleges. This can cause an upheaval in his life, what with having to run two
establishments. At work, performance may be affected by the drain on his financial resources and the unsettling nature of his domestic life.
Another consideration is the proximity of the place of transfer to the employee’s home town. If he halls from Kerala, it would be ridiculous to post him in Mizoram. The culture shock apart, which can be adapted to by and by, such a move, also spells financial loss as the cost of traveling or leave can be quite exorbitant, despite the allowance he may be entitled to.
Housing and schooling are the two main problems an employee faces when transferred. Even government personnel, who are entitled to residential quarters, have to wait till their turn comes for the allotment of a house. This problem is yet to be solved in spite of the emergence of many government colonies. Private companies usually take houses on lease for their senior executives but the more junior employees have to rough it out, often with little support from their organization.
School admission often remains an illusion. Once realized, there is the problem of language, with the language of the state often having to be learnt as part of the school curriculum. Such a form of national integration is not a bad idea, but it need not have to be at the cost of an elaborate overhaul of one’s house and home!
Given the record of efficiency we have in our country and the thickest of red tape that obstruct smooth passage, transfers are feared perhaps because there are too many loopholes, too many imponderables that affect the life of the employee in the long run. It may be a good idea for personnel managers to do more homework in this area and work out a mode of transferring employees that benefits both the organization and the reluctant man on the move.