Saturday, March 21, 2009


We live in an age where long-haired smiley sorts run crash courses to turn living into an art form and “laughter clubs” thrive because of the lack of anything funny to really laugh about, or laugh at ourselves.

So there is nothing at all awry about nationalized bank’s recent directive which tells its employees to smile at work. But can an artificial smile do the job? Air hostesses are also asked to wear a smile all the while. While this may sound dangerously similar to Nazi Germany’s “strength through joy” campaign or for that matter, the management etiquette of a particular Indian airline-cum-television company bank employees. Notorious for their castor oil-faced dealings with customers, could do with a conscious effort to genuinely smile. A smile on the face gets a response. The other person warms up too.

The miner-dwarves in Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves seemed a happy lot as they went about their business singing about the virtues of whistling while one works. In the formal environment of a bank, breaking into whistles might not be a good idea and it may be misunderstood. But surely, as in any service, putting on a smile would be nice.

But then, the bank directive goes on to state that employees must also wear a tie to office as pharmaceutical and other sales persons do. In the hot seasons this may make the person very uncomfortable to the point of appearing laughable.

Apart from the fact that science has yet to prove the existence of any correlation between wearing a knot and a smile, forcing bank employees to wear ties may be a bad idea especially in a humid and hot country as India.

The directive is intended for employees of branches in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kanpur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Varanasi none of the places known for any nip in the air. School children too and tiny tots are asked to wear a tie with uniform.
One does not know whether the air conditioning machines in these offices recreate the climatic conditions of places where ties are prevalent.

But lest one think that we are making much ado about sartorial nothings, it should be pointed out that a piece of cloth straddling the neck may inhibit a smile especially when foisted upon by higher-ups.
Many banks and offices do have a tie rule and their employees do manage not to snarl at customers despite it. But if it is perking up the image of its employees that the bank has in mind, then a decent set of clean clothes and a pleasant disposition should be the trick. And, of course, a real smile.

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