These are two of the most dreaded words that a trainee hears. Much has been said about this phenomenon but I don’t think that I’ve ever read much about. Maybe if this is read by the new inductees of the firm, it will prepare them better for such situations.
During the first interview conducted by the HR department, at the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer asks as a courtesy “Feel free to ask any questions you might have” A few of my friends did manage to muster enough courage to ask about the timings of the office. The reply was “9.30 to 6.00 with the occasional late sitting” How the HR officers say that with such a straight face never ceases to astonish me. With this reply we prepare ourselves mentally that a late sitting would probably mean a couple of days a week maximum 2-3 hours later than normal.
My request to the HR department is that when questions regarding timings are asked by the candidates the reply should be “Late sittings daily with the occasional opportunity to have dinner at home”
I have nothing against late sittings; I enjoy the free dinners, the late night conversation and the laughs. I have been fortunate enough not to have been involved in a lot of late sittings during my time here at KPMG.
A typical late sitting is like this:
The supervisor/job in charge strolls into the room with his brow furrowed and a very sober expression on his face. The supervisor then tells the team that the deadline has been pushed back a couple of days so the usual quote is “We may have to sit a little late today”
Depending on the size of the team, there are the veterans of late sitting who immediately start planning what to order for dinner. Then there is the newbie- a fresh inducted wide-eyed junior, who timidly inquires from the supervisor “Sir (really fresh juniors do that) or Bhai, how long will we sit? I have to tell at my home” The supervisor tells him to budget for around 10-11. After this query the calls are made to their houses, with a touch of pride they announce at their home that they will be sitting late and they will be having dinner on the firm’s expense.
The veterans don’t ask the time they just tell at their houses that they are going to return late and there are no questions from their families they just know to expect them sometime before sunrise.
A lot of work gets done before dinner, which usually is sometime around midnight. That is one of the primary reasons why the job in charge delays ordering the food so much. Usually the environment is not tense, the mood is pretty light with lots of jokes being cracked and the audit room rings with sound of laughter. The work is done till around 10, 10.30 which is when all other things come to a stop and the most important issue is argued upon- what to order for dinner. A great debate starts, brochures and flyers flood the table as each person tries to convince the team what to order for dinner, after half an hour or so, with the issue still undecided the top two restaurants are decided and where there is a deadlock, all options are abandoned and the ever reliable chicken handi is ordered from KBC. With an hour wasted in the dinner debate, the pace of the work is now more sedate.
All the work gradually comes to a halt in anticipation of dinner. Finally, the food arrives and the team sits down to eat. Just before beginning the meal, the supervisor announces his intention to extend the late sitting a further couple of hours after the dinner. The reaction to this from the team is varied, with some choosing to express their disappointment by groaning, others choose to remember particular family members of the supervisor not so fondly. The juniors become more anxious- they’re not used to enduring such work hours, the seniors however, assure the juniors that they won’t let the supervisor extend the current day much longer after dinner.
Dinner is completed in relevant silence and an odd sense of calm prevails in the audit room. Maybe it’s the relaxed state of the room, or perhaps the supervisor feels a little merciful, the announcement is made to end the day’s work. A sense of relief appears on the faces of the team which is quickly replaced by scowls as they hear instructions to arrive early the next morning which is effectively 7 hours from the time that they leave the client premises. The whole cycle is repeated again the next day.
It’s not the late sitting that’s the problem, it’s the leaving the client at 3, 4 in the morning, catching 2 hours of sleep and then rushing back in time for the meeting set at 10 a.m. The problem is missing a lot of family events, classes and in a few cases exam leaves as well.
That is the part of what moulds us into focused, motivated individuals I guess. Character building, polishing the person- I’m out of metaphors here, but I think I got my point across.