Management

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’

Life in a Mumbai slum reveals how the ‘brutal capriciousness’ of daily life can undermine people's economic security.

April 08, 2012
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It has become increasingly common in the U.S. to blame the least among us, as well as those who have suffered most from the Great Recession, for their own problems.

Consider the movement in some states to drug-test welfare recipients and those collecting unemployment benefits despite how little evidence there is that recipients use drugs. Or think a bit about the willingness of our political “leaders” to gut successful social programs to decrease deficits and pay for tax cuts given to the wealthiest Americans.

Then there’s the harsh attitude many have toward the nonnative children of undocumented or illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in the U.S. since they were infants and are Americans in all but the strictest legal sense. It’s not our fault you have a problem—it’s yours no matter how complex your circumstances, including those well beyond your ability to control.

Obviously, not everyone feels that way. The other extreme is to blame no one for anything. Neither is right.

And just about anyone can speak anecdotally about a family member, friend, or the guy down the street who won’t look for work or drinks too much or blames the world for his problems.

Behind the Beautiful ForeversBut the question Cain posed when God inquired about Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” apparently is one asked with more frequency in America’s highly charged and politicized landscape.

Thus it was America that came to mind as I finished Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.”

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers”is social journalism at its finest, an immersion over several years into the lives of people we will never know but whose daily struggles with abject poverty, governmental corruption, and cultural differences provide a gripping nonfiction narrative that mostly horrifies but on occasion inspires us.

Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist known primarily for writing about America's poor and disadvantaged.An American married to an Indian, she turns her attention and reportorial skills of observation here to the residents of Annawadi, a makeshift slum in Mumbai, India, of several thousand huts and a clashing mix of mostly Hindu but also Muslim families.

The slum sprang up during the construction of the city’s airport and the five luxury hotels that surround it.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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