I’m Going on A Hunger Strike Unless…

Timing is everything.

Yeah, location, location, location is big in real estate (and used to be equally important in retail…see “Amazon”), but that doesn’t fit nicely into my story here!

When I was the Operations Director down in St. Petersburg, FL for the Southeast Regional Service Center for First American (later changed to CoreLogic), we had a team of employees over in India that assisted our people in processing our work.

(Note: Amongst its many functions, First American/CoreLogic was primarily involved with assisting mortgage banks keep track of, and pay, county taxes on all of their mortgaged properties in a very timely fashion.

When you have a mortgage on your home, you basically “share ownership” with the bank & should there be any issue with the said property’s county taxes  then both parties risk losing their investment if the county takes control & sell the property, and everything on it, at a tax sale.)

As time went on, our overseas employees became more & more valuable to our organization as they quickly picked up on the intricacies of the work, resulting in fewer errors & rework, higher productivity rates & much improved overall quality.

We regularly communicated with them several times every day, in addition to our formal status conference call.

(Naturally, because of the time difference, our daytime was their nighttime. And for the life of me, I’ll never understand the 9 1/2 hour difference between the U.S. Eastern time zone & all of India.

At one time in their history, India was actually spread over 3 time zones, but it’s that 1/2 hr thingie that now baffles me!)

Anyway (and there in NO word “anyways”)…

My team in beautiful St. Petersburg, FL worked with & through their supervisors, a young man Vishwas Amin & his second-in-command, Padma.

They were both bright, eager to please & dedicated supervisors. But Parma seemed incredibly loyal & dedicated…perhaps too much so (if that’s even possible).

I’d remember there were times when only Padma was on the daily call as Vish was taking a well-deserved vacation.

But when I started to really think more about it, I couldn’t ever recall Vish being on the call by himself & saying that Padma was out of the office.

You know, “on holiday”.

One day, I asked Padma, “Is it just my imagination or perhaps, my poor memory, but have you gone on vacation yet this year? You always seem to be on our daily calls.”

She admitted that she hadn’t yet taken any time off this year…and I wasn’t pleased about it.

While I certainly appreciated her incredible work ethic & undying loyalty to us, my people’s work/life balance was extremely important to me.

(This may sound absolutely blasphemous coming from an admitted, and yes, quite obnoxious, workaholic who averaged a good 75-80 hours a week.

Or more.

Every week.

~50 in the office & another 30 at home.

And I once had a boss who actually had the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to mention in my year-end performance appraisal that I was consistently 5 minutes late for our morning meeting!!!


You leave at 5:15 PM every day, yet I normally stay until 9:00 PM (when the unit closes), am messaging my people & doing work at home since 6:00 AM (when the unit opens), rarely go to lunch & spend most of my weekends working (I had -0- life)…and you mention a 5-min tardy but say nothing about the investment I put in?


EAT ME, you ungrateful SOB! 🤬)

“Tell us how you really feel, Mike!”

Remember, an employee’s greatest need is “…to be properly recognized for a job well done”!

And in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM am I trying to equate “how long someone works” to the “tangible, added value they bring to the organization”, but lemme tell ya…

…we reached heights – – in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, timeliness, internally-measured quality, expense reduction, revenue generation – – never seen before in the company’s history!

Shit, they couldn’t even dream that high!

*steps down off his stupid soapbox*

I don’t manage robots nor lead a bunch of machines. I deal with people and as leaders, we’re responsible for ensuring that they’re strong & healthy in terms of the complete person, not just the one that comes to work.

I want our employees to take the time away from the office that they’re earned & so richly deserve.

I want them in the best physical, mental & emotional shape possible so they’re truly able to give their best at ALL times!

I want them working incredibly hard…and playing just the same way.

Padma just recently reminded me on FB what I told her after she admitted to not taking any time off so far that year.

Thinking quickly on my feet & trying to find something with which she could relate (culturally), I blurted out, “Well, then, until you do take some vacation time, I’m going on a hunger strike!”

We all laughed!

(For those not familiar with Indian history…

In September 1932, the Great Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, began a fast unto death to protest British support of a new Indian Constitution that would separate the Indian electorate by caste. Over the course of time, he was famous for his “pacifist resistance” against British rule, which helped avoid a great amount of violence as he gained the unending love & respect of his people.)

She promised me that she would, indeed, go out on vacation as soon as feasibly possible.

She fully realized that everyone needs time away from the office to refresh one’s batteries…to relax & reenergize, mentally & physically…and to return to work with renewed vigor & drive.

You’re not “being disloyal” nor “not giving your all” when you take time away for yourself. You’re taking care of the #1 priority in life…yourself!

You can’t take care of others until & unless you take care of yourself, in all ways.

*pls insert the stewardess’s “Put on your oxygen mask first before attempting to help anyone else” warning right about here*

In addition, your time away serves as an excellent opportunity for your people to grow & develop in your absence, allowing them to assume additional duties & functions, outside their normal realm of responsibility.

You have to think of the long-term impact of all your actions. You should be preparing your people to run the ship without your actual presence in the office.

That helps build greater depth within your organization, better prepares your team & your people to handle unexpected organizational or business changes, and makes your group more agile & better equipped to think on their feet & for themselves…which are important elements of team & individual growth.

There were many times in my career that I wished I’d listened more to what I preached to others.

Apparently, I wasn’t really good at following my own advice.

At Citi, I started off with 4 weeks of vacation time annually from the very beginning. And Citi was a “use it or lose it” company.

You couldn’t save, or bank, unused vacation days.

With management approval, you were allowed to “carry over” a maximum of 2 vacation weeks to the following calendar year…but they had to be taken by March 31st or they would simply disappear.

And beginning with your 15th anniversary (I believe) & every 5th year thereafter (20, 25, 30, etc.), you were granted an extra week for a total of 5 weeks!

Invariably, I seemed to carry over 2 weeks of vacation almost every year of my career. (It would have been more each year, but the max carryover was 2 weeks.) And then, when I would carry over any time into the following calendar, I’d be up against, by far, the busiest time of the year…the dreaded First Quarter! Remember, you hadda use your carried-over vacation time by 3/31!

I’d often find myself waking up on, like, March 25 & saying, “How do I take 10 vacation days before month-end, especially when I’m currently underwater with deadlines approaching, a ton of month-end tasks in front of me & little time to breathe?” 🤔

Over my almost 30-year Citi career, I easily forfeited a good 45 weeks of unused vacation time!

And, no, you couldn’t get paid for them nor “lend them to someone”.

Believe it or not, I learned about that very “lending” policy when I joined Lehman Brothers in April 2007. Apparently, several members of my staff “donated some of their vacation time” to a fellow employee who was “seriously ill” & wasn’t getting paid.

As it turned out, she never returned to work & when my people found out that she had actually started a new job in Colorado several weeks earlier, they were furious!

And rightfully so.

She played on their generosity when it was apparent that she wasn’t intending on returning at all& probably wasn’t as sick as she let on to be.

Gotta hate people like that. That’s exactly why Ms. Karma has such an incredibly-busy schedule.

Lehman eliminated that practice the year I joined, but I always thought it was a great idea!

Always remember, in order for you to be able to take care of others, be it at home or at work, you hafta take care of yourself FIRST!

So, please, always take care of yourself! I know you love your kids & your family to the nth degree, but if you’re suffering or not at your very best, then you’re incapable of giving them your very best!

As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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