Anil Thakraney: Shoot the Old Dog

12 Jun,2013

By Anil Thakraney


Have been watching the ‘Sulking Advani’ drama on television very closely. Not because the man interests me, but because it’s a deja vu feeling, I have seen this before. Not in politics, in the corporate world. It’s the same story: When the grand old man of the organization is past the sell-by date, the board of directors and the young CEO have no idea how to get rid of him, they get badly stuck. I am sure you have witnessed this situation in your own career at some point or another.


I once worked at an ad agency whose creative chief, a few years away from retirement, had failed to evolve with changing times and was stranded in the old school. Basically, he was burnt out. The younger creatives could not connect with him, but were compelled to politely seek his views. The client service people would guffaw behind the old gent’s back, and the clients stopped asking for his presence at important meetings. But the man himself, in complete denial of his loss of relevance, soldiered on, making life difficult for everyone.


The agency leadership could not muster enough courage to ask him to quit. And yet, he was deliberately left out of meetings. Not even, and this is the most humiliating part, consulted on creative department reshuffle. The man was totally isolated, but he would not get the message. Watching it all happen first-hand, I felt very sorry for him. And I entirely blamed the organization for this mess.


Why? Because in this situation, to save everyone the misery, it was the CEO’s job to make that tough call: Amble across to the elderly gent’s cabin, and graciously show him the door. Sadly, this step, which is actually the best and the most professional one, seldom gets taken in many Indian organizations. Which is a pity.


The BJP faces the same conundrum today. Senior leaders in the party ought to have asked Advani to retire a long time ago. The 86-year-old man is no longer a vote catcher, and his thinking is redundant. They didn’t, and now find themselves in a sorry situation. The party, if it lets go of him now, will be perceived as one that does not respect its elders. This directly goes against Indian culture, and could prove costly for the BJP in the coming elections.




PS: Speaking of old dogs, here’s a speech by Dave Trott, a huge inspiration for creative people. Not just for youngsters, for senior creative directors, oldies who have lost their way or feel burnt out.


Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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