In an office pantry or canteen among the casual gossips or typical “chai pe charcha” as one might call it, you would find n numbers of topics here and there. But above all you might encounter a of of the most talked, debated and often heated up topics which would consume majority of time for the parties involved and even surrounded.
No it’s not politics, nope not even cricket, no not movies either but then what?
You shouldn’t be surprised but if you re-think you could actually agree on it with me.
And the Winner for the Most Talked about Topic in an office premises goes to (no points for guesses)
Yes , it is indeed about the office cultures- all the office politics, surroundings and work environment.
Flushing out all your frustration, aggression, disappointments on people or things.
But let’s just cool down and think about it once.
Let us shed some light on the Indian office cultures and try to think and jot down points which come through in our journey in understanding Indian office cultures and its lagging.
It could be said that we desire for the western cultures in our daily lives, and the same goes with our offices.
But what is indeed with the western world that we so desire for?
Let’s see about some of the points below on India vs Western Office Cultures:
Seniors vs Juniors
India has been historically hierarchically organised workplace. Often in an office culture there are 2 characters most commonly known as an employer and an employee but what differentiates an Indian culture is the fact that even from the beginning without moving into much of detail or uttering a word you can easily recognize a difference between a senior or a junior employee few of them are illustrated below:
A senior would always be addressed as “Sir/Madam”
It can be taken as both as a token of respect but more so as a protocol prefix which every senior basically expect from his/her employee which also quenches their egos. Deviations of any sorts could be taken as an offense.
Now that’s a typical Being Amol Palekar for you! 😉
Whereas in other western cultures in most of the companies seniors are often addressed by their first name, making more casual relations.
Top Down Decision Making
In Indian office cultures mostly Top-Down Approach is followed where a senior would rarely considers suggestions or opinions of their junior staff but would expect that their junior would follow instructions given to them. Disagree-“And Game Over Boss!!- Repercussions to seniors even perceiving you as disrespectful, and is hence suppressed by employees and companies at large. On the other hand good in internationally acclaimed practiced cultures an employee’s opinion is respected and valued and is tended to be very open and honest.
It is yet another issue which is a hot topic that can even lead to major chunk of disagreements and arguments, the answers of which we often search in turning our appointment letters back and forth but much of it is not a part of company’s policy rather it’s a hidden cultural cult being accepted in Indian working framework.
In a typical Indian office premises it is not uncommon for the employee to leave after the employer, even if his work for the day is done, as this is perceived to be taken as a trait of a hard working employee. Move any which way earlier and you might be the envy of your peers and even regarded #unprofessional for your seniors. The reason for staying late can’t be rationalized but we could often confuse quality with quantity. We fail to recognize that reporting to work is desirable but long work hours do not translate into more work. Even at times for lower level workers in MNCs, an office space may provide amenities like an AC and an Internet-“Mauj lo Beta Office k..;)” it shows that people can stoop to any level if they are not happy with what they do. Often translating it into people generally creeping into offices, reaching late is part of the routine. And then, to impress bosses people stay back till late. As if punctuality is a bad joke!
In western countries, there is nothing more strictly defined than the work hours. People do not come late and very rarely do they stay back after office. It’s not as if the office hours are monitored by anyone but still they do follow the code.
It’s considered fruitful to spend quality productive time in an organisation and that’s what shall be considered while assessing productivity of anyone.
Small things make a lot of difference in this regard. For e.g., in Western countries, people generally drink their tea / coffee on their seats reading / replying to mails. In India, we have long breaks for Tea / Coffee / Sutta-“Ruko yaar kaun si jaldi hai”. Oh yeah forgot to mention Meetings last only up-to the scheduled time and not longer unlike India where 30 minutes meeting regularly run up-to 45-60 minutes. And yes, Lunch breaks are shorter. Strolls are not included in lunch break timings. All in all, focus is on work and getting the work done quickly is the first priority.
Often it could be resolved that work timings are divided in two parts that in turn enhances productivity. Say the first set of working hours is from 9 am to 1 pm, and the second session starts from 4 pm to 8 pm. The three hour rest period helps a person work more efficiently.
Lack of Leisurely Activities
Much of what above has been mentioned can be attributed to the fact that apart of very few MNCs in India; other companies rarely do indulge in any sort of fun, social leisurely activities for its employees and if they do then only for the exquisite senior staffs which gives a little break from the monotonous work one tends to do. Giving them much boost and charged up and also to fresh their mood, energy and morale up and also maintain a feel that company actually thinks about their employees too.
Whereas in other western cultures these are a part of office routine and such activities not only increases the productivity of employees but also help to check their attrition rates to a great levels.
Processes, Processes, Processes
In Indian layouts, we love to make complex processes and follow them even if they do not make any sense (because someone made a process n-year ago)-after all Bureaucracy has been so much our part of daily routine. And then, there are Team Leaders for each unit under a process and people seldom try to resolve issues ASAP. Usually, you’ll have to wait, till almost the TL reaches, to get a response; the team can afford to waste an entire day (even if the approval is just a rubber stamp. This response is usually done to avoid any ego clashes as also to surpass any authority’s official nod. In western countries, things are a lot simpler. You can simply go and talk to the person, explain the situation and get the work done much quicker. It’s not as if there are no processes in place there. But they realize that Processes are meant to make our lives easier, and ensure error-free and quick execution, and if the processes are failing on any of these criteria, they are willing to do what is logically correct. We need to move away from process centric execution and move towards people centric one.
The Big Day-Appraisals
This is the time we all wait for the climax day Appraisals. Much unlikely than a typical suspense thriller the climax isn’t that hard to guess. If you are in a typical Indian office culture then it’s much easier to crack the basis on which it’s done, no it isn’t the one uploaded on the HR portal!
Mostly it’s like a “Duckworth Lewis Method” 😉
Most of my cricketing fans must have understood what I meant to convey.
Hierarchy is very strongly linked to the work-experience of a resource. Even a phenomenal performer will not become Manager without a certain parking period of experience (may be more). Also, people take a lot of pride in their position and often treat others based on their title (e.g. Managers and above having lunch with others at same level and not with members of immediate team). Whereas in western cultures it’s very different as for one, organizations are much flatter. Even if two people have different title, it rarely shows in their day-to-day interactions. Also, hierarchy has nothing to do with years of experience a person has. You may find 50+ years guy working as Senior Sales Executive and a 30 something guy working as MD (Managing Director). Performance is valued and there are no minimum work-ex criteria for promotion to a particular level.
British/ American companies give employees the responsibility and freedom to work and in turn judge them on their performance within those parameters. The growth in organisations is completely based on one’s performance and not on their relation with superiors. If one is good with his work, nothing can hamper career growth.
Some Interesting Facts and Figures
It’s time for some figures now, these are some of the findings of the work ethics survey conducted by Hindustan Times and C-fore, where working professionals, across sectors and salary brackets were quizzed to study the level of honesty and dedication Indians felt towards their professional lives.
Analyse yourself! 😛
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU THINK IT IS OKAY TO WASTE TIME AT WORK?
11% 1 HOUR
28% Taking a short break of 15 minutes 23% I believe in finishing work first before
every few hours is okay. thinking of leisure.
38% I see no harm as long as I am completing my duties in time.
Work ethics among Delhiites seemed most compromised as half of them said it was justified to waste time, followed by 42% in Kolkata.
In the end I would wish to say only one thing to sum it all up “We make cultures not the other way round”
Credits: Reasearch compiled by Pulkit Sharma, Clinical Psychologist.
About the Author: Akshat Kapoor
He’s witty, innovative and creative , a keen observer and analytical person.
He believes in “do good to others and good will happen to you.”
Loves to write , connecting with people and explores new environment.
Apart from writing, he likes singing as well.