Indian work culture – where everything else matters but work !

Usually as time passes abroad, the home country beckons, not because anything has changed there, but because the mind makes up longing images in the head. A lot of people who move back to India after staying abroad have a similar set of problems or none at all. People away from India see it as a land of opportunity, since it is a developing market, but on reaching there the setbacks faced are quite similar.

A boss in India is treated like God, or at least expected to be treated that way. Heard the saying, “Boss is always right?” it is practiced that way in India. From micro-managing work to employee’s happiness, the boss is responsible for everything! A lot of people struggle to take assigned leaves, just because the boss doesn’t ‘permit’.

Hierarchy is taken very seriously – just like in schools where students don’t question teachers, the subordinates do not question their bosses. Questioning behaviour is considered insubordination and then the boss can avenge you for that. This is probably true in most countries, to add to it, in India usually nepotism is really high – so your boss can be the top management’s wife/husband/son-in-law/daughter-in-law and so on, so if you happen to question, be ready to lose your job.

And if you join work immediately after your stay in the US especially, you are in for a rude shock. I went back to India after completing my education and straight to Hyderabad, my hometown, to work. I had forgotten that the US makes you a nice person – I have never had to lie for anything. I have hardly met micro-managers in the US and people are almost always on time.

Although I had worked in India before, US-stay had sort of erased my memory. Time is ill-treated and construed as per the person’s position. So if you are the head of an organisation – a lot of them are more like mom n pop shops (whether it is IT or film or any other technology), you are allowed to waltz in, in the after noon but the employees have to be there on time at 9 am. But they don’t leave on time, because suddenly at 6 pm, the boss has realizations. Then everyday is spent in the four walls with the same people! There is no life beyond that, somehow you feel ‘owned’ and not like an employee.

If you are good at what you do, everyone gets insecure. It’s strange how different it is, because I remember my professor in the US telling me always get an assistant who knows more than you, only then can you rely on them. In India, if anyone does get an assistant who knows more than they do, all they will do is rip that assistant apart on everything else other than work. If that assistant is a girl and happens to work on film/TV sets, that’s it! There are people commenting on her clothes, her hair, her walk, her weight and just everything except work.

But in TV, it’s slightly different because there are more women. And since most production houses are family / friend run, the race among employees to be in the ‘good books’ of the bosses. Who cares about the show or the film? Mostly, nobody! In TV all the production house cares about is the money they make, for that they just keep the network happy and meet minimum standards. If you are in the good books of the bosses, you can also be the director of a TV show, it really doesn’t matter what you know. The boss anyway thinks nobody knows anything – so whether it is X or Y who cares, everyone needs to be trained!

Plus people lie all the time – they say they know what they don’t and then don’t even learn it. If you ask someone how to do something – no one will give you a straight answer, usually because they don’t know or if they know, they just don’t want to say it, because they are scared of you knowing more. And people scream all the time, get angry and consider it their birthright to scream. And the screaming is personal – very directed at someone, sometimes for no fault of theirs.

Also, if you don’t scream you aren’t looked upon as powerful. People are so used to being screamed at, that they ‘want’ it to do their work. So if you want work done, you need to scream!

Now you might wonder, if you are always resolving conflicts, then when do you work? In between conflicts!

It’s not all bad, because there are some awesome people to work with – people who know their jobs, people who are good administrators and are punctual, they are all there, but very few. Now that a lot of people are going back to India, things are changing slowly, but mostly people who go back have to end up adapting to the almost ‘feudal’ system.

Well the key to working in India is to not be scared of anyone, whoever that is. When you are not scared, the other person is scared of you, but then you are still in a conflict mode, so the choice is entirely yours. Should you go back and work? Well if you have a choice, unless you have money and are saving money, it is not advisable. But this has to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Since India has been trying to ape America in a lot of things; I hope they ape them even in the work culture. It’s strange how India has picked up a lot of unnecessary things and nothing necessary from America. Time to change the feudalistic approach!

This article was written by a deeply mysterious desi who prefers to stay in the shadows.