Aarti Kelshikar tells you just how to navigate your way safely through the Indian workplace.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Your office can be fraught with pitfalls that could prove to be annoying speed bumps in your path to success.
Knowing where these pitfalls lie helps you avoid them! Read on:
1. My door is always open
Typically, when a person joins an organisation, the CEO will welcome him or her saying, ‘We are so glad to have you. It’s an open office, come anytime and see me. I’m always there to support you.’
The reality is that the CEO is busy and can rarely give the person the time of day.
Even if he isn’t fire-fighting or in back-to-back meetings that are very important, ‘dropping in’ to see him without a prior appointment may not be a good idea.
2. Reinventing the wheel
Broadly speaking, when taking over a new role, there isn’t much information on paper as to how things were done earlier that one is able to leverage.
For some reason, people don’t document practices much; they may not see the value in doing this or they may not want to make the required effort.
A related factor is that handovers in the real world are seldom as detailed or lengthy as one would like them to be.
Given this, and in the absence of relevant documentation, often one has to begin afresh.
3. Meetings and more
There is a meeting for everything and not everybody who attends them needs to!
Meetings tend to go on longer than scheduled. with discussions that often digress. And they may conclude with a few takeaways and action items.
4. Walking the talk
Employees may espouse organisational values like accountability or champion causes like diversity but, when it comes to action on the ground, it can be a different story.
Off the stage and back at their desk, their actions aren’t always in line with what they preach.
To give an example, a task force created to enhance employee engagement in a multi-national corporation had senior managers saying all the right things in public but, in the course of their day-to-day corporate life, they didn’t feel the need to connect with, or even acknowledge, many of their colleagues.
5. Breaks are good
We know that all work and no play is no fun, which is why we have regular and timely breaks in the course of the work day.
Chai breaks, or bonding over coffee to discuss a new boss or a cricket match aren’t unproductive -- they help alleviate the monotony and stress even if deadlines are looming!
6. Solutions Santa Claus
The boss will know best -- after all, he is the boss isn’t he?
The buck stops with the boss everywhere, not just in India.
But here, depending on the industry and organisation, he also has to be problem solver, decision maker, strategist and motivator.
And, of course, he should be able to provide answers, guidance, direction...
7. Cliques and clubs exist
Notwithstanding efforts to make the organization inclusive, there exist informal groups that aren’t exactly porous or welcoming.
Whether it’s people from the same function, gender or community, these groups are prevalent and getting access to them for an ‘outsider’ isn’t always easy.
8. Being the hero
Everyone likes to be the hero.
People like to take credit for a job well done, even if they played a small part in it.
And in their effort to portray themselves in a good light, they may not think twice about showing their colleague in a not-so good light.
For instance, they may casually mention to their boss: ‘You know Vikas left early yesterday but I stayed on and finished the project.’
Related to this point is the fact that people aren’t willing to take onus for failure. They are happy to pass the buck to a colleague.
9. Curious Jai
The tendency to talk about other people isn’t unique to India; it happens in other places as well. The extent, however, differs.
Here, there is much curiosity about things small and big: what is she wearing or what’s the low-down on his performance appraisal?
People love to be the insider in office politics, alluding to how Seema is no longer in the boss’ good books or how Rajesh is the flavor of the month.
The tendency to intrude into another’s personal space is not off- limits at work and this can happen to your face or behind your back.
10. Staying late is working hard
People work late probably because they need to, given the nature of their work and the way the day goes by with meetings, breaks etc, or because they choose to.
Either way, working late is not so much a reflection of one’s efficiency (or otherwise) as it is of one’s commitment and diligence!
Aarti Kelshikar is the author of the recently released How India Works: Making Sense Of A Complex Corporate Culture, published by HarperCollins India. This article is written in a lighter vein and not intended to be derogatory or critical.