Me, My Self & My Company – Chawm Ganguly

chawmmPink Slips. As the India Happening story meets its umpteenth hurdle on the way to economic prosperity, the term is being thrown about with gay abandon. Die-hard believers say that except the outsourcing industry which has its fortunes tied to that of the United States, the threat will be negligible. While at the other end of the spectrum are the proponents of doom who are claiming that the Indian industrial establishment will use the prevailing sentiment to push through a series of Draconian measures, including the freezing of new recruitment’s, implement pay cuts, retrench and generally push the workers up the wall. Their logic is simple – all these big talks about HR and the benevolent principles are mere words that, even when paid lip service to, are hardly followed across a vast swathe of what is Indian industry. They have a very valid point and let me present my take on the same.

I have had the pleasure a watching from very close quarters, a mid cap entity that has grown in a scorching pace in the immediate past. As the company grew from a few trusted men to many across multiple locations, the only HR initiative that was taken was to name the boss’ (“owner’s”) wife as the one in charge of the department that neither was, nor is. Talk to her about creating a work environment where the people are “empowered, accomplished and contributory”, enjoying their work, and she’s bound to blow her top, for, people are paid to work. Not enjoy their work. Period.

Out of pure academic curiosity I rated this company’s HR policies (in the absence of a better term) against the “ideal” (again according to me and me alone) practices. The questions in my mind were simple. Can an Indian corporate, limited, listed and widely held, pay total disregard to matters HR and continue to succeed? Does this mean that HR is dead and buried? Or is the company sowing the seeds of its own destruction? Is having no HR policy a deterrent in getting good grades from the so called independent analysts who track performances? Is it even considered? Does low employee morale and primitive HR practices reflect on the scrip price? Or, is there a valid and viable “alternative” way of achieving success, as opposed to what we learn in our HR courses? Here are the ten parameters on which I sought to study the particular company :

1. Demonstrate you value people. Text books have been written on how to communicate, even silently through your gestures, eye contacts, facial expressions an body language that you value the people who work “with” you. “No” says the corporate India I am talking about. People, work “for” you. And they should always be made to remember that. There are companies in India, where even the lowest menial worker is appointed by the owner himself, so everybody knows to whom to be loyal. As for “value”, the employees should begin by throwing every shred of self respect to the bin before joining. Shout and cower them into submission is the logic, and they will work silently.

2. Share leadership vision. People should be made to feel that they are bigger than the individual efforts that they put in, that they are parts of a larger picture and share the goals and the vision of the organization. No way, “I” am the leader, it is “your” duty to follow. And when I say this, I also mean the same about the leaders who follow the leader. Goals, vision, mission, strategy are terms that “my” spin doctors churn out to fill the empty spaces in the website and other corp-comm documents.

3. Share Goals and Direction. Again? The job of the employee is to come in time and keep himself occupied with the tasks assigned to him. They should waste the least amount of time with matters esoteric. Teams too are a hindrance – one should have subordinates following orders, where the one giving the order and those that are ordered, are all, singularly and collectively answerable to the top. (Note the Boss’ singular usage of the masculine while referring to employees. He believes that a lady’s role in the office should be restricted to the front office alone – so much for equal opportunities)

4. Trust People. Trust that people have the best interest of the organization at heart, that given a chance they will live up to the faith imposed on them. Hire mediocrity. They do not question, don’t have the wherewithal to think and issues of trust doesn’t arise, for they are not smart enough to cause harm.

5. Provide Information for decision making. Make sure that you have provided enough information to people to take their own calculated decisions. Decision? Employees are hired to prepare the backgounders – the decisions are for me and me alone to take. At the end of the day, he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Employees should be sternly discouraged from taking decisions, however small … The company belongs to the boss, and he alone takes the decisions. In extreme cases where decisions have been taken, over rule them, and force the one who had taken the decision to obey and do the exact opposite, even if it is palpably wrong.

6. Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities. Not just more work. How quaint. Keep delegating the repetitive, monotonous stuff and see how much some fools will take in, for the more they work, the more cost effective they become. The idea is to pay 5 percent more than the prevailing market rates, attract, entrap and slowly increase the workload, so that even before they understand, the employees are in six day shifts putting in 12 hour days … force the grumbling and the errant to fall in line by praising the prevailing “work culture” of the entity so that they may start believing the exception to be the rule.

7. Provide Frequent feedback. Rewards, recognition, feed backs on how things are progressing ? Never, ever try to take the poor sods in confidence. They should be treated at arm’s length, least they get on to the head. People should be encouraged to look at their desktops and immediate work vicinity, greater vision will only distract and confuse.

8. Solve Problems. Don’t pinpoint problem people. To the contrary, at times, change the questions after the problems are solved, just to ensure that the messages go down loud and clear : a) you are the boss b) that you are not happy with the performance of the problem solver, for the moment you show appreciation, the employee will start expecting reward and will start feeling “comfortable” in his job and will therefore not be motivated enough to trudge that extra mile that the scared and the hungry do.

9. Listen to learn and ask questions to provide guidance. No way. Communication, (barked orders) like water should always flow down. The same way you are supposed to look at those that are employed. Even when you are using the MSN, type in red capitals to show the urgency. Always wait till the 13th hour to order something, so that people are jolted out of complacency and are forced to scurry for whatever they are worth.

10. Help employees feel rewarded and recognized for empowered behavior. When employees are under-paid, under-noticed, under-praised, under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment, says conventional HR wisdom. Why bother about empowerment in the first place? Let them remain employees and your work will get done …. You are in business to earn profits and create wealth. It isn’t your job to create happy employees. Those that try and divert their attention to useless things like employee satisfaction are normally condemned to a lifestyle of the … Employees!