What do you do when you are shortchanged constantly since you work hard, you are a victim of politics, and spend more time battling egos than getting any work done? Either you submit to fate, or join them, since you cant beat them. That was my reaction when I got introduced to the culture of a manufacturing company, when I was exposed to the factory at Bharuch.

My recent schedule did not allow me to express myself in words, but the experiences in the interim period have given me an insight into the tough work culture of a factory in the Indian context. In the past years, I have only seen MNCs (or pseudo MNCs) with white collared knowledge workers only. And so the manufacturing sector came as a huge surprise to me.

This post tries to summarize my comprehension of the ways of working (or not working).hrpic

Infrastructure:
Indian companies have the innate ability to save every single rupee. And given the fact that Indians are used to living in harsh conditions, there is little innovation to provide a decent infrastructure for the people. Their reason: people should not get too much used to the comfort; they will not work if they are comfortable. There might be some logic behind that as well, because Indians are known to be lazy and avoid work at the slightest opportunity. Add to the fact that their remuneration is dependent on the duration of work and not the task completed, the time content holds greater importance than the work content. Getting back to the topic, things like AC, Internet, space, good food or even good toilets may not be guaranteed. 

A reason to avoid work
There will always be people who want to avoid working. And they can really be innovative at that. The reasons to shirk away from responsibility are too many. From being away from line of fire (and a rare limelight), to the fact it will involve hardwork, people prefer playing safe. And so no new thought or process can erupt from the system.

We have been doing it this way
Change management is only a buzzword best kept in documented form. Any substantial (or even minor) change is a challenge to the people who are used to working in a particular way for years. The younger populace is more accepting to such developments, but eyebrows get raised when it is evident that knowledge has little to do with loyalty or tenure of work.

Too loud
Discussions take the form of combats, where hurt egos speak. With little effort being made to get any work done, people try to put their points across only to be hurt when they are not accepted. Conflicts are pertinent, and ‘who said to whom and why’ are points of contention. I realized that if one is too accepting, he will be taken for granted, and wont get the importance he deserves. And to it gets necessary to draw the line. In spite of conflicts, people keep working with each other! I realized that such fights are order of every passing day.

Fiefdom
Each person heading a particular process or department has his own kingdom, and dosnt try to venture outside their limits. Because there is an unwritten rule that ‘I will not interfere with your area, you better not get close to mine’. And so there is no integration between them, this goes against the very essence of ERP. And so they don’t care how one action affects the other. In a recent development, inventory worth a substantial amount was going unreported. When finance raised an objection, the stores dept happily suggested that they are with the respective production departments, and can be expensed (chalta hai!). Finance dept was clearly not amused. They didn’t want to transfer assets and book them as expenses (accounting rules!)

I am a senior person
There is an inherent ego in such people in the factory. By virtue of too many hands, every white collared has people under him. And so they feel the subordinates should work, while they bark instructions. When that does not happen, frustration sets in…in my recent experience, a senior excise manager said he would not come to meet me, and I should go to him, since he was a senior person. Till now I used to treat such persons with respect, but treating a person with respect is something alien out there.

Fear of the bosses
People are far from empowered. And so taking decisions takes a lot of time, since each decision, however inconsequential it might be, needs to be approved by the boss. In the absence of such a process, the bosses start feeling neglected! There in an inherent fear of being reprimanded, as the culture clearly shows. And so no one wants to take responsibility!!

Meetings at al
Meetings and discussions are meant to take decisions, to ensure new ideas get generated and presented. But here, people talk only with a ‘yes sir’ nod, and ideas take a backseat. There is a constant fear of displeasing a senior person, and repercussions can be bad. Real discussions may even take a backseat, and there is often no individual to control their direction…and so effectiveness is far from optimum.

That was just a few of my observations. There is not a single female employee and not even any washroom for the women.

That’s the legacy of a traditional organization!!