Workplace Ethics in India

I read news items on a new study on Workplace ethics in India. A staffing solutions company, Teamlease, has conducted the research in eight major Indian cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad. This is a small scale research, based on 400 respondents or so, but the picture is quite revealing. For example, Kolkata scored well in terms of Integrity Scores and frowned upon most of the practises other cities will take on their strides, like using office phones to make personal calls. Ahmedabad came up the most lenient, with an integrity score of 21 against Kolkata's 76. No ranking is apparent from the stories I read, but interestingly Delhi's scores are not that bad [despite many stories one will hear about Delhi]; Mumbai predictably does well, and rather shockingly, Chennai workers report more workplace thefts than anyone else.
There is not much to read in this report, and it will be unfair to draw conclusions from it. The scope of research is too small, and it appeared the ethical context is calibrated against a western workplace, which may or may not be the right benchmark. However, this makes news because this is possibly the first time someone tried to look at this issue. It somewhat conforms to the usual racial stereotypes - contrast the Babu Kolkata with entrepreneurial Ahmedabad - but also defies the popular perception regarding the other places, most notably about Delhi.
I tried to read the actual report and accessed the Teamlease website, but apparently they have not made this latest report public yet. However, I could read other surveys of similar kinds - one on workplace romance was very interesting, particularly as it seemed that the majority of respondents in Chandigarh thought it is okay to have workplace romance between married colleagues and that romance has a positive impact on work performance. Again, that report conforms to certain stereotypes, a rather liberal Bangalore [though one notices that all Bangalore respondents were male], hedonistic Chandigarh, conservative Kolkata and an out-and-out puritanical Hyderabad are on display.

While I may have questions about methodology and scope of research, I do think this is very useful work. In my role, where I have to make decisions about foreign investment in Indian cities, such reports are an interesting starting point. In fact, workplace ethics is very relevant, though I would have liked to see that broadened into Work Ethic - beyond making personal calls on office phones and into actually doing the job and taking the responsibility.

Having worked in India, other countries and in the UK, I have often pondered over whether the Protestant Work Ethic, as theorized by Max Weber, has the real positive influence on the advancement of Anglo-Saxon nations [ok, and Germany!].

While I am aware of that it is more than usual for an UK worker to call in sick on Mondays, and have seen many Indian professionals conduct themselves with a high level of integrity [my lessons in Ethics were started by my supervisor in NIIT, a rather upright and hugely successful manager who went on to become a Senior VP rising through the ranks], I do know that we have to make significant improvements how we conduct ourselves at work. I am not talking about the narrow bounds of whether we use an office phone or turn in late - I think this is about feeling towards your work and commitment towards it. In the Western economies, the objectives are quite clearly set - it is about money and everyone is on the same page - but in India, there is fusion of East and West, and Work is about identity, money and emotional backbone. I do think the Indians are a bit confused about work: It is good that someone has started thinking about it.


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