Work Culture in India : A Legacy of the Feudalistic Times

I completed my C.A. degree in January 1992 while living in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and since then I have been in working life for the past two and a half decades. I have got opportunity to serve both in the private sector as well as in the public sector and the thing that came to my notice pretty soon and stuck in my mindset that the work culture in our country is nothing but a legacy of feudalism. India has remained under the feudalistic system for centuries and the impact of that is still reflected in the people’s mindset as well as at the workplaces and the different types of hierarchies in the offices and the organizations. Whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, whether it’s a profit-oriented organization or a non-profit making charitable organization or an entity meant to boost art or literature or some benevolent activity for the society or the nation, the work culture is laced with the feudalistic mindset of the people at the helm as well as the people working under them. Feudalism in India got abolished with the advent of political independence and freedom from the British rule but it is still there in our minds.

I worked for two large private sector groups and two giant public sector undertakings during 1992-2012 and found that everywhere the working is not duty-oriented, it’s boss-oriented. Since the very outset of his / her career, the employee learns (in fact, he / she is made to learn) to work for the boss (es) and not for the organization who has employed him and ensured him / her a living. It is because of the subjectivity in distribution of rewards and punishments as it used to be in the hands of the kings and landlords in the feudalistic times. The lack of objectivity in dispensing with rewards / punishments is the reason why people put a premium to keep the boss in good humour instead of working with a sense of duty. It’s also been painful for me (and experience to my detriment as well) to see that almost everywhere the ‘rules for fools’ maxim is in practice. Rules are for them only who follow them and who don’t have any godfather on their back. Else all the rules, regulations, norms and procedures can be broken for the benefit of those who are resourceful and enjoying ‘high approach’ in the system.

Whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, arranging benefits for self by flattery of the bosses, leg-pulling of others through misuse of official procedures and backbiting of the competitors / rivals in the office is the order of the day and unfortunately, considered an essential part of the office dynamics. I have wondered for years why the bosses who are answerable for the progress of the organization to their higher-ups, are so much vulnerable to own flattery. Now I know the answer. It’s because the bosses themselves have climbed up the ladder of success through flattery of their own bosses only. It’s a chain of flattery which is perpetuated because the flatterers are more likely to go up. A highly capable person who does not flatter or pull his rivals down through dirty politics may go up (through his calibre) but only up to a point. Thereafter he has to face stagnation irrespective of his deserving even better.

Can this status be changed ? Not in the near future because it’s a relic of the centuries old JEE-HUZOORI habits and an environment in which conspiracies were always underway against one or the other to usurp power / position. If somebody believes only in doing his duty diligently without buttering his bosses and pulling his competitors for promotion / benefits down and still he progresses according to his abilities and makes it to the top, he is certainly one in thousands.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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8 Responses to Work Culture in India : A Legacy of the Feudalistic Times

  1. Mr Mathur, How right you are when you say that here working is not job-oriented, it’s boss-oriented. And yes the British are long gone and they have considerably changed but we stick to the feudalistic mindset. Some bosses who themselves are insecure in their positions bank heavily on their coterie.

  2. Unfortunately such is the work culture in India as you have described. We have a long way to go as far changing the current mindset of the people, at the helm of affairs, is concerned.

  3. Indrani says:

    I think this is common everywhere not just India. It is human nature and many but the matured ones succumb to flattery.

    • jmathur says:

      You are right Indrani Ji. However since I am familiar with the Indian work culture only, I have written this blog in the Indian perspective only. Hearty thanks for the esteemed visit and the value adding comment.

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