"Me, Myself and Work Culture"


Prof. Dileep Kumar M.
Sinhgad Business School
Sinhgad Technical and Educational Society
Kusgoan, Lonavala, Maharashtra-410 401

The Reality

I am Joseph working as foremen in Atles Swipco a Public Ltd Company, at Cochin, Kerala.  I am having 25 years of experience in this organization.  Our family settled at Kakkanad, hardly ten kilometers away from the industry. I have two children and my wife is homemaker.  I am a graduate and my wife has only secondary qualification.  My children are studying in colleges at Pune.  Many time, I used to think about my organisation and myself, during my leisure hours. The long twenty-five years! I have lot of questions in my mind. How I feel about me, about my work, about the history of organisationů. about the management, work culture. Whenever I tried to recollect all of these points, every time, people around my family, peers or work disturbed, all of my sincere effort.

This year is my 25th year. I should recollect all of my experience with this organisation, I decided.  Having determined mind I get away from all of the disturbances of life and started thinking on my past 25 years work life. As usual, I started to make a close scrutiny about my organization with a self-permission.

To me, the culture of my organization is way of life of employees and employers have about. The pulse of the work values an employee feel from his experience at work place, while he engaged in his functional and nonfunctional activities as a member of organization.  I feel that the culture of organization created developed and maintained by several factors.  All such factors equally influenced and contribute in the formation of the way of life and interaction within the organization. Such factors include the employees, the employers, the trade unions, government and many such significant groups that exert influence up on the policy level and behavioral level.  The values of the organizations are developed by the constant interaction and inter relation between all those factors mentioned above. The behaviour of employers and employers is actually the manifestation of the cultural practices of organizations.  A healthy interaction between management and workers can be considered as the behavioral manifestation of cultural prevalence and affiliation to one kind of style of management, which is widely held, and shared by the organizational members.

I agree with self-argument that our organization is a victim of frequent labour management problem. Strikes and lockouts are common but in recent days it is quite different because of several changes in the policy level.  The labour management relationship is not as appreciable in the maintenance of industrial harmony and climate. Let me tell, here in our organization, from day immemorial the trade unions have powerful influence up on organisational decision-making process.  Majority unions in our organization have strong affiliation with political organizations.  The culture of Kerala also has the culture of "Atti mari" workers and the state is famous for their trade union militancy.  The policy of 'militancy' indirectly supported by even by the government.  Majority employers in the organizations have membership in one among the trade unions exciting in our organizations. The strong support from trade unions, actually support employees to fight for their rights, rather than informing them the heavy loss incurred. Since management have created a culture of mistrust and suspicious mentality among organizational, members it is difficult for the trade unions even to convince members, to organize themselves, for the sake of organization existence.  The threat of downsizing and divestment compelled the trade unions to fight for the rights and privileges of organizational member, since they is a probability to loose many of their privileges in the near future. So the cooperation the two groups are at mirage. 

When I joined in this organization, I didn't have a political affiliation or backup with any of the trade union.  The relation between management and workers were strained as it is.  Though I belong to a management cadre now, I can feel many of the situations, where the management has victimized employers without giving proper attention and justification to the act done.  Employee's tendency to join trade unions started as and when they perceive the relationship between themselves and management strained and subjective implementation of grievances the redressal procedures initiated by the management.

Let me tell frankly, till now I don't have any conflicting interaction with any of the workers or managerial officer, in the organisation. One may ask why, because, I don't have that much courage to fight any of them considering the long-term relationship and impact. I do not have reach this position if I would have engaged in any of the organisational or individual conflict. Many times situations compelled me to fight with the management. As I said above, because of my selfish interests, I reserved commends of mine, that I just didn't want to make any rift with the management. The organization has history of several such cases, as they lost their career because of this rift with management. They are many such stories, where management had taken corporal steps as punitive measure. 

The attitude of supervisory members was bossy type and is autocratic in style of leadership and management.  They simply have to follow the decisions taken by the management rather than formulation of any policies.  They never participate workers in decision-making processes. In majority departments supervisors or the top management takes decisions and they use workers only at implementation level.  The supervisors are status oriented.  They never mingled so closely with workers either in work environment or outside.  Actually, for the sake of existence, managers are compelled to follow the cord of conduct.  If any one of them goes against the cord of conduct, he or she will become the scapegoat of the situation. Since I belonged to a management cadre at present, I am also following the code for the sake of existence and avoid the wrath of management. 

Since majority activities are top-down in nature, the environment could not develop any teamwork within organization.  It is true that some of the department have teamwork atmosphere where superiors are providing supportive climate for group work.  The superiors take importance decisions on group emphasis rather than centralized decision-making process.  Beyond superiors instruction there is no group at all. But generally such attitude cannot be found in majority departments. 

Now I can tell you that the culture of the organization is do not promote a participative job environment where innovation initiation and risk taking are promoted.   Basically, the management does not want to communicate any prime decisions to down level members.  They don't have any practice of sharing information, which are detrimental to the organizational existence.  Lack of sharing of information has developed antagonistic attitude with in employees and union.  It further enhances lack of trust and confidence among members towards management.

In the initial days, such things caused severe problems between trade unions and managements.  Now a days, because of political back up of trade unions, the culture of sharing information at least for certain extend recognized by the management. The autocratic style of management preferred by top authorities, still reluctant to communicate major decisions with employees since it would create headache to organizational management.  I feel that majority public sector industrial organizations are maintaining the culture of administrative one.  Even though I belong to management cadre, I couldn't justify some of the militant attitude taken by the management.  Still I am confused who are militant in its approach.

I identified major problems in the organizations as grievance procedure handling, a free and fair reward system, rules and regulations, communication, trade unions, political back up, and the like.  The wage and salary of management and worker found quite reasonable compared to several other organizations nearby.  I don't know whether my opinion is same as that of other members in this organization. But I am satisfied with my package. My family is solely depending on my salary for their daily sustenance. And it is true that, with one income, it is difficult for a four-member family to survive.  I also had to face severe financial problems in my life.  But this doesn't mean that the salary I am receiving is quite bad. Believe me I am not justifying the management.  The workers are also getting fair amount of wage. But, the reward system, related to incentives and bonuses are inviting disagreement and conflicts between labors and managements.  Mainly on bonus issues, organizations, many time organisations had to face severe strikes.  Here, I will blame workers, that even in the severe financial loss, and organizational turmoil company flowed reasonable bonus every year. Without understanding the financial crises of the company trade union led agitations are not found good for companies' existence in future.  The workers are not ready to understand or support company management because this company management recently supported the disinvestments policies of central government.

As far as incentive system is concerned, management does not have any practice of appreciating the worker performance and recognizing their effort.  As far as promotion policy is concerned even in the public sector many manipulations are regular feature. It has of the belief that seniority will be the criteria for promotion in public sector industrial establishment.  But in majority cases the top management decision influence in the selection of names for promotion.  The promotions are not frequent and members have to wait long years to fulfill majority criteria stipulated for promotion. Moreover, if the individual members are in the black list of management, their promotion will be deliberately delayed by pointing some of the inefficiencies to disqualify.  Even when I have 25 years of experience in this organization I have obtained only limited number of promotional opportunities in my occupational life.  This doesn't mean that I have created any problem towards management but this is the usual procedure in every public sector industrial establishment.  There is more stagnation in this sector. I feel that in private sector industrial establishments, this is not the situation.  There, more than seniority the merit of employee will be taken into consideration for promotion.  Those who hard work has plenty of opportunities for career advancement and enrichment.  And there are limited criteria for disqualifying the candidate's opportunities for selection. Even every member in the organization informed about the promotional policies and criteria for selection.  Here in public sector there is not clear-cut understanding about the promotional policies of management and the government. 

Another aspect I would like to share that the technological culture of the organization.  The organization is very poor in maintenance of present technology and machineries available and very reluctant to introduce of new machinery.  The technological culture of the organization doesn't promote any new skill or knowledge in the operation of production process.  Moreover the life of the worker with in organizational setting is hazardous in nature, since the production processes are with outdated machineries and technical know how.  Though there are plenty of welfare measure ensured for employee's health safety and welfare, these policies are inadequate to cover or equivalent to consider the value of life.

Since the management is facing sever financial constraints management cannot think about rationalization in organization.  But introduction of new technology will any bring profit and production and better quality of life to the organization.  Instead of introduction of new machineries, now a day's management is engaged in reduction of labour force and other manpower planning strategies to curb the financial constrains.  Which means that management is not labour supportive or proactive. The attitude towards downsizing has created severe opposition from workers and trade unions.  But the contrary situation is that many people are opting voluntary retirement scheme proposed by the management.  The history of organization, never heard of a situation where management had taken such a drastic decision to downsize the work force, to curb the financial turbulence situation by the management.  It has created mistrust and suspicion among employees on management intention towards employment.  It has developed anxiety and depression among employees.  Many opted VRS, and the reason for opting voluntary retirement scheme is on personal ground rather than any other professional reasons. 

Many senior employers and employees are found to opt the voluntary retirement scheme because of many reasons viz., re payment of schemes, marriage of their daughters, and other personal reasons Many experienced employees opted VRS since they go better employment with their expertise in specific field. Another reasons is that, if there any initiation of privatization, on the part of management, their employment is at stake.  They are all uncertain about the consequences of disinvestments policy and further management approach.  Employees believe that the rigid rules and regulations and other organizational factors further will be tightened in order to control the behaviour of employees rather putting effort to understanding the problems of employees. To avoid these uncertainties in future majority senior employees and employers are opted for voluntary retirement scheme. I believe that majority employees won't accept voluntary retirement scheme because majority families depends solely on their wages for daily sustenance.  I am not at all interested to opt voluntary retirement scheme, since it would create severe financial problems within my family. I believe that the culture of downsizing will not produce any concrete results in long term.  The consequences of downsizing policies will result in loss of, many experienced and talented employees from organization.  Management has to appoint skilled laborers in order to maintain the situation that caused by severe labour turnover.  It is not necessary that the new skilled labour will be able to cope up with the outdated technology and the technical know how.  Those skills will not have any significance since changes and modification in the technology is required. Employees feel uncertain bout their future life in the organization till their retirement.  Which means that it would affect the quality of life of the retainers.  Somebody term it as retainer's syndrome.

The induction programs included under socialization process are not updated and will not produce any new values and ethical behaviour.  It will not help an employee to internalize the norms and values of organization.  It will not help them in developing extra organizational interest or facilitate development of personality.  The socialization programs are only for namesake.  It is inculcating only limited knowledge regarding the specialized area of functional importance to the newcomers.  The training programs of management and that of workers varied considerably.  The employers have to get training in labour management strategies rather than developing any other programs.  How to manage conflict is the priority subject for management training.  From the very beginning of training programs the basic objective of management is to indoctrinate the young management professionals, how to pamper the trade unions and employee tactfully in order to maintain the statuesque of management domination over employees.  The processes of socialization frankly speaking, do not have any importance at all.  A new employee learns the organizational practices more from other agents of socialization, which include the peer groups, co-workers etc, rather than from any of the managerial person.  Since centralized-approach is going on, no one dares to ask any clarification in the procedural irregularities of the organization.  Moreover in a culture of strange labour management relation the management wont have any useful knowledge that to be passed on to new employees.

Majority cultural traits are mixed with mistrust, in an autocratic values system. The organization does not have any good experience and practice that can be shared with new employees and take the pride of organizational identity.  The orientation programs cannot induce new values, which facilitate new members to have better adjustment with the job and organization.   Here the role of trade union should not be neglected with just as management they also socializing employees to develop hostile attitude towards management practices.  They have plenty of stories, strange incidents and actions taken by the management against laborers, pointing out severe marginalization and atrocities.  I have of the opinion that both management and trade union are equally influenced he value system and sow the seeds of antagonistic attitude within employees and employers.

The Hope

I don't believe that where there is strange relationship between management and workers is there any no chance for good socialization process and programs.  And, further I believe that effectiveness of socialization programs lies where there is opportunities for sharing deep rooted values and good experiences that organization considered as mile stones to be passed on from generation to generation.  Moreover where there is mutual trust and cooperation between employees and employers and where there is creation of better impression about the practice of organization there is a chance for sharing of information related to the culture of organization that need to be followed by the organizational members.  Where there is rigid rules and regulations to control over members behaviors and where there is autocratic styles of leadership, the employees have to share only the atrocities against them and the irregularities followed to curb employees behaviour that in tune with the system.  In this context, I would like to commend that, as I said earlier, trade unions and the management has a keen role in establishing a new culture of high performance.  Here the slogan of socialization process should be to how we can familiarize the organizational values and beliefs with employees, rather than how to fight each other.  The socialization process should insured effective coping up of life with job environment.  The training programs should facilitate and up dated in order to induce strong cultural values to the organizational members to develop trust and confidence.

The strained labour management relationship has developed antagonistic attitude among employees and employers.  The employees have strong disagreement with the welfare policies of the organization in certain areas.  Though the company is providing transport facilities, educational assistance and other programs they are very strange in providing medical facilities and reimbursements.  The management has of the version that welfare provision itself is a financial burden on the company.  The company exists not for making any profit but only for providing welfare facilities to the employers and to the employees.  The innumerable welfare schemes are introduced by the government is actually misused by the employees and made them more lazy type that only to work for money.  I believe that management is providing innumerable welfare facilities to the members and there are welfare provisions.  To a great extent the culture of welfare might have created a hedonistic and assertive culture along workers. People are more concentrated on welfare rights rather than the duties and service.

If one asks me about my feelings towards job satisfaction, in fact, I have only mixed impression on it.  Neither, the atmosphere of the organization is suitable enough to develop job satisfaction.  Yes, reward, in general motivate employees, but I believe that more than rewards, the facilities and welfare may be the motivating factors for employee's towards work.  The strained relationship between the members and management is another factor, which develop dissatisfaction.  There is no and democratic style of management, to serve and support employees.

Let me add few more on the definition I have already stated on Culture. To me the culture of an organization is the deep-rooted belief of the organizational members. A belief that everyone supports each other and understands each other well.  There wont be any miscommunication between the management and laborers.  There should be collective consciousness rather than individual, self motivated interest and identity.  I have of the belief that a strong cultural practices will develops, strong committed feeling with in individual members towards the organization and to abide by the rules and regulations of the organization and the preferred patterns of behaviors widely accepted and held at large.  Instead of having hard feeling towards rules and regulations management should to communicate employees, the very purpose of norms and control.

I have strong belief that teamwork is not suitable for all organizational set up. Where it is suitable there need to be implemented. But, here in this organisation, integration between different departments should be encouraged to work.  A functional flexibility is to be provided to the organizational members for arriving at effective decisions.  A good technical know how and technology to be established, which would facilitate smooth progress of work without making any wastage in production process and will improve the quality of products.  To improve the efficiency of workers effective material and non-material incentive system should be implemented which is now alien to present culture.  Proper recognition of employees on target accomplishment should be encouraged and there should be appropriate incentive system.  The reward criteria should also be taken into account for the fair promotion policies incorporating both seniority and merit. 

Training and developmental programs should incorporate other career development and personality development programs.  Emphasis should be given to health and safety of employers.  Policies against workers interest should not be taken and militant policies like downsizing, etc should not considered.  Since it would develop antagonistic attitude, because of fear and anxiety about uncertainty, such decisions should be arrived only when the system ensures mutual discussion between employees and employers.  The grievance handling procedure will be effective only when it develops accountability of the procedure adopted by the management.  The trust and confidence of dispute machineries should be developed.

A system of high-performance culture must concentrate on human resources of the organization and its effective utilization.

Let me finish this self-interaction. I would like to end up, this self-interaction by making a comment that the culture is "the way we do things around here". It is the shared beliefs, values, norms and traditions within the organization.

Discussion questions

1. Relate the reality and hope. Discuss the hard realties for a better hope.
2. What are the underlying ethos members in the organisation widely held?
3. Differentiate a weak work culture and strong work culture?
4. Do you believe that a reality check will help organisation to develop a strong work culture?
5. Develop a strategy that helps in the creation of strong culture?
6. Relate the work culture concept of in relation to soft and synergetic work culture?

Prof. Dileep Kumar M.
Sinhgad Business School
Sinhgad Technical and Educational Society
Kusgoan, Lonavala, Maharashtra-410 401

Source: E-mail December 26, 2005


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