Monday, June 15, 2009

In tall orders we trust

Is our society fundamentally heirarchical? I wonder about this as I work more and more with people from other cultures and am made aware of our subliminal biases ("our" - meaning us as Indians).

Its interesting to notice how we Indians exhibit heirarchies at work so much more than people from other, particularly western, geographies. A laddering of seniorities is almost taken as a given - with a view that somehow, people who are "senior", are greater in some respect. Its noticeable in the body language and the mannerisms, particularly when seen in contrast with the behavior of non-Indians in the same work environment.

You'll even notice it in the behavior of global and Indian arms of the same multinational firm - the global 'big boss' would walk down and shake hands with everyone in a meeting room, while the Indian would hardly ever acknowledge the junior members of his own team. And its weird, for I now notice this pattern over and over again in a number of multi-cultural interactions. (And mind you, this doesn't change much amongst those who return from global stints)

And then maybe, its a culturally inbred thing. Maybe its a remanant of the royalty that ruled our land and its consequent class systems. Maybe its a relic of the brit-raj and their babudom that made some citizens more equal than others. Or just maybe, we Indians do not like shaking hands in meetings :|

In any case, its time we started being a bit more civil to each other (at least in the workplace), its time we got over this false sense of ordained heirarchy and started building flatter organizations, its time we realized that fortunes do exist at the bottom of a pyramid.
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