What our behavior can teach us about “Us”

We hear countless stories of Indians misbehaving on foreign soil and our most common reactions to such incidents include shame and anger. Remembering that “misbehavior” is a relative term let’s not become prejudiced in any way. People make mistakes and often there are valid reasons – many a times unknown even to the person misbehaving. Have we, however, ever paused and wondered what instigates such behavior?

Could it be, for instance, that the root of the problem lies in India itself? Could it be that something is going wrong in India that provokes our “sometimes” (inappropriate) actions abroad? Perhaps our ‘actions’ are actually ‘re’actions to what we face in India? We have all heard of children getting influenced by their parents and the atmosphere in their homes, haven’t we?

Why do some Indians seem to create problems when they are abroad – they mostly belong to the group of new comers. A deeper look shows us what we are doing wrong in our country.

Indian roots and their organizations

Problem 1: The great Indian “Jugaad” (finding an easier way out) philosophy- an excellent concept and it works well when one is trying to innovate.

Unfortunately, however, we are now so used to arranging a “Jugaad” that we often forget that the procedural way of doing things might be much simpler.

It Started probably just after the British left India and since the idea of being a ‘saahab’ was still one of the intrinsic virtues in the minds of Indian people, the concept of getting one’s work done faster by bending the rules has almost  become the only way of getting the work done.

While the origin of the ‘jugaad’ philosophy can perhaps be understood, the unfortunate result is that we now find that trying to do things the right way adds to a ton of inconvenience and there is a high probability that the work will never get done. People are too used to the back channels and have mastered ways of profiting from them.

Let us see where this state of things places us internationally. The ‘jugaad‘   culture is anything but a good fit in developed countries where most things have a set of rules which are followed. The better a company or individual is able to follow rules (while occasionally being “Human” for PR), the more the company or individual will prosper. It is about quality work and these shortcuts for convenience often don’t work towards improving profitability, rather it creates problems for the majority who are more used to the rule-sets.

The culture in developed countries is more rule oriented thus making it easier to worry about larger issues than dealing with pesky corrupt government officials or stubborn employers. Anything illegal has severe ramifications and rule-sets help the common hard working man live in peace and possibly innovate a better living for himself and a lot of other people.

One cannot, of course, deny that once these Indians get an idea and use their “Jugaad” mentality at the right places, they lead to innovation and become very successful.

Problem 2: We Indians are too divided and this division is what everyone is capitalizing on, including ourselves. Long ago it was the English and the East India Company, now we exploit each other. Believing we are NOT one nation with ONE people has severe consequences because this feeling seeps down into everything we do. A government official is able to exploit a person because that single person believes (more like, is afraid) in his heart that he is alone. No one else is standing up to say “No” to these corrupt officials.

Not a single organization exists that can stand up to these issues. Not to say that organizations towards this end have not been created. Just that, as is predictable, these organizations are run by those same people who have the fear of standing alone ingrained in them. For all our talks of being a country with ‘unity in diversity’, the feeling of being one community runs dismally low here in India.

When people migrate to other parts of the world they take along these fears deeply rooted within them.

It would be anybody’s deduction that this fear and its offshoot causes them to behave insecurely. Eventually of course, they get used to community living and start putting their trust in to the system. They then know that they will not be pushed and pulled for their basic rights- all they need to do is lead a clean life and follow the rule-sets which are, incidentally, created for the good of the citizens. One must also bear in mind that laws and governance are constantly evolving with us and we need to give the law makers their due credit as well as space for errors in judgement.

Problem 3: Culture is not a subject we study in school. Yes, we have social studies but it hardly highlights the behavioral aspects of life. Our culture is RICH to state it subtly and those who have been trained in the art of how to deal with people in the proper manner will put the English etiquette to shame. But strangely our culture is not taught or discussed in schools. I believe this should be a subject from primary school right through to senior school. To teach students how to behave in our ‘Indian’ way is the need of the hour.

This will solve various disciplinary problems at various levels in our society. Perhaps, the problem mainly is creating a syllabus for this from our varied and diverse cultures found in India – but I am sure that an amalgamation of the best, stressing on the human aspects and leaving out the religious, can be created relatively easily.

Solving the problems in our organizations:

Solving some of the problems within our organizations could have a far reach into creating a better atmosphere in our society.

Improving on the “Being Alone” factor/ fear

The solution is doing the exact thing which we think is the cause of our fear. Like if one is scared of water – one should just dive in, head first! Similarly, if one thinks one is alone, one should do something so one won’t be. Start participating in community causes.

There are two benefits to it – one, we realize that we are not alone and secondly, we realize that we are all “just” human beings (who share common fears)  and nothing more. Flesh and blood which will be recycled in a matter of years. That we have a small window, just a few decades, to make it count- for us, for our family and friends and for the human race.

Improving on “Doing the right thing”

Get rule-sets: for whatever you are doing in your life, create rule-sets. Call it a process, if you will. Train your employees to follow and improve upon these processes. When YOU do your work properly and EVERYONE does their work properly only then can we get better. All of us have heard about “each drop making the ocean”, haven’t we? So just because one thinks nobody is doing their work properly, one can’t start following the blind. Would that be sensible? Then we will just have one more blind person and not the one with “a vision”.

Identifying, then improving on “What you are doing”

Very often we hear people say “I can’t do this work because I don’t really want to do this!”. So what do you want to do? “I don’t know what I want to do.” Well my friend, you are never going to “love” being an astronaut even if you could be one unless you “develop” a passion for it. No one hears whispers from God about what they are going to love. They choose a line of work from their skill-set(s) and work on it to develop it into something they “love”. And if not, they add more skill-sets to choose from. So, if you are stuck in a situation where you think you don’t know “What you want to do!” It’s time to choose and follow. If you make a wrong choice, go back and choose another.

I guarantee you that some of you may find that you are actually a farmer at heart – and go on to build the next big organic farming company. Of course, this is just an example – you may actually be in to fish farming!

Improving your “Push in the right direction”

Employers are known to be pushy people. Most employees will have a nick name to suggest the level of disgust they carry for their employers. This not only hurts the employees but it also hurts the employers. If you are in a position to effect any decisions related to who you are hiring – you should learn to hire “People” and not “Resumes”. If an employer were to carry out a thorough background check of prospective employees, he would be amazed at how many of the work credentials are false statements given by their friends in the previous organizations.

So what can one do? One should learn to recruit the way venture capitalists decide and i.e. who they are going to invest in. Notice that I said “Who” and not “What” – this is important because if one can find “Good” people they will do well in anything they are trained to do. So learn to invest your money in the right people and don’t always just go with what the resume says. A brilliant guitarist will perhaps also learn and do your payroll brilliantly. Being sincere and driven is the trait you are looking for not merely a degree in “Payroll management”. People mostly learn on the job – a brilliant guitarist will learn the job quicker if that is what he has chosen to pursue.

Secondly, once one has hired employee(s), one should learn to push them in the right direction. As an employer, while you certainly hold more authority, you are definitely not a bigger person. More so, if you show your employees down every time they make a mistake. What you need to do instead is discover the strengths of the employee(s) and motivate them towards doing what you have identified as something that they will enjoy doing.

Back to the migrating Indian

So if we are able to do these things mentioned here in this article – a person exposed to these values would have a very different persona and will naturally be viewed by others in a very different way. Behavior is something that is mostly considered to be reactions towards what people have had to handle in their life. To improve behavior we need to improve our “processes” and make everyone accountable for what they are doing.

These changes can be brought about by YOU – by doing your small bit while helping create a better organization and a better society to live in for yourself. Who knows, perhaps the Indian won’t be migrating after all.

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