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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Ratan Tata’s comments on the work culture of managers in British firms have created a stir in the UK. In an interview withThe Times daily, Tata had said “nobody is willing to go that extra mile" in critical situations, unlike their Indian counterparts who would work till midnight in "a war-like situation". While it’s ironic that the comments were published two months after they were made and a day after the Tatas announced 1,500 job losses in Britain, Mr Tata should have known better the work culture of the UK and what he was getting into when he bought Corrus and JLR. Having worked in London for years, I can understand what he’s trying to say, but the point is that you have to work within and blend / adapt to the culture. 

I think there is no one way of looking at this issue. Every country has its own work culture. Take the Americans for example. They are extremely aggressive/hard working and value their personal time as well. They work hard throughout the week and enjoy the weekend. Work hard and play hard. In countries like China, Japan, Korea and Thailand, work is worship. It’s a done thing to spend long hours in office. The scene is no different in India, where people take great pride in announcing the long gap since their last holiday.

According to a survey, an average Indian IT employee (male, unmarried) works for 11-13 hours. But a major portion of it is utilized in personal activities (checking personal mails, surfing the net, etc.). I have heard so many people say that they prefer staying late in office because “there is nothing better to do back home”.
I always tell my employees to take a vacation to recharge their batteries, but needless to say most don’t. Most Indians work over the weekends -  if not on Sunday, but certainly on Saturday. But the culture in Europe is different and it is an exception to check official mails or even answering calls from colleagues on weekends. In India, ignoring calls or e-mails would entail a good verbal lashing from the bosses.

The key to a successful professional and personal life is balance. Diligence should not be judged on the number of hours spent in office. I always thought it was about what you produce in your work time, not how many hours you are “seen” in the office. Of course, senior team leaders have to lead by example and work late in times of crisis.

We should also change our negative perception of “having fun”. There’s nothing wrong in feeling good about a weekend and getting into the party mode on Friday evening. In Australia, some of the older firms bring out crates full of beer around 4pm on a Friday to cheer staff for the weekend!  But, if there is some pressing work, we should also be prepared to forgo the beer party with buddies

1 comment:

  1. Its true Ratan Tata’s comment had ignited controversy worldwide. I still remember reading the story in the TOI in which a labour MP felt that the government should reconsider his status as an adviser to the British PM David Cameron.

    This article was indeed thought provoking giving an insight about the work cultures across the globe. I genuinely feel that this piece should have been carried in the print media too. Infact, have read the other articles too in your blog which were simply amazing. Please keep on writing.

    And lastly, got motivated to have some ‘fun’ to ‘recharge (my) batteries’!