India at work: What our employees think of job ethics
Ethics: About half of Indian professionals do not enjoy their work. An HT-C fore survey reveals our attitudes and commitment to work lives. Zofeen Maqsood reports.india Updated: Jul 14, 2013 02:24 IST
More than half (52%) of working professionals in India do not enjoy their work and do not look forward to new challenges at work. About 29% of the work force in both organised as well as unorganised sectors feels that wasting time at work has become an unwritten office culture.
These are some of the findings of the work ethics survey conducted by Hindustan Times and C-fore, where working professionals, across sectors and salary brackets were quizzed to study the level of honesty and dedication Indians felt towards their professional lives. The survey threw up some interesting as well as distressing facts.
Psychologist Pulkit Sharma says, "The fact that half of the surveyed professionals do not enjoy their work can be directly linked to efficiency. A non-enthusiastic group will not be able to deliver efficiently." Experts say, this shows that the foundation of finding passion in work is lacking amongst Indians.
According to Anand Kumar, sociologist, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, "It indicates that the majority is working because of compulsions; obviously there is a little chance of them putting their best foot forward." It's often also the lack of a happy work atmosphere that results in compromised work ethics.
The link between productivity and employee happiness was established by the findings of Towers Watson/National Business Group Staying@Work study, 2011-12, where two-thirds (66%) of companies in US and Canada with effective productivity programs performed better versus 50% of companies with ineffective programs. In another study, the Continental Europe Ethics at Work, 2012, the majority of the surveyed European employees perceived their organisation as having positive indicators of an ethical culture. Naturally the majority (77%) of employees' thought that honesty is practiced 'Always/Frequently' in their organisation's daily practices.
Interestingly, the survey showed that a non-enthusiastic approach does not stop us from bonding at work. 45% said that they provide cover for their colleagues and do not mind sharing their work in their absence.
Kumar says, "Indians are homogenous by nature so empathy with colleagues comes naturally; however the bonding often has more to do with our personal inclinations. It's not uncommon to see a greater harmony amongst workers from a certain region."
Sameer Malhotra, head, Deptt. of Mental Sciences, Max Healthcare says, " It is important that one should be able to work seamlessly on an individual level too." Recession, according to experts played a part in making people value office more. Rajesh Kumar, CEO, My hiring club, a recruitment firm, says, "Indians are big on reporting on time. Though they may be confusing but time spent may not be consistent with the productivity."
Another key finding was that we regard punctuality as a big virtue, with almost two-thirds (66%) agreeing that it is important to report to work on time. Social scientist Shiv Visvanathan says, "Indians are known to spend long hours at work but often the reasons are varied. For lower level workers in MNCs, an office space may provide amenities like an AC and an Internet." Naresh Maheshwari, MD, Pergo India says, "Reporting to work is desirable but long work hours do not translate into more work, we often confuse quality with quantity."
52% of the respondents claimed that they push themselves extra, when they are going/or are back from a holiday. Suchi Mukerjee, CEO, Limeroad.com, says, "The concept of claiming holidays is getting redefined in many new professional set-ups."
Sharma agrees, "As long as one works dedicatedly, one must feel free to take off and recharge. The idea of pushing yourself extra because you took an off may seem idealistic but is actually like punishing yourself for no fault."
A 2006 study by accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.
The other emerging trend was that only 50% of workforce believed in taking responsibility for errors committed at work. Sociologist Anand Kumar, prefers looking at the positive aspect.
He says, "With the changing protocols, a small majority has started speaking against wrong." Maheshwari is sceptical, he says, "Taking responsibility differs across levels. Often employees in middle and upper level take responsibilities, however it should be a conscious call, across positions."
'Lack of work-ethics may result in corruption' — Experts
Ratan Tata famously triggered a debate when he was quoted in a London paper in 2011 saying that Britain is losing business because British profesionals are not "willing to go the extra mile." "It’s a work ethic issue" he was quoted as saying, and that things are different in India.
However, experts link perception of rampant corruption in public life to a poor work ethic on t he whole. Little compromises at work can lay the foundation of bigger corruption. Pulkit Sharma, psychologist says, "Given the lackadaisical approach to work, as reflected in the survey, no wonder we are seeing a recurrence of corrupt practices."
Whether it is a Gurgaon hospital denied medical aid to a 13-year-old rape victim, or instances of men in uniform committing atrocities against citizens, or even the mess in cricket with "conflict of interest" becoming a talking point, Anand Kumar says, "transparency in financial conducts is essential in a healthy society."
Post Dec 2012 gang-rape, Sharma says, "A violation of work ethics on part of state, police and authorities was displayed. The outrage highlighted that we tolerated it for too long."
Global Surveys on work ethics
A study published by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that the youth are more materialistic and less motivated than past generations. Out of surveyed 355,000 US high schoolers conducted from 1976 -2007, 39% of students in 2005-07 admitted they didn't want to work hard, compared to only 25% in 1976-78.
According to a study from the Ethics Resource Center's 2009 National Business Ethics Survey recession played a role in improving business ethics. Not only had the over-all misconduct gone down (from 56% in 2007 to 49% in 2009) but the whistle-blowing also increased by 63% as compared to 58%