An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Obnoxious Bosses and their Punishing Evaluations and no Humor!

angry-boss.jpgMy first boss was a particularly obnoxious person. He would be fidgety, unconventional and rude to the core. I still remember him shouting at me because I had missed bringing a document in the reception area of a large merchant bank “You are TOTALLY ZERO.. and USELESS. Absolutely DUMB!”

Bosses in India teach the newbies one important lesson – what they shouldn’t do when THEY become bosses themselves! Unfortunately, that’s not how most subordinates take it. They instead learn from their predecessors. And become worse. My sister recently told me how her bosses shout expletives – yes, even when on conference calls with women executives – that would nicely place these guys in the gutter class of citizenry. Mother-f***er and Sister-f**cker are most common addressing phrases to both men and women subordinates alike. I am not talking of some local small company but a multi-national company!

Something is seriously wrong with our corporate culture in India. I am sure, if an MNC’s executives behave in such a way, folks in other companies cannot be expected to have any better judgment or sense. And it is reflective of a larger social malaise in India. How we perceive ourselves as righteous in all ways and the other to be an idiot.

Not only are we not willing to give any benefit of doubt for other person’s intelligence and creativity, but we like to squash everyone we can at the slightest of chance. There is a great thrill in putting others down. Thrill from obnoxious behavior that ends up destroying others’ ego and mind is extremely addictive. Specifically to us Indians. Parents do it. Siblings do it. Bosses definitely do it.

Intriguingly, I guess we aren’t in this state just like that. We seem to have a historic predisposition to such behavior. This blogger from the Economist happened to go through the archives of Performance Reviews of Tata Steel employees from 1904! And Tatas have been one of the most progressive group around. They have done so much in terms of how they care for their employees. But when it came to addressing their employees specifically and personally, even their executives from that era were rather punishing.

Visiting Tata Steel’s archives on my visit to Jamshedpur, I came across some examples of “appraisal” from 1904 that suffered from none of these problems. The appraiser summed up the workers’ performance in one or two words. Here are some choice examples: “cheated and fled”, “unfit for work”, “too lazy”, “lazy and not honest”, “not particularly valuable”, “too weak”, and, my own favourite, “a failure”.

Failure? Huh!

Some of these make one scratch ones head at how one perceives his or her coworkers. If one is working in a company with such minimally gifted people, that should speak volumes of that person himself!

But there are people who are pretty creative in their punishing rhetoric during Performance Reviews. For example like this “When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change feet.” or “He has a knack for making strangers immediately.”. And my personal favorite: “Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.”

And that is the point! If you are to be rabidly punishing and obnoxious, at least have a sense of humor! What is the use of having nothing but poison in you… hey please do me a favor.. lace it with some chat masala around it, will you?!

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