My classmate, who is pursuing her post graduation in Mass Communications, recently joined a mid size company of 400 people for her industrial internship. The first thing she noticed when she joined the company was that the owner of the company, an NRI was a man of principles. Employees at this small IT unit were given all the benefits given to employees in the US without any bias. He did not believe in blocking Internet or Chat or Webmails. The working atmosphere in this company was however not very nice thanks to the Indians who work there.
To begin with the NRI who is a second generation Indian from US has no clue about the social dynamics in India. This led to exploitation of the situation by employee’s especially senior managers. The Sysadmin for instance had ensured that all his team members were from his religion. The technical head on the other hand had ensured that all his teammates were Gult. The facility manager had ensured that his team consisted of Malayalees only and so on.
All the team members talked in their respective language and soon enough a situation developed when there was a total communication breakdown between employees, teams and departments besides fierce protection of team members by team manager even if they were not upto the mark. Performance appraisals were similarly rigged in favor of team members.
An interesting thing to note about this phenomenon was that employees who have grown up in metros were resentful of this ghettoisation. It was people from smaller towns who fell prey to this trend.
The NRI boss was totally clueless to the problems on the ground and regarded hiccups like severe attrition as part of the industry trend. Into this scenario walked in an HR manager. The lady summed up the situation pretty quickly and rolled out rules and regulations that totally wiped out chances of managers from hiring only from within their community and or caste or religion. She also banned the use of any vernacular language including Hindi in the office premises and after a rough ride of implementation, peace and a lot of progress has returned to the company.
The NRI learned a valuable lesson and the divisions and misunderstandings caused by use of regional languages vanished. People became more professional and managers were left red faced when they realized their unprofessional conduct.
I was reminded of this incident when I read about two nurses in Delhi who were reprimanded for talking in Malayalam within hospital premises. On the face of it, it does look discriminatory. But such rules and regulations go a long way in providing a conducive work environment in a country like ours. It is not language chauvinism but prevention of language chauvinism. And the fact that such rules are increasingly being applied goes to show that Indian employees are yet to develop a professional attitude at their work places.