Work culture in India is weak compared to America

Cyber city in DLF Phase 2, Gurgaon, Haryana where many MNCs in India have officesPHOTO: Cyber city in DLF Phase 2, Gurgaon, Haryana where many MNCs in India have offices

I had heard that employees in India change jobs very often. Having been here for a month, I’m beginning to see some of the reasons for all the job hopping.

My opinions below are derived from conversations and experiences with several professionals across various MNCs in India.

The Employee Perspective

At the entry/mid-management level, a 2-year career with the same company is considered long. Employees are constantly on the lookout for another job and are sometimes actively poached by competitors. I’m told this is because there are substantially fewer “qualified” people than there are jobs. And with more and more MNCs growing their operations in India, this problem is expected to get worse.

Long work hours

Work hours in India are long and employees frequently work nights and weekends unproductively. There is no respect for personal time and few employees feel secure enough to push back. As a result, they work their asses off for a couple of years, get burnt out, and move on.

Lack of mentorship

Monetary compensation is the only incentive offered to attract and retain good people. Compared to the U.S., employers spend little time or money in building a relationship with their employees. Office socials and events are rare and there is no sense of belonging to a community. Additionally, the Indian culture and company cultures are hierarchical – socializing and networking tends to happen within your peer-level only. As a result, it feels harder to find mentors who take you under their wing, look out for you, and give you straight-up, honest advice that helps you grow.

No control on steering your career

Even at the macro level, project staffing doesn’t take into account individual career preferences. Senior leaders don’t work in an environment where they are encouraged to spend time understanding the type of work their staff want to do. For instance, junior staff who want a broad range of experiences are often unable to steer their careers to work on projects across various industries. Finally, there are no systems in place that allow employees to submit regular feedback anonymously on what’s working and what’s not.

Although everyone understands these issues, there is a general culture of apathy and most people accept that “the system” is what it is and cannot be changed.

The Employer Perspective

It’ll take more time to research and understand the employer side of the story. I’ll update if/when I understand it.


5 local comments so far.
  1. Gaurav,

    Looks like the SAPIENT office in the right.

  2. Balaji,

    Ignorance is bliss and in the kingdom of blind, one eyed man is the king.
    Comparisons are contingent on knowledge of the greener side of the ocean!

    Our colleagues compare their status to other employees in local companies which are worse in many parameters, just as work conditions are much worse in U.S. when compared to conditions in many countries in Europe and the work conditions!

    The employer side of the story is similar, they are not monsters in India, who know of, and can afford a better work experience for their employees but dont do it because they are just intentionally insensitive. All employers push the envelope as far as they can. If the “general work policies” in an ecosystem follow a few policies, then it would really need a visionary leader or a business imperative to move away from that norm. Most of these general work policies are defined by the demand supply situation – not just of employees but the competitive supply of jobs with better work situations!

    • Prashant,

      On the lack of mentorship: My first 2 companies in the U.S. didn’t have a culture of mentoring. The third company (Sapient Consulting) was outstanding in this respect. So not all companies in America mentor and groom their employees. But when comparing U.S. companies to Indian companies, it feels that significantly less mentoring goes on in India.
      Your comment that the working conditions are better in Europe than America is closer to ‘opinion’ than popularly accepted fact. Europe has a better social security blanket but significantly higher unemployment rates and a much less dynamic workforce. U.S. has a very dynamic workforce with low unemployment (even during this recession) but with much higher job insecurity. These are philosophical choices that Europe and America have made and they are both valid. Each area’s immigration numbers over each decade could be taken as ‘foot votes’ for each system. I’m not sure that I can articulate a philosophical choice that India is making.
      Employers certainly push as much as they can get away with. I would have thought it’s good for business to have a low attrition rate by doing all the things that companies with lower attrition rates do – mentorship and strong social culture, flat organization structure, etc. But I’ll wait for Meenal’s update on the employer’s perspective.

    • Meenal,

      Comparisons are indeed contingent on knowledge of the other side of the ocean and that is the perspective and intent that I come from.

      Some differences in corporate culture could be attributed to conscious choices/cultural differences that a country chooses to make. Others, however, are due to the fact that we in India are still further behind in the progress ladder than some other countries. Today, a lot of the Indians may compare their lives with others in the local companies where things are much worse. But until a tomorrow comes when sufficient numbers of people are doing comparisons with countries/companies where things can be learned from, we will not have a mass cultural shift across companies in India.

      From an employer perspective, although I don’t have my research or my thoughts completely formulated yet, I do believe that many employers even in the U.S. push the envelope. The question though is that what “benefits” offered by employers are considered basic enough that they will always be part of the envelope.


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