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BW Businessworld

Change Is Constant

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There is no such thing as company culture although companies do have cultures. Culture is a personal thing, and company culture is an extension of its leader's culture. I have seen this play out in companies across the world. Neither does it have anything to do with being Indian. Indian companies are perceived to have a more consistent culture as their leaders typically spend their entire careers in one company and ensure that their successors share or are aligned with their values set.

There are, essentially, two kinds of leaders. The first is a person with a long history in one company. She or he would have built relationships over the years with employees across the hierarchy and, sometimes, even with their families. This leads to emotional bonding and respect, compassion and caring. In such an environment, when an employee has to part ways, for reasons other than misdemeanour, it is done with sensitivity and respect, and the employee and his family is treated fairly.

The second type is a fairly new incumbent (typically with short stints in various companies), with a desire to prove himself. In all probability,  the person would have been told during the recruitment process that he is being brought in to bring about change. Such a leader has limited emotional attachment with the company, is there to get a job done, and will make the changes he deems fit. And often, he will make changes because he sees himself as a change agent. If he is rational in his approach, he will conduct efficient evaluations before deciding on personnel changes. But if he is unreasonable, he may take such decisions in haste, without weighing the pros  and cons. However, once the decision is made, both the types of leaders will align with their direct bosses as well as the functional bosses of the employee concerned. Then HR is called in, and the plan is executed. Thus, there are varied approaches to arrive at the same conclusion.

Careers, businesses, markets, and even consumers are no more what they used to be 20 years ago. So, if the consumer has changed, businesses and business models are also recast followed by a change in the organisation's internal dynamics. Therefore, those who are unable to change must move on. And we are witnessing that more people who quit early are unwilling to change, and are averse to re-inventing themselves to be in line with the changed environment. This break can be a gut-wrenching experience for those who have been employed with one organisation for long, and have made personal sacrifices for it. But that's life. The rules of the game have changed, and the only way to deal with it without doing further damage to oneself is to live in the present. 

What aspect of our lives has not been impacted by this change? In modern hockey, when the turf changed from natural to astro, the game changed and so did the winners. The dominance of India and Pakistan is over. The fast pace of the game means there are five substitutions compared to the two earlier.

People who boasted of playing the entire match have ceased to exist. In T20 cricket, bowlers who bowl four overs twice a week earn more in one season than what test cricketers of repute have earned in an entire career. If you re-invent yourself regularly and consistently deliver results, you may still have a long career with one company. If not, you will have to make way for change.

Uday Basu has been a performer, and a loyal employee. Once he gets over this shock, surely he will think of ways to re-invent himself and feel the better for it. As Steve Jobs had said during his speech at Stanford in 2005, "Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner…it was an awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Do not lose faith."

In the case, Ambi, who had an "outside in" view and was not sucked into Uday's emotional whirlpool, gave him the best piece of advice, albeit difficult to execute: remain calm, detached; be firm; state your terms clearly; don't request, tell them they cannot announce your exit. Once you have dealt with the emotional roller coaster, channelise your energies to get a fair deal, because that is what all the companies, irrespective of their culture, owe to employees.

Business today is about swiftly outmanoeuvring competitors. Saigal, as the boss, has brought in his culture with which he manages Delaware. But a company of repute cannot allow its leaders to treat its employees unfairly under the garb of ‘culture'. The other truth is this: the person who is right, doesn't always win. This is not to be seen as defeat or karma, but simply the power of untruth in a world of competition. That is all.

Abhijit Bhattacharya is executive vice president at Royal Philips Electronics, and based in Amsterdam

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-03-2012)