Disgruntled employees under ‘desi’ corporate culture

The advent of the East India Company was Asia`s first introduction to the multi-national culture concept. Since then, numerous multinational companies had entered the Asian markets to make profits. Pakistan had been a darling to MNCs (multi-national companies) during 1953-1970. A declassified document of 1953 revealed the USA state policy of directing its investment to the three destinations of Asia i.e. Pakistan, Turkey, and South Korea.

Pakistan has been an imminent recipient of investment from MNCs having their roots in the USA and the United Kingdom, and later on china as a relatively new entrant. MNCs along with investment also brought their respective country cultures with them that had been a new experience for the workforce, which was accustomed to the traditional work environment under local administration. These cultures had influenced our workplace environments by impacting on personal as well as professional demeanors. Having decades of research and development experiences, these MNCs, not only mastered the art of innovating different categories, products, and brands but also learned the ways; how to channelize and exploit the human potential to its fullest? Western corporate culture, to a large extent, believes in the development of human capital that in turn earns propitious incentives for the organization.

The majority of MNCs working in Pakistan had their top slots i.e. organization`s head, human resource, and finance head occupied by the foreigners. These positions are sine qua non in driving the culture of the company and in most of the cases, the culture at MNCs remained employee-centric. MNCs thrive to keep their employees as comfortable as possible to ensure peace of mind for them to stretch their abilities in the achievement of their objectives. Owing to an adverse security situation in post 2004-05’s Pakistan, most of the MNCs declared Pakistan as a non-family destination, forcing the departure of foreign nationals, resultantly the local leadership abruptly elevated to hold the carte blanche of managing the MNCs.

Haplessly it has been observed over the past decade that the culture left by then corporate leaders (of course barring a few examples) have succumbed to our indigenous moral and social lackluster. Nowadays employees of the corporate sectors are more distressed and less secure. By living in perpetual anxiety of not achieving their ever-enhancing goals, has left them and their families deplorable. How has this happened that the MNCs’ culture eroded under the supervision of local corporate leaders?

Most of the MNCs have developed an immaculate system of hiring and performance management, based upon comprehensive research and experience. To enter an MNC, one has to undergo a hiring process that includes technical along with IQ, and aptitude tests followed by interviews. Once a person is hired then his potential to excel within the organization shall be determined by his/her performance in the company. However, it is observed that nowadays, specific education background restricted to a few universities attracts the attention of the head hunters and the same qualification overlook their careers in the organizations as well, instead of performance. This mindset has deprived, bright students of less known colleges from entering into the corporate world and stifled the growth of zealous employees within the organizations, who despite been proficient, were not been able to attend the top/expensive education institutions. This phenomenon of “institutionalized nepotism” brought a bad taste to the organizations` culture by having qualified but dispassionate managerial cadre, perniciously impacting the companies` performance.

Employee welfare has always been accentuated by MNCs and boldly enshrined in their vision and mission statements. The MNCs provide their employees with state-of-the-art workplaces, healthcare benefits for their families, and recreational opportunities. MNCs’ approach towards these benefits had been magnanimous and not performance-based. Unless some employee was found in an immoral activity or compromised the integrity of the company, a job severance penalty was never awarded to a low performer, instead ways to improve performance were sorted out with time frames. This culture of tolerance is diminishing in the present-day corporate culture that ensures the survival of the fittest. Cutthroat competition in remaining the top performer with an ever-increasing performance threshold is costing employees their health and compromised family life. “Continuous improvement” has been replaced by “continuous performance” and credit goes to our local leadership that never took the pain in improving the performance of the human resource by investing in it.  Instead, the emphasis is being given in showing the exit door as they believe that mantra of unemployment in Pakistan enables them to exploit the employees by showing them heaps of resumes waiting to take up their positions.

Other aspects that have wreaked havoc on the working culture are personal egos, gender-specific harassment, and personal insecurities. MNCs brought with them a culture that supported the low-income segments or non-managerial staff by catering to their needs of decent workplaces, providing them with reasonable cafeterias and restrooms along with healthcare benefits. They have often been compensated if they had to work beyond assigned duty hours. The approach of foreign leadership towards the non-management staff has always been affectionate. There had been quite a few examples where the company’s profit was hitting new lows but the non-managerial staff remained immune to any drastic administrative cuts. MNCs have never been “penny wise, pound foolish” that is why getting to the pensionable age was prevalent in the MNCs’ corporate culture. Now to a large extent, this culture is fading away. Lower and non-managerial staffs are the first to bear the brunt of downsizing, and miraculously if they are lucky enough to save their jobs, then their small perks and benefits would be slashed, leaving them distasteful.

All the aforementioned factors have been playing a pivotal role in bringing down the efficiency of the workforce by forcing them to remain unproductive by wasting their energies in playing politics to remain politically correct. Albeit the senior leadership of all companies gets comprehensive training opportunities in their professional lives to invigorate their leadership qualities, but it is a reality as well that “it takes a profound effort with a mammoth dedication to un-learn the learned and to realize that “ employees leave managers-not companies..”.

Ch. Bilal Hassan

— The writer is a private sector professional 

and aspires widening 

of social discourse.

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