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More than targets & long hours: Transforming work culture by embracing autonomy and purpose

In India, a culture deeply rooted in hierarchy and deference to authority is hindering true success and individual fulfillment in the workplace. Despite the country’s youthful workforce, there are significant barriers such as limited opportunities, a wide gender gap, and outdated notions of leadership. Rohit Sen, CEO of NIRA in Bangalore, emphasizes that true leadership […]

In India, a culture deeply rooted in hierarchy and deference to authority is hindering true success and individual fulfillment in the workplace. Despite the country’s youthful workforce, there are significant barriers such as limited opportunities, a wide gender gap, and outdated notions of leadership.

Rohit Sen, CEO of NIRA in Bangalore, emphasizes that true leadership involves understanding priorities and fostering conditions for employees to excel. Contrary to the prevailing belief that long hours equate to hard work and success, Sen argues for a shift away from this mindset. The current system not only exploits individuals but also hampers creative freedom and purpose.

The education system perpetuates the harmful idea that success is directly proportional to working long hours. This not only exploits individuals but also restricts creative freedom and purpose. The fear of genuine autonomy prevails in India, hindering the ability to ideate, contribute, and succeed independently.

To bring about a positive change, there needs to be a cultural shift in how we perceive productivity and success. Leaders must value autonomy, fostering an environment that encourages healthy discourse, purpose, and individual growth. The emphasis should be on creating a workplace where people find value in their skills and are motivated by a sense of purpose rather than just completing tasks.

Addressing India’s broader issues demands a holistic approach that extends beyond the immediate concerns of the workplace. Accountability and a genuine commitment to employee well-being are paramount, transcending the confines of consumerist ideals that often dominate the corporate landscape. In this context, it becomes imperative to recognize and uphold the fundamental principles of dignity and equal opportunity as constitutional rights that should be at the forefront of any organizational ethos.

The concept of dignity in the workplace encompasses more than just fair wages and reasonable working hours. It involves fostering an environment where individuals are treated with respect, their voices are heard, and their contributions are valued. This acknowledgment of dignity goes hand in hand with recognizing the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that employees bring to the table.

Equal opportunity, as a constitutional right, necessitates dismantling barriers that impede individuals from realizing their full potential. Discrimination based on gender, caste, or any other form of bias should be actively addressed and eradicated. By providing an inclusive and equitable playing field, organizations can harness the collective talent and creativity of their workforce, contributing to a more vibrant and innovative work culture.

The call for a shift in mindsets goes beyond a mere suggestion; it represents a moral and ethical duty to the human story. Organizations wield significant influence in shaping societal narratives, and a commitment to changing mindsets signifies a conscious effort to contribute positively to the larger fabric of society. This duty extends to challenging prevailing norms that perpetuate inequality, bias, and a lack of opportunities for certain groups.

In embracing this duty, organizations can become catalysts for societal change, fostering a workplace culture that not only respects individual rights but actively promotes them. This involves not only implementing policies that ensure equal opportunity and dignity but also instilling a culture that celebrates diversity and encourages open dialogue.

Furthermore, the emphasis on shifting mindsets underscores the need for continuous learning and unlearning within organizations. It requires a commitment to reevaluating ingrained beliefs and practices that may perpetuate inequality or stifle innovation. This ongoing process of reflection and adaptation is essential for creating workplaces that are not only responsive to the needs of their employees but also proactive in addressing societal challenges.

Prashant Kumar Nair, Creative Head & Partner at People Design & Communications in Bangalore, points out that mere rejection of the traditional “Sir/Mam” culture is insufficient without addressing the systemic power dynamics. True autonomy means more than using first names; it involves the freedom to challenge perspectives. Embracing autonomy at work empowers individuals to bring their whole selves, ideas, challenges, and flaws, fostering a generation more concerned with the quality of work life than mere job titles.

In conclusion, the future of leadership in India must prioritize autonomy and purpose, nurturing ideas from every individual to create a more fulfilling and innovative work culture.

 


Rheea is the author of ‘The Body Myth’. Her latest book ‘The Girl who Kept Falling in Love’ (Sep tember, 2023) is published by Penguin Books.

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