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Couple of years ago, a candidate was brought to me by his would-be reporting officer for final interview. The position was an officer level (read ‘entry level’) one. The candidate had few years’ experience in a similar position. He had spent two years in one organization who are a very well-known manufacturer of tents and tarpaulins. Apparently, they have a huge export business also. Incidentally, his would-be reporting officer also had had a stint there. The candidate mentioned that the owners regularly abused employees verbally, in the dirtiest possible local language. The other person also endorsed it. Despite this factor, the person had worked for two years taking this factor as an inevitable component of compensation package. They also considered that basically the owners were neither properly educated nor had good exposure to improve, and therefore could not do better.
Chief Executive/owner of a pharmaceutical company who had had an illustrious career for a long time in multinational environment is known for using abusive language replete with four-letter words. The only difference is that this guy does it in well-spoken English. There is no consideration if ladies are also present.
Chief Executive/ owner of another pharmaceutical company is notorious for verbal abuse with expletive profanities and occasional physical attacks also. This guy also carries great amount of exposure.
These are just a few examples. The reality is that in most small and medium sized organizations, verbal and physical abuse is common and everyday activity. It is initiated and perpetrated by the owners and is continued by the senior managers and managers successively.
Unfortunately, employees are compelled to bear this due to their own compulsions. They cannot leave the job and they dread coming to office every day and during their time in the office. Any slight objection or protest is likely to lead to immediate termination from employment. Some proponents say that the employees should refuse to accept such behavior and resist it strongly. However, in real life, this is neither possible nor practical as the resisting employee shall have to change jobs very frequently.
Another equally serious issue is uncivil behavior of employees with each other. Rudeness, unpleasant remarks, poor language and aggressive behavior are commonly seen in majority of organization.
Harassment of women at workplace is an entirely separate subject and serious enough to be taken up on its own.
We shall try to trace the origins of this behavior and the effects it has on the employees.
The origins of these behaviors may be traced in the following areas.
Class Based Social Structure
Since the beginning of civilization in our part of the world, the society had been put into various classes and treated accordingly. Our continent had Hindu origins since more than three thousand years. Hindus have a strict caste-based society, at the top of which sat Brahmins and at the bottom were untouchables (now euphemistically called Dalits). The untouchables were actually not to be touched by the upper caste Hindus as it would spoil their piety. Islam came more than two millennia later to this continent. Only a few people came along with the Muslims, the rest were all local converts. The class-based mentality continued even after conversion, though in a slightly changed shape.
The other form of class discrimination was the Nawabs, Rajahs and Kings who owned everything with absolute power.
Third form of class differentiation were the large landholders who behaved the same way as Rajahs, and they still do.
The Hindu caste system has translated into the biradries and clans among Muslims in Pakistan. The upshot is that people are divided into classes and upper classes have the right to treat the lower classes with inferiority and scorn.
The thinking among business owners is that the entire staff is dependent upon them for their life and therefore they have unquestionable authority over them. They can treat/mistreat them verbally and physically. This is a major reason why proper mannerism is severely missing in privately owned small and medium enterprises. The larger companies see the same bad behavior from managers at different levels.
Lack of Literacy
Lack of literacy in our part of the world is not just a coincidence, it is the result of planned effort by the rulers and elites over decades and centuries. They have done every activity in the book and out of the book to keep masses away from education. They knew that if education became common, people would gain awareness and shall revolt against them. They joined hands with the clergy first who made people believe that education was the work of Satan and the children must be protected against it. The boys should attend a madrassa and get religious education while the girls should stay home and just learn to read Qura’an; no more. In older times, women and girls in better placed households were asked to learn to read ‘Bahishti Zewar’ which is a concoction of questionable beliefs, customs, rites and rituals.
Due to the sustained and integrated efforts of ruling oligarchy and clergy, the masses stayed away from education and still are. What we claim as percent literacy is limited to the fact that anyone able to sign his name would be considered literate. Successive governments have tried to spread the tentacles of formal education, but with mixed success.
Lack of literacy have several fallouts, the most important being social understanding and development. We do not how to treat others with respect, we do not know tolerance and patience and we do not follow the matters of rights of managers and subordinates. Our tolerance at workplace stands at a virtual zero.
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