Friday, 5 December 2014

Corporate India : Is This Business? Professionalism? Planning? Management?

1) An employee of a top Indian firm was physically roughed up and beaten up in the market in 2010


2) An employee of a top Indian firm was held by the local distributor as old claims were not settled



3) An employee of a top Indian firm was held by a channel partner due to old disputes



4) An employee of a top Indian firm was stabbed due to on the job disputes



5) A few employees of a good Indian firm were stabbed due to internal disputes



6) An employee of a good Indian firm was shot to death due to channel disputes








This is Sales? The above is professionalism? The above-mentioned is business? Are we in Business, or are we in a combat unit? If that is the case, then I am better off not knowing such excellent and praise-worthy tactics! I readily admit I dont know anything about Sales! These are not isolated cases; there are the outliers in an extremely disturbing trend that I have spotted in some industries. The trend can be seen in the rising number of scams, exposes like cobrapost, murders, suicides, sackings and pink-slips, lifestyle diseases, divorces etc. Most sales people I know of can readily recount such tales as given above... 








All the cases above are true cases. All the cases above really happened; and there are several others that have happened that I havent listed; like the many arrests of telecom employees, the threats that I have seen and heard in the market etc. Add to this the cases of suicides, harassment, rising work stress and lifestyle diseases that are on the rise in Corporate India. The net picture that emerges is not a very healthy one, as a multitude of surveys have clearly indicated.





Is this why I work? Just to get killed, roughed up, or kidnapped, or arrested due to reasons entirely outside my control? Is this business? Is this professionalism? And most importantly, why does this happen, and why are these incidences increasing by the day? Where are we going wrong as professionals, as human beings, and as specialists in our trade? 





It is important to understand that the cases highlighted above are not isolated cases; they are the product of a brutal system that gives no credence to the proper process, the optimal way of doing business. While it is certain that disputes will arise in any business due to a variety of reasons, these disputes ought also to be settled in a manner that does not create harm for the organisation and its employees. Especially its employees; if in any situation, the choice is between the organisation and the employee, the employee, his health, his career and his safety  has to come first. 





Does this happen? Arguably, it doesnt. Why do I, as a professional, then give my 100% to an organisation that does not care for me, for my family, for my health, and for my safety? People make organisations, not vice versa; and in the modern days' chase for numbers at all costs, people are the ones who get used and forgotten once their perceived value recedes. With the demand supply imbalance in the job market, there is an assured supply of manpower as ready replacement. This further erodes the perceived value alluded to above; there is no incentive for the boss or the organisation to focus on true employee development; this is why average tenure in an organisation is on the decline.





These words above may sound defeatist, the words borne out of failure or dejection. They are neither; they are simple hard facts, as I shall now proceed to elucidate with categorical evidence and proof. Let us consider the case of the Sales function, and look at some real-world scenarios, situations that happened in the real world, the response and its analysis. 






ONE



It was the month-end in a major Indian company, where pressure sales were the norm rather than the exception. During closing, a few deliveries were punched in without there being any orders from the concerned distributors. In other words, billing without there being any order from the market. The local Sales Person, at a grade of Assistant Manager, had to do it, or lose his job. This person then went to the concerned distributor  to ensure that the material got offloaded into his godown. During the stretched negotiations with the distributor, the State Sales Manager was overheard on telephone telling the transporter - catch hold of the Manager there; beat him, or threaten him, or whatever - but the material wont come back! HR was informed - and no action was taken by them on this rather serious complaint. HO was informed, with a similar lack of action on their part






TWO



In another top Indian company, the local collection team took a full-body scan video of the back-office lady staff at a distributor point. The ladies complained to the Sales Manager in charge of the distributor, who escalated the matter as it concerned a sexual harassment case, and was an inter-departmental matter. The company blamed the concerned Sales Manager for escalating the matter and not sorting it out saying boys will be boys! The Sales Manager was held responsible for the entire matter! 






THREE



For the third example, let us go deep into the sales function, into specifics. In a top firm, fake commitments were made to the entire channel. This led to a situation wherein the balances of the distributors did not reconcile with the company accounts due to undocumented claims. The channel subsequently stopped ordering fresh inventory, leading to outdated products in the market, resulting in loss of marketshare. This has happened in at least 4 companies that I know of personally,  across several states





FOUR



In another top company, fake documents were the norm for case closure. If any document was incomplete, the procedure was simply to fake it. In this same company, fake sales were common, very common - generate fake sales to make your sales numbers look great, and never mind the channel health or anything else. These fake sales would get flushed out later through delayed secondaries or through adjustments, and pretty soon this became the norm. Point to be noted - this is something I have noted in 3 industries and several companies






Each of the cases mentioned above has its causes in one simple habit : The end justifies the means. Be it fake documents, or not taking action against a key employee, or fake commitments, or fake sales, or fake documents - these are all the symptoms of the real disease. These are not the disease; they are the symptoms of a much deeper malaise that needs urgent attention from all stakeholders within an organisation. 





The pressure to deliver on your commitments in the modern organisation is extreme; this is combined with a total lack of a safety valve for outlet of pent-up tensions and pressure. On top of all this is the constant fear of a job loss, and the attendant difficulty of finding a new job and providing for your family. The icing on the cake is the driving ambition of the Managers {at all levels} which does not normally have the safety lid of empathy, teamwork, process-orientation, organisation centricity & long-term orientation.  





And this occurs in an atmosphere with a pressure to conform, where any attempt any individuality is a sign of weakness and a sign of not being a proper "fit" in the concerned function. For example, if an employee has a personal safety valve - music, switching off, or just being mentally strong and not showing tension - he or she runs the risk of being called a misfit! Thus, you have not only to perform, but also conform; or perish! If perceived as a misfit, all mistakes get amplified and  all achievements get devalued...





It is into this pressure-cooker cauldron that the employee steps in and is expected to perform miracles and wonders, and from day one. Please understand : the ultra-competitive modern world means that you actually have very little time to adjust; you have to hit the ground running. This can be a major source of competitive disadvantage if employees take too long to adjust. And this is where organisations go completely awry. A human being isn't a machine; an automaton. He or she is going to take time to adjust and get used to it.  And rather than evolve systems and processes to mitigate this circumstance and ensure that the employee has time to adjust, organisations place the entire load onto the employee. 





Be that as it may, this person enters, and takes charge. He or she now has to deliver; previous experiences have taught the employee that perform or perish is the norm...





In the concluding part of this article, I shall go into the details of why the cases highlighted in the beginning take place... 




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