Editor’s Note: This month, that is January 2021, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Work and The Workplace, where we invite various articles to highlight the profound changes that our workplaces may or may not have undergone and the effect that these changes have had on our personal and professional lives and ways of living in the time of the pandemic. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year I was employed as a full-time working professional. And as we all know a lot has changed in our lives since then. Similarly, a lot has happened in my life too. I quit my regular job last year towards the end of August. So, this article isn’t just an article. It is just an amalgamation of a few questions that frequently visited my mind during my employment.
I was working as a life skills trainer for an education company in Raipur, and in the beginning of the Covid situation, we were were asked to crumble inside our houses and work from home just like the rest of the country. But, this tale isn’t just about work from home saga. It is about an insignificant employee working and milling under the corporate ladder.
Now, as we all know ‘time is money’ and in the corporate sector, we are constantly made to realise these facts, both literally and metaphorically. Now there are a few questions that were always hovering my mind and questioning me. For us, the mere insignificant employees of the company, we were asked to give a bit by bit report of all our activities and work schedule. And our work also needed to get the prerequisite approval from the immediate bosses to the higher leadership authorities.
We were constantly chased after the working hours and measured on the parameters of our productivity levels. We were also conditioned to believe that if the work does not get the required approval or was not convincing enough of our standards in the work culture, we were obliged to work around the clock to meet the standards. No recognition or appreciation was provided, not even a word of acknowledgement from the immediate bosses or the higher authorities was expressed for the lower rank employees.
Of course, when your work does not offer the quality or the value in the chain process, you would definitely then ask yourself, ‘Why the hell are your services necessary?’ To which my answer would be that my constant problem was not that the hunger to produce better or quality work. But seemingly the overbearing pressure to conform and work on the quality standards attuned to somebody else’s potential. I remember constantly being compared to somebody else’s work, proficiency, skills and merit on multiple levels.
The corporate industry needs to know that not everyone is born with the similar skill set or proficiency. So it is a complete failure on both the part of the other employees and the company to compare one another based on somebody else’s potential. But everybody in this scenario wants to be the overachiever in the spectacle of “productivity”. And we, the mere insignificant employees of the company eventually were lured into the competition of proving ourselves based on this spectacle of productivity, and on the yardstick of somebody else’ potential.
Secondly, another question that was in my mind was regarding the onus of ‘ownership’ and accountability in the team. Now I understand being accountable and transparent is a virtue. And eventually we all have to be responsible for all our work and responsibilities. But systematically, when you are made to work under a competition and the outcome of such a competition is not to produce something inherently brilliant and novel, but to beat the other person, it becomes a problematic structure.
The very essence of ownership for one’s own work dies down. I have the personal experience of working on something that I had earlier worked on and in order to make it look so perfect and neat, I had over-worked on it. In the end, I constantly kept glaring at my screen and kept asking myself, “Is it really my work?” Marx’s theory of alienation was actually working and panning out in my life.
Accountability and transparency are real hallmarks of any modern organisation or institution. Thus, it is a virtue and it should be expected from all the members of the team, not only from the mere insignificant employees from the lower rungs of the organisation. Accountability and ownership for their daily day to day task and work assignments should be the responsibility of all the employees. But if work that includes longer commitments and entails greater challenges, the act of responsibility and ownership should befall equally on the part of all team members.
Low rung employees or mere insignificant employees like me should not be bothered about the sense of responsibility and ownership when we do not even know the real consequences of long term commitment. Although, I have seen mostly in my brief career experience that in crucial moments the senior most authority abandons the sense of responsibility and ownership to the lower rank employees.
Now, coming to my social identity as a working professional in the corporate world. I am a woman from a scheduled caste background, hailing from a remote, deprived and marginalised region of the country. People coming from mainstream India, born in the privileged castes, do not understand the plight of a marginalised caste individuals in the corporate sector. They would probably not understand or even try to understand what are our core challenges, fears and inhibitions to work in the corporate sector.
People would vouch against the reservation system in the country because they believe that it grants easy access to the non-deserving candidates in the various competitive fields sponsored by the state. Reservations are limited to only governments jobs, state run education systems, scholarships etc. But for people like me who break into the corporate world, the corporate sector has no such provisions. We attain access to such networks and corporates through unfair competition, labour and hard work.
A study was conducted by the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) regarding the recruitment, hiring, and services provided by the industrial or private sectors to marginalised castes. It revealed that states such as Maharashtra which comprises 19.1 % of SC population only employs a dismal proportion of only 5% in the human resource department of the private sector. Similarly, the states of Gujarat and Karnataka hire only 9% of the SC population in the private sector although they constitute 22% and 23% of the general population respectively. And you are going to find numerous such data on a regular basis of your search engine, if you do your research.
I have quit my job for better or for worse, I don’t know. But, now I refuse to sell myself to the capitalist notions based on the spectacle of productivity and the yardstick of somebody else’ achievements.