How Can Improving Work Culture Values In Individuals Help Productivity?
In this modern era, in dealings including those in corporate organisations, culture is a word used often. We talk of culture, heritage, and tradition even in the office. We talk of corporate culture and of work culture. The International Atomic Energy Agency has even coined the expression ‘Safety Culture’ and produced a document with that title. We find senior managers and advisers freely advising on work culture. This topic deserves to be examined in depth.
The term ‘Work Culture’ raises a minimum of four questions. What is work and what is culture? What is the relation between the two? Does work make the people cultured or otherwise? If so, how? alternately, does culture produce the right kind of work? How could one understand all these factors clearly, and in the proper perspective?
This term has been freely used and issued. There is hardly any clarity of concept as to tradition and culture. If I can keep on doing what my grandfather did, does that form culture? Can a policy set up by the corporate head long ago, continue forever? Does it contribute to the organisational growth and health, if the same practices are continued in a violently changing social and business environment?
It is necessary to conceive of a definition which will stand alone. Thus, culture is defined as “The integral sum of values which individuals, groups of individuals and the society at large, conceive and practice.” This bring us to values.
If the values are only conceived and not practiced, they become redundant and are without any intrinsic merit. If culture is a value based concept, it is to be understood how values enter human mind and how they translate into practice. Otherwise, they engender only lip service, and fail to inspire and motivate the rest of the individual. Look at the present political hierarchy. There is so much dichotomy in preaching and practice. Preaching is often diversified from the thoughts of the individuals. In certain cases, the thoughts are diversified from the intellectual values. This is the curse of the situation today.
Mahatma Gandhi lived as an example of an integrated personality with perfect unison between concept and practice. He lived the values he conceived and taught all his life. It is a natural order in human beings that what they practice, enlivens society and the surroundings. Verbosity fails to inspire. If we look back into history, only such individuals who lived their values, could create order and evolution in society. Similarly, if the head of an organisation preaches simple needs like economy, orderliness etc. but appropriates all the perquisites for his personal comforts, he is bound to attract criticism from others. Not only criticism, even rebellion can easily arise from the people who are supposed to follow him. The result in chaos, failure of purpose and decadence.
There are some values which are eternal. Speak the truth. Do not hurt others. And so on. However, they are only in writing and are hardly understood or practiced. How do the values enter the human mind? Some are inherent and some are circumstantial. The same family produces a scholar and an idiot. Similarly, any organisation is also a mixture of gentlemen and rogues. Yet, values can be acquired. No amount of preaching, teaching or indoctrination can create deep rooted values in an individual. Values belong to the thought process. An individual hardly has any control on his own thoughts. Another individual certainly cannot even guess the thoughts or the reason for these thoughts in the former. Even if the thoughts can be temporarily channelised, human nature being such, they became totally vulnerable and fallible.
It is the processes of observation and voluntary absorption that render the acquisition of values stable. This essentially sets the values in the thoughts of the person, and makes him cultured to that extent. Besides, culture is an integral concept. You do not expect a person to be cultured in office, that is in the work environment, and become a boor when the goes to his house, or vice versa.
Take a child. When he observes that money has to be paid for every commodity obtained, a value for money gets implanted in his mind. Similarly, when he observes at least one of the parents leading a disciplined and responsible life, it creates by comparison, an inherent value for such orderly existence. In contrast, he observes turmoil in other friends circles. One has to appreciate that, as a child and also as one grows, a lot of knowledge is acquired by observation, imitation and follow up. It is not that everything observed is automatically implanted in the mind, because every individual has his own susceptibility. Some values, even when observed, simply graze away from the surface. But, the point to be emphasised is that only when they are absorbed voluntarily, values remain and become inherent.
Can one try to implant values by methods of indoctrination as tried by the foul Nazi regime, and subsequently by other chauvinist political concepts? It is well known that if they take hold at all, they are only temporary. At the most critical juncture, the implanted and partially accepted values fail, and the inherent nature of the individual manifests.
The culture of an individual is the flow of the thoughts obtained from the values an individual possesses. It is only the human being who is endowed with the capacity to discriminate these thoughts and sieve them out before action. Let us be clear. There can be no action without precursor thoughts. It is erroneous to say that a fellow acted thoughtlessly. The conclusion should have been that the fellow acted without discrimination. Animals do not have the capacity to discriminate. They live by instinct. The dog or the goat does not distinguish whether the other one of its kind is its first cousin or not. It is such distinction of propriety that makes human beings unique in creation.
Untoward thoughts have to be dissipated by the individual who has the right values, the one who is cultured. Such a person is the one who is wise. Else he is otherwise. There is no distinction between an animal and an individual who lets his indiscriminate thoughts produce indiscriminate actions. Even societal flaws just do not permit such licentious behaviour.
Let us examine the actions of individuals which are the result of sometimes discriminate and many times indiscriminate thoughts. Such is the grand panorama of the human mind. There is neither reliability nor repeatability, nor reproducibility for human behaviour. For a given input, no two human being behave alike. The South Indian does not like sambar all the time. Sometimes he likes chutney or some other thing. Even among the South Indians, the first fellow likes onion sambar and the second fellow hates it. He prefers bittergourd in it. So, how many varieties of thoughts and actions emanate?
However, one single factor has to be understood. The scheme of creation of things is such that for every action, it produces a reaction. If you bring both your hands together with a certain velocity, it produces a clapping sound. As simple as that The reactions of an action are totally beyond control of the performer. If the target of your intended actions is another human, it is much worse. He has his own choice of reactions. If I call an employee who has wilfully committed a mistake, I can exercise any one of the following options. Advising him, scolding him or even threatening him. You can expect varied responses that depend on the individual mental make up of the other person. I have total control on my action. If I am discriminative, I would have the right values and hence, considered a cultured individual. But, I have absolutely nothing to say or predict any response from the other. So what do we talk of group responses. They are transitory and temporary tests on instinctive, and not moral response.
How do you absorb the reactions, or, the results of the actions? Do they affect you because you, as the individual performing the action, expect the result? Does this reaction have additional values? I may be diabetic. I may have rotten teeth. If I eat tasty chocolates, it can still create further desire to eat more. This corrupts the basic value namely, that I should keep off the sweets. So every such reaction threatens existing values which, in turn, continue to flavour your thoughts. This is a vicious and unfortunate feedback cycle present in every human being in this world, not only at home but much more so in society.
While the values a person cherishes and sustains in his mind enable him to discriminate before turning the thoughts into actions, there is another aspect of the actions which is dependent not on individual values entirely but also on group, organisational and may be societal needs. Every human, in principle, dislikes to be told by others as to what is to be done. However, by the general needs of organised and civilised living, one has to follow certain discipline. Discipline is nothing but regulated action. Let us be clear. Regulation of actions due to inherent values and through the Process of thought discrimination constitutes culture. But, discipline is concerned only with actions. What goes on in any individual’s mind does not disturb anything around until it is translated into action. When required to be disciplined, the majority rebel against the imposition.
Take a simple case of crossing the road. Black or white, yellow or brown, all human beings tend to cut across unless the intensity, of the traffic threatens life. If the watchful cop catches one by the scruff of the neck once, it will be a lesson for the rest of life. Here, the imposed norms of behaviour and conduct push back the inherent rebellious attitude. Such consistent practice of discipline ultimately becomes I habit, develops into a natural reflex, and gets absorbed as a new value in the mind. Even when a person temporarily strays, his long-standing habit turns up as a value Which leads him back to order, as is expected of him by the needs of society.
Any number of other examples can be observed in the world Take an example like the Gulf countries, which have seen tremendous material prosperity in recent times. Hardly half a century back, they were nomads heavily exploited and primarily governed by traditional tribal behaviour. Today, you find an orderly life, because the penalty for violation is very severe. Tonnes of gold as finished ornaments, on display during festive season, are left un-protected in shop windows, yet are totally secure. Because, if anyone stretches his fingers to steal, the result will be loss of the fingers. It is paradoxical! People live fearlessly because of the fear of law. Even a minimal transgression invokes severe penalties. That is societal discipline, which creates a value namely “no thieving”.
Each action, as we have seen, is preceded by a thought and expectation of the result. Nobody can act without expecting the result. When one breathes one expects to survive. When one eats, one expects the food to be assimilated and to keep one going. But, alas! The results are not in the hands of the individual at all. This is where a creation, with its fundamental principles of equilibrium, comes into play. You can take a gun, aim and prepare to shoot by putting your finger on the trigger. No harm. But, the moment the trigger is pulled, nature takes over. The trajectory of the bullet is dictated by the laws of motion in a gravitational field. The impact and damage it causes are also determined by the laws of nature.
If the result of an action is more than the expectation, the person feels exuberant and possibly, a feeling of gloating appears. Consistent successes over a period of time produce confidence in the person that, whatever expectation he has, it can be fructified. This will create intolerance for failure and, particularly, intolerance regarding failure in others. This aspect of the feedback in the human mind only sustains and boosts the ego, so much that a tyrannical attitude develops. Such persons naturally become a nuisance to others. They cannot understand that nature has been benevolent to them alone and that nature need not be as benevolent to others. It is like winning in a lottery with a reasonable consistency, or ascending to the top of any hierarchy due to circumstantial factors, and not because of inherent devotion or diligence. We see this phenomenon in this country constantly, in political and administrative setups.
Consider then, the disappointments. These arise from results of actions being less than the expectations with which the action was performed. The result could even be zero. This makes a person become cynical, frustrated and sometimes dangerous. How many cases of suicide do we see, because a severe inferiority complex removes the value of ‘living itself from the mind. Ignorance makes these persons think that all problems get solved when one removes himself from the scene. This is the result of a negative feedback which also does not contribute to enlightenment or progress of an individual. Any organisation is nothing but individuals. Hence, it is the mental make up of the individuals, their values, their actions and their capacity to absorb the results of actions that constitute the cultural environment.
How is this achieved and what does it really do? The large load of conglomerated values causes the thoughts in the mind .to erupt. These mental eruptions gather momentum and force the person to act. When the result of the action materializes, we have seen that either profit or disappointment produces imbalance. Only a total neutrality to the result creates total calmness. Nature is full of glorious examples of this. The flower does not expect returns when it fills the surroundings with fragrance. Neither does the Sun distinguish one who prostrates before him from the one who does not bother to. His effulgent glory is available to one and all. These are fundamental to mature. If you perform actions with this attitude of neutrality to the result, thinking that, “I have been blessed with the capacity to act thus, and whatever results accrue I will take them as such”, then there is no ego multiplying or disappointing mental convulsions. This process is nothing but elimination of the feedback into the mind. Calmness always results in efficiency of thinking and dexterity in action. One has to sincerely cultivate, train and absorb this value in his own mind while performing such a balanced action. Herein lies the justification of the intellect of 11 Otherwise, he is not performing the actions for which he is really intended.
Since no feedback of the result is allowed, the mind become, lighter, less perturbed, inherently calm, pure and hence lustrous. You do not perform actions for only benefits. Then you are bound to be disappointed. You perform actions because you are endowed by nature with that ability. Act on, not letting the result perturb you, absorb the result with equanimity. You will find that your mind becomes so serene. And that is real culture. Purity of thoughts purity of actions, purity in expecting results for the actions. Can there be anything more?
The whole story has been put by the great Saint Adisankara in a half verse thus, “Chittasya suddhaye Karma, na to vas tooplabdhaye.” Human actions, human life, human discipline, human values, are meant for purification of the mind and not for material benefits alone. Let us not get confused. Nowhere is it said that one should strive to obtain material comforts. The world is created only for the benefit of the beings living in it. But, the attitude with which the material comforts are enjoyed, changes the face of the world, An extremely greedy state of people who keep amassing comforts cannot but create deprivation in another part of the globe. Alas! comforts ultimately do not even produce happiness. There is a tremendous misconception between comfort and happiness. The fellow on the pavement is miserable because he does not know where his next meal will come from. His very existence is threatened. The group with five star comforts is also miserable because the members are constantly chasing something. The difference is that one is uncomfortably miserable, while the other is comfortably miserable. Misery is still the common factor.
Can we call it culture? Let us understand that culture produces calmness of mind. This results in efficiency and extreme capability in actions. The real manifestation of culture is in neutralising the feedback cycle, so that pristine purity of the thought process stays alive, effulgent and efficient.