Get inspired by the Indian culture and get more job satisfaction

 

RELATIONWISE:

On your blog PositiveSharing.com, I see that you’ve just been to India. How was it?

 

ALEXANDER:

It was amazing. It was really great. It was my first time in India to spread job satisfaction, and I was very excited about how it would be.

When you visit a new culture and a new environment you don’t know whether they’re even interested in hearing about job satisfaction, let alone what they think about it or whether the methods are working. But it was a huge success and they were over the moon. In India, I’m a rock star! (Laughing)

 

RELATIONWISE:

Many people in developed countries probably have the attitude that Indians are ‘less’ than us. Do you think this is prejudice?

 

ALEXANDER:

I really think it is. I found that the interest in job satisfaction was enormous. In other countries, you have to convince people that it’s obviously important to be happy to be at work. In India, they just understand it.

 

RELATIONWISE:

You’ve also just been to the U.S., where you visited Coca-Cola and asked some employees if they were happy. What did you discover?

 

ALEXANDER:

There was only one person who highlighted good colleagues as a source of joy in the workplace. For everyone else, the focus was somewhere else, as if they had asked themselves, ‘What else can work give me?’

 

RELATIONWISE:

It’s thought provoking!

 

ALEXANDER:

Yes, it is quite thought provoking. And I think that in some developed countries – especially the Scandinavian ones – people have moved on. Most Scandinavians want a working life that gives them something, but is also good in itself. At least this is the case for the young people who enter the labour market. They don’t just want to work hard for status, power, titles and prestige. They want a job that’s fun.

 

RELATIONWISE:

Steve Linder once said something quite interesting. There might be the highest taxes in Scandinavia, but that also forces people not to focus so much on the money, but more on the content. You could say it’s actually an advantage – in a slightly ironic way!

 

ALEXANDER:

I think it’s an advantage both personally and for society as a whole. It’s ironic that this is the case. I wrote a blog post about it last year.

Steve Forbes was in Denmark and his advice to the Danish government was to bring taxes down. Obviously, his idea is that it will make people work more. But I think he’s wrong. It’s true that it makes people work more, but people also become more ill. The joy of life decreases and it costs society a lot of money at the other end as you get more depressed people. So for society as a whole, I don’t think there’s anything to save by lowering taxes.

 

RELATIONWISE:

That’s also why I think it’s exciting to have this conversation with you, as the general view is that it’s all about optimising and increasing productivity.

There’s obviously a good reason to do this, but it’s also exciting to look at this from a completely different angle and almost turn it upside down. What’s really important is the quality of life and achieving something good, besides the fact that you need some degree of productivity and that you can put food on the table.

 

ALEXANDER:

Yes, exactly. We’re here to be happy. What’s life worth if you’re not happy? And it’s exactly the same for work. What’s it all worth if you’re not happy? Your title, your salary, your bonus and your BMW are suddenly not worth anything if you’re unhappy.

 

RELATIONWISE:

India and China are two new giants, which some people in the western world see as a threat. Many people have probably been led to believe that they are a little bit behind us, but it sounds like they’re not behind. Could it be that they’re perhaps even ahead of us when it comes to work culture and job satisfaction?

 

ALEXANDER:

India has an extremely good culture. Their problem is that they’re well on their way to copying the American management style. This is a really bad idea. I don’t remember how many Indians are working in U.S. companies in India, but it’s several hundreds of thousands.

They look at and copy the American management style and it’s really not a very good idea, as the U.S. management style has its obvious limitations. For example, it’s not very focused on job satisfaction. At the same time, Indians have something in their own culture, which we could learn a lot from, but they keep that in the background because they prefer to learn from the West. I think they suffer from a bit of an inferiority complex. They think that everything that comes from the West is more exciting than what they have. They see themselves as a developing country that has to learn. But there are also things in their spiritual traditions – including the focus on personal development, self-insight, internal tranquillity, surplus energy and happiness – which we could certainly learn a great deal from. They just have to discover that they’re sitting on a treasure trove.

They’ve also been impacted by some western disorders, e.g. working hours. I did two workshops for Tata, India’s biggest company, and they were working 60 hours per week in the factory where I did the workshop. This was not because there’s overtime, but because these are their standard working hours.

They work ten hours a day, six days a week and they know that it’s not something that gives them job satisfaction. I asked many of their managers if that was good, and even they didn’t think it is. They just think it’s necessary and that it can make them successful. They’re wrong!

 

RELATIONWISE:

There are also some horror stories of people simply burning out, even at an early age, especially in the IT industry.

 

ALEXANDER:

Exactly, there’s a huge problem.

A good example is someone I know who worked for a big consultancy firm. She was working on a project and was extremely busy. She was working 110 hours a week for 3, 4, 5 months. She got stressed, and was away from work for three months. How good an investment was it to let her work so much?

This is bad for the company, it’s bad for the project, but it’s also really bad for her. She’ll never really recover at work because she really hit rock bottom with that stress.

 

Get inspired by Alexander Kjerulf’s blog www.positivesharing.com