I concealed a yawn. I was bored. I was one of the invitees at a function organized by a school. The vice principal was addressing a crowd of parents and children over the sound system. “Sir has kindly consented …. Blah, blah, blah… sir was kind enough… blah, blah, blah… sir had the vision… blah, blah, blah… sir your guidance … blah, blah, blah… we followed your advice sir… blah, blah, blah….”.
I look up at the fat lady who was polishing her superior. She was around 60 years I guessed. Must be having a few months of service left before she retired. I looked at the boss. He looked around 50. I silently watch her grovel in the dust, demean herself, reduce herself to a pulp of pathetic human material as she heaped superlative praises on her boss so eloquently. I asked myself when she had barely any service left did she need to do this?
I turned to a friend sitting next to me to enquire about the lady. My friend informed me that she had superseded many qualified and experienced people to reach her present position. “No wonder!!!” I sighed.
At a different place and occasion I watched a senior person, due to retire in a few months, leap forward to open his boss’s car door, pick up his briefcase and follow him muttering “Yes sir, Yes sir, Certainly sir, Sure sir”.
Why do they do it? Force of habit, I guess. When they are young and ambitious they learn how to polish their bosses. They keep polishing all their lives so, even when they have no career left, they continue polishing without giving it any thought. A natural reaction, perhaps, like a dog lifting its hind leg when it finds itself close to a tree. Well, the dog at least has a purpose.
In the Indian work scenario the only desirable vocabulary a sub-ordinate is supposed to have is “Yes sir”. Anything else is frowned upon. This phenomenon is not limited to a particular school or office. It is a pan India phenomenon.
After years of rule by the Mughals and the British, many Indians have become professional sycophants. The Mughals and the British were few in numbers as compared to the huge Indian population. They could only rule if they kept Indians in awe. To inspire awe they built massive monuments like the Qutub Minar, the Taj Mahal, big forts and fortresses, the Viceroy’s Palace which is the present day Rashtrapati Bhavan, the present day Raj Bhawans where Gora Sahabs used to stay then, Victoria Memorial and it’s likes. Poor Indians watched in awe. They were scared to even venture close to these monuments for a better view, lest they be caught by the guards and questioned. The system thus built gave the Mughals and the Gora Sahabs the psychological superiority they needed to rule.
The point to be noted is that in England, the very same Goras have a very different system in place. 10, Downing Street is virtually a hole in the wall when compared to our Rashtrapati Bhavan. The sub-ordinate does not call his boss “sir” but instead addresses him by his surname with a Mr. Prefixed, as for example Mr. Brown. While the boss addresses the sub-ordinate by his first name, as for example Mike. No psychological dominance needed there.
In the present day when we have neither Mughals nor Gora Sahabs among us, why have we created Bhura Sahabs? Infact, Mahatma Gandhi had warned us against this. He had said that we must ensure that after independence Gora Sahabs are not replaced by Bhura Sahabs. We perhaps did not then understand what the visionary had in mind.
The culture of “sir” is very predominant in our land. When addressing the boss our sentence starts with a “sir”, ends with a “sir”, has many “sirs” in between, some “sirs” balanced at the top and some hanging below. Anybody not complying with this code of conduct is promptly labeled “negative” or “a rebel”.
Question is why are we carrying on a worthless legacy of psychological dominance. Are bosses insecure or incompetent that they require artificial props? This legacy kills the initiative and creativity of sub-ordinates. The sub-ordinates limit themselves to the role of mere servants of the bosses and follow orders. Their mental energies are directed more towards pleasing the boss and less towards work. The organization suffers.
If bosses are competent, they must discourage this culture of sycophancy. You have to be a leader who leads his people by example not a timid boss who commands respect through an unhealthy culture of intimidation. India must change this filthy work culture and get rid of unscrupulous bosses and their quick rising sycophants or else it will become a nation of motivated worthless sycophants and demotivated worthy people.
Rajesh Chaubey, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com