How does culture determine what is private or public information?

Private or Public: What an Indian Manager Will and Won’t Tell You
To any question that did not involve facts and figures, one Indian software company manager recently replied, “That, of course, is personal.” Had I asked him about what size pants he wore, or his address, or his wife’s birth date? No; I was simply asking for a story about his company and the people who are part of its team.

Guarded managers won’t tell you much
Whether you are dealing with a very successful software company in India or an Indian software company that is still small, most managers or CEO’s have a very guarded approach to talking about their company. They will tell you in very general terms how they help U.S. companies succeed, or will give you lots of numbers about how much they helped raise profits (very good!), but even when you explain that you are not asking for specific names of U.S. companies they have done work for, they are still suspicious about being asked for details. In India, it is just not natural to say much about your company’s employees or interactions. That is considered highly personal.

In America, personal & company details are more public
In the U.S., every rising star, political figure, business person, and software engineer may be found on google at some point in time. The U.S. is a country that is obsessed with the personal lives of almost everyone, and this curiosity has been fanned and inflated by the Internet with the ability to publish and find information so easily. However, looking at the positives, we are open to a wide variety of people and we try to find those who think as we do when we want to do business. This is the main reason we are asking for stories about companies in the first place. The thousands of people who read our blog want to find a like-minded company to do business with. Maybe they are wondering about all the things they read on the Web, and they want to reassure themselves that people in India have lives just like theirs…or in some ways like theirs.

However, intimate details should be private
The intimate details of employees’ lives are, and should be, private. We are not in favor of talking about marriages, children, or any of the silly gossip that movie stars are involved in on the Web. However, if you really have a great team, your Indian software company should be able to tell us, for example, that they all went to the mountains together, or play volleyball together, or eat out together while planning new work strategies. We wonder: do the software companies in India not really know about their employees? Are their employees so uninteresting that they have no salient characteristics? If you have a great team, isn’t it made up of interesting individuals with individual talents beyond what they do at your company?

Snip-its about each employee make us want to call
Maybe Americans are too used to the idea of a software engineer who is also a classical pianist, or a manager who also has a PhD in Philosophy or Comparative Religions, or knows several languages and is a world traveler. We are used to this. Yes, we are spoiled. We are also used to company websites that show pictures of team members and give little biographies about these individuals’ personal interests–besides work. Why? It makes them well-rounded and intriguing, and makes us want to help them earn their salaries. It convinces us to give the company a call.

Despite cultural differences, there are great people overseas
But it is also part of our love of democracy that we believe that at Indian software companies there are also programmers and engineers who do amazing things and have amazing personal stories to tell. We would not have this website if we didn’t believe these kind of people exist in other countries. We believe that there must be some very special Indian programmers or software engineers helping companies in India grow. We are not asking for their names, but we are interested in stories about software companies in India and the outstanding teams that make them work.

India is more focused on work and less on frills
Or maybe in India, people just work. Many of these individuals just work and take care of their families. If they are lucky, they also have some time for spiritual or religious practice as well. Maybe they do not have the luxury of reading a lot, or taking extra courses or degrees, or playing sports or music. Maybe they just work, and they don’t feel at ease to have any personal time or interests. And maybe our wide variety of interests has dissipated our focus on work. Perhaps they, in India, are the lucky ones.

Feeling safe discussing more details
I guess, in the end, many software companies in India feel that giving out any information on interesting employees or teams might tempt some employees to seek more money or other jobs, and it is best to leave things as they are. We still are hoping to hear from a growing Indian software company that values its employees and feels safe enough to discuss some of their valuable skills and attitudes that make them who they are.

You might also like:

If you hire happy people to interact with your staff

Motivating workers with competition

Being sensible, realistic and safe is bad for business

Penalizing people for following the rules

This entry was posted in India and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *