The ‘Mangaatha’ of doors
September 19, 2010 1 Comment
In India, we have a condescending attitude towards certain disciplinary traits required in corporate offices which are regarded as ‘basic’ everywhere else.
Whether it is a matter of attending a meeting on time or responding to emails, we don’t believe in following basics. We are a country where we, quite shamelessly, have given a new definition to punctuality. I think it can be safely said that no one would believe an Indian who says that he would be joining a meeting or a call in ‘just a minute’. In any case, I have been recently apprised by a colleague that ‘couple of minutes’ actually means more than two.
This post isn’t about the meeting syndrome but the trials and tribulations that we are going through in our office for the last one week, courtesy a ‘small’ but a basic change, which has given some hilarious moments but generally made us all very grumpy.
Since discipline has to be literally forced down our throats, our office made a small change : It is compulsory to sign out / sign in at the door ‘every time’ that we move around our office so as to log our physical movement.
You may wonder what is new about this : There’s nothing except that if you are trying to get into your office (work area) but actually didn’t sign out when you had originally walked out, the new system blocked your entry back in.
Put simply, the idea was to prevent employees from tail gating.
It was the IT industry in my view which laid significant emphasis on ‘employee identity’ with securitized access controls and access cards to restrict unauthorized movement of employees. It made great sense as our customers started relying on offshore operations more and more. In India, offshore, new solutions were being developed or new products were being tested or confidential corporate data hosted out of datacenters.
It was but natural that customers were insistent on proper access control system to ensure that no one could get access to data, information and systems which they were not supposed to.
But as Indians as soon as we sign the deal and implement the access control, we have the natural tendency to create a system to circumvent the original intention. “Our” response to the much justified customer paranoia about access control was ‘tail gating’. As long as you and me worked for the same customer, same location and the same office, it was just fine to sneak in or out along with you while the access control system made no note of the physical movement.
Either one was too “high” in the hierarchy to carry their access cards at all time or it was our regular ‘chalta hai’ attitude at work.
After all in a matter of few minutes who can come in and steal confidential data ? Ah ! I have been working in this Account for several months, I know everyone around here and everyone knows me ! Ah ! It is so bloody tiresome to sign in and sign out “every time” even when I just go out for a fag ?
We all had our own explanations !
After several mails sensitizing employees to record their physical movement every time they moved, the organization “hit back” with the only way that we understand : Forced discipline.
My work area is a bit unique with 2 access doors. And each door has a separate access control and is recognized differently. So if you would walk out of Door A for example, you couldn’t walk in from Door B. And vice versa.
Howls of protest went up the first day when the system was implemented. Regular tailgaters were shocked to find that they couldn’t get back in or get out, as the case may be, since their going out or coming in wasn’t recorded in the first place.
The idea is yet to fully sink in. So these days it is not unusual to find senior guys waiting near the door for a savior to appear to let them in or out.
Even for those who want to follow the rule book, it is kind of becoming troublesome to remember the door through which they walked in or out.
The 2 doors, A & B, are separated by an enclosure so it is hilarious to find people circuiting between the two doors trying to figure out the one which they used earlier.
‘Chalta hai’ (It’s ok) attitude of most employees to tailgating has been hit very badly by ‘Chalega nahin’ (It’s NOT ok) firmness of the organization.
The street gambling in Chennai has an interesting game. In a game of 2 gamblers, one picks a card from the deck and nominates it as the “winning card”. The other shuffles the deck and goes on to ‘display’ each card by card alternating it between his side and the others. If the other gambler produces a “matching card”, usually the number, on his side, he wins the money else the money goes to the one who chose the winning card.
One is usually called – Inside – and the other outside. The game is usually for small odds and played at a frenetic pace with the gambler flipping the cards furiously continuously chanting ‘Ulle veliye’ (Inside and Outside). I just know that the game is called as “Mangaatha” while I don’t know the etymological reasoning for the same.
Thanks to the new system, over the last week, we have been reduced to playing ‘Mangaatha’ with the doors – Sometimes we are inside this door and sometimes we aren’t.
It is extremely regretful that in India we ignore some basics forcing ourselves to a position of inconveniencing ourselves. At a time when Indian corporates are world leaders in several industries, we as employees of these enterprises should do more than just lip service to basic business etiquettes. There may be a time, sooner than later, that our casual attitude to some basic customer expectations could prove very costly for our organizations.
Playing ‘Mangaatha’ with doors isn’t really the best way to lead our organizations to the next level.