And that’s where our Indian adventure –and my working with Indian men– began. I hopped on LinkedIn and other job portals and within one week I had my first solid lead with a company looking for a chief marketing officer to launch them into 14 new markets over the next couple of years. After a friendly email exchange with the CEO, a phone interview was setup.
From the first few seconds on the phone I liked him. The phone is a funny thing. Someone could be wearing fuzzy kitty slippers and still have on their bathrobe and no one would ever be the wiser. But there is ONE thing that is 100% silent but can be detected and heard through a phone line…and that is a smile. I could tell right away that the CEO was smiling and had a genuinely vivacious character during our first call. The energy I was feeling across the line to India was a nice treat compared to the more serious European personalities and offered up my first sample of what was to come.
I am the first foreigner ever hired at the HQ in Bangalore at both that first job and with my current company and I am treated very well at work. Some of the ‘special’ treatments are things that I’ve experienced at both jobs so my guess is that these are customs in India. For example, the security guards will stand when they see me approaching – at least the first time each day and say either “hello, madam” or “good afternoon, madam”. I find it sweet and actually really like it. Although at the first job it bothered me a bit because I already stood out so freaking much that having the security guy stand and draw more attention to me wasn’t a really welcome thing. But now I enjoy it and hope they don’t eventually stop.
In Spain, I worked for a couple of men who had a combo of huge egos plus zero or minimal marketing experience and it actually played a huge role in our daily exchanges and made working with them a nightmare. Yet here, my work mates and my superiors are quite different and they appreciate my experience and expect me to lead and consult every day, with no ego. I work with hundreds of Indian men and I’m happy to say that I’ve only had an ego issue with one so far in nine months. Not bad if you ask me!
Generally speaking, Indian men don’t get right down to business. There is an inherent trait built into the men here that makes them natural conversationalists and they don’t start a meeting without some light chit-chat and banter first about personal topics to catch up a bit or nurture a relationship. I’m more of a ‘jump right onto the agenda’ and get right down to business kind of woman so it is a bit tough at times to kick out of high gear and slow it down.
Indian men are fun to work with. My own AMAZING team is comprised of all men so far and we form a fantastic unit. I have never once felt any attitude like they don’t want to work for a woman and I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to play out given the fact that India is still a very male dominated country and women are not equals. Unlike other countries where there is complete equality, here there are still two very different sets of rules for men and women. This is neither right nor wrong, it is what it is. But it is something new for me and I simply wasn’t sure how it would affect me at work but it doesn’t in the least I’m happy to report.
The men here in Bangalore don’t use clothing as an extension of power – at least not like in Europe or the states where the Prada, Diesel and Hugo Boss labels dripped from my colleagues. Here guys have a much more casual approach to dressing. Senior players and junior team members alike look sharp at the office but without the power suit 99% of the time. One thing that does make me half smile, half giggle though is when the guys come into work with blingy, shiny shirts that I have only ever seen at dance clubs. Some walk in looking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever! Maybe the most distinguishing physical attribute I adore is from the Hindus at work who go to early morning temple and arrive wearing a tilak.
Socializing outside work with men is almost non-existent. Throughout Europe and in the U.S. colleagues mix and mingle without really thinking twice about it. It can be a great way to bond and enrich the working relationship. In fact, at my last company in Barcelona we even held an annual summer beach party with the entire company…200+ colleagues in swimming costumes with all the girls in bikinis, eating and drinking cocktails, playing football and even dancing on the beach to a DJ. Now I just shake my head and laugh when I try to imagine that same scenario here in India. No way!
Interestingly, tea is a part of life here more than even the UK and I love the way my male colleagues on the executive team offer up a cup of tea whenever we sit down together. I remember being jacked up on caffeine the first week I worked in India because of the constant set of training meetings I was in with different team members…and each would act really offended if I didn’t want tea so I drank buckets of it. Now I only say yes periodically but it still makes me smile every time a cup of tea is graciously offered to me.
Truth be told, I am treated different at work because I am white – I do know this. But something interesting I’ve been told several times now is that because I am not Indian that I will be treated better by my superiors. I like to believe that is actually not true. I have never personally been on the receiving end of a bad temper since my arrival but I do know that in my last company that my Indian colleagues DID experience this from time to time. I don’t know how true the idea is or not but I find it interesting – and sad – that this is the perception of my work mates.
Understandably, Indians are different. Some appear to think in binary code, all smile more than any other group of men I’ve known…and when it comes to my Indian cohorts at work…well, they all definitely have that gentle spirit that I refer to in my article about working with Indian women. Don’t get me wrong, they are still tough power guys but there is something calming about Indian men that I’ve just never experienced elsewhere. It’s definitely a nice change of pace.
Photo credit: suyati.com
Working With Indian Men
February 09, 2012
Some can't look me in the eye, others salute me...but everyone has a zen-like quality unique to India.
My daughter and I had been living in Spain for 8 years when I was laid off from my job along with half the company back in May, 2010. For almost a year I looked for a new job but Spain’s unemployment rate rose to 21% and companies were giving top-level executive positions to middle managers in an effort to cut costs. It became clear that I could no longer provide for us in Spain and I needed to widen my search for work. My daughter and I make important decisions together so we turned on the computer, opened up Google Maps and short-listed a handful of countries where we both felt life would be a fun adventure for us if indeed we were being forced to leave home, which was Barcelona.