Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ethnicity and Employee Expectations

The volume of literature that is generated every year on leadership is humungous, and yet leadership remains a concept that everyone understands somewhat, but no one understands completely. The present day business leadership research can be traced back to the 1940s, and yet over the last 70 years or so, a miniscule amount of time by any research topic area, several theories and hypothesis have been propounded, postulated, criticised and put aside. The challenges of leadership have only grown with the changing and fluid nature that business has assumed today, and it is only natural that research in the area of leadership has attracted the best brains of our times. In the new global order of business, boundaries of nation are fading out fast, and the new challenge that leaders need to grapple with today is that of managing and leveraging diversity in the workplace. Changing demographics caused by globalisation, technology, mobility, and changing societal norms are creating new demands on leaders. These changes cut across ethnic, cultural, and religious divides and create a workplace that is radically different from the work environment of the yesteryear. The new-age leader needs to understand the unique needs and aspirations of this multi-ethnic workforce which differ in terms of values, cultures, expectations and perspectives, and lead them to gain an advantage in the competitive business environment.

While there is significant management literature available on how ethnicity and environment play a large role in developing a leader’s worldview, there is hardly any research available which throws light on how ethnicity influences an employee’s expectation from their leaders in the Indian context. With diversity of workforce being a constant, research that can help leaders understand the effect of ethnicity on employee expectation, will certainly help leaders with their decision making process, and is without doubt a crying need.

In this issue, Professor Arindam Chaudhuri focuses squarely on the issue of employee expectations from their leaders across ethnicity and function. A large scale survey that he conducted, over two phases, across regions in India, throws up a few surprises in terms of expectations that employees have, but also validates certain perceptions that are held in popular wisdom. While guidance and support from leaders and bosses seem to be the overwhelmingly frequent expectation that employees have across India, employees whose ethnicity categorise as being from the south of India give it much more importance than do employees from the west of India. While the general perception may be that employees want empowerment, the survey shows that not too many employees expect empowerment from their leaders. Another interesting trend seems to be that employee expectations of those from the south are somewhat similar to those from the east, while employees from the north and west have similar expectations. The second phase of survey has given interesting information and insights, and we look forward to the analysis of a much broader third phase survey.

We are certain that the meaning that will be distilled from this information will help leaders to bring out the best from their people.

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