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Organizations are a set of people arranged socially to perform and achieve a common goal. These organizations form the essential building blocks of modern society. Such organisations across the globe are constantly evolving and the rate of evolution changes from one country to another. Organisational Behaviour can be best explained as the study of the ways individuals and groups act at work, which also includes the analysis of interrelationships and interaction between individuals and groups with their environments (Cole, 1995). In this essay, I wish to explain certain behavioural practices that had existed in my previous organisation and implement two theories (motivation and organisational culture) to my work situations.
First let me give an insight into my background. I was born and educated in a city called Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. I graduated bachelor in Mechanical Engineering in the year 2013. After graduation, I was trying for job placement in various companies. During one of my interviews in a company called ETA General Private Limited, my answers were noticed by a silently observing gentleman who did not participate in the interview process. I had no idea who he was so but after my interview, he spotted me in the waiting room, asked for my CV and after a few minutes of going through it, offered me a job in Dubai. He introduced himself as Mr. HMT, head of a polymer division of ETA group of companies. Now I understood why he was present here, it is because General Air Conditioners is also a part of ETA group.
I was surprised but I felt it was a very good offer and didn’t want to miss it. Shortly thereafter, I received my offer letter which promised a good salary, decent accommodation and proper working condition. Despite being an engineer, I opted to do a non-engineering job as a sales assistant. Mainly because the salary package was compelling and moreover an opportunity to gain work experience in the Gulf was like a big deal for a fresher. Thus I landed my very first job.
Emirates Trading Agency LLC, shortly known as ETA is a major corporate group headquartered in Dubai. ETA is a joint venture between UAE’s Al Ghurair group and a South Indian company. ETA provides contracting, manufacturing, construction, property development, commodity trading services, power projects etc (Built on trust, 2017). It has operations in Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia, Far East, North Africa, parts of Europe etc. ETA had approximately 70 individual divisions and each division has its own business unit heads. The particular business unit which I had the opportunity to work for is called Green Star Polymer.
Green Star Polymer (GSP) was a commodity trading company which is the polymer trading wing of ETA. It was formed in 1998 by ETA to buy and sell polymer cargo all around the world. GSP had a 400,000 sq ft warehouse in Abu Dhabi for processing polymers. It also was doing waster paper business domestically. Mr. HMT was heading all these operations and was the Senior General Manager (SGM) of ETA. He belonged to the family of the Indian partners so he was very influential within ETA. The Arab partner, Al Ghurair, invest money and the Indian partners run the business in ETA. Like most Arab and Asian companies, ETA is also a family run business. So the business unit heads are the Indian partners who predominantly belong to the same family.
Around mid-2013, ETA was in a huge liability and there was difference opinion among the Indian & Arab partners. To reduce cost, ETA was closing/selling many businesses and sacking several employees. Dozens of lawsuits were also filed between partners. This casted a very bad image on the entire company in the market. There was lot of uncertainty among employees and ultimately Mr. HMT was dismissed and GSP division was closed down in 2015. Mr. HMT began his own business in mid-2015 and I was the only one from GSP that he trusted and employed for his company.
Sigmund Freud argued humans are provoked to act by unconscious forces within us. These forces within us make us act in a certain way to achieve a goal. Motivation is the cognitive decision-making process through which goal-directed behaviour is initiated, energized, directed and maintained (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).
Work Situation I:
Moving to Dubai for work was the first time moving away from family and the comfort of my home, so I was nervous and excited about my new venture. When I landed in Dubai, I was received from airport by my HR coordinator who dropped me at my accommodation. When I reached my new home, from the outside, I can easily say this is the oldest apartment I had seen in the brief time I was in Dubai. Inside was not good either. The HR guy handed me the key and left. When entered into the room, I was surprised to see 3 people asleep in 2 double cots with one lower cot left vacant for me. The room was half the size of my room in Chennai and 3 others with one bathroom/toilet to be shared. Anyway, I was tired so badly I went to sleep.
Next morning, I had a conversation with my roommates as they informed me the rules of the accommodation, office directions, morning timings for using the single bathroom etc. They all worked for ETA but in different divisions. There was no kitchen or pantry available so food had to be purchased from outside. I soon learned the whole building belonged to ETA and occupied by its staffs and also it had been standing there for more than 35 years which is very old compared to UAE standards. All the staffs had been living in unpleasant conditions.
I went to my new office that day. I was introduced to all staffs by the HR coordinator. We exchanged greetings and my immediate boss briefed me about the business activities of GSP and about my job. Later I met with Mr. HMT, who welcomed me to the company and handed my employment contract to me. I was shocked to notice that the contract had much lesser salary than what had been promised. It also stated my visa category as simply “sales”. No executive, no assistant, nothing. I later found out this category of visa is possibly the lowest, more or less equivalent to a clerk. Practically no company should employ me under that category owing to my qualification. I was even rejected to apply driving license with this visa. But my superiors were quick to convince me this is normal.
Even though so much was not right, I still didn’t express my disappointments to others (I usually don’t). I was instructed to be trained for probation period of 6 months. In the very first week, I also learned GSP staffs are working more than 8 hours even after 6pm. I didn’t have a clue so I left promptly at 6pm. My line manager called me one day and enquired about me leaving early. I was puzzled and tried to justify that I don’t leave during office hours, but even though he advised me to stay until other staffs leave. Again I soon learned the reason behind it. Mr. HMT arrives office at 11am and stays in office till 8pm. He might need some staffs randomly after 6pm so most of them stayed in office till 8pm even though they arrive at 9am in the morning. No policy for overtime pay in place for staffs. Couple of managers quit their jobs within two months of my recruitment but their vacancies were not filled. So I was also assigned additional responsibilities in operations department as GSP was understaffed. Eventually I recognized I was deprived of all the promises made to me. No proper salary, no decent accommodation and no proper working condition. This is when I lost all hope and was very depressed. I was considering to quit my job and go back to India.
Applying Motivation Theory:
Abraham Maslow argued the content theory which aims to rectify the confusion between drives and motives. He claims that we have innate needs or motives (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001). The Fig 1 shows the hierarchy which Maslow framed in detail.
Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
(Source: Maslow and Lewis, 1987)
Physiological needs are to the basic elements to survive for any human being which needs to be satisfied before aspiring for the next need which is social and security. Then comes affiliation needs and self-esteem. If these needs are satisfied, we can feel confident whereas if not, we tend to feel inferior and helpless. Self-actualization is the ultimate goal for any individual (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).
In my case, I began to feel de-motivated because I was cheated with false promise of better salary, accommodation and decent work condition. What I failed to understand initially was that I already have satisfied physiological and safety/security needs. I earned enough to feed myself and had a safe place to live and work. Secondly, I maintained good relationship with my colleagues and housemates, also made few friends. Moreover, I realised I was more confident in communication and analytics at work than my colleagues. All these factors combined, gave me a self-realisation that I am doing good for my age and the little experience I have gained. It motivated me to push harder. I felt proud and appreciated by Mr. HMT when I achieved the sales target the very first month I was given full responsibility when my boss was on holiday.
Organisational Culture is the collective values, traditions and practices that are relatively similar among the employees of an organisation. Culture varies from one organisation to another and it is argued that the culture also affects the performance of an organisation. Therefore it is essential for managers to control organisation’s culture (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).
Work Situation II:
Although ETA is a MNC, its employees are predominantly South Indians. This is mainly because the South Indian business heads are more comfortable working with people from this region. I was also comfortable learning from those people since I am also a South Indian. But there are certain practices that I cannot agree with them.
I noticed most of the employees of GSP were servile to Mr. HMT. It was obvious for me to notice these employees’ behaviour. They are so obsequious to please Mr. HMT. But I couldn’t understand if Mr. HMT is not noticing this or if he is oddly comfortable with it. This behaviour of those employees (including few managers) can be attributed to their expectations to progress in work, pay etc. Some employees even degraded themselves to the level of doing household chores for Mr. HMT. There were even few cases where these managers tried to make me oblige to this custom which I had politely refused to do in multiple instances. This behaviour shocked and disgusted me.
When Mr. HMT was dismissed in 2015, none of the so-called loyal employees were willing to join him in his new company. They all wanted to transfer to different divisions within ETA for accumulating end of service gratuity and other reasons. After I and Mr. HMT quit from ETA, I brought this matter to his attention during a casual conversation. He confessed that he knew but was oblivious to it and this culture was prevailing within the organisation since he started working in ETA 27 years ago. His realisation about his employees was already too late.
Applying Organization Culture Theory:
Edgar Schein argued organisations have three levels of culture as depicted below in fig2. The first level is the surface manifestation of culture where the organisation’s culture is most visible to its customers, visitors and employees. This may include artefacts, ceremonies, norms etc. Second level are the organisation’s values which underpins the surface manifestations. Although not visible, individuals could be made aware and it distinguishes one organisation from another. The behaviour of all the employees are guided similarly and given a common direction by the values of the organisation.. These values affect the final level which is the basic assumption, which according to Schein is the culture of the organisation. Assumptions are the behavioural aspects which are preconscious, unseen and taken for granted (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).
Figure 2: Schein’s three levels of culture
(Source: Schein, 1985)
In case of GSP, many staffs sought benefits by other means, rather than by improving work performance, it also had an impact on the overall performance of the company. This behaviour can be attributed to Schein’s theory as basic assumption of ETA employees were less than noble. Since I was new to the company, initially I could only see surface manifestation level of ETA and when I coped up to work with these people, I could clearly see what their basic assumption of working for this organisation was and how their values affected it. As the head of GSP, Mr. HMT needed to have addressed this culture at his level when he had the chance. Moreover it should have been controlled by the senior management of ETA and maintained a healthy culture before it infuriated the Arab partners and the company’s reputation was damaged.
Better work environment can be achieved by applying organisational theories. All employees are directly affected by whatever is happening in an organisation. It is all attributable to human behaviour. With better understanding of organisational behaviour, managers can effectively influence employee behaviours to do achieve better outcome as discussed in these above scenarios.
Built on trust (2017) Available at: http://www.etaascon.com/ (Accessed: 24 January 2017).
Cole, G.A., 1995. Organisational behaviour: Theory and practice. Cengage Learning EMEA.
Huczynski, A.A. and Buchanan, D.A. (2001) Organizational behaviour. 4th edn. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education.
Maslow, A. and Lewis, K.J., 1987. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Salenger Incorporated, p.14.
Schein, E.H. (1985) Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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