Starting in the 1990s, India’s IT industry saw a golden wave that heralded an unprecedented growth in business opportunities. Opportunity abounded, the sky was the limit and it seemed as if every one’s dream was to earn a big salary working for an IT firm.
Satyam Computer Services was one such IT firm to ride the wave. Every Satyam employee felt that they never had it so good. Then in 2009, Satyam’s CEO, Ramalinga Raju, admitted to falsifying the company’s accounts to the tune of $1.47 billion.
Raju’s confession shocked investors and employees alike especially as he came from the new generation of corporate CEOs proud of ethical credentials and philanthropic ventures — his philanthropic donations ran into the millions of dollars annually.
It was a nightmare for the 50,000+ employees, especially as there was no prior indication of things to come. Overnight the employees found their jobs reduced to mud. The government stepped in and a merger was announced to salvage the company and its customers.
The Satyam scandal shocked in its enormity and remains one of the biggest corporate scams of modern India. However, the size of the problem isn’t the only indicator of a bad employer. There are plenty of companies that remain off the front page of the news and yet are rife with incompetence and corruption.
What lessons do these stories of poorly run companies teach us? And how does an IT pro avoid working for one of these soul-sucking organizations? Based on trends in the past two decades here are some warning signs to watch for, characteristics of enterprises that should raise a red flag for IT professionals when selecting a possible employer:
Company approach to business. Which line of business does the company operate in? Do you agree with it? Does it trade in prohibited articles or flout labor laws? For example, if an IT firm employs children for its administrative functions, that’s not a good sign. Are employees valued, or are they expected to give ridiculous hours and effort to the company? Management that is insensitive to existing employees will continue being such to new employees.
Funding from dubious sources. While this information may not be readily available to the public, you should make an effort to gather some information before accepting an offer. A firm may be funded by a legitimate social organisation, but some social organisations can actually be a cover up for diverting funds to a criminal enterprise.
While the government helped salvage Satyam because a large number of employees and customers were involved, there may not be help forthcoming if the number of employees is much smaller or the funding is linked to a criminal organization. Tread with caution before accepting a job offer — a little research in the beginning can help avoid a big regret down the road.
Company image. The Great Place to Work Institute and The Economic Times conducts an annual survey and publishes a list of the 10 best companies to work for in India. A number of IT companies regularly feature on this list, and an offer from one of them is greatly prized. It helps to keep our eyes and ears open, however, for all that is being written in the press. A small negative write up, if confirmed true, may be an indication of larger hidden irregularities.
Also, several publications publish lists of the worst companies to work for. It may be worthwhile to consider the information in these ratings before deciding on accepting a job offer.
It also helps to be somewhat skeptical when a company is awarded some official recognition. Things are not always as they seem. Potential employees need to understand that awards for business ethics may not be a definite assurance of a healthy workplace. It is desirable to do some through research before accepting such job offers. Additionally, high salaries or growth opportunities are no longer the only criteria for accepting a job offer.
Employee reviews. How does the company treat their employees? Does the employer show respect or contempt? The good news is that there are plenty of web sites that allow current and former employees to review their companies. Glassdoor.com is a great example. Reading reviews is a great way to learn what peers say about an employer.
Of course, all IT firms claim ethical practice, but in reality the implementation can be quite shallow. If a firm has not acted on sexual harassment cases or acted only when forced to by court orders or pressure from government organisations, it is better to avoid being associated with that firm.
Even the presence of a review board or ombudsman isn’t a guarantee of ethical behaviour towards the employees. There have been numerous reports of IT firms with an ombudsman in place, but employees have been forced to resign for raising unethical issues. It has also been reported, that, management, when they hear about these cases later on, do not take any action leaving the field open for the felonious HR persons to continue their illegal acts while harassing employees and ex-employees alike. It’s wiser to avoid association with companies where such incidents are reported to have taken place
Once an employee is harassed or bullied, India has few forums for redress of grievances. These days there are a number of government and non-government bodies eager to investigate sexual harassment cases. For non-sexual harassment or illegal actions, however, there is no forum for IT employees. Most mid- and senior-level IT employees don’t come under the purview of the State Labour Commissions.
Judicial cases in India can drag on for years and large firms are known to use their money to buy out witnesses and influence the judicial system. So at the onset it is better to avoid organisations which are not employee friendly and where harassment is unchecked.
Proceed with caution
When all is said and done, most IT companies are decent places in which to work. It’s heartening to know that some employers sincerely work to create environments conducive to an employee’s well-being and happiness. A friendly working environment, flexible hours, women-friendly policies, and adequate healthcare benefits go a long way towards creating a productive work place. Companies that provide these benefits conduct business with a human face and extend support to their employees and family members in times of crisis and medical emergencies.
Multinational companies have tended to lead the way in India for being employee friendly. Homegrown companies need to cover ground by emulating these positive practices. Multinationals have also been careful in creating partnerships with Indian companies. They are protective of their corporate image and tend to deal only with reputable partners.
Our jobs take up so much of our lives. In fact most of us spend more time interacting with coworkers than with our families. Because we spend so much time on the job we should use care in accepting job offers. Work is work for a reason, it is often hard and demanding. Simultaneously work can be very rewarding and a source of personal growth and development. Make certain to look for an employer who provides a positive work environment — a minimum of 2080 hours a year is too much time to spend wishing you were somewhere else.