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Work related Politics, Promotions – Manager, Lead – USA vs. India ?

I have a good friend who used to work for a good company. He came to US through them, worked here for over 2 years for them and then quit. He quit the company almost after 5 years… when I asked him the reason to quit, it was not money or anything else….it was just internal politics at work regarding promotions, salary hike.…he is a great guy with great work ethics and very straightforward…he does not believe in kissing someone’s a**  just for the sake of promotion  or hike.    I think career growth and work politics are critical issues to consider for peace of mind.  Based on my experience, they are different in India vs. America. Let me share few thoughts. This is part of series: : Settle in US or India? Life in USA vs. India? Move back?

Work related Politics for Promotions like Manager, Lead or Salary Hike :

Let’s go back to roots of Indian society, we are a male dominated society and very hierarchical in nature. The second part is very key, every person is respected based on his role in society and people treat with respect. Unfortunately, though we are so educated, some of us still carry the inherent characteristics of hierarchical society and we expect others who work for us to respect us in a different level….Also, if someone tries to flatter or apple polish people just take it because it feels good for ego. Unfortunately, it is not the right thing to do and not everyone are clever to do it by kissing someone’s a** .  Anyways, the point I am trying to make is, Managers without proper external exposure carry these characteristics and show favoritism towards someone who apple polishes them…which is a bad sign.  Not trying to generalize here, but significant number of them unknowingly carry this bias.

On the other hand, if we look at western culture, it is not hierarchical…there are no deep roots here…Everyone calls other person by  first name…very few occasions people refer by Mr . The point is, work culture is very casual, there is no need to apple polish someone and people do not expect anything. In fact, it is against work ethics to show favoritism.  I am not saying it does not happen, but the possibility of getting someone by apple polishing is not very common. Most of the Americans do not like to hide anything or lie, they say upfront. If they do not agree with their boss, they will say I disagree…but in Indian culture, it is considered impolite and we do not do that…so there are fundamental differences. The overall point is, there is no need to kiss someone’s a** here to get promotion. Your work is well recognized.

Also, when it comes to work related politics, there is too much of politics in Indian companies…colleagues or friends who are always as a group try to help each other for onsite chances, hikes, promotions, etc…and in the process some of the good people who are not part of the group gets hurt.  There are politics everywhere, others complaining about you in secret to your manger about something for getting impression, similar childish behavior. I am not trying to tell stories here, these are real incidents I heard from friends….On the other hand, in US it does not work that way. Most of the times, people do not complain behind your back, there is less chance of group trying to suppress anyone. In America, if you work hard and show your work, you are recognized by your boss and will be rewarded. You do not need to do anything like in India….Overall, there are less work politics in US…

Decision about promotions and Work related politics :

Personally, after talking to my friends and after my little work experience  in America, most of the times, it is very positive and less politics. Work related politics are real frustration and kills your creative energy and decreases morale. You do not want to inhibit your growth and face all this frustration when you are young and trying to enjoy life. I would prefer to work in America for at least next 10 years or even more until the playing field becomes more leveled with maturity in mangers and lesser politics at work….

What do you think ? Do you have any work politics story ? What is your opinion ?

Image Credit : http://www.bottomsupcomic.com/comics/2009-10-21-Office-Politics.jpg


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  1. I worked in both USA and India. Working in these countries have advantages and disadvantages.Yes in USA you may make more money . But your freedom is tied as long as you are on H1 Visa. All my 5 years in USA i was on H1 and I felt uncomfortable slogging my ass and no one assuring me on my GC . As long as
    you are on H1 you may not grow in the company ladder though you may earn more more money than your counterparts in India.
    Coming back to India here are other challenges. If you working for an MNC coping with US timings becomes very difficult. Commuting to office is another big challenge in metro cities. You may also not make big money as your US counterparts but you can grow in the company ladder to some extent. Depending on the company and what level your position in the company you can plan to do some work-life balance .

  2. I’m from an Irish family that spent 50 years in Britain then we moved to the USA. I work in IT so have always spent a lot of time with Indian colleagues immigrants or 1st and 2nd generation in UK and USA. I always felt there was a lot of similarity in the immigrant experience. I was a senior leader in Europe and moved to a more individual contributor role in the USA.

    What I can tell you in my experience is that with all cultures there are good and bad in management and some of the high end leaders I’ve worked for who are Indian born but spent a lot of time in Silicon valley are fabulous.

    However, I recently worked for an Indian directly while still on my visa and it was hell on earth – much of the things here resonate, he threatened me with writing to US immigration and causing me Visa problems if I didn’t do what he wanted, which in my opinion was bad for the company.

    When working with another organization with which I had a good relationship, he even pulled the race card “We Indian’s must stick together and #### the white guy.” The great news was that the other Indian involved in this was a champion, defended me and made an official complaint to my organization, needless to say I am here and he has gone.

    However, our organization has significant problems as our product management team, mainly American and long time Indian immigrants with green cards or citizenship have been moved to report to our head of engineering where nearly everyone is on Visa’s and had the 10 year waits …. of those with visas only we have an exodus back to India or for those who can leave without needing a sponsor nearly all of them have left. How on earth do we ensure we get the really good leaders and how do we create more of them?

  3. ALL Managers whether Indian or Chinese SUCKS…
    DON’T expect anything if you want to remain in jobs.
    If you are talented, you will get promotion and raise later if not sooner.
    I got mine delayed by 1.5 yrs in MSFT but i got it eventually.
    What I realize is I unnecessary strained myself for getting promotion faster and comparing myself and my performance with other dumb guys who got promoted earlier.
    Think Bigger in terms of work-life balance..family values, time with kids etc. They are more important in life than promotion/money etc. in my humble opinion.
    i am a father of two and working in US for the last 10 years, never worked in India.

  4. Ive been working in U.S. For the past 10 years and never felt I’m working in U.S. Except the 1st 2 yrs. reason being Indian managers and Indian colleagues all over make you feel you are working in India for an Indian company.. Indian mentality rules all the time.. Didn’t get good opportunities to associate with Americans and learn their cultures other than watching news and movies.. Can’t freely express or object my managers opinion and if we do so, it comes at a cost. I hate working for Indian managers in U.S.. Not that I’m anti-Indian, but I’m just focussing some negative and bossy attitude of Indian managers and Indian peers who still do kiss their boss ass right in America and I hate seeing that and I never do that..

  5. hey, buthow an individula can settle in US after the completeion of masters.? do you got any suggestion of getting directly recruited ?

  6. In India, whether you work for an MNC or for any other company you will come across politics. People will try to pull you down by different ways. People in India are so talkative, they talk unnecessary topic’s with their boss and try to please them and get favors. people are conservative and you have to fight with people’s perceptions and these perceptions are created by assholes who does not work but always keep a watch on how you work and report everything to your boss. I call them sniffer dogs of MNC. India is a great place with vast culture and ethics, but surely not a great place to work.

    • In private companies in Kerala, the caste based office politics is in its worst level. Employee’s skills are assessed based on caste.
      If the management or the training department of a company belongs to caste A, then the B caste employees are untouchables there.
      Thus the caste A employees will try to suppress the B caste employee’s skill and let them be like the slaves in the company without any promotion or appraisal.

  7. I have not worked in US but I’m working for an UK based company in India. I use to be the person who hardly cares about fawning but respect people irrespective of their decree. I ensure to complete maximum work in the scheduled time but my manager expects me to stretch after work hours , come on weekends and the worst part is she never bother if people are really working, if a team member can engage her until the late office hours she will fetch her overtime salary. There were two people who joined our team after me, they had been fawning the manager, tries to please her in all possible ways, like buying things and going to her home to help her kid photo shoot. Afterwards, the worst things started to happen in my work career. She then projected both of those girls as the most working people, which none of team members are ready to accept , but they won’t voice ouot just because they shouldn’t get stuck. My manager gave me unimaginable targets, stressed me to the heck of life. Since I couldn’t tolerate her I voiced out to her superior. Then begin the battle. She confessed me with other two TL’s in a meeting room saying that she is afraid that I will superceed her and she couldn’t make me work. Then, she planned and transferred to other department with her toadying skills to the superior. After I moved she had given to two vertical promotions to those to two of the junios who I have mentioned earlier. I had trained them initially when they joined. Even though being a very skilled person, with all necessary qualifications, I have been put down in the company with a meagor hike and no promotion. All these are just demonstrating me that there is no worst work politics than an Indian irrespective of the Company being any national. Not only those two girls, she brought the very juniors up the ladder after i moved from her department. The thing is when i tend to meet those girls ,they just bow down their heads due to the shame of facing me.
    My manager herself told me earlier all these politics, she is afraid I will succeed her. I heared that other team members also had the same feeling that the manager is afraid that I will overtake her, that’s why she didn’t try to bring me up.

    • yes true,working for Indian managers is like always satisfying their ego.the funny & most paradoxial thing is, Indian mamgers always talk about merit, but prefer oiling & biasing & nepotism.
      In my experience I have found brahmin to be most negative mamagers/damagers for a compny & workcultures with their backward ego satisfaction

      • Hi,

        I am not sure in which companies you guys are working.I am an IT professional with 14 yrs of experience both in India and outside India.But I never felt this thing in company nor I have seen people doing polishing to get hike or promotion.Also I have not seen any professional calling their seniors with Sir/Mam.If you are good at what you do,then definitely you will get hike and promotion.But I would like to add one thing that getting promotion in India is much more easier than getting in US.I am working as delivery manager in India,but my friend who are staying in US are still working as Team Leads and very few working as PM.

        • Why do you say “still working as Team Leads” like that is a bad thing? Maybe they like being closer to the code than they could be being a PM. Besides, working as a PM is not a big achievement if you are in IT in India. Almost everybody who doesn’t have interest/capability/skill in the technical line becomes a PM. The remaining few work in the US or become architects in India and move to the US/Europe/Canada at the first available opportunity because the chances for Indian IT companies to provide technically challenging work for someone with more than 10 years is next to nil. You are expected to do costing and preparing reports for higher management who will then take your reports and prepare other documents for some even higher management.

          Getting a promotion in India is easier as you said it because in almost all organizations it depends on whose backside you are fanning. In the US it takes more of talent, hard work & skill. People can’t brown nose their way up the corporate ladder there as easily as they do here.

          A lot of people don’t even realize they are unknowingly doing it themselves and so fail to see it happening around 🙂

  8. There should be no confusion when you have clarity and unless your specific situation with economical, social, mental and/or health issues could affect below guidelines.

    As someone who’s fairly experienced and observed the best of both worlds for significant duration, here are my two dollars; 2 cents are worthless anyways, unlike my comments… 😉

    1. Unmarried, Single Male / Married, No kids / Married with kid(s) till they turn 10 years AND No Parent’s Responsibility – USA
    2. Unmarried, Single Male / Married, No kids / Married with kid(s) AND Aged Parents – India with short onsite stints
    3. Married with kid(s) till they turn 10 years AND (close) relative taking care of Aged Parents – USA with India visits
    4. Married with kid(s) AND Parents (< 60) – USA
    5. Married with kid(s) between 10 – 16 years – India with short onsite stints
    6. Married with kid(s) over 16 years AND (close) relative taking care of Aged Parents – USA with India visits
    7. Married with kid(s) over 16 years AND Aged Parents – India with short onsite stints
    8. Married with kid(s) over 16 years AND No Parent's Responsibility – USA
    9. Male Divorcee with kids below 16 years – India
    10. Male Divorcee with kids above 16 years – USA
    11. Unmarried, Single / Married / Divorcee AND above 60 years – India
    12. Unmarried, Single / Divorcee Female without kids AND BELOW 45 years – Mostly unsafe yet prefer India
    13. Divorcee Female BELOW 45 years with kids below 16 years – Mostly unsafe yet prefer India
    14. Divorcee Female aged 45 – 60 years with kids above 16 years – Prefer USA
    15. Unmarried, Single / Divorcee Female 60+ years – India

    • Dear Amol, Fantastic !! Can you please explain on what basis or reasons you are suggesting these answers. Ex My case is almost point 5,
      “5. Married with kid(s) between 10 – 16 years – India with short onsite stints”. Why you don’t want to take children to US at these ages and recommending after 16? W
      If you provide this then i owe to you for ever. Cheers Sowmi

      • I think he meant you go onsite alone or with wife and leave kids here. Since its short duration they can manage for a while.

  9. US is build on immigrants. So the way the things work at office depends on the majority of the people who work there. If the majority is Indians and their roots is India then they still demand respect and do favors to their liked people. If they born and bought of here then they don’t behave in that way. I’ve seen few cases, where even the American managers behave differently with different people, they expect respect and more politeness from Indian employees, where as they behave normally with Americans. But the thing that I liked with Americans is almost all cases they wont lie, especially if they come late to office, or want urgent leave. That we can’t see in Indian employees, who send just “personal work” as a reason for urgent leave. When we are leaving in other country, we should respect their values, ethics and culture. I hope Indian people should obey it.

  10. IN U.S. it varies a lot. It goes how is the economy. Now I see culture chaning from american to chinese or indian or to say miser and rough in same company since economy is not so good and companies aren’t doing automatic progress what they use to do. so things r rough in u.s. too for many employees. Also U.S. is nothing else but a bunch of Mexican, Indian, Chinese and some american people now, Mexico-China-India is same as far as style of education or general life hardships r concerned so all these bosses will be same. American bosses are really too sweet and smart player but doesn’t mean they will do always all good for u. Until ur in their way or ur going higher than them they will be ok with ur progress othewise they will play real smart game. only difference is that they are usually very smart presentator than indians or others, they are much better actors than indians or others which earns them reputation of being nice, mannerful and polite.

  11. Hi,

    I have 5 years of work exp. in India and then 5 years of work exp. in US. What I can tell you is this: If you work in Bay Area then Indian managers behave the same way the behave in India. Here they are worse because they know that they can exploit people who are on H1 for their own benefit. Once I was asked to complete one month’s work in a week because my stupid manager had committed it to the upper management. This was at Juniper Networks. Although, I did the work in 1 week (day and night), I never felt good about it. On the other hand, the same thing can happen in India but there managers are fearful that if they make demands like these then employee will quickly leave as they do not have to deal with H1 issues, etc. Also, Chinese managers behave the same way they would behave in China, and so on. It is not about US or India or China, etc. It is about where your manager is from?

  12. If you see it simply from office culture wise, there are only slight differences between India and US. Because of Indian culture, Indian employees give more respect to their manager when compare to US employees. But there is no considerable problem because of it.

    If you work in some MNC in india, you can see that only first name used to address any employee in organization irrespective of their position. You will never see words like sir or madam. Promotions and hikes are MOSTLY (may be completely) based on individual work efficiency. If you are efficient, office politics can’t touch you irrespective of geographical location. i seen same thing in US also.

    If some body believes that he is efficient and working hard for company and still not getting promotion, it simply mean that he is cheating himself. This is because, the obvious question .. why he still working in that company?why he is not able to find new job? India job market works with simple rule .. demand and supply.

    The major difference is, for indian employees work is life. That is not the case for US people.

  13. Yes, we cannot directly compare both as both have their own identities… just trying to explain both sides of world. Well, respect is important everywhere….the bad part is with stupid politics and flattery that people expect …

    • I forgot to mention about the ‘fear culture’ in Asian companies. It is a paternalistic culture that is still prevalent among many organizations. In my decades-long experience working in India and Indonesia, I have often seen that lower level staff are afraid to enter their superiors’ offices even for routine work. They somehow tend to treat their bosses as demigods. At times, I wonder if the bosses inwardly relish creating a fear psychosis among their staff. This is intolerable, in my opinion. Further, strangely, ‘Culture Development’ is often directed towards the lower level staff and workers, conveniently forgetting that in fact, it is they, the bosses, that should first become role models!

  14. First time, I come accross the term ‘apple polish! I don’t know much about the work culture in the U.S. From what I have observed, it looks that the people there do speak to each other quite informally, irrespective of one’s age, rank, status. At times, they speak bluntly. No one calls the other ‘Mr’. For us, from Asian society, such a behavior is considered rude and in fact, we are shocked beyond belief. Asian culture is totally different, and not comparable with U.S. Elders expect respect; bosses demand respect in India. It’s difficult to judge what is right and what is wrong! Youngsters generally adapt to situations.

    • Those People who have option to stay in both countries have these issues. If we have only one option to stay in one country no issues right? Why do we blame countries or people. We have to blame ourselves. All problems exist within us. We always compare and we confuse. If India is very poor country probably we would not even consider to come back. But we see reports that India is a growing super power. Then we confuse. We think about children, grand children and great grand children. So we have no clarity. So let us get clarity on some issues.

      Staying in USA:

      1. The moment you close your door and come out you don’t feel that you belong to this country.
      2. You go to work you have to smile 100 times, you have to say sorry 1000 times, you have to excuse yourself many, many times. The team talk about foot ball match, base ball match, as we watch cricket at home so some how we have to manage to engage ourselves. We need to learn some local slang some people never get that of course. Did you really change as American? Are you pretending or are you acting? If you change really then good for you. If you can’t change then how long you act at work. It will be a daily task, isn’t it?
      3. You come home. Your lawn work will be waiting for you. You need to mow, you need to fertilize and you need to water the lawn. If you have plenty of trees and bushes then you need to think of killing thousands of Japanese beetles. If it is winter and you live in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, New-yark etc you need to work with snow-showel or snow blower. Of course you have to wear jackets, thermals, gloves, ear caps, monkey caps all the time whenever you want to enjoy the nature. The people who bought houses need to showel their drive ways, the people who live in apartments needs to brake their windshilds to melt the freezing ice.

      4. You are young couple you are bored at home. You have young children you think that your life is so beautiful. But you need to balance between your wife job vs day care expenses. If you have teenagers then you life will be close to hell.

      5. You have H1B then you think of green card. Then you have green card you think about citizen ship. By the time you look back your life is done.

      6. How many people really come to India? Single salaried person, they can’t imagine to come back. All their money spent to travel to India or bringing in-laws or parents to America. Both husband and wife working either husband want to stay back or wife wants to stay back. If teenagers are there they can’t even think about in their dreams to come back to India.
      Ok some how you landed in India:

      1. Suddenly you realize that one of your family member is allergic to dust.
      2. You feel that even after joining 6 months in your company, you still waiting to be allocated.
      3. As long as you have dollars in you bank you compare dollar vs rupee and you are somewhat ok with your expenditure. Once your dollars evaporated you feel little scary living in India with your Indian rupee income.

      Without knowing you, you changed a lot. But the change is not complete so you neither fit for America nor India.

      So you compare, compare then come to websites like this.

      Did you realize that the moment you landed first time in US, The word “COMPARE” become part of your life? So when do you take this “COMPARE” out of your life?

      This is the real “MAYA” world. We don’t know what we need? We need to seriously ask questions like… WHO AM I? What is the purpose of life? Why I landed on this planet of earth?

      If you think that you are miserable, then you are blessed. God gave us miseries for our own evolution. Accept them as gifts then you are fine.

      • You are the only person around here who listed out some very interesting points. I think both countries have their problems. So, we must just decide which problems we are ready to face and stick to that decision.


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