Project 365: Day 10 — Hierarchies

I am generally uncomfortable with hierarchies. I’m a largely direct person, which means that I manage to ruffle a few feathers with older people, with a few bosses and others who are senior to me. I don’t mean to intentionally upset these people. It’s just that I don’t think hierarchies should get in the way of articulating your thoughts.

In India, we have a culture of respecting our elders, to the extent of letting them get away with possible interference we wouldn’t take from anyone else. We also have a thing about being unnecessarily coy — some of us are asked not to say much around our elders. Free thinking is considered odd in front of elders, particularly for a woman, and this becomes especially relevant when women marry and enter the in-laws’ homes. I have often protested against this because I do not find the need to confirm to archaic rituals that are way past their expiration date. My parents have often told me that I should dress a certain way, not disagree with people and go along with these things because you can’t really change the way old people think, but my point is, I will be old some day and I can’t stomach the idea of treating someone else the same way — even if it is something as silly as asking someone to shut up. On the other hand, when I have met older relations who are liberal, I have had the most wonderful and fascinating conversations with them. When you let someone open up and have a heart-to-heart, you often end up forming stronger bonds with them than you would with resistance and controlling someone.

Some of the people I have worked with and interacted with are people much older and wiser than myself. Yet being quiet and listening to everything other people say is the biggest impediment to growth. Yes, I’ve had people tell me, “Talk to the most senior people you can. Listen as much as you can and try not interrupting because their time is precious and they will not have time to listen to what you have to say.” They’re right of course, but I believe most of these people (including myself) let these hierarchies get in the way.

My first organisation had a hot-desking culture and to me, one of the most junior people in the organisation at the time, it was one of the best things to happen. You could walk up to anyone in the organisation and have a chat. It’s a great culture to foster in a place where merit and talent should be valued over hierarchies and actually implementing that even if it is in smaller ways actually sends out a strong message within the system.

Hierarchies are everywhere and they are a must in every workplace for it to function smoothly. However, the point is to not let them get in the way of everyday interactions and not let them impede free thinking. Life is too short to let things get in the way of fostering free thought and speech.

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