The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 10, 2000

Puppets everywhere
By Hitesh Kaushal

CONFORMISM is on the rise; puppets are everywhere, thriving on the needs and weaknesses of those in power. Irrespective of the field, be it politics or business, the more a person is willing to submit his integrity, the more rapid is his rise. This combination of dedicated conformists and dictatorial superiors works wonderfully in preserving the unreality between them. It takes a lot of perceptiveness to fit into this role, as the needs of the master are to be anticipated and fulfilled. There is no questioning of whatever is being done. The organisation simmers but never gets incinerated as some men of integrity continue to do their work, just because they are selfish enough to realise their maximum potential.

The organisation stands as the biggest loser, losing on the infinite potential of able people whom it fails to value. The rot that sets in is self-sustaining, as the blind conformists keep their bosses busy through reverse delegation and thus structure their time, where as they benefit from never having to take responsibility for their decisions.


Motivation to work in an organisation comes by watching people who are successful and identifying the reasons for it. If these reasons are values like knowledge, capability and skills, motivation comes automatically. But if the reasons are sycophancy, dumb conformism and personal clout etc. they drive out the motivation from an organisation. This difference in motivation can easily make a difference of one-is-to-thousand in the efficiency of using the available brain bank. The results are self-evident; a system gets what it values. If the value is attached to submission than to independence and creativity, it is only a parasite that survives.

At the core of it lies the fear of obsolescence in the minds of those at the top. Psychologically we can find an ulterior need of reassurance stemming from low self-esteem, which is best, fulfilled by compromising conformists. If the top layer gets used to structuring of time in routine tasks it finds itself in a state of panic at the very thought of passing time in tackling the core issues and new challenges at its disposal. They are thus efficient managers but poor leaders. They can get the work done but they cannot enthuse people to put in that extra bit which is possible only if we value those who deliver.

Traditionally, management was all based on central planning but in the contemporary world, management is all about empowering those who dare to use their own minds. It is all about valuing the anarchists. The search must be focused on finding the entrepreneurial spirit in employees and combining it with a collective synergy so that the whole structure grows bigger than the parts. Harry Quadracci, CEO, Quad Graphics says, "people think the president has to be the main organiser. No, the president is the main ‘disorganiser’. Everybody ‘manages’ quite well; when anything goes wrong, they take immediate action to make sure nothing will go wrong again.The problem sadly is that nothing new will happen either."

In business there is no such thing as benevolent patronising because business means give and take of value without any scope of charity. If a bias is conspicuous in the system it demoralises the people. The positions at the top call for incessant judiciousness in dealing with people so that people retain a faith that the system is fair.

Tackling conformism is not easy and the most common pitfall in it is that we may submit ourselves to the false values of the system whereas what we really want is that the astigmatism in the evaluating system is rectified. This calls for a consistent effort against all demotivating factors so that we do not withdraw from the fight but instead stand up and show that we are the wheels on which the system is moving. For that we have to work without any sense of altruism because the crusade is to prevent the destruction of our own values. The contradictions have to be brought to the surface by challenging the norms, not by attention seeking through antagonism but by assertively tackling the parasites and countering their every move. It is like swimming against the tide with nothing to favour except our internal values and their fulfilment our only prize. The real success will come only when we keep this in mind.