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Peeved, but professional

India Inc is the most irritated workforce in the world, says a new survey. However, Indian HR honchos are quick to add, don't judge professionals on how much they complain, but on how they tackle problematic colleagues, for that's where the real change has occurred

Sixteen countries, 17,653 corporate professionals, one verdict -- Indian workers hate their colleagues more than any other workforce in the world.



A survey by professional networking site LinkedIn, released on September 28, has revealed that India is the most peeved country out of the 16 nations that were surveyed for top peeves at the workplace.

Over 17,000 professionals were given a list of 38 pet peeves, ranging from the fairly inconsequential loud typing and humming, to far meatier concerns like passing the buck for your actions and complaining constantly. While Indian working professionals checked 19 out of the 38 peeves, Italians, the least peeved workforce, checked 15.

Singapore and Germany followed India, while the United States was the eighth most peeved country.

The survey also offered the top three peeves of each country. Indian and American professionals were more peeved by constant complainers and colleagues who don't take responsibility for their actions. People talking loudly on their cellphones or answering calls on speakerphone were more irritating for Indians. The Americans, however, had a bone to pick with those who stole food from office refrigerators.

According to Roopali Sundar, Talent Management Head for Avaya India, an increasingly globalised workspace has led India Inc to become more focused on etiquette and employee behaviour.

"This survey offers a real snapshot of Indian workspaces. Over the years, I too have come across people who talk loudly on the phone, or don't take responsibility for their actions and complain a lot," says Sundar, who has been a Human Resource professional for 16 years, and has been with the New Jersey-based business communications firm for the past three years.

At the same time, she also sees a definite shift in the attitude of both employees and companies in tackling annoying behaviour. A trend towards constructive feedback and open discussions is making its way into company meeting rooms and water cooler areas.

"There is a change in the way employees address issues with colleagues today, and they are equally mindful of constructive criticism others give them. Self awareness is essential for a good workspace," says Sundar.

At Symantec India, the Indian arm of a global company that manufactures security software for computers, employees start an email thread on issues that irritate them about their colleagues. The idea, clarifies Sudhanshu Pandit, Director, Human Resources, is not to target a particular individual and heckle him, but to put the information out there so that others can desist from similar behaviour.

For instance, earlier this year, an employee at Symantec's Pune office -- which houses 2,400 of the more than 3,000 employees of Symantec in India -- posted a photo of a car that had been parked haphazardly, occupying two parking slots instead of one. He obscured the number plate on the car, so that the owner remained unidentified. Soon, others started posting their peeves on the same thread. One of them included elevator etiquette  -- "People should wait for those inside the elevators to step out before they rush in," it read.

Still others talked about the importance of washing hands after grabbing a bite at the cafeteria.

This, says Pandit, was an effective idea for employees to deal with their peeves, constructively.

Avaya India too prefers a similar approach of direct interaction between employees. They have feedback forms that employees can circulate among colleagues and supervisors. The filled up form is sent to the supervisor, who then shares the feedback with the 'nuisance' employee, without revealing who said what.

Organisations have also begun holding workshops to train and educate their employees on office behaviour.

Shardha B, who has been an HR professional for six years and is currently with a leading multinational financial services firm, faces the top three peeves, in her own team. And while her approach has grown more nuanced over the years (instead of keeping mum or making a generic comment, she'd rather take her colleague aside and tell him/her what's irking her), Shardha's company also invites motivational speakers to train employees on business development, personal development; building the brand 'You', and confidence.

The result, says the 27 year-old, is that employees become aware of their own possibly problematic actions. At the same time, they also learn the right way of tackling their colleagues' bad behaviour.

"Most times, people aren't aware that their behaviour is being perceived negatively. Our job is to make them aware of that," says Pandit, adding that Symantec's open door, non-restrictive policy makes it easy for HR personnel to tackle these concerns without turning them into an 'issue'.

Unless it is, of course. Uninhibited display of anger, for instance, is dealt with severely, and the firm appoints members of the HR team as 'investigators' to speak with 'eye witnesses', the 'victim', and the 'perpetrator'.

Other companies like Tata Consultancy Services have started hobby clubs for their employees, getting them to trek or learn the guitar, for instance. Happy employees after all, make a happy workspace.

At the end of the day, it boils down to how you share feedback. "Whether you are senior or junior to the offending colleague, it's important that you don't make the person feel targeted," Shardha points out.

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