One of many interesting Indian traditions is creating jobs that’s actually not required. “Not proper jobs”. The thought behind that is as simple as it’s nice: to give a modest regular income to someone very much in need of it.

Anyone recognizes “that guy” when seeing him in the elevator. The elevator man. Pushing the button with the number 4 on it, after receiving the instruction from us: “fourth floor thanks’”. As if we couldn’t have done that faster our self.

I got started writing this article after reading an article written by Karsten Eskelund, another Norwegian India blogger. The difference between being friendly and being service minded. You should read his article too.

Once you have seen that guy (the elevator guy), you instantly understand the Indian “not proper jobs” concept.

If I didn’t know better I would assume the elevator man had a service function way beyond the button pushing.

However – I know his only mission is to push the button. I know he doesn’t understand English. I know he doesn’t know anything about the companies in the building. He will definitely not “think out of the elevator”. He will for sure not take any decisions or be able to handle any kind of requests you have. I know he has no training to handle any situation, other than calling his boss for detailed instructions – no matter what happens. I know his highest wish is that as little as possible out of the ordinary will happen.

On the other side, I don’t expect anything from him. So nothing (not much) could go wrong. Hence I am a satisfied elevator passenger. He is a satisfied button pushing elevator man.

So far so good, and of course I support the idea of giving someone a much needed job. Fantastic, but…

I have to admit I am a little doubtful about utilizing a person fully capable of working, in tasks that are actually not required. Especially in a place with so many unsolved tasks as in India.

My actual concern however is not unqualified people in not proper jobs. It is “unqualified people IN PROPER jobs”

Persons filling jobs where we ARE expecting something, that are also unqualified, un-instructed and un-aware of how to do the job. Persons with the mindset of a “button pusher” – but having a proper job. That’s a problem.

Especially if you are not aware of the extent of this. If you actually assume a function is handled by someone qualified.

I am not talking about the airline pilot or the brain surgeon. If the pilot is not proper, both you and him will find out fast. (That happens too actually)

But it’s a lot of jobs between button pushing and rocket science, where actually having qualified personnel would be of great help.

Why isn’t it always that?
Simply be aware that people could be hired for all kind of other reasons than their qualifications. (Long story, so let’s talk about that later)

Luckily, most of the episodes created, just adds on to the “interesting account” that just charges your “India battery” a little extra. It will give you one more story to tell when you get back home.

However, when you end up in trouble because of this, then it’s not that funny anymore. Right?

When you need serious business taken care of, and you detect that the person assigned to handle it is “sitting around” having the mentality of the elevator man. Then it is not funny or even interesting anymore.

My theory
It is my clear view that the concept itself (the one of having “not proper jobs”) is creating problems also in the very clearly “proper jobs” segment.

I think seeing and accepting people in full time jobs sitting around all day and literally doing nothing – can be damaging in many levels.

It lowers the work ethics, not to mention the output of people in proper jobs. How can it not? When you see people just next to you doing almost nothing. Day out and day in. How can that not affect you?

It also badly lowers the expectations of local users of services. People aren’t very demanding. Is it because they assume the person responsible is not qualified?

A very negative spiral isn’t it?

I am in the business of assuring good services from India to Scandinavia. So my main concern is how much the outsourcing game is affected by this.

In 1999 I experienced for the first time that a taxi driver waited outside for 6 hours. Where I come from we pay the driver while still driving, to save seconds.

In 1999 I met my first elevator man, the first full time gate opener, the first full time tea man (in a small office) and all the other this and that men. All of them with a very limited responsibility area, but with almost unlimited time to do it.

I remember wondering if seeing so much intended low resource utilization wasn’t also effecting people in much more demanding jobs. Doesen’t it disturbe their “navigation instruments” ?

Yes, It sure does.