Kiran Khalap
Feb 06, 2012

Kiran Khalap's Blog: Is democracy at office unintelligent?

Kiran Khalap, co-founder, chlorophyll brand & communications consultancy, wonders about what democracy is all about at the office

Kiran Khalap's Blog: Is democracy at office unintelligent?

Last week, a news item suggested that India’s per capita income is now INR 53,000, a number obtained by dividing the GDP by population.

It’s a figure that hides as much as it reveals, and that got me thinking about economists.

Like account planners in advertising agencies, they keep looking for patterns.

For instance, one interesting pattern links per capita GDP of city and its ability to host the Olympics: it should be above US $4000 (Google Angus Maddison if you are the curious type!)

The other interesting pattern links economic development and urbanisation.

In urban  centres, once the per capita incomes cross US$ 4000, citizens start demanding better services at local level (Google Kuznets’ Curve if still curious;-)).

What that means is that once the citizens have gotten over the day-to-day struggle of making ends meet and paid taxes as required by the law, they start become civic-minded, and demand their rights as well.

That’s what democracy is all about isn’t it?

The balance of rights and responsibilities.

That got me thinking about democracy at the office.

If it’s the intelligent way of managing nations, why are organisations not managed democratically? (A thought first sown in my mind by old friend Aditya Jha, ex-Infosys.)

Surely most of the havoc we saw in the US would have been avoided?

For instance, if the employees of Lehman Brothers (who filed the largest bankruptcy in US history in 2008) had the power to vote out their leaders, wouldn’t they have done so?

And if they had, wouldn’t we have been spared a global financial disaster that destroyed lives around the world?

After all, several of us believe that the 20th century was ruined because corporations became more powerful than governments across the world!

Why don’t employees of corporations vote for a high-performance CEO or vote out a self-aggrandising CEO?

Why can’t the creative team in an advertising agency vote out a nepotistic or gender-biased or credit-hogging Creative Director?

Why can’t the employees ‘file a PIL', as it were, to find out why the CEO’s best friend’s spouse got the contract to change the interiors of the office or why the Chairperson paid for his new bungalow under the guise of building a guest house for the corporation?

It makes sense doesn’t it?

If the CEO demands your responsibility to perform at your peak, day in and day out, surely you have a democratic right to question how the wealth you generated got utilised?

One good news is here:

There are at least one billion employees who work in such democratic organisations (including some in India).

The bad news?

I don’t know if any advertising agency/media agency/brand consultancy is part of that list.

That got me thinking...if communication professionals are so intelligent, why don’t they choose this form of corporate governance? (After all, most of them have a per capita way higher than US $4000;-))

Maybe there is something I don’t know.

Maybe Winston Churchill knew: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Do you?

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