Hi Seniors,

I am working in a manufacturing industry, as HR. The management belongs to a US company. Recently a strange decision has been raised, by the top management (Foreigners) to change all technical level designation like Engineer/Asst. Engn./Sr. Executive etc., to Supervisors. Reason given for this change is to subtract the chaos regarding the designation (As we had one issue in past regarding the same) also Supervisor means the head in their country.

Kindly suggest is this a right decision to make after giving appointment letter to the employee and how can I put my grounds against this act, legally, Is there any law for it. As I believe this act will create more distrust and I won't be able to hire senior level position because the highest designation in technical field will Supervisor only. Plus, the current senior employees won't like to be designated on a junior level designation.

Kindly, suggest how much importance a designation holds in India. Is there any law related or decision taken, in such cases.

If anyone can share an actual case study or reference related the same, will be very helpful.



From India, Jaipur
Dear Arpita,

Rather than writing your designation clearly, you have written that "you are from HR". Possibly this could mean that you do not have managerial position. In that case, whom do you report to? If it is HR Manager, then why he has not raised this query on this path-breaking decision of your management? Does he consider below his dignity to approach this forum of his own fraternity?

After going through your post, one can understand the dilemma that you are facing. On the one side is US management. They have penchant for looking at the world from their perspective. Their's is No 1 economy and the world depends on them. Therefore, they expect the others to fall in their line. On the other hand is Indian job market. It has it's own dynamics and developing country like India has plethora of MNCs and also Indian companies that are mighty in their own way.

Before giving solution to your challenge, it is pertinent to understand the transition of Indian job market. It was different a quarter of century than what it is today. Those who entered into Indian job market before 1990 would remember that one had to wait to get managerial position for a decade. Next ten years to become GM and still ten more years to become VP or Director. Pyramid of the organisation structure was inversely proportional to the age of the person who most of the time rose from the ranks. Exception was only for those who ushered their career from top. It could be because they inherited the position rather than acquiring it. However, economic liberalisation after 1990 unsettled the job market. Newer and newer companies entered into the market and there was shortage of manpower at all levels. Therefore, along with length of service, one more factor of competency-based selection also came in picture. This created a situation wherein just couple of years of service, and people were bestowed with managerial position. By their thirties, few started becoming even GM and so on. However, few industries like IT industry still operated in different environment and they did not shower the designations.

Economic liberalisation also brought in its wake poaching of the candidates. Seniors from well-established businesses were poached rampantly by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). They were enticed by offering a fancy designation which they could not have dreamt if they were to continue in the same employment. Therefore, today in most of the industries, acquiring a position of Manager has become common within first 7-8 years of one's career. Your challenge is vis-a-vis this scenario.

If you wish to write to your Management then you may write a letter on two important counts. One is that in Indian job market scenario. A supervisor is a position that is one notch above the lowest rung of the hierarchy i.e. factory workers. Dictionary meaning of supervisor is a person who supervises a person or an activity. Going by this definition, a Manager or General Manager or above them are all supervisors. However, dictionary meaning remains in the dictionary. Considering the characteristics of Indian manufacturing sector, allotment of designation of supervisor might be perceived as demotion. The differing perceptions could demoralise those who have hard-earned their positions. In addition to salary, designation is a motivating factor. It would be difficult for them to accept a diminished designation though their role and responsibilities remain same.

Keeping aside the job market scenario, there is one more legal roadblock also. When the managers were employed, they were issued appointment letter. In their appointment letters, the designations were given as per the old norms. Now changing the norms is equivalent to changing the conditions of employment. This is against Indian Contract Act, 1872 as appointment letter is a contract between employer and employee. Contracts are signed under the mutual agreement and either party cannot change the terms and conditions of the contract unilaterally. If some managers approach court to bring stay order, it could create unpleasant scenes. A vitiated organisation culture is not conducive for the growth of the company.

Before approaching your management, I recommend you allowing few managers to raise their objection for the new diktat from US. You must have few written applications at hand. Otherwise, management could perceive that you are the only one who is against their order and you could be instigating others. Therefore, it is better to keep off yourself from this risk.

Lessons from the Post: - Decision of the management of the originator of the post symbolises the mindset of the bosses of the MNC. Basic rule of leadership is staying connected with the ground situation. Leadership wanted to obviate a chaos that had taken place due to designation. Though the originator of the post has not written what it was, going from her post it clearly shows that to address the chaos, leadership may create a new chaos. Nothing wrong if one does not have vision. What is the use of a visionary leadership if it starts unleashing their perceptions on their employees? Staying connected with local conditions and avoiding chaos are more important than the vision itself!

The new decision, which I have termed it as diktat, neither fits into the old structure of the job market nor the prevailing conditions. Pulling rabbits from hats looks nice in magic shows and not while running an enterprise. No management education is required to understand this.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore

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