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When I pivoted my career from the private sector to the Government of India..

When I pivoted my career from the private sector to the Government of India, I faced a major cultural shock.

In the private sector, I called my juniors, peers, and my bosses- all by their first name.

I entered the world of government and everyone addressed officers as "Sir/Ma'am".

It's not that I didn't respect my bosses or superiors in government, but suddenly calling someone "Sir/Ma'am" seemed hierarchical, and frankly colonial too.

What bewildered me was that even freshly minted young professionals who had cleared IAS exam were the new "Sir/Ma'am".

As small as the connotation may seem, subtle hierarchy in the name of salutations trains people to be submissive and junior not in terms of rank but in thoughts, #innovation, and ideas. And that erodes system's #growth.

Now, I am not against IAS officers. I am all in for their extraordinary contribution to the nation and perhaps they are not to be blamed for settling into this age-old culture.

But if they won't change the culture of "Ma'am/Sir", who will ?

Our system needs change. And that change can come while learning to be respectful but not submissive. We need to question and change the school principal like treatment of government officers.

Today, as a Co-CEO, I politely request anyone who calls me Ma'am to address me by my first name because I know this "Sir/Ma'am" wall will set back my organization by decades.

We need a more liberal working culture if we want our economy and society to prosper.

If 21st-century Indian won't, who will?

If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.


Author- Shatakshi Sharma, Cofounder Global Governance Initiative, Ex- BCG, Advisor, Tony Blair Institute

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