Vishnu Menon: Global Shaper of the World Economic forum and an IIM Alumni Verbalizes his Thoughts on Sir/Madam Practice
Vishnu Menon, CEO of Wandertrails Private Ltd (https://www.wandertrails.com) is a fervent endorser of No Sir No Madam initiative. Wandertrails enables the online discovery, booking, and experiencing of the best experiential stays and activities across India. Each stay and activity is carefully curated by an on-ground team to ensure that customers have a phenomenal experience.
After completing engineering, Vishnu earned his MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C). Before incorporating Wandertrails, he worked as a Team Lead for Bain & Company. He is also a current member of the Global Shapers community of the World Economic Forum.
Vishnu enunciates — I consider myself lucky that I never had to inculcate the habit of using Sir/Madam salutations. Working with a global company like Bain, the culture was quite casual. This helped in connecting better with people through the ranks and abolished the hierarchical differences.
However, this is not the scenario in many organisations in India. Employees are expected to address their seniors as Sir/Madam. This practice over the years has bred favoritism. Senior managers give preference to those who bow down to their designation. “I believe respect should not be commanded by your designation. Respect should be earned by your work ethic, the way you treat others and your intellect.”
At Wandertrails, Vishnu practices the doctrine of No Sir No Madam. His employees do not have to address him or any senior as Sir/Madam. “I recollect one instance when a new intern came in and called someone as ‘Sir’. Everyone else laughed because it is considered ludicrous to our start-up culture.” Vishnu emphasises on briefing everyone about not having to use any salutation in his company.
In India, Sir/Madam practice exists dominantly in the government sector. Ministers and other officials consider it as a sign of offense when addressed by their first-name. They exploit their position to purposely delay an individual’s work. This is the norm in most bureaucratic office.
For his work, Vishnu often has to meet the bureaucrats. He remembers an instance,“Before meeting one such official, my colleague advised me to use salutations while communicating with him. My colleague was concerned that if I use first name to refer the official, he will get offended. To get my work done, I had to prepare myself for using salutation.”
Sir/Madam taboo, in India, has created different levels in society. A person working as a driver or a peon has no option, other than addressing his employer as Sir/Madam. This creates disparity in society and also an inferiority stigma. Vishnu advocates the need to eradicate this convention.
“In my house, we never expected the house-help to address us as ‘Sir/Madam’. They would feel mutually respected and were more loyal to us in the long run,” adds Vishnu. A person who feels dignified works more efficiently and sincerely.
It is imbibed into us to use salutations while communicating to others. Thus, he feels this perception cannot be changed overnight. Everyone needs to work towards gradually bringing this change. Furthermore, the new generation can help in bringing this revolution.
Vishnu recommends this change to be brought about at all levels. He states — You cannot just bring this refashioning only at the school-level. They will look odd when they go and work in a company where Sir/Madam culture is prevalent. A 360-degree approach needs to be adopted to avoid this fiasco.
He suggests that young entrepreneurs, ministers, actors, and sports person need to spread and talk about No Sir No Madam drive. This would help in impacting a greater number of people. Everyone needs to realize that mutual respect can be exhibited without succumbing to superiority. Moreover, adoption of No Sir No Madam initiative by even one municipal city will set a great example for others.
Vishnu clinches — We should converse with people reluctant to No Sir No Madam. It is essential that these people are made to understand the difference between earning respect and demanding respect. As the quote goes, “One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up. Instead of the things, they can gain.”