Sri Lankan Work Style

Work, what is that? 

It’s lunch time now in the office and the workers are settling down to chow into some rice packets. I think this is their second lunch. There’s certainly plenty of web browsing and facebook checking and smiles and giggling. The whole office is now looking at something funny on someone’s computer. My desk in the center of the office, so I get to observe all the action. Normal office culture.

*Begin Rant*

Yesterday the managing director came in a berated one of the Sri Lankan employees for not initiating a bank transfer. Apparently it was something that had been sitting around for a while, and the managing director had promised it to his colleague. All the Sri Lankan needed to do was was get the director’s signature, something he had not done.

As we have learned with Lanka Bell, things operate on their own time here, irrespective of the wishes of foreigners. Western notions of urgency certainly don’t apply, not that that comes as a surprise. It’s certainly something that I’m used to given past experiences in Africa and India, where, for instance, I’ve been on trains over 8 hours late.

What is frustrating is the uniquely Sri Lankan promise of a service which is not delivered, repeatedly. We get it that things are slow, but promises that are not kept are eminently frustrating. When we remind them that they promised us something, we usually get another promise that we know can’t be true. An, “ok ok” with a glazed over look rather than a “Sorry, I’ll get it you later.” Continual promises, four or five times over, none of which are kept. In the case of internet, someone has to stay home, just in case they do arrive.

The surprising next thing is that when they arrive *ahem Lanka Bell* they call us five times within a few minutes. Yes, you don’t reply for days that turn into weeks and drag your feet, and then for the 15 minutes we’re not around, everything becomes incredibly urgent.

Rant over.