Born in the USSR


The fact that Russian mentality differs from that of the Сwesterner' is a truism. Although for some reason there is an implication that these features are typical only for physical labor workers or representatives of the caste of Сred directorsТ (a part of the ruling elite in the Soviet system). Which of course is a mistake.


The roots of mentality do not have any obvious connection with religion and political or economic conditions they resulted from, and for this reason they are much more die-hard.

People can change their political convictions but mentality will always be there.

Moreover, children and grandchildren will inherit it. Among todayТs office inhabitants one can hardly find any ardent believers or Сfaithful soldiers of the party'; only a few of them are in some way connected with agriculture but still the way they think, without even noticing it, is exactly how our Уforefathers commanded us to doФ.


Saltbush soup

The unpretentiousness of Russian people is probably the main thing that amazed foreign travellers for centuries.†† Yet Russians get accustomed to comfort instantly as soon as there is an opportunity. On the other hand the belief that people around are unpretentious is still strong. Just because it is convenient to believe so.

In our childhood we have all watched numerous Soviet films where a general or the First Secretary of the regional committee spoke with feeling, УitТs alright, my soldiers (Leningraders, kolkhoz women, young communists) will understand us, they will be able to sleep in the cold, eat saltbushФ and so on. And when a boy grows up and becomes a top executive, in time of need his conscious gives a helpful hint to use that pattern of behaviour. It is a common situation that when a company is looking for an office they want a cheaper but respectable option in the city centre. And they find the right one, however there is one СminusТ Ц no parking places for the employees. And it is clear that offices with parking are way more expensive. Director General, our former boy, stops bewildered, and suddenly something remotely familiar starts glimmering in his mind. He smiles blissfully - the solution is found. He sighs with relief saying, "thatТs all right, our employees will figure something out with their cars. TheyТll manage it.Ф After all, is it really so difficult to find a vacant place within half an hour walking distance? And isn't a short walk good for the body? It is also possible to park near the office if you arrive at 7 a.m. They can also take a tram for a change.

Saltbush soup is quite alright! This approach extends to the customers as well. Billions of decisions made to organize business-processes are accompanied by a common phrase, 'It will not be an inconvenience for the customers'. We'll be able to reduce the supermarket payroll by reducing the number of cashiers in the evening to a minimum. People have to line up for half an hour, but are they in a hurry after a day at work? And is it so difficult for a customer of an elite (!) beauty parlour to spend half an hour at the parking lifting gate proving to that security baboon that he or she is a real customer and even has the money to pay.

Would the clients (and employees) stay with such a company for a long time? Of course not. But the patterns of thinking inherited since childhood do not allow management to see the root of the problems. A dissatisfied employee might explain that he quits being fed up with sitting in a room without windows, but the director will only think, СHe is so picky, itТs good he quitsТ and he starts looking for a normal employee. Clients leave saying nothing. Worried management give whatever reasons for the drop in sales but the most obvious one Ц their company is not convenient for customers.


I know that impossible is possible

Another (similar) scene from the same movie: the workers, young communists or soldiers are up against a tough challenge. The resources allocated to overcome it are Сnext to nothingТ. But it must be done they say, and so they do it. This is so beautiful, touching and again heart-warming for any executive.

Bolshevism and Stalinism or, to be more precise, the myth that formed around this ideology, poisoned the consciousness of Russian managers for decades ahead. The myth as such is still alive primarily because too many people want to believe in it the same way they believe in healing qualities of herbs, Сit is simple, efficient and there is no need to think!Т A peasant lad, komsomol activist from a remote part of the country, is summoned to Moscow to become deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Designers report to Stalin that it will take a year to build a new cannon, he replies, УYou have three monthsФ. IsnТt that nice!

And yet again Directors get the report that resources to address a business objective are insufficient but their eyes flare up in response, СDonТt you remember the words Сit has to be doneТ. No money to promote the website? It means youТll promote it without money! There are no specialists who could do that? Ok, lets dab out finger into the staff list, see whose name we hit and appoint this person a search optimization specialist.

One should realize though, that СStalinТs methodsТ are inefficient in their essence. The result they give is just an illusion: a deeper insight into replicated legends shows that there were 999 promoted idiots per one Gromyko (an outstanding Soviet statesman), and the machines built in three months were junk, with a rare exception. Any way, these speculations today are purely theoretical, since these methods of management are simply inapplicable. They work only when half of the country serves time in labour camps and the other half dreams of getting there because prisoners are given food. Do you try doing it the СStalinТ way setting unachievable goals? YouТll get nothing but fake reports. The same ones Stalin received, by the way.


The land of dreamers

But why do we believe in these fairy tales so easily? Have we watched too many Soviet films in our childhood?

There is a more profound reason. Experience shows that any nation that lives in the environment of absolutism for centuries is prone to irrational thinking. People have to put up with a СbossТs foolishnessТ from generation to generation, without being able to object. One can try to mock in a whisper, of course, but a person will feel humiliated and small. Yes, I feel resentful about it and I disagree, but does it change anything? It is much more convenient for self-esteem to be inspired by foolishness imposed from above. Or learn not to notice it. Either way you have to be able to turn your common sense off.

If Russian mentality hadnТt have that ability, the Soviet movies wouldnТt have been made because the Bolsheviks power wouldn't have been able to enchant millions of people with their unrealistic program.But after they did it, the training of irrational thinking went on and was strengthened ten-fold.

That is why today we easily confuse a dream and reality. Inadequate perception of reality or a break away from it is a normal state for Russian managers. No matter what office you look into, it is all the same: we are the best, the present is beautiful, the future is even more so. But realization of the coming catastrophe is obvious and they try to use nothing but some crazy rescue plans.


I am a boss; I am a fool

The irrationality of thinking clearly grows up from level to level of the social pyramid.The explanation here is very simple. Beginning from the first grade at school each of us feels the never-ending enslavement:we are forced to read and write not the way we like but according to grammar and rules. And in reality the voice of logic is often not a pleasant one: there are only two apples. No matter what we try to get from others we have to find numerous reasons for it.

The only chance to gain freedom is to become a boss and reduce the number of people who might dare to say that you are being illogical, irrational and that you go against the rules.If you are the boss you can make spelling mistakes, make whatever decisions you want and refuse to admit your own mistakes. ThereТs one detail, however, this is only possible in an absolutist system, where subordinates have no right to tell the boss that he is wrong.

It is quite natural that this zeal for freedom is typical for those who have problems with logic and rules. They climb the career ladder with persistence and obstinacy.Idiotism becomes a symbol of power, a thing to flaunt, as if it was an expensive watch one can afford to buy thanks to his status. Moreover a person without this 'speck of idiotism' cannot be perceived as a boss at all.

A person might try to convince himself time and again that if he was a boss he would be a clever boss.But he fails to notice that the image of Сthe bear in the provinceТ has been rooted in his mind since childhood. Moreover he keeps convincing himself and happily tells himself the what-idiots-those-guys-above-are kind of stories. Then when he is appointed a director he involuntary follows the same scenario.Being logical and being able to cope with emotions is difficult, being able to admit oneТs own mistakes is unpleasant. The internal resources run out quickly and there is a strong desire to say, УLeave me alone Ц IТm a foolФ.


National hero

The chances for a knowledgeable person to become a boss in Russia are quite slim.The image of a dumbass boss still controls the employers' minds. A parallel example is a girl from the outskirts.Do you think she dreams of falling in love with an alcoholic? Of course not. But why does she marry one? ItТs because she was taught from her childhood that all men are like that. If she met a sober and intelligent person she would simply ignore him.

It is the same with the employers who treat some bosses 'face' as a fundamental truth.He must be sort of slow and expressly simple, having the service in a motorized rifle platoon, the work in a regional party division or a ringleader experience behind his shoulders.Can you imagine a director general who reads Milorad Pavich during his spare time? No. Well, they canТt either.

These are the same Sharikovs who filled all executive positions in the 30s and 50s and whose images have been reproduced from generation to generation.


CouldnТt care less

Fatalism as a national trait of character was formed in the period of agriculture due to natural conditions. Even hard work was not a rescue from bad harvest, but if the weather was generous there was enough food even for the lazy ones; thus, a firm disbelief that there is a connection between work and result. Russians have been amazingly passive even in situations when not only their material well-being but their whole life was at stake. Military history knows a lot of these examples, such as infuriated reports from inspectors showing that gunners were reluctant to cut the grass in front of their firing ports.

That is why material incentives in Russia donТt work very well. People donТt believe that their well-being is directly connected with the level of diligence. And when the company is in trouble a common picture is passive behavior at every level including the top one. Everyone says that something needs to be done but it is the same fatalism in everyoneТs heart.


СA photo hobby groupТ

Generally speaking Russians are bored with earning money and pursuing material wealth, even when they set up a commercial venture as a tribute to tradition. It can be called an involuntary copying of the Soviet period when the companies didnТt think too much about being profitable, but the roots of this phenomenon reach many centuries back into history.

This is why the companies (including managers and founders) in Russia often turn into 'hobby groups', where people do what they like most and don't strain themselves too much even if financial results are lamentable.Another situation is Сour team Ц our family', where people make friends, fall in love, make enemies, spend good time together, pay salary to Сgood peopleТ, they do anything but create a required cash flow.

Sometimes religious motives creep in. When a rational system faces a problem or a failure the main thing is to find the right solution and work out a plan. The most important thing for a religious person is the notion of sin. And hence the main question: УWHO IS TO BLAME?Ф Evil must be punished and the solution can wait.


Remember who you are

УYou can take the girl out of Russia, but you canТt take Russia out of the girlТ, said Mel Gibson after he divorced his Russian wife. The patterns of behavior described above are so deeply rooted in us that one shouldnТt cherish illusions and hope to get rid of them through a single effort of will. The only thing that can help is the knowledge of these patterns and continuous self-control.

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