From the minute we are born, our instincts start taking shape. The first three months form the core that influences us fundamentally for the rest of our lives. Parental guidance, social conditioning, economic circumstances and formal education all play their roles in molding our characters during childhood.
For most, fundamental traits from our formative years don't change much, regardless of new learning at the office. For some, introspection leads to self-examination and conscious change for the better.
There are less than a million "professionals and managers" in Indonesia. In comparison with the general population, there are some fascinating similarities and dissimilarities in attitude.
While 57 percent of all people say they would have "difficulty coping with a demanding job", one in three managers also agrees with the statement.
Forty-one percent of managers believe that "there are not enough hours in a day", but one in three of all people, including housewives, are equally hard-working.
Only half the country "believes in taking risks". That is not unusual in comparison with other cultures. What is surprising though is that only 47 percent of managers feel the same way. Even after discounting accountants, doctors and lawyers, that is a disappointingly low number.
Equally surprising is the reality that while 86 percent of people believe that "success is important to me", only 75 percent of managers agree. And while 57 percent of workers "find it difficult to switch off from work", only 63 percent of managers suffer the same predicament.
The next three contrasts are indeed worrying. They speak volumes about the prevalent work culture in Indonesia.
Only 68 percent of managers believe "it is important that I have responsibility in my job", in comparison to 73 percent of the general population. While three out of four people "need to have security in my job", almost two out of three managers share this insecurity too.
But one attitude that permeates across society and is a positive influence socially has become a liability in the workplace. It is a revealing facet of Indonesia's culture and one that requires urgent attention.
At a time when rapidly changing technologies are impacting life in every way, the old way of doing things without questioning why can only be a limiting factor for tomorrow's Indonesia.
While 90 percent of the country "respect my elders unconditionally", three out of four managers also agree.
At home, that is a good thing. At work, unconditional respect for the boss can be injurious to the health of the business. The difference between home and the workplace needs to be defined. Management needs to foster this distinction.
These observations are based on Roy Morgan Single Source, the country's largest syndicated survey with over 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually. It is projected to reflect 90 percent of the population over the age of 14.
That is a universe of 140 million people. The results are updated every 90 days and used by more marketers, media sources and creative agencies than any other syndicated survey. The following opinion, however, is my own.
Let's take one example of life at the office. Respect for elders and deference for seniors should have little to do with the unquestioning silence that most managers display in the presence of the Bapak in the workplace.
More often than not, meetings in corporate Indonesia start late, if they do at all. Not because of the traffic, not because a young executive hasn't turned up, but because the boss hasn't the faintest idea how to manage his time, much less anybody else's time.
"Time is money" remains an alien concept, with Jam Karet (rubber time) alive and well even today.
For perhaps the most polite and courteous people I have met anywhere, I find this utter disrespect for staff, peers and visitors alike incomprehensible. It is almost schizophrenic, the instinctive courtesy one minute and the conscious lack of it the next.
If his "lateness" is a display of his "highness", the Bapak is an anachronism well-past his use-by date.
In a competitive environment, discipline is an essential ingredient for continued success. Whatever needs to happen, needs to happen right, at the right place and at the right time. Putting it all together every time is no easy task for even the most professional of teams.
But getting to a meeting on time is a small first step, requiring very little effort. It is the most common of courtesies. It would require a Jekyll-and-Hyde dysfunctional boss to habitually turn up late for meetings and expect a new product to be launched on time, to plan and to perfection, with results to match. The Malaysian cosmonaut up in space right now got to the launch-pad on time.
Good leaders lead by example. It is better late than never to make a change, starting at the very top. This is one of the few occasions that "late" has a positive ring to it.The writer can be contacted at