Building Business Relationship in the Buddhist Perspective

Business organisation is an establishment set up for achieving predetermined objectives. Organsation’s objectives are subdivided and reflected in subdivisions of the organization design. The goals are achieved with the support of living and non-living things assets. Business organisation does its business with various stakeholders. In other words, business enterprise depends on stakeholders for achieving the pre-defined objective.

A company’s stakeholders are those who can affect or is affected by an organisation. The primary stakeholders in a typical corporation are its investors, employees, customers and suppliers. However, modern theory goes beyond this conventional nation to embrace additional stakeholders such as the community, government and trade associations. The stakeholders are categorised into two – internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders are employees including officers, manager and board members. External stakeholders are investors, suppliers, customers, government and community. Stakeholders have an exchange relationship with company since all of them contribute their part to the organisation’s performance and expect their interests are protected. For example, investors provide capital; employees work on the given job, deliver goods and services; suppliers supply the required inputs; customer supports company by buying goods and services; and Govt. provide legal and physical (roads, communication) infrastructure.

Success of any business house depends on the type relationship with the other individuals or businesses. The relationship may be ethical or unethical. Ethical relationship says that business firms have to make profit by taking into consideration of all the stakeholders’ interests. Therefore, business firm has to honour its stakeholders’ interests. But, real life, every individual and every business house wait for the chance to exploit. Business firms exploit stakeholders during the process of achieving targeted profit. They earn profit at the cost of stakeholders, particularly employees.

For example, according to China Labour Watch, Samsung Electronics, mobile and smartphone maker, is being accused of exploiting younger workers who were physically and verbally abused, forced to work more than 100 hours per month of overtime, workers barred from sitting during shifts. In Indian garment industry employees sweat day and night to stitch designer garments for global brands in Eu- rope and the US; and to deliver goods on time given by management.

But, the workers are paid a very tiny flat amount. Take another example, Maruti Suzuki exploiting employees in different forms inhuman working conditions; extraordinary work pressure; harassment by arbitrary issuing of showcause notices and charge sheets transfers, suspensions, criminal intimidation, terminations without inquiry and forcing the workers to take voluntary retirement and the like.

Companies exploit workers to cut costs and increase profit. Employees are squeezed and forced to work for about 14 hours a day, some cases even in Sundays without overtime payments. In many software companies employees are continuously contacted on 24x? without any consideration for their rest and time for families. From this we can understand that business houses treat workers like machines. But, they should understand that exploitation does not help in building harmonious business relationship. Only the one and only, ethical principle of non-exploitation would aid firms improving the business relationships. In business both the parties should try to protect the interest of other.

The beauty of capitalism now, as opposed to the factory like situations that Marx was describing 130 years ago when he first outlined the map of exploitation, ‘is that it is a two-way street’. To succeed in life, the employees also exploit the employer as well, and we mean this in a positive way.

Here are a few examples how employees exploit their employer – give the boss credit for everything; never talk poorly behind his or her back; never complain about the perceived unilateral exploitation of employer-to-employee; build own reputation that one can point to when it comes time to leave; immediately send resume around; work only a few hours and the like.

From the above we can say that employers are exploiting employees; and in some cases employees are exploiting the employer. This leads to bad business relationship ‘employer and employee relationship’ which is not good for the both and for the society.

Then how do we minimise or avoid exploitation of each other? Is there any specific principle(s) to be followed by the employer and employee? The paper brings five specific duties of an employer and five duties on an employee in the Buddhist perspective, which would help build strong ethical business relationship.

Objective and Methodology of the Paper

The aim of the paper is to bring the duties of employer and employee for building better business relationships in the business from the Buddhist perspective. The paper is purely based on the review of published articles.

Duties of Employer and Employee

Though there are many things that are prohibited from doing but individuals/ organisations continue doing in the process of earning a living. However, the Buddha did not leave it at that. He believes that the economic relationship is one of the common fields of exploitation in the whole range of human life. Employers exploit employees if they can, and employees exploit their employers whenever they get the chance.

We tend to think that problems of suspicion and exploitation between management and workforce; capital and labour; boardroom and factory floor, are peculiarly modern. But, the Bhagawan Buddha gave considerable attention to this issue, in his advice to Sigalaka as recorded in the Sigalaka Sutta, Buddha specified the employer-employee relationship by enumerating five duties of the employer towards the employee, and five duties of the employee towards the employer.

Together, these amount to a general guide to employer and employee relationships and a business code of economic ethics for Buddhists.

Duties of the Employer

  1. Right Work should be given to the Employee: One of the functions of human resource management is selection. While selecting human resources, human resource manager has to have job description, select right candidate for right job; on right time and with the right cost. In the words of Buddha, the employer must give work to the employee according to his skill, physical and mental strength. Put in simple words, employee shall be able to perform the given work without any problems.

Buddha said that, it is very sad to say that after 2,500 years, this principle is still not being observed in india. Today, thousands of men and women are working as coolies to earn their livings. They are treated as animals carrying heavy weight articles on their backs, or more usually on their heads. The problem is that all the coolies work performance may not be same, since all the coolies may not carry as much as others and they do not move as fast, particularly if they are old or unwell.

Therefore, all cooties will not get equal salary. Buddha was quite clear that no human being should be hired to work beyond his natural capacity. Bhagawan recognised that creation of wealth is a necessary candition for ensuring success of an organisation and social welfare. Wealth has to be created before it can be distributed. In the Sigalov da Sutta, the Buddha urges entrepreneurs to produce wealth non-injuriously, “just as the bee gathers honey”.

2. Sufficient Food and Pay: It is not enough to give right job unless the employee provided sufficient food and pay. Buddha opines that employer should give the employee sufficient food and pay. This is still the custom in certain parts of India. If we employ someone we give them food and clothes, plus some cash, rather than a salary. But, the operative principle is to give food and pay that is sufficient in terms of enabling the employee to live a full and decent human existence, not simply sufficient in relation to the work done.

The amount of pay should not be linked with the amount of work done. No matter whether the employee is strong and healthy; with good performance, he/she should not get paid more than his weaker or even lazier fellows; he should just get what he needs by way of remuneration.

We have practice of rewarding hard work and penalizing those who underperform. Buddha says that this is an effective incentive to invention, but a Buddhist should ideally find that incentive somewhere else. If the incentive is greed, we are feeding that mental poison. Buddha says as long as an employee works as faithfully as he can, and the employer should provide for the employee’s needs.

These needs do not mean bare subsistence, but the means to live a richly human existence. Buddha do not suggest the particular social structure, he was simply pointing out the essential principle by which the people in this society could make an economic relationship an essentially human one.

We have to try to do the same within our own society. Put in simple words, we should not exploit others for profit. The idea is provide the majority should be given by the government a basic stipend to cover the cost of food, clothing, and shelter, regardless of whether they work or not. If they want luxury life then they will have to work.

  1. Provide Medical Treatment Facility: Buddha says that the employer should provide the employee with medical treatment and support. Medical facility refers to the health care facilities provided by a business firm to its employees in case of their sickness, accident of diseases. The health care facilities may include a proper arrangement for the treatment of the employees and their dependents on free or concessional rates.

Organisations may provide for regular medical check-ups of its employees, at least once a year. The employees may also be provided with – medical allowances; reimbursement of medical expenses: medical leave, etc. A safe work environment and a healthy workforce play a very important role in building the foundation of a successful business organisation.

Today most of the organisations are providing medical treatment facilities to their employees. Companies provide pensions, insurance, and so on, but it has taken two millennia for us to get round to this scheme of the Buddha’s,

  1. Share extra Profit among Employees: Buddha says that the employer should share with the employee any extra profit he makes. That is, employer does not take the profits for their own purposes while telling their employees that they must work with a basic level of support. Once again, we have caught up with this idea rather late, in the form of bonus schemes.

Profit sharing and employee share ownership are widespread in today’s’ business environment across the globe; millions of employees in private sector employment ate covered by such schemes. An employee profit sharing plan (“EPSP”) is an arrangement under which an employer have to pay out performance based bonuses even though no extra profits.

  1. Grant the Employee Holidays and Special Allowances: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. According to the Buddha, is the duty of the employer, , to grant the employee holidays and special allowances – and this, too, has something of a modern ring to it. This is practiced by government as well as private organisations. Income tax department allows deduction of employee entertainment expenses from revenue.

We should not lose sight of the essential principle expressed in the Buddha’s advice – that of establishing the human dimension of the economic relationship – which is not always what bonus schemes, holiday allowances, and pension schemes are about.

Duties of Employee

The employee also has certain duties which are necessary for building good business relationship. They are:

  1. Punctual: Punctual to the duty is the first duty of an employer. Buddha felt that Indians are of course notorious for their lack of punctuality. Trains can be two or three hours late. Someone may call and say that, ‘I am coming to see you at morning 10 O’clock,’ and you will see him evening or next day or some cases the following week.

In the West we are a lot more punctual than this; but the Buddha’s principle is not just about clocking in on time, but of not needing to clock in at all. Indeed, the Buddha suggests that employee try to be already working before his/her employer arrives: employees are not coming to work simply to be seen to be working.

  1. Finish Work On Time: Employee should finish the assigned work on time. He/she should never get the idea of doing later or postponing to some other day. As an employee one should not postpone. Emphasise the importance of now. Now or never, so start now.

Never leave “half-way done” work for another day, unless it is very necessary. If one can do it right now without having to post pone it for later, then do so. Once the employee completes his/her work, make sure it is 100percent ready. Employer should try to become free of the whole clock-watching mentality. He does not fling down his tools as soon as the clock strikes.

  1. Sincere and Trustworthy: The employee should be sincere and trustworthy. Employees should not have an excuse for delaying their work show up on time; contribute little to the company or department. Those who are sincere in doing their jobs would not be calculative in executing their task and should not do, their jobs to seek praise and should be willing to volunteer and prove their trustworthiness in carrying out their duties.

Sincerity and trustworthiness are crucial in preventing employees from engaging in favouritism, bribery, fraud and embezzlement, as well as abuse of power and status for their own personal interest. Sincerity in an individual’s profession produces a patient, considerate and courteous member of the workforce capable of overcoming difficulties and pressure.

  1. Perform the duty to the Satisfaction of the Employer: An employee’s performance of his or her contractual obligations to his or her employer is a fundamental element of the employment relationship. In general, these obligations will include regular attendance at work.

An employee’s performance of contractual obligations to his/her given duty should be performed as per employment obligations to satisfy the employer.

  1. Speak in Praise of his/her Employer: Any human being will be happy when some one praises him/her. Some may express their happiness out rightly and some may not. All workers like to receive a little verbal praise from the employers from time to time. The same way employer expects their employees talk good about their decisions.

Therefore, employee should speak in praise of his employer. The Buddha must have been aware of how readily workers abuse the bass behind his or her back, then as now. They may be dutiful and respectful during working hours, but what you hear outside the company gates can tell a different story.


Buddha tells us that economic relationship does not mean employer should be an aggressive and exploit the employer. Maintaining harmonious relationship possible only when non-exploitation on either side. Each should take from the other what he needs, without causing harm, and gives what he can. Employer makes use of the skills of workers, and also takes responsibility for seeing that their needs are met.

On the other hand, employee works to the best of his ability and take what he need from that work situation. This harmonious relationship avoids bargaining between employer and employees/unions; help build strong ethical business relationship between the employer and employee. Buddha says to Sigalaka, ‘In this way the nadir is covered,’ (the nadir being the direction which denotes the relationship between ‘master and servant’) ‘making it at peace and free from fear’.


References has been taken from various sources. It has not been listed here due to space constraint.