Friday, December 14, 2007

Taiwan's Impotent Workforce (part 1)

Fear. Over the past few years, I have had a chance to witness what life in the American workplace must have been like prior to the birth of organized labor.

Employees in Taiwan, in my humble opinion, are far too often motivated by fear. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of standing out from the pack. These collective fears have allowed employers to play the role of the fear monger. The frightened worker and control-freak bosses create a passive-aggressive atmosphere. Not exactly an inspirational ambiance.

As you can see, I am a bit perturbed right now. I am prepared to state some anecdotal evidence to support my above claims. I will not use specific names and places in order to protect the innocent.

This is the first in a series of posts examining the dysfunctional relationship that permeates office-spaces here on the island.

Exhibit A:
When an employer calls for a company meeting, one would assume that this is an opportunity for an exchange of ideas and concerns. A chance for the leadership to introduce new policies or upcoming changes in existing policies. An opportunity for the employees to air concerns and deal with them as a team. A place where the group can discuss the success or failure of current practices within the organization. An exchange of ideas from both sides.

If this meeting takes place in Taiwan, only half of these things are appropriate. The employee is expected to sit quietly and digest all the directives from above with a smile of their face. It's imperative that the minion suppress even so much as a burp. Raising one's hand is akin to blowing your nose at the dinner table, shockingly rude. God forbid one questions the logic of a particular move being made by leadership in this setting. By doing so, you are attempting to humiliate your boss according to the prevailing beliefs of this culture. The accepted practice here is to quietly address your question one-on-one with your superior.

That is just not kosher from my point of view. I have always believed and will continue to believe that the group setting is unquestionably the best time to examine and hash-out issues. The one-on-one theory is nice, but not realistic. All too often the employer uses his or her status to intimidate the plaintiff and render their concern hopeless. The everyone else seems OK with the policy, it's just your silly problem approach is commonplace here. If one is able to sound off in the presence of others that may share in their concern, they are much more likely to see results. Strength through numbers is a very real thing. One voice can be silenced with little effort. Ten voices are a bit more problematic.

I have a difficult time laying blame for the above problem. I think leadership knowingly exploits the worker. At the same time, the employees allow this system to go unchecked.

Where is the Cesar Chavez of Taiwan? It's high time that the balance of power shift a little more to the side of the working stiffs.

Look for "Exhibit B" soon.


Brian said...

Gosh, it's an essay filled with voc. and very hard to read for your poor students. Stop torture us. Haha, I am just kidding. Seriously, I don't know how to respond you. I think you just brought out the problem of most companies in Taiwan. But the truth is it can't be solved immediately so far, and it involves lots of factors making the issue complex. For example, we hold weekly meetings to review my department’s performance and discuss the scheduled items. However, we always have arguments with our GM on a task that we are developing a computer system for some routine work and trying to implement it. The thing is that he thinks we can use it instantly and always blames us for not carrying out the plan on schedule, but he isn’t the user and totally not familiar with the system which has lots of bugs at all. One of the mangers always addresses his idea to recommend what’s the better way to work on the project. And all of the rest agree with him, but for our great GM. In his opinion, that is very easy thing to do and should have been done on the day he expected. We’ve been trying to communicate with him but he is so stubborn and dogmatic that our effort never works. Nobody wants to take the blame of inefficiency but what we can do, punch him? We are sick of the eternal stupid fight and discussion that won’t has agreement and come up with any good plan because our boss doesn’t want to confess his wrong concept and failure, therefore most of us are quiet but for the brave manager, even though he never succeeds. All I know is the GM is the most powerful person and no matter what silly decision he makes, all of us have to execute them. I think this is the typical example that your boss is irrational and it’s only a factor making us quiet. There must be more reasons that employees don’t fight. Is it a cultural thing? I don’t know, but I think it’s a good topic to discuss in our English class. What do you think of letting us talk about the difficulties in meetings? Probably you will listen to a lot of complaints, haha. And we can learn some new words or phrases through the discussion. Some of ideas in your blog are very discussible. By the way, Coral asked us if we thought the way you teach was content for us last Thursday night, we all supported you strongly. But I think there is some room to improve, please remind me to discuss with you next Monday.

David said...

hey Brian,
thanks for continuing to keep an eye on my ramblings.

yes, this post is a bit crazy...sometimes i need to "vent my spleen", as the saying goes.

i hope it came across as an indictment of the system, not an attack on individuals.

thanks again,