The difference between Eastern and Western bosses
By Nury Vittachi
Some critics have accused this column of being anti-Western. Not true! When I describe Western civilization as “a loathsome, suppurating planet-sized disease blighting the planet” I mean it as a compliment.
Okay, I admit to being a little more sympathetic to the Asia-Pacific point of view, but Western civilization receives high praise in a large number of my articles (two, if you include this one).
For example, one area in which the West definitely beats the East is in employment laws, a subject which has been much in the news lately. Asian workers are treated like dirt, and those are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones dream of being treated like dirt.
For example, recruitment ads in Asian newspapers are often sexist, ageist, racist and every other –ist. I once saw an ad which said: “Wanted: young, beautiful female auditor”. I’m sure thousands were killed in the rush.
When an Asian employer wants to get rid of staff, he just turns off their entry access cards, leaving them stranded outside the office. They mill around, mystified for a while, but he knows they will go home eventually.
Western companies are different. Employment is taken very seriously and workers are protected by powerful unions and employment laws.
I’m proud to say that I have worked for some of the world’s most famous companies, Eastern and Western, and been sacked by them. So it’s easy for me to compare them.
Sacking people Western-style: “I’m terribly sorry but we’re having to downsize and have no option but to let you go.”
Sacking people Eastern-style: “You: out.”
Hiring people Western-style: “After the second round of interviews, there will be a four-hour aptitude test followed by a panel interview with the board.”
Hiring people Eastern-style: “You: in.”
Reaction to a request for better working conditions, Western-style: “We’ll get the ergonomics experts in to make you more comfortable.”
Reaction to a request for better working conditions, Eastern-style: “Ha ha ha ha ha.”
Reaction to a request for a payrise in the West: “Gee, that’s a lot to ask, but I’ll speak to the finance director.”
Reaction to a request for a payrise in the East: “Ha ha ha ha.”
Reaction to internal criticism, Western-style: “If staff want to give feedback, we want to hear it.”
Reaction to internal criticism, Eastern-style: “You: out.”
Encouragement, Western-style: “The deadline’s tight, but let’s try our very best to hit it.”
Encouragement, Eastern-style: “You late, you out.”
Overtime, Western-style: “Can I have volunteers to stay an extra hour or two? We’ll pay you double-time.”
Overtime, Eastern-style: “Lock the doors.”
Dealing with the victim of an industrial accident, Western style: “The good news is that you do get some medical coverage, although it is not unlimited.”
Dealing with the victim of an industrial accident, Eastern style: “You: out.”
Staff incentive program, Western style: “We’ve organized an off-site staff meeting at a resort in Bali.”
Staff incentive program, Eastern style: “Work harder or you out.”
Dealing with a request for compassionate leave, Western-style: “Take the day off and come in tomorrow if you are feeling better.”
Dealing with a request for compassionate leave, Eastern-style: “Ha ha ha ha ha.”
Now of course you may say that I am being overly cynical about Eastern employers. I’ll deal with that issue later, if my door access card still works.