Ghostwriters may haunt companies
Employees who hire ghostwriters for year-end work summaries — mandatory at many Chinese companies — could be risking their personal privacy as well as corporate secrets, experts warned.
Asking workers to file selfassessments of their performance for the previous 12 months is standard procedure for human resources departments, sometimes to decide pay raises and bonus.
Yet the sheer number of people who attempt to avoid the task has led in recent years to a boom in ghostwriters offering their services.
A search at online marketplace Taobao alone produced more than 150 results, with most “stores” charging 50 to 100 yuan ($8 to $16) for every 1,000 words.
A worker at a Beijing store claiming to be an “education consultancy” said its writers each have two years or more of experience and that “a year-end summary can be done within a day”.
Customers merely have to provide basic information, such as their position, company name, duties and general performance.
“If you’re not satisfied, we can revise the report up to three times,” said the worker, whose store records show it has dealt with more than 4,000 customers.
However, experts have raised concerns — both ethical and practical.
Feng Xiaoqing, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Rights, called the practice “risky”, as ghostwriters may sell sensitive personal or corporate information to third parties.
“I don’t encourage people to do this,” he warned, adding that revealing trade secrets can cost a company huge losses.
According to Jiang Haining at Guangdong Gaorui Law Firm, if a storeowner makes a profit selling confidential information to a company’s competitor, the employee may shoulder legal responsibility.
Feng Lijuan, an expert with 51job, a major recruitment website, said ghostwritten summaries tend to follow the same pattern — empty words that fail to highlight an individual’s qualities or performance.
“Some employees may be too busy with work and have no time to write a year-end summary, so they turn to ghostwriters,” she said. “But they rarely meet the requirements of a company.
“Also, fewer companies are using year-end summaries to assess performance. They’re a formality. Bosses often now talk with employees face to face for evaluations.”
However, she still encourages workers to write their own summaries, as they can be helpful in learning about a person’s progress.
“An excellent summary can make a good impression on your boss, while getting caught out using a ghostwriter will not,” she said.
Liu Shanshan, who works at a consulting agency, said she is expected to give a presentation of her year-end summary at the end of each year.
“It’d be meaningless to let someone else write it,” she said. “I spend two weeks on the report, which is useful, as I can learn about what I have done and I can potentially get a pay raise from a simple presentation.”