Hu­mil­i­at­ing work­ers not the best way

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Alok Joshi

Hav­ing worked in dif­fer­ent Chi­nese com­pa­nies as an HR pro­fes­sional, I have al­ways ad­vo­cated in­no­va­tive ways of mo­ti­vat­ing em­ploy­ees to “walk that ex­tra mile.”

But I never knew there could also be “in­no­va­tive” ways to pun­ish non­per­form­ing em­ploy­ees as well.

Ma­hatma Gandhi once said, “If some­one slaps you on one side of your face, turn the other one to him.” This was in the con­text of non­vi­o­lence against the then op­pres­sive Bri­tish regime in In­dia. But how should one in­ter­pret em­ploy­ees will­ingly opt­ing to be pub­licly slapped be­cause they un­der­per­formed?

A re­cent vi­ral video on the Chi­nese in­ter­net shows the fe­male man­ager of a real es­tate com­pany slap­ping her male em­ploy­ees af­ter they failed to ful­fill their du­ties. The video also shows them crawl­ing around on all fours.

Af­ter ve­he­ment crit­i­cism from Chi­nese ne­ti­zens, the man­ager quit her job. But this is not the first time that such an un­usual treat­ment was meted out to “bad” em­ploy­ees in China.

Bizarre footage show­ing fe­male em­ploy­ees from the sales depart­ment of a beauty and skin­care com­pany be­ing forced to slap each other’s face dur­ing their com­pany’s an­nual gala had emerged ear­lier. Their boss re­port­edly made the em­ploy­ees pun­ish each other to save their jobs.

Another video clip showed a Chi­nese bank man­ager pub­licly abus­ing and sham­ing his em­ploy­ees for not meet­ing their tar­gets.

He un­leashed his anger by spank­ing them on their butts on stage, not even spar­ing the fe­male em­ploy­ees.

Even more shock­ing was a video show­ing how fe­male em­ploy­ees at a com­pany had to line up ev­ery morn­ing to kiss the boss on the lips “to boost em­ployee morale.” Such in­ci­dents were jus­ti­fied in the name of “show­ing team spirit.”

I wonder if such weird pun­ish­ments are aimed at mo­ti­vat­ing the rest of the em­ploy­ees to per­form bet­ter or at sham­ing non­per­form­ers and erod­ing their self-re­spect and dig­nity.

One might like to la­bel these cases as one-off or stray in­ci­dents in a huge na­tion, but they cer­tainly can­not be swept un­der the rug. The ba­sic prin­ci­ple of any en­light­ened man­ager is “praise in pub­lic, pun­ish in pri­vate.” Many Net users feel that it is bet­ter to be fired than be spanked on cam­era. As school kids, many of us were used to be­ing slapped by teach­ers, but we for­get over time. We ac­cepted it as a mea­sure of in­still­ing “dis­ci­pline.” But these are adults, and some of them may even have kids. I can­not imag­ine their shame when they face their fam­i­lies af­ter fail­ing to keep up the sa­cred Chi­nese virtue of “not los­ing face.” This re­cent in­ci­dent raises a few ques­tions. Can en­dur­ing such abu­sive be­hav­ior be termed as “loy­alty”? Should there be some writ­ten dos’ and don’ts for cor­po­rate re­wards and pun­ish­ments? What is the role of the HR man­ager in such sit­u­a­tions? Isn’t it bet­ter to fo­cus on find­ing the rea­sons for un­der­per­for­mance rather than set­ting un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions? Also, wouldn’t it be bet­ter to re­ward high-per­form­ing em­ploy­ees rather than pun­ish a hand­ful of un­der­per­form­ing ones? These ques­tions may not have ready-made an­swers, but they should pro­vide food for thought for the au­thor­i­ties. As a for­eigner, I ad­mire the hard­work­ing Chi­nese, but there is also a need for more pro­fes­sional em­ployee man­age­ment prac­tices.

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