Humiliating your employees is not the best business strategy
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.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.