Working in China has very hard on me since most of my subordinates do not speak English. My peers and bosses are not very sensitive to the cultural differences either. I've been intentionally left out of a lot of things because I do not speak Chinese, and people do not seem to think that it's necessary to be inclusive of others (On the other hand, in Japan, we will always speak English at work as long as there is even one foreigner there. To note, I work for a US company)
My focus at work has always been how I can help the people in my group to grow and be better than they are today. Unfortunately, I feel that Chinese culture is very level-oriented, meaning people kiss up to their bosses and treat their subordinates like crap, including the ones that are older and more experienced than you.
At the same time, there are some things that I consider to be normal in a working environment, such as doing things on time, not answering cell phones during meetings, and picking up garbage, and unfortunately, people don't follow these things in China. I've been very, very strict to my subordinates about these things.
Once my announcement went out, I wondered how people would react. Would they be glad that "the tough boss" would be gone soon? Would they be relieved that I wouldn't be around to force them to try to speak English?
I had a short meeting with one of my subordinates last week, to finalize a document showing his accomplishments in the past 12 months. He stopped our meeting to say, "Kay, in the smoking area and in the cafeteria, people are saying they are sad to see you go. You spent a lot of time to understand us, you respect us, and you are the one pushing back to the big boss to protect us."
"But I've been tough, haven't I?" I replied to him.
"Yes, but we watch you. We know that you always clean up garbage by yourself. We know you always start and end every meeting on time. We know that you don't ask us to do anything that you don't role model yourself." he answered. "And besides, you are the only one who really cares about me and my future."
Considering this guy has had over 10 different bosses in the past 15 years he has worked in the company, I'm touched. I had thought compared to his previous bosses, there was no way I could be as good as some of them.
I've had both memorable bosses and not-so-good bosses. I remember some things that my first boss told me when I joined the company, and his words still guide me today. My hope has been that when I leave China, I would have been able to touch someone's career, so that when they look back, they will remember some small thing I did or said to help them.
On to my Ups and Downs!
- Being announced to move, finally. I liked my subordinates in China, but I did not like my peers or bosses, and I did not like the environment
- Being told stories like the one above.
- Thinking about all the things I will buy or send to my friends once I am back in Japan
- Thinking about the very fresh sashimi I will eat once I am back in Japan
- Still, stuff at work - but hey, I'm leaving soon!!!!