30 June 2005

Ground Zero vs Ant Farm

"Ground Zero", a phrase coined by MaidOrderBride on her blog but I call mine the "Ant Farm".

Today is payday for a factory of 600 workers and everytime on this day of the month, security is on full alert as we pay our workers in cash. Yup, cold hard cash. Heck many of them never even seen an ATM card or worse, a bank passbook. There was a breach in security last month when a section leader walked away with his entire section's salary. About RMB 15,000 in all. He is still at large and I hope this arsehole choked to death on the money.

This month's turnover is 42, close to 1½ resignations a day. Most of them were newbies who couldn't settle down properly while the rest were given the boot as we felt that they weren't earning the dollar that we are paying them. In other words, these are the jiak liao bee category. The brighter news is that my two junior secretaries got their confirmation this month and there is an extra few hundred dollars in there for each of them. I am also tempted to throw in the mobile phone subsidy as well but on second thought, let's see how they do in July first.

When I return on Monday, I will be expecting a few more resignations on my desk in the morning. Nothing surprising, it is pretty routine by now. These resignations will come from those idiots who go around comparing their pay with everybody else. If they are better paid, they will act all smug and superior about the whole deal while they rub their payslips into their rival's face. If they are worse off, these morons will go around airing their grievances to the whole world as to how the company has short-changed them. How despite their unwavering loyalty to this company, he were mistreated with pittance of a pay... blah blah blah. drama queen rama ... I usually accept these resignations without hesitation and give them the boot before lunch time. Trying scam off a last meal from me? Not a chance! Out you go and go find your own lunch.

"Why such pettiness?", as many would ask. I don't blame them for it is understandable, given the environment that they are in. In Ch1na where the population accounts for a third of the world's and growing at a rate of one Australia a year. These folks were thrust into a competitive environment as early as the day that they were born. It is a case of every man/woman for him/herself.

Back home, where you have staff working under you, we would do our best to share our experience and wisdom with them in the hope of them, performing better and would pull off a better result as a team. At the end of the day, everybody gets rewarded.

However, it is not the case in Ch1na. A supervisor with specialised skill will never share his experience with his underlings for fear that once the latter come up to speed, he would be replaced by them. The distrust among them is really unbelievable. Shortsightedness is by far their greatest weakness. They fail to understand that only by grooming somebody up to take over their position, would management be able to take them out of there and move them up.

Whenever a colleague screwed up, the other guy would be silently rejoicing in glee over the colleague's misfortune. It will never occur to them that by putting out a helping hand and getting the problem resolved will not only do the company good but would also looked upon favourable by the management. But noooo...... it's "I hope you die so that I can look lagi competent for being the other guy who didn't screw up."

Will we ever see a change in these folks mentality? I would say yes but not in our lifetime.

Anyway, to MaidOrderBride who will be heading up to her GroundZero, here's all the good luck that I can wish and hope that your headaches will not be as terok as mine.

* Disclaimer: What I describe here is merely my own observation. It may not be totally accurate but it is just what I perceive the things in front of me. As such, the observations do not represent all of Ch1na and that my views are also not representative of everybody's as well.

- Voxeros

1. DeEk left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 12:38 am
Jay, your factory staff sounds like some civil servants I know. Especially in the not chipping in to help department. Sigh.....
2. vandice left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 12:45 am
This is happening in Singapore schools as well...just a lesser degree, tt's all. Kids nowadays super competitive cos parents say must do well, go to uni, get at least a masters...Every man for himself...& they're starting younger and younger... I don't wanna know how they will turn out...
3. anna left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 12:53 am
The blue-collar job situation in China is so sad. It reminds me of the pugilistic world, where skills are not passed on to someone else. This is so different from the West, where they believe that new ideas should be shared. I suppose, that's why even though there are brilliant pple in China, China doesn't advance as fast as the Western Countries.
4. jaschocolate left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 1:17 am ::
Everywhere is like that.. it's a man-eating world out there.. Man, i'm not even really in the society yet and i'm already scared..
5. JayWalk left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 1:51 am ::
deek: In a way yes lah... but at least back home, even the most selfish arsehole will help you when you ask (threaten) them nicely.

vandice: Not in my school during my time. The whole class all parkat during chinese tests one. hahaha
anna: An extremem example was when I was in ZhuHai and we were lost. So we pull over and ask a motorcycle cabbie for directions and he demanded money first. We spoke in perfect cantonese that we won't pay and warned him not to screw with us since we are "not foreigners".

So he grudgingly gave us the directions, which we later realised was completely wrong. CCB!!!!

jaschocolate: You are safe as long as you are in the sheltered world of Singapore. Step out of it and they will have you for lunch.

Solution? Have them for lunch first before they do you. You have to be ruthless at times.
6. jaschocolate left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 11:59 am ::
Like you, right? You have one man for lunch everyday hor..
7. Sheena left...
Friday, 1 July 2005 9:37 pm
You bluff me! You say you got a small factory when actually it's SO HUGE!!!
(Hee hee hee... I picked the right sugar daddy for myself. *rubs hands in glee*)
8. JayWalk left...
Saturday, 2 July 2005 6:21 am :: 
jaschocolate: Please tell me that did not come out right!! Eat a man a day... that would be Sheena. No?

Sheena: Oh ye of myopic perspective. 600 IS small. The average size factory employed about 3000 workers. I am only 1/5 of the average here.

The biggest I know is a shoe manufacturer with a worker population of 12,000. They have their own postal code.
9. ei|een left...
Saturday, 2 July 2005 2:52 pm ::
i tend to agree with you on their mentality. of course, not all are bad, but enough of them are around to convince me that it is by far the norm in their society to behave this way.
i have had experience working with them in the past as well, and many a time i felt like either taking a plane over there and shooting them in anger or banging my head against the wall in sheer frustration.

which is why i protested with all my might when my boss wanted to send me over there for work. NONONONONO! i don't want! too scary for me. new environments are fine. but i've seen enough for me to realise that i will not be able to adapt to their way of living / business. not if i want to keep sane.
10. AKK left...
Sunday, 3 July 2005 2:01 am
I dun blame them for acting like that. Actually on the singapore front, or at least in research environment, the newbies from China also tend to have this mentality. they are also less hygienic, which can be dangerous in a biological institute. However, most of them become nicer after the initial culture shock and are able to adapt to our life more readily.

OTOH, the locals also learnt that the stereotype doesn't hold after time has passed, so actually, i think that while China itself cannot change the ppl's mentality, their ppl have to be mobile to change themselves. :)
11. JayWalk left...
Sunday, 3 July 2005 6:29 pm ::
ei|een: While the stint may do you wonders in your career track record, it may be too much, for some, to stomach.

Which cities was your Boss originally intended to send you to?

AKK: I agree that some Ch1nese learn to adapt but there are also the few who don't. Can be quite exasperating at times.

Ch1na and its people will be able to change their mentality eventually, just not in our lifetime due to the sheer size of their population.
12. ei|een left...
Sunday, 3 July 2005 7:05 pm ::
beijing, and maybe shanghai.

i accept that these 2 cities are more urbanised and probably more suitable for singaporeans to work in (most alike singapore, so i've heard) as compared to other more rural areas.

but still, i just cannot tahan lah. think i should just stick to singapore. or maybe australia! heh. :)
13. JayWalk left...
Monday, 4 July 2005 9:07 am :: 
ei|een: Aiyoh, Beijing and ShangHai are sooo modernised that you won't even feel uncomfortable there. The expat community is very large in those places and sometimes, that helps a lot when it comes to settling down proper.

Wait till you end up in ulu places like where I am (lone ranger some more...).
14. Meepok left...
Monday, 4 July 2005 10:01 am
Jay - I totally agree with your assessment about the small mindedness of the production workers. In my previous job, I managed a few engineers in Shanghai. For 500RMB more, they'd quit and move to the firm down the road. My management motto in China: "Expect no loyalty. They will screw you if they can." Hence your observation about supervisors not sharing skills with workers. As the Chinese say, if sifu knows 10 strokes, teach padawan 9. One is left to kill the padawan if necessary.
15. JayWalk left...
Monday, 4 July 2005 7:28 pm :: 
Meepok: RMB 500 and they jump not bad liao. I have workers who jumped for RMB 20 only! 

Here's what I don't get. If sifu has 10 and teaches padawan only 9. Then when padawan teaches his own student, the student will get 8... see where I am going with this? At the end of the day, Ch1na will end up with zero if this mentality don't change.

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