There is an unbelievable amount of kissassery that goes on in the Taiwanese workplace. Taiwanese employers expect their workers to take any amount of crap they can dish out. Working many extra unpaid hours per day and accepting constant belittlement without any positive feedback are two of the most common things I’ve seen. As one Taiwanese friend said, employees expect and put up with the crap until they can’t stand it anymore, and then they quit. I asked her if she’s ever had a “cool boss”, and she said she didn’t even know those existed. Whew! It’s all about the bottom line here, and squeezing as much productivity out of employees as possible without regarding their humanity. Cultural factors certainly allow this process to continue, including the value of deference, reluctance to assert personal rights, and praise for productivity and work achievement above personal satisfaction.
This “boss always wins” applies to my school life, as well. Confiscating our lunch break while piling on additional projects, and enacting a Tuesday afternoon meeting to berate us for each detail that went wrong in the week are two examples that stick out in my mind. Another one that I thought was symbolic was that each teacher was required to make handmade teacher’s day cards for our boss. Then, did we receive anything in return for TEACHER’S DAY? Absolutely not. None of the Taiwanese thought there was something wrong with this, but all of the foreign teachers found it absurd.
I can’t say that I’m taking well to this rip-off policy. I don’t think many of the foreign teachers are. But, it’s easy enough to assert yourself if you choose to as a foreigner. Bosses aren’t used to dealing with any form of challenge from their employees. So if you do challenge them whatsoever, they won’t have the managerial skills to deal with it and they will cave. At least, that’s how my situation has been.
As long as it’s done with a smile, you can say anything to them. So, I can smile and say to my boss, “I made this reasonable request last week, and I’m disappointed that you still haven’t dealt with it yet” or “I’m not going to do this project unless you give me time during the workday to do it. I can’t be with the kids all day long and ALSO finish these projects on time.” Since then, my boss seems sort of afraid to nag me, and she does what I ask right away. I would never say something like that to a Western boss. I’ve heard similar stories of teacher friends in other schools “flipping the table” on their Taiwanese bosses when they tried to treat them badly. In the end, the acceptable level of insolence is really 9000 instead of zero. If only the Taiwanese realized this, they could all revolt at once from the oppression of their Taiwanese bosses!