Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Work hard, play hard
A friend of mine works at a big, international company –the dream work place for many, both westerners and Chinese. Some weeks ago he recruited a new staff, a young Chinese girl who was selected to be his PR assistant. Some 70 people applied for the job, and he interviewed 10 for the position, and this girl was the one who impressed him the most, who seemed the most driven and who insisted that working for this company would be like a dream coming through for her.
They agreed on a quite attractive salary package, and she started her job.
On day one, she wanted to know everything about over time compensation.
On day two, she asked if she could get a new computer and a new cell phone.
One week into her job, when she was sent on a business trip, the first thing she did when she came back to the office, was to fill a travel claim form so that she would get her day pay allowance.
My friend saw her doing all of this and did not make any remarks. In fact, he told me about it, but said that he thought it was good, that this girl looked after herself so carefully, and that she made sure she got what she deserved.
Then, however, she handed in her sheet of overtime work.
1 hour, 5 min, 2 hour, 7 minutes… 10 minutes. Fifteen minutes.
The girl had written down every single extra minute she had spent by her desk since her first day.
Now, at this point my friend started to feel slightly concerned.
-Sure, it’s good that the girl is making sure that she is compensated for her overtime, he told me. But it’s not like I’ve even asked her to work over time! And what about those days when she comes in late? Or when she takes an extra 15 minutes of lunch? Or, should I even be concerned by the fact that she’s spending a lot of time chit chatting to her colleagues and not working that efficiently in front of her computer all day?
Tricky one, I agreed, especially since the girl was so new –no only at this office, but on the market. This was her first job since graduating. Normally when you are new at your job you might work extra hard and try not to be too demanding/complicated, in order to make a good impression (at least that is my personal strategy. You don’t start making demands until the company sees your value).
I decided to ask a Chinese friend of mine:
-Well, all Chinese people are like that. She said. We all write down if we work 5 minutes extra.
-But what if… what if you took a long lunch? Or if you came in a bit late for work? Or if you spent the first 10 minutes of your day eating breakfast in the kitchen (a very popular habit of my Chinese co-workers. They all think I am crazy when I say I get up at 6am just so that I can enjoy my coffee and brekkie in peace at home. “Why do that when you can have it at work?!”).
My friend giggled and shrugged her shoulders, kind of saying: “well….”
-But what if… what if this job is very attractive and you’ve promised that you’re going to work extra hard?
-Well, not without getting compensation.
Well, wow. Go Chinese people, I have to say. Then again, is it just me, or is it a little bit weird that a fresh graduate come with this kind of mindset? I’ve always been taught to stand up for myself/think outside the box/work independently, but when I started my very first job, back in 2005, I was not a cocky staff member. I worked very hard, came in early every morning and stayed late (without asking for overtime compensation), brought work with me home –everything in order to make a good impression. I didn’t do it for money –I did it so that my bosses would see how hard working I was. Maybe it was stupid of me –of course my bosses saw that I was willing to work a bit extra for free, but I still don’t regret it. It was like teaching myself a lesson –learning the hard way about working life and about standing up for yourself.
Now I wonder how this girl, with her lack of pervious work experience, already seems to know all of this.