Up and Down #26: August, 2012

My announcement about my move to Indonesia was made at work last week.  The response has been amazing – I’ve had people come up to me to tell me what I did to change the culture at work.

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!!!!

No makeup or beauty related things this month.  It has been all about my move!

xoxo, K

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17 thoughts on “Up and Down #26: August, 2012”

  1. Oh, that’s such a lovely thing to hear! 🙂 I’m glad you have made a positive impact on your subordinates and have shown them basic principles in action, which they would not otherwise have been aware of. I couldn’t agree more with your observations about the Chinese working environment. Sucking up to bosses and treating subordinates and peers like complete utter crap is completely normal here.

  2. I am so happy your next move finally came through – you know I can relate! No matter how crappy the job situation, if you have made a positive impact on just one person and their career, then you have made it worthwhile. Best of luck and here’s to seeing you in Japan!

  3. Hi Kay, this was a really interesting post. Thanks for that. You sound like a really great manager 🙂 Even if a manager is tough, it makes all the difference to know that they care about their direct report’s well-being just as much as the quality of work that is output. I hope that the impact that you’ve left upon the company will resonate with them and perhaps others will begin changing to do the good things you had. Have fun back in Japan, and good luck in Indonesia!! 🙂

    If you don’t mind me asking, when you say people don’t pick up the trash there.. does that mean they litter inside the office?

  4. it’s always inspiring and touching to hear stories like that from people you work with – especially when you think you’re being super tough on them and that people may or may not like you… or really you’re just unsure. I’m sure you’re an awesome boss though 🙂 sometimes people just need a change of pace (or face) around there to make them realize that they’re doing something inconsiderate or wrong. go you! 😀 and let me know when you’re back in Japan, I have some stuff for you!

  5. I’m Chinese. I speak Chinese. Yet, I think I would find it rather impossible to work in China as well! Good luck on your career. Exciting things are coming.

  6. Hi! I’m from Indonesia, have been your silent reader since forever, lol. Keep up the spirit! Only a few more months to go~ ^_^

  7. Thank you!
    Some parts of Chinese culture are really baffling to me. On the other hand, I got to work with guys like the one I mentioned in this post. In total, I’m happy about my experiences over the past 2 years!

  8. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I mean. For example, there’s an area with a vending machine. People leave coke cans and stuff laying around, even though there is a garbage container RIGHT THERE. They consider it the cleaning people’s job to throw away trash…

    And thank you!

  9. Thank you!
    I spent a looonnnnggg time educating my group that I’m not a normal Chinese boss, if you suck up to me or keep telling me everything is OK I won’t believe you, etc. Sigh…

  10. Wow a hard day at your place is nothing like mine. The British are so laid sometimes it really annoys me (being American). I doubt any of them could cope with your job! Well done though – it’s stories like this that lift your spirits!

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