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Human resources in Northeast Asia Human resources in Northeast Asia
by Joseph Gatt
2019-10-26 06:35:39
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Sweeping generalizations on human resources in Northeast Asia, in no particular order.

-There's the older generation and the younger generation. The older generation (people aged 45 plus) tend to have something of a “don't tell me what to do or how to do it, I know what to do and I will do everything my way and I need no one's advice” kind of attitude. So there will be huge power struggles between the older generations, as pretty much all the old guys want things done their way.

nort01_400-Communication is also very indirect and when older people meet they throw all kinds of signals and you would think you're in a war zone. They will “pick up the phone” if they don't like what they're hearing, they will “call” or “text” the person in the very same board room to signal they should be quiet, or they will invite intruders to the room and start chatting with the intruder if they don't like what they're hearing. If the person talking is a rival, the rival will chat with someone else during the entire presentation. And if there's a guy with good ideas, or the smart guy, he gets to talk last, if at all.

-You'll find in the literature that older people are respected and always listened to, but that's pure bullshit. I've seen 40 year-old Koreans yell at 60 year-old Koreans. I've seen 40 year-old Japanese men bossing around 55 year-olds. In sum, in Northeast Asia, the workplace is a war zone.

-What most people do is they'll pick an old but respected person to lead a team or unit, and everyone else in the unit will be under 35. And they won't allow the unit leader to mix with other unit leaders. They also reshuffle teams every year or so, as most rivalries slowly grow and start becoming ferocious when they reach the 9 month mark.

-Everyone in every country in the world lies. But in Northeast Asia they tend to lie so blatantly it's not lying, it's re-writing history. So the rule in Northeast Asia is, the past is dead, don't try to revive it.

-Now the good trend in Northeast Asia is the younger generation is trying to pick up as many skills as it can to make themselves more attractive in the dismal job market. So you'll find applicants with certifications in everything from plumbing, welding, electricity, gas, all sorts of computer skills, all sorts of language skills (usually Mandarin, Japanese, Chinese and English) and all kinds of travel experience.

-If you're a good company, expect something like 10,000 job applicants. And most resumes will be impressive. Many will have very attractive pictures, many resort to plastic surgery to get that edge so they can get hired (very sad story). Other sad story, many women will hint that they are willing to sleep with someone to get the job, the hint will be subtle, but it will be there.

-Each company has its own style for hiring and job interviews. There are so many applicants that when hiring many will look at the “name” and if your “name” is the same as the HR Director's son or daughter's name, you probably just won the lottery. Other factors will be university attended, or being at the right place at the right time. For example, if you have a huge contract with Norwegians, and someone mentions in their application that they spent a year in Denmark, they just won the lottery ticket.

-Job interviews tend to be a theater act. Usually they've pretty much made up their mind about who to hire. But job interviews are scary. You will have to sit on a chair with no table to lean on and your legs will be visible, so women should probably wear a long skirt as they can't cross their legs. Your entire body will be fully visible, and your body language will be scrutinized. There will be three to five people getting a full view of your entire body. Some questions can be very personal, including asking you “what your father does” or “if you are on your way to getting married.” Such questions are slowly being banned, but still asked in some places. Other questions include “what's your favorite dish” and “what's the most alcohol you have drunk in one night.”

-Finally, many of the younger ones will sit at their desk hoping not to get noticed. They will sit at their desk until 2 AM hoping not to get noticed, but hoping their 2 AM check out time will be noticed. If you ask them embarrassing questions, or any question, they will plead the 5th amendment. Silence is their strongest weapon, so if you ask them “what have you done the last couple of months” they will remain silent. Many young workers use silence as a weapon, and prefer communicating in writing. When writing, they will use fancy logos, fancy page presentations, and incompressible speech. In sum, they sit at the desk 16 hours a day, and get nothing done. When you give them work, they will leave it on the side and wait until you ask them for the work to start doing it. Or when they're going on missions, as in sales, they're actually sitting at a café playing games on their smartphone, or they lock themselves up at an internet café. 

-But, to wrap up, China, Korea and Japan have strict job security laws. To counter these laws, many hire young workers on a one-year contract basis and ditch the worker. The problem is two-fold. On the one hand, you have young workers who keep pleading the 5th as an excuse not to get any work done. And those young workers kind of hope they can plead the 5th until they retire. On the other hand, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are kind of bordering recessions, sales are lackluster, and they need young people to get to work.

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