The title I almost used for this post was “The Oxymoron Of Taiwanese Managerial Competence.” Yeah, that should give you an idea of what’s in store. I love foreshadowing.
So for anyone looking for info about working in Taiwan, today will be a bit of a rant about culture as well as give you a behind the scenes look at working in a cram school. As much as I like living in Taiwan, there are some things about working here that make me wonder how some companies are still in business. Of course this includes the cram school that I work at.
Warning: there may be a lot of snarky sarcasm in the post. Read on if you dare.
I will start off by saying I know that there’s stupidity everywhere. I say that you have to find the type of stupidity that you tolerate best. I technically don’t have any experience in corporate America, but I have seen some and heard of my fair share of faux pas. Taiwan has its own unique type, so I figured I will let people know about the Taiwanese flavor of management. It does give a fair insight into their culture though.
Before we get started, let me give you a step by step guide in how to become a manager in Taiwan. Of course, this only counts if you are Taiwanese. Foreigners have to start their own businesses to become a manager.
- Work at a company.
- Blindly follow orders/ silently take abuse
- Continue step two until you are the most senior person in the company and your manager relinquishes their position.
- Get promoted.
- Blindly follow the next manager’s orders while abusing the people under you, while at the same time doing nothing of importance yourself.
Congratulations, you did it! Despite the fact that you did no thinking for yourself, did not go the extra mile, and pretty much did nothing to show you have any leadership capabilities, you now earned the ability to be a jerk to a couple people beneath you in position. Yay!
I can say too that I have been lied to on multiple occasions regarding pay and bonuses, my contract has been violated a couple times, and I have had my authority undermined several times in front of my students. I just found out too that my contract has clauses in it that are illegal. Needless to say, I am not too fond of the way managers here treat their employees. I have heard that some people have had similar problems at other cram schools, but not to the extent of my cram school. Also needless to say, I am searching other employment now. Make sure you take pictures of conversations and just about everything the company does if you need to back yourself up one day.
It’s actually kind of sad too on the student end because at my cram school we have all sorts of things going on that do not help our students (we teachers have no autonomy over our classes so we have to follow all the procedures that management tells us). We have students in advanced classes (the equivalent of studying 5-6 years at the school) that can’t even give the answer to “what’s your name?”
The foreign teachers have mentioned to management that our tests, textbooks, etc have mistakes in them and they need to be fixed. Upon telling the managers we are greeted with sounds of affirmation and nods of agreement. After the meeting, we are thanked for being so diligent to help improve the company. Makes us feel kind of proud. And then months later nothing changes. When we go back to management, they claim they fixed the problem. When shown the mistakes again, they just say “oh, I don’t know” and walk away. The reason behind this, from what I’ve been told, is that in Taiwan, position is valued more than skill level. So even if you have years of experience and you mention something to your manager, you are not seen as an authority that should have your own ideas. Even if your idea is completely solid, you are seen as an annoyance for thinking of something when you weren’t asked to.
Management also is great at skipping on responsibilities. We are expected to show up for weekly meetings, yet when a couple of the foreign teachers ask upper management for a meeting, we get no response at all. I was told that when the manager came in that week I could meet with her, only to not see her the entire week. She waited for me to get off my shift before coming to my cram school. When I asked for a specific time to meet, she told me she probably would not be able to meet with me. While I know my meeting with her won’t change much about the school, I still want to walk away saying I tried.
So what’s the bright side in all this? We get to mimic their laziness! When management tells us to do something, we just did our heads, say okay, and do the exact opposite of what we were told. Management is too lazy to do anything about it, so that’s a plus. Just don’t get pregnant, as they will fire you to avoid paying maternity leave (It’s okay, the coworker so far appears to be winning the lawsuit).
So don’t bother studying for an MBA. Come to Taiwan and get all the management education you need! In all seriousness, there are a few places that have okay management, it’s just they are harder to find.
Does anybody have any fun stories about their work experience abroad?