TWO RECENT REPORTS HAVE SUPPORTED what a lot of us know already. Chinese have a low level of engagement at work.
Both the BlessingWhite and Hay Group place Chinese employees at the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of motivation at work, with BlessingWhite stating engagement at the lowest of all countries surveyed at 17%, and BlessingWhite providing an even worse picture – Chinese are equal third-last alongside the British. And we all know Brits can be a miserable lot!
Nowhere is this apathy more obvious than in airports around the country. Frustrated passengers, bombarded with flight delays, missing baggage and a lack of peanuts (even in first class!), find little comfort in service staff who often appear genuinely unprepared when a plane is delayed, or worse, cancelled. These scenarios seem to catch all airport staff off guard, as if it is the first time such an event has happened. The result is then played out across airports around the country. Surrounded by mobs of angry customers, airport staff mumble about “not knowing”, and “really not knowing” as their eyelids remain firmly lowered at half mast.
Surely this kind of apathy takes energy.
In the retail world the apathy award must surely go to the bread shop chain Yamazaki. Not a week goes by that I am not buying sandwiches from their Jing’An store, and not a week goes by that I am not reminding their staff that I do not want my two sandwiches individually packed into plastic bags and then placed in another bag, this time paper. Since I’ve bought food from this store no less than 20 times, I thought my request would be remembered. It isn’t. I even remind the staff that they should ask their customers whether they want a bag at – after all in other shops in China a bag costs the customer between 20 and 40 fen. They look at me, over their surgical masks, eyes barely registering my existence.
Again, surely this kind of apathy takes energy.
So what’s the solution. Well we could wait a thousand years for the apathy genes that control this behaviour to disappear. After all, if a behaviour does not aid in survival and reproduction, then Darwinism theory suggests it will be eradicated with time. But since I’m impatient, I would like to suggest we all create critical mass for change. After all, we are to blame. The customer, us, are simply not appreciative of service staff in China. Whether it’s sitting on a plane, or lining up to buy bread, we appear hesitant to use ‘please’ (请) and ‘thank you’ (谢谢). Why? Possibly because others are slow to do so also, and as a result this apathy towards others maintains its perpetual motion.
But you are going to change all this. This week, regardless of the service provided, provide a genuine ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the service giver. The tipping point might only be a small percentage of people being grateful. Gratitude might spread like a virus, killing off apathy altogether. Let’s stop blaming a large population for this weakness, because this flies in the face of Tokyo and Hong Kong, two compacted cities with incredibly gracious citizens.
With a few small words, one day, China may be at the top of engagement surveys, next to Mexico – the most engaged country, according to the Hay Group. “Please” consider this, and “thank you” for your attention.