The Asian Employee In A Western Workforce

Apparently I have become one of the fastest employee (where I work) to go from being shown what his job entails, to actually doing what he’s supposed to be doing. Sure, I might not do it all, and I’m going at a snails pace but when your predecessors took about a week before they got into it and it took you 2 days before they let you handle it, it’s still a little crazy. After all, there is still a chasm of a difference between watching a horse being rode on and actually riding the horse. A lesson I’m well reminded off for the past few days.

Even so, despite the apprehension, self-doubt and internalised panicking, there is a sense of pride that comes in knowing that you’re either hardworking and attentive enough to warrant such a push to start working hands on, or your poker face has been somehow mistaken for brilliance in which they trust that you’re ready for what they start throwing at you. I suppose in many ways I should already be ready for it, its just that I’ve always never been sure I can actually do it, at least until now.

Mel often says that is difference between Asian and Western employees. While those brought up in a Western mindset of work want to also put their coffee breaks and increased pay alongside the attention for their work. Asians tend to work harder, take less breaks and wouldn’t mind the long hours with little pay. When you think about how companies were outsourcing their resources more in favour of some guy in India on the phone handling your tech problems for cheap, it does make sense.

Of course, that is a generalisation, there are always exceptions to the rule. I do know Asians who are as spoilt about what they expect to get from work, especially those who just come out of being a fresh graduate. I have also seen those with a Western mindset who are willing to work harder for less without any complaints. Or maybe it’s just that Mel and me are the exceptions ourselves because we’re both driven in our careers, for the love of our work.

In any case, there is an underlying lesson here that goes beyond the difference between horse-watching and horse-riding. It’s that for you to excel in a job, in any job, especially if you’re the new guy, and especially if you’re fresh out of university, just listen to your peers, follow their lead and follow the company protocols. It doesn’t matter if they toss you work that they don’t want to do, it doesn’t matter if you have to work longer hours for training purposes and it doesn’t even matter if your bad knees and back feel like it’s going to explode. It just matters that you show them you’re more than capable of handling anything that comes your way, without complaints and without cracking. You can play the office politics later. If you just do a good job, good things often follow in its wake.

Which is what I’m trying to do now. If anything life taught me, it’s that people will value themselves as knowing more than you, even if you might know more than them, especially if they know more than you. As long as you listen to them, to what they teach you, regardless if they have told you a thousand times already, you’ll always get a leg up eventually. After all, you never know what they might show you one day that’s more than helpful to your career. It makes you wonder why a lot of born Asians in a Western workforce are quiet. Now, you might have a rough idea why.

2 thoughts on “The Asian Employee In A Western Workforce

  1. First of all, congratulations on your fast-paced success and the enthusiasm you’re showing for the job 🙂

    Second, you are making MASSIVE generalisations about cultures and their work ethics, not only in the country that has trained you, but with offshoring as well, when you’ve only been in the workforce for a brief period of time. Hasn’t it occurred to you that the reason they let you perform certain tasks earlier than others was to do with your aptitude and skills, and not which race you come from?

  2. I was actually talking more on the cultural work ethic than a racial stigma Cléa, which aren’t necessarily connected to each other. I don’t know if you got that from what I wrote, but I’m aware that it was the way I dealt with things that has lead to more responsibilities. It’s true that this is the first job I’ve worked in which my career is tied to, but I have also worked in various other places after high school, both where I’m from and offshore. It’s just that the one thing I’ve notice is the stark difference in work ethic between an Asian and Western mindset. The way most people in Asia are raised makes us more the worker bee, without as much awareness for worker compensation or rights as Western work ethic. I tend to believe that it’s a geological influence rather than a racial one (which is why I didn’t say caucasian as opposed to western).

    But you’re right, it is a generalisation to which I did say there are exceptions. It’s not a perfect theory, it’s just something I’ve noticed for a long time working in so many places and this idea fits what I’ve seen after all this time.

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