Cultural difference vs Fundamental ethics

Having worked over 2 decades, I had good memories as well as lamentable stories with people. Following is part of the latter.

Last year, I was shocked by a European Top manager who was working as head of a Regional HQ office of a renowned multinational. I have known him since more than 6 years, so I thought I knew him well; a very smart person with huge sense of humour and culture.

He said he would fire one of his subordinates as he find her incapable. She was leaving to her maternity leave at that moment. I told him to see the human market, and she may not be the best but not worst neither. That he can not easily find an equivalent or better better person any sooner as the company’s reputation was not high neither. And ‘good candidates’ become rare and not willing to move in the industry he works.

To start, he gave her a very low performance review to one of his marketing manager in one of the countries he covered.

He also advised also to fire her to HR knowing that she is already gone to maternity leave. I strongly warned the person regarding ethical and legal rights of pregnant workers in that country.

Ok, there are cultural differences between western and Asia. Some westerners suffer from many misunderstandings and attitudes of Asians. Some Asians (like me) suffer in Europe or USA have hard time adapting to western cultures. For my part, when I was expatriated to Paris, I did not understand the ”morning coffee culture’. Everybody spent 30mn at the company’s caferia. I thought I’d better turbo-boost my work to be efficient and effective as it is not welcome to spent such time at a cafe in the morning in Korea. It is seen as ‘laziness’. Then it took me time to understand that most of critical exchanges/info regarding key projects are discussed and negotiated during those 30mn…. In Paris, spending 30mn around coffee is seen ‘integration and skilled negotiation’.

And sometimes those differences create tension. But from these understandable differences to fire a pregnant woman is out of ethics.. There are minimum of human ethics to respect wherever in this globe. And those who violate the minimum ethics should be out of market no matter how they are smart and competent. I think corporate leaders and HR should carefully select Country and Regional representatives so as to preserve respect local specificity and culture. The leaders are here not just to make numbers. If the business is struggling, it is not the fault of a single employee… the leaders are paid to find out harmonious solution while encouraging and challenging their structures. Above all, one should simply be human.

One thought on “Cultural difference vs Fundamental ethics

  1. When i moved to Singapore i found it bizarre that no one wanted to get a coffee in the morning. People would buy it before getting to the office and get straight to work, whereas i was used to it being a morning ritual 🙂