When I ask my friends in accounting, “What are your normal working hours?” it doesn’t surprise me to hear them say, “Oh. I work from 9 to 5”, (by which they mean 9 in the morning to 5 the next morning). People also regularly work on holidays. So, don’t tell me it’s ridiculous to say that Hong Kong people are workaholics. If you want to work in Hong Kong, here are the 3 main rules you need to know:
1. Never Leave Before Your Boss
Hong Kongers rarely leave work on time and they rarely leave while their boss is still in the office. Employees here are a selective clock-watcher. Before the office hours end, they work really hard and never question about it. As soon as regular office hours end, they start to look at the clock. Nonetheless, their butt is still firmly pinned to the chair, browsing Openrice.com for their after-work restaurant, complaining about their boss on Facebook chat, and checking their stock portfolio on Yahoo Finance. When their boss finally leaves, all of a sudden, the employees are freed from prison, the dam is broken and workers flee from the office in light speed. Life then becomes wonderful again.
2. Never Question Your Boss
Employees in Hong Kong never question their boss. It’s not that they don’t want to impress the boss (they are dying to impress and get promoted indeed), but they think that it’s rude to ask the boss again once instructions have been given. Workers always ensure that they deliver work according to their boss’ (exact) instructions, even if the work is not done in a logical and sensible way. Let’s say, if their boss tells them to produce a million teddy bears and accidentally gives them an unfinished sketch with one arm missing. Then what would happen? A million single-armed teddy bears would be produced. Quite a strong marketing gimmick huh? Now you know quality control exists for a reason.
3. Never Open Up to Co-workers
Work is work. Personal life is a completely different thing. People are protective when it comes to their personal information. People consider their personal information a part of their personal property. By protecting their information from outsiders, they reduce their vulnerabilities. For example, people never discuss their age, their background or other important parts of themselves with their co-workers. This impersonal, vanilla culture produces many useless clichés and meaningless conversations in the Hong Kong workplace, such as “that movie sucks”, “the noodles at the restaurant nearby taste good” or, always popular, “the air-con in the office is too cold”. This also creates gossip spread to the entire office as everyone tries to look for the only interesting topics to discuss (e.g. is co-worker A flirting with co-worker B?).
Of course, these rules only mostly apply to companies headquartered in Hong Kong or to some local employees in multinationals. I’m so glad that I work for an international company with cool people and get to leave my job at humane hours and by “humane hours”. By “humane hours” I mean that you can have dinner before a 9-year-old kid goes to bed.