Asian corporate culture has long been respected and admired for its discipline, work ethic, efficiency and dedication to achieving excellence, amongst others. However, like the moon, beneath the bright side lurks a much darker, sinister one in the cutthroat world of business and consequently, in corporate culture. This article will attempt to explore this less celebrated side of Asian corporate culture, comparing how it was in the 1990s to its present-day manifestations.
The 90's undoubtedly signify a turning point for Asian businesses. Many countries in the continent, especially the "Four Tigers" (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) benefited greatly from globalisation and the establishment of more liberal financial politics. In addition to that, the technological boom that occurred around the same time was enough for businesses all over Asia to reach new levels of success.
Alas, despite all of the aforementioned modernizing factors some habits still remained the same. The hierarchical structure and expected conformity became even more strict and the working hours excruciatingly long, since employees were expected to demonstrate their loyalty to the business. Some people even talk about the gender discrimination that often took place in the corporate world, were women were still expected to fit into traditional stereotypical norms instead of working their way up the corporate ladder.
Nowadays, a lot has changed. People and businesses are more aware of the importance of a healthy work-life balance, therefore timetables have become more flexible, sometimes even offering the opportunity to work from home a couple of days per week. Furthermore, seeking effective decision-making, businesses understand the importance of accepting diverse point of view and promoting inclusivity in the workplace. That has lead altogether to a more open, creative mindset.
Sadly, the dark side still persists in a lot of ways. The overwork culture is still omnipresent and maybe even more toxic than what it was back in the 90's. The stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent in some businesses and employees are expected to conform to the norms, hindering innovative thinking.
In conclusion, through these contradictions, the struggle to balance tradition and modernity is prevalent in Asian Corporate Culture and the key is, arguably, moderation. Acknowledging preexisting issues and actively working towards positive change will be essential to ensure a healthier and more productive work environment in the region.
By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC