01 August 2015

Western and Chinese People Management - The Trend and Problems from the Names

The change of names for the Personnel Department over time shows us the trend and the problems as well. The trend shows that Western management thinking is moving towards Ancient Chinese Philosophies and the names show that treating people as resources to be used up in producing products and the bosses' objectives are the fundamental people problems in organization. The Ancient Chinese Philosophies provide the right values and guidance for resolving the people issues.

Looking up Human resource management - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia shows us that the Personnel Department arised out of the management and labor disputes and was called industrial relations. The oldest known professional HR associations—the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development go through the following names changes:
  1. Welfare Workers' Association,
  2. Institute of Industrial Welfare Workers
  3. Institute of Labour Management 
  4. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
The name and scope of work for the People Department can be roughly stated as:
  1. Personnel Admin --- welfare and benfits, hiring
  2. Human Resource Management --- add training and development, incentives, etc.
  3. Human Capital Management --- add strategies, talents, succession, diverisity and inclusivity.
The Trend

Seeing people as a resource like any other raw materials input to be used up in the production to seeing people as an asset, or a capital that can appreciate with investment. This trend treats people more like people with potential to be better, is closer to the Ancient Chinese Philosophies of the relation between the king and his officers. More on this Chinese philosophies later.

The Problem

The people problems in an organization is to treat people as resource to be used up in production of products and services and to satisfy the boss' objective. Used and discard is the problem. Who want to be treated that way? Seeing people as capital is better but it is still a thing. Can people be treated as people? Not treating people as people creates misunderstanding and improper ways to relate, motivate and handling of people, resulting in lack of performance, engagements, turnovers and even sabotages.

The Ancient Chinese Philosophies on Boss-Staff Relationship:

The mind-map above shows the relationship between bosses and their staff and the roles of bosses and staff. It is more like parent-child and teacher-student. Bosses show love and staff response with respect (giving excellent work as an example respect). 

If the relationship is wrong, the consequences are obvious. Mencius said it some 2300 years ago as:


Mencius said, "If the ruler treats his officers as his own hands and legs, then the officers will treat their ruler as their own heart and stomach. If the ruler treats them as dogs and horses (sound familiar? as resources to be used up or even abused in production), then the officers will treat their ruler as stranger (ie no obligation to do extra, just the very bare minimum). If the ruler treats them as dirts and grass, then the officers will see their ruler as thief and enemy (i.e. sabotage is possible).

Reflection and Lessons:

How are you treating your staff and colleagues?
Are you a good boss that acts as parents and teachers to their staff with love and discipline?
Are you a good staff that give of your very best in the work that you do inspite of what and how your boss treats you?

Lim Liat (c) 1 Aug 2015

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