Secretary PK Boss (女秘書PK老板)
(ChineseNewsNet) By Huang Liang (黃亮). April 26, 2006.
If you still don't know who is the "toughest female secretary in history" or if you have not received a copy of the email that shook up the Internet, then it proves that you do not work for any of the big-name foreign corporations in China. Within the recent week, from Beijing and Shanghai to Chengdu, Guangzhou, Nanjing, ... all the famous foreign corporation workers in China have been madly forwarding an email from EMC (the world's largest network information storage company with headquarters in the United States) Beijing headquarters: EMC Greater China CEO Loke Soon Choo had a major quarrel with his senior secretary over some work-related trivia, causing the latter to leave the post.
This should have been something that is kept within the corporation, but because this touches upon the sensitive subject of "cultural barriers between foreign and Chinese employees," it has become the hot topic among foreign corporation employees and Internet forum discussions over the past few days. Yesterday morning, the major character Rebecca (the English name of the secretary) told the reporter: "This matter had been propagated too widely. I can't get a job." In response to the inquiry from the reporter, EMC replied by email from the United States to the effect that "the departure of that employee is purely a personal matter." But that email is presently still being continuously forwarded.
On the evening of April 7, EMC Greater China CEO Loke Soon Choo went back to the office to retrieve something. When he arrived at the door, he realized that he did not have the office key. By that time, his personal secretary Rebecca had left the office. Lu attempted to reach her unsuccessfully. Several hours later, Lu could not restrained his anger. At 1:13am, Lu sent Rebecca a harshly phrased "letter of condemnation" through the company's internal email system.
Loke Soon Choo wrote in this English-language email: "I told you before that when you plan things and do things, you don't regard anything as obvious! So tonight, you locked me out and the thing that I wanted to get is still in the office. The problem is that you assumed that I have the key with me. From now no, no matter it is during lunch time or when you leave work in the evening, you must check with every manager that everything is okay before you leave the office. Do you understand?" (Actually, the original English-language letter was much more harsh than this). When Lu sent out this letter, he sent copies to several senior managers in the company as well.
In the face of criticisms from the Greater China CEO, what is a little secretary supposed to do? A veteran who has worked many years at GE and Orcale told the reporter that the correct thing to do is to use English to write a reply and explain the reason for what happened that day as well as agree to the requirements of the CEO. The language should be polite and gentle. At the same time, she should send a letter to her immediate manager and the Human Resources manager to explain, while admitting fault and apologizing.
But Rebecca did something quite the opposite, and she ultimately won the title of "the toughetst secretary in history" on the Internet. Two days later, she replied in a Chinese-language email:
"First, I was completely correct in how I handled this matter. I locked the door based upon security consideration. I will not be held responsible if something should be lost.
"Besides, you have the key. You forgot to bring it and then you say that someone else was at fault. You were the primary cause of this affair, so you should not blame your mistake on someone else. Thirdly, you have no right to interfere with or control my personal time. I work eight hours a day. Please remember that my lunch and my evening after-work hours are my personal time.
"Fourthly, from the first day at EMC to now, I have fulfilled my duties. I have worked overtime many times and I have never complained. If you want me to work overtime for matters unrelated to work, I will not oblige. Fifthly, even though our relationship is one of superior-inferior, I would still like you to pay attention to your tone of voice, because this is about the most basic manners. Sixthly, I want to emphasize that I did not guess or suppose anything, because I don't have the time and I don't need to."
This aggressive reply was shocking enough, but Rebecca chose an even more inflammatory method. Her reply went to EMC (Beijing), EMC (Chengdu), EMC (Guangzhou) and EMC (Shanghai). So everybody in all the EMC companies in China received this email.
Yesterday morning, the reporter reached Rebecca by telephone. She was unwilling to go over the experiences of those couple of days. "This is something between EMC and me. It is nobody's else business." But after Rebecca replied by email, this explosive "Secretary PK Boss" email was distributed by her colleagues to all the foreign corporations in China.
Within the past week, this email has been received and forwarded by thousands of white-collar workers at foreign corporations in China. Almost everyone has received the email more than once, and many people added comments such as "Really tough," "Work off anger," and "Good scolding. The most popular email had more than 1,000 names and this was just one of innumerable forwarded emails.
From the email, the reporter found two persons who left their private email addresses. Ms. Huang is with the China Research Institute of IBM. According to her recollection, the email was first forwarded by a company colleague who got it from a fellow university student, and then they came from business connections and fellow university students. Mr. Zhang works at the GE Beijing headquarters. "I received the email pretty early, and I forwarded it to my fellow university students now in Chengdu and Shanghai, and I received it back from a Nanjing fellow student."
From the forwarding process, we can find sequences such as: EMC-> Microsoft-> MIC-> HP-> Samsung-> Honeywell-> Thomson-> Motorola-> Nokia-> GE... all of these famous foreign companies are in IT, electronics or related businesses.
Soon after the email was sent out of EMC, Loke Soon Choo got a new secretary and Rebecca left the company. At the present, EMC is maintaining a strict silence about this affair. A number of EMC workers who forwarded the email were interviewed personally by the personnel department. In both the comments added to the email or in the discussion forums on the Internet, support for Rebecca has been at more than 80%. Even managers at the human resources department at foreign corporations are on her side. Yesterday morning, when the reporter identified himself over the telephone, Rebecca understood immediately and siad, "This affair has gone overboard. I cannot get a job." She did not expect that the email would be distributed outside and she did not realize that things would end up like this.
How will "Email Gate" affect Loke Soon Choo? Yesterday evening, Loke Soon Choo authorized American-based EMC Greater China regional marketing manager Wu Mei to make a statement to the press. This diplomatic sounding statement said that, "The recent departure of this Beijing employee is purely an individual and independent matter. The EMC Chinese region employees are fully confident that they will grow along with EMC." An IT industry veteran said that any assessment of a senior managers such as the Greater China CEO can only be stated by the US headquarters CEO or the headquaters human resourece maanger.
Loke Soon Choo, male, a Singapore citizen. EMC Greater China CEO in charge of all operations of EMC in China. Rebecca was his senior secretary. According to records, Lok has a degree in business administration from Singapore University. He is a veteran IT profession, having been in the senior management of IBM and Siemens. Before joining EMC, he was the Greater China CEO at Oracle.
In the Internet discussions, people liked to analyze whether there was some conflict between Loke Soon Choo and Rebecca prior to this incident. Within the foreign corporate culture, as a matter of manners, the Chinese employees should normally also choose English when they reply to their superior's English-language email.
Therefore, when Rebecca chose to reply in Chinese to an English-language email, this was regarded as the "intentional opposition of two cultures." A Singapore-based EMC employee named Robin wrote at a Chinese IT forum: "Given the professional quality of the secretary of the CEO, it is impossible to reply with such an acerbic email in Chinese without any background history." Last evening, when the reporter asked Rebecca again about this, she seemed to be more wary: "I will not discuss this matter." When the reporter persisted on asking whether there was old hostiligy between them, Rebecca's reply gave food for thought: "Don't guess what happens between us. I don't even know him."
The reporter found a Ms. Yang Qing of Siemens who left her address in the email. Ms. Yang Qing had previously worked at HP and she thinks that there is always a cultural gap between East and West. "Over here, we had a case of a Chinese person filing a complaint across management levels. So Germany sent someone to come over and the result was that the Chinese person had to leave." She believes that all Chinese people who are joining foreign coorporations must learn how to adapt to managerment styles for different cultures. "No matter where you are, don't ever think about arguing with the boss."
"Every person who forwarded the email is delighted inside, as if he is scolding his boss." Renowned corporate culture expert Xun Honggang said that when interviewed by the reporter yesterday. This particular secretary reacted excessively and she broke the open rules and not the hidden rules. "Ultimately, the rules of the all corporate games are written by the bosses."
Rebecca's actions may seem very enjoyable, but it is actually quite unprofessional. She will have a hard time getting a job for now. She had broken an open rule as opposed to some hidden rule. Who is going to like someone who breaks the open rules? To copy so many people on this email will obviously create disharmony. Was there no other way to communicate? This approach does no good to the principals, and nobody in the profession will accept it.
This email reached thousands of people in several days. Everybody in the foreign corporation circle knew about it. Why is that? "To make it plain, people do not feel good in this profession and many people are depressed. For example, they are not happy with the work, they don't feel that their talents are being properly used, their superiors do not know how to manage them, their investments are not commensurate with their returns, their relationships with their managers are tense ... at this moment, when someone comes out to attack the boss, then it works off their anger. When every person forwards this email, they may be fantasizing that they will scold their bosses some day."
In order to survive, the workers have to follow the high-handed corporate rules. Within the slavish corporate character, there is a collective depression and people's states of mind are unhealthy. Under these circumstances, when a female secretary dares to shout aloud at her boss and challenge the professional rules, people's depressed feelings found a channel of relief. So an internal corporate affair rapidly became a group celebration of judging the professional rules.
From: Loke, Soon Choo
Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:13 AM
To: Hu, Rui
Cc: China All (Beijing); China All (Chengdu); China All (Guangzhou); China All (Shanghai); Ng, Padel; Ma, Stanley; Zhou, Simon; Lai, Sharon
Subject: Do not assume or take things for granted
Rebecca, I just told you not to assume or take things for granted on Tuesday
and you locked me out of my office this evening when all my things are all
still in the office because you assume I have my office key on my person.
With immediate effect, you do not leave the office until you have checked
with all the managers you support - this is for the lunch hour as well as
at end of day, OK?
From: Hu, Rui [mailto:Hu_Rui@emc.com]
Sent: 2006年4月10日 13:48
To: Loke, Soon Choo
Cc: China All (Beijing); China All (Chengdu); China All (Guangzhou); China
All (Shanghai); Lai, Sharon
Subject: FW: Do not assume or take things for granted
Rebecca is in the middle