China’s ICBC bank this week sent a memo to employees outlining how they should behave with colleagues of the opposite sex. The news has sparked debate on Chinese social media, with some commentators applauding the bank for addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and others saying the rules encroach too far into employees’ private lives.
In an email sent out to the whole company on Monday, staffers were urged to keep a healthy distance from colleagues of the opposite sex in order to benefit their careers and “family happiness”. The memo included 10 illustrated guidelines, with behavior given a green or red light depending on whether or not it is deemed to be appropriate by the bank.
Staff were advised to avoid one-on-one iterations with members of the opposite sex, be mindful of crossing the line in daily communication and limit exchanges as much as possible. They were also told to make sure their clothing fits properly and given more specific advice. In one guideline, women were warned not to sit in the front seat if offered a lift home by a male colleague. They were also told not to ask their male colleges for advice on underwear.
The memo stated that the guidelines were based on “profound lessons” drawn from “relevant cases”, leading to a surge of speculation about whether there is a sexual harassment problem at the bank, which employs half a million people in China.
The memo has met with mixed reactions on Chinese social media. “These recommendations won’t fix everything, but at least ICBC is trying its best to protect women from sexual harassment in a workplace setting,” one Weibo user wrote, according to Sup China. However, others argued that employees should be trusted to set their own boundaries with coworkers. “Having dinner with a female coworker outside of work doesn’t necessarily mean I’m interested in her romantically,” wrote one Chinese man.
Despite a very limited #MeToo movement in recent years, workplace sexual misconduct remains a problem in China. According to recent surveys, 40 percent of Chinese women have experienced inappropriate behavior from male colleagues in a professional setting.
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The more serious problem is those in positions of authority who abuse their power to intimidate subordinates into sexually compromising situations. It is more likely the (male) manager will sexually harass young (female) employees, who will be intimidated into compliance. In any non-Chinese company I have worked in there is a robust course (that ALL employees must take part in annually) that outline ALL possible scenarios to avoid. Therefore, NO employee, no matter what their role in the company is, can plead ignorance, as the onus is on the individual NOT to behave in a way that is considered sexual harassment. And there is also a robust complaints procedure: again something that ALL employees are appraised of on an annual basis. No need for cartoons or graphics as these appropriate for those who are still mentally children. But then in non-Chinese companies you are expected to behave like a professional adult at all times.
Mar 08, 2021 18:46 Report Abuse
In the usual half-assed way. FFS what woman would ask a male colleagues advice on underwear? SERIOUSLY ! Do women not have any female friends to discuss this sort of thing with? Or were creepy guys initiating conversations with women on this topic and then blaming the women who were stupid enough to take part in such a conversation? And well done implicitly blaming the women. Surely a man would know NOT to try molesting a female colleague if she was sitting in the front seat of a car when offered a lift home? Sorry, of course it is the woman's fault if she does that. And surely a man is mature enough to have a one-to-one conversation with a woman. Sorry I forgot, this is China. Men don't have to behave in a mature way around women and women don't have to behave in a mature way and not appear to be whoring themselves out for a rich husband or 'sugar-daddy'. While it is up to the employer to have robust anti-harassment policies, it is up to the employee to behave with dignity and respect (and like ADULTS), not being micro-managed and socially engineered. Teaching people how to behave with the opposite sex is the the responsibility parents have to their children during the formative years.
Mar 08, 2021 17:33 Report Abuse