Ya miao: How Taiwan's workers assert control
Professor Chia-Huei Wu featured in BBC Worklife online on 21 July 2021 discussing office culture in Taiwan and the impact of Covid-19 on working practices and norms.
The article, titled ‘Ya miao: Taiwan's workers revolt by ‘squeezing the second’’, discusses the cultural practice of ya miao, where workers in Taiwan arrive at work exactly on time and not a second earlier.
The practice is widespread in family-owned companies and larger, more traditional institutions, and is widely seen as a way of workers asserting some autonomy and control in response to regimented working practices including long working hours, close employee supervision and the expectation to work overtime.
Professor Chia-Huei Wu, a Taiwan-born academic and Director of the Workplace Behaviour Research Centre (WBRC) suggests that the shift to remote-working for many due to a Covid-19 outbreak in Taiwan may not be substantive to bring meaningful change in working culture - and an end what BBC Worklife describes as a ‘passive-aggressive’ act by employees.
The need for managers to ensure employees are working and workers to show managers they’re doing their job remotely, Professor Wu comments, only fuels presenteeism – performative work when an employee is sick or unmotivated - and ya miao, the refusal begin work any earlier than the contractual working hours.
To address these widespread issues and practices, Professor Wu suggests that employers could do more to address the root causes of ya miao, such as addressing work motivation issues with job redesign and clearly marking out career progression pathways for employees.