CC: Working Environments and Happiness
Do Koreans and Americans put the same value on Happiness in both work and personal environments? The answer is not a simple yes or no, but I would say they have different standards than the US.
In America, employees will gladly use up every vacation day they are allotted. In Korea, you can’t even force people to use up half their days in most cases, and they’ve tried. Check out this article from the WSJ about initiatives to actually force workers to take off 2 weeks in a row, which employees balked at. They’d rather take the money that is awarded for unused vacation days, and accused their employers of being cheap and not wanting to pay them. On top of that, the average amount of yearly hours worked in the US is 1,794, whereas in South Korea it was 2,316 in 2007 (the last year data was gathered). And that was DOWN from the previous year.
How has this affected us this year? The government and our schools give us 8 days of vacation in the summer, and 10 days of vacation in the winter. At times it seems to puzzle them that we actually want to use ALL of the vacation days we are contractually given, and get into quite a huff if there are any discrepancies. On top of that, there is actually quite a longer break for summer and winter, for which we are expected to “desk-warm” if we are not teaching camp classes. Check out this post for more details on that, and this video below for a little insight into how that makes us feel.
Another interesting tidbit. At many schools – Joel’s included – they have to write a report about what they did on their vacation, and what they learned. You cannot just go on vacation because you felt like sitting on a beach, drinking a pina colada. Can you imagine an employer trying to make someone do that in America?
And how do those long hours affect the family structure in Korea? Well, many of the teachers I know, their husbands have jobs in neighboring cities or work till 11pm at night so see their families on the weekends only. I’ve heard some husbands have a second apartment in the city they work for so they only have to travel back to their family on the weekend. This has seemed to be a pretty common scenario that they accept in order to have a better job and provide for their family.
So that’s the deal with vacations and hours. What about the general working environment? In America I would say one of the primary factors to enjoying your job and being successful is enjoying the people you work with, and feeling that you are respected and valued. I think that is important to Koreans as well, but in Korea a boss is not just a boss. In the teaching environment anyways, the Principal/Vice Principal is KING.
In America, of course there is a chain of command, but in Korea there is a palpable fear of higher ups and there is no such thing as questioning authority. If a decision that has been made makes no sense to you, the answer is always concrete and questioning or trying to provide a different solution is not common.
With that being said, they do try to organize team building experiences and make their employees happy. There are school dinners, school trips to mountains, even school skiing trips, along with recognizing everyone’s birthday every month and giving out small gifts.
There is much more that could be said on this topic, but that is my insight for now. If you want to read more about the topic of how Happiness influences work/life and vice versa, check out this book, The Happiness Advantage.
So what do you think? Does Happiness lead to Success, or does Success lead to Happiness?