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April 8th, 2015:

Death Udders


Employee of the Month = hearing loss for me

This plaque hangs in the lobby of my building. It lists the names and pictures of the building’s “Brand Champions:” the employee of the month. It is causing stress and anxiety for me.

Employee of the Month plaque

Employee of the Month plaque

I think that this kind of employee recognition is a good idea. It builds morale and encourages good job performance. In fact, we so something similar in the Consulate. We have a nomination process through which employees are recognized by coworkers for outstanding work.

However, there is a little problem with using this system in the hotel. There are several people who do not seem to have anything to do. I once counted seven young people standing in the lobby, wearing cute bellhop uniforms (no hats, unfortunately), apparently waiting for something to do. Every time I walk into the building carrying something larger than a bar of soap, one of the guys bounces over, offering to help me carry it to my room for me. If one of them is in the vicinity of the elevator when they see me walking toward it, they race me to the elevator and press the “up” button for me.

The building is overstaffed, and these guys seem desperate for something to do.

And they seem to be competing for this “Brand Champion” award.

But how can you show that you are doing a good job, when your job is to stand by, just in case someone needs help?

Recently, someone seems to have discovered a way to show that he is ready to help: he greets me as I walk by.  He calls out to me “Good morning!” or “Have a good day!” as I walk past him in the lobby. His logic may have been that if he can show that he is present and available to help, in case I am too weak to carry my quart of milk and half-loaf of bread up to my apartment, that must mean that he is doing his job, and thus he is in the running to be Brand Champion. He doesn’t actually have to do anything, he just has to show that he could do something, if needed.


I think it worked, because this month, his picture is on the plaque.

But unfortunately for me and my fellow building residents, the cat is out of the bag now. The other six people who hang out in the lobby with him are on to his trick, and they seem to be hungry for that Brand Champion award. Now, every time I walk through the lobby of the building, I am verbally assaulted not by one, but by all of them. “Good morning!” they call out to me, one after the other, from across the lobby. It’s sort of like that video clip of baby goats: one starts bleating, and they all chime in.

I tried to sneak in and out of the building, but they seem to be waiting for me in ambush. What else do they have to do? They have all day to wait for me. “Good evening!” they bellow at the top of their lungs. I suspect that they think that one person gets extra points for being the first to greet me, and second-place points go to the one who greets me the most enthusiastically.

I’ve found myself walking through the lobby more quickly, to shorten the time that my ears are assaulted. “Have a good day!” they scream as I practically run to the exit, the shock wave of their voices propelling me out the door. I can’t wait to get outside, to the peace and quiet of rush hour traffic.

I had thought that living in China, my life was interesting enough. I didn’t expect that little things like being greeted could be so dramatic and meaningful.