Dealing With Your Boss

23-meeting-with-your-boss1.jpgInteracting with people from backgrounds and cultures different from yours is one of the perks of teaching abroad, but cultural differences that are amusing in class or on the street may lose their quaintness when the person with the power to pay you and set your schedule gets involved.

To paraphrase one TEFL Logue contact: “There is a blind, unquestioning “respect” for the boss; the boss’ way is the right way and any suggestions for improvement are understood to be criticisms of the boss. Local employees never question their boss or mention what they think should be done differently. Most EFL bosses expect the same thing from their foreign employees, which is very difficult for a lot of people – they may schedule meetings on a moment’s notice or require their employees to stay late after work just to “flex their muscles” so to speak and to assert their authority. I think that if people are prepared for things like that it might be less offensive to them when they arrive”

Does this sound like your boss or working environment? In fact the country in question is Korea, but I suspect similar factors are at play to some extent in other countries as well.

The language barrier can be frustrating if you want to know what’s up and your boss can’t explain in English or doesn’t want to try.

There are also, in any country, unspoken expectations in the work environment –and if boss and employee are from different countries, these seem more likely to clash.

Keeping your employees in the dark – or even giving them incomplete or misleading information – may actually be a management strategy in some places. It’s equally frustrating wherever you are, but it’s also quite possible that while being evasive is a sign of a “bad guy” in the US, in some countries it is just a boss doing what bosses do.

In the end, the fact that you are a foreigner shouldn’t mean that you are wide open to exploitation – and generally it doesn’t. But I’d venture a rough guess that about 99% of the time employers do benefit from having people who don’t know the place, language or norms and have no real local contacts outside the school. Can this be seen as a tradeoff for native speakers who get EFL jobs relatively easily? I don’t like it, but perhaps. Can you change the management strategy at your school? Quite likely not. Does “giving in” mean you will be let off the hook more easily next time, or does it mean more requests to work late will come your way? And which causes more stress – fighting it perhaps unsuccessfully or doing the extra work? The answer will vary from situation to situation and person to person.

Let the TEFL Logue know what’s worked for you!