Home > Uncategorized > "I’m a soh chai …"

"I’m a soh chai …"

I was at the Palm Industry Labour: Issues, Performance and Sustainability Seminar 2014 organised by MPOB in Kuching recently. I met this very tall man who told me that he has been working for his employer for 30 years.

I gestured “Wow!” 

He squint his eyes and gave me a wry smile, “yea, I’m a soh chai (means dull-witted in Cantonese) for staying so long with the same company.”

It was my turn to squint my eyes. 

He laughed when I mentioned he seemed like a person who values yi hei (means loyalty in Cantonese).

I remember meeting this very tall man for the first time last year at the Incorporated Society of Planters’ (ISP) seminar and fellowship award ceremony held in Sibu. 

This very tall man and his colleagues flew in from Ipoh with their boss. As I listened to the speeches delivered from the stage, I also looked around the hall. 

I was intrigued with the way he interacted with his boss. In a matter of a split-second side glance from his boss, he knew what to do. 

This is testimony of his boss’ skillful ability in nurturing strong bonds of loyalty that is the “acid test” of leadership.

In progressive oil palm plantation companies, mutual trust and respect is normal practice. It’s not about paternalism but that of genuine partnerships. 

Employees are treated fairly, accorded the opportunities to delve professionally in meaningful career pathways. In return, employees owe the company their willingness to participate in business growth. 

Although I’m not privy to further interactions between the very tall man and his boss, I would take a guess … the following takes place.

1. He is not afraid to tell his boss.
He’s not a brownoser. He is most likely to tell his boss some ideas may not work or had made a mistake. He knows the boss values honesty more than “saving face”. He trusts his boss genuinely cares about doing what is best for the company and other colleagues.

2. He never criticises his boss in front of others.
He gives his boss the respect he expects to receive.

3. They disagree in private but he totally supports his boss’ decisions in public. 

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