For employees who fail to meet their superiors’ expectations for their weekly performance, a company in Chongqing is trying out a new type of torture — “eating bitter gourd punishment.”
If employees are unable to swallow a piece of the unpleasantly bitter vegetable and spit it back out, they are then urged to eat even more while their colleagues look on. According to a manager at Leshang Decorations Corporation, the company came up with this punishment as a way of “motivating” unproductive employees, pushing them to work harder, so that they won’t be forced to choke down more bitter gourd in the future
A set of photos showing one of the sessions, titled “the cruelest punishment in history,” has made the rounds on Chinese social media. In the photos, while some employees are seen biting down on bitter gourds with a grimace, their colleagues are spotted smirking and enjoying their workmates’ agony a bit too much. According to the post, 40 of the firm’s 100 employees were subjected to the punish
One punished employee talked to reporters about the experience. He said it was his first time eating bitter gourd and complained that it was exceptionally hard to swallow. “I hiccup when I’m eating the damn bitter gourd, but I have to stop myself from spitting it out,” another employee chimed in. According to one insider, the company orders bitter gourds in bulk at 2.5 yuan per kg, and reserves them for employees only.
A female worker revealed that the company had also resorted to different forms of punishment in the past, such as squats, push-ups and running around the office building two or three times. However, some of the bosses complained that employees had grown too accustomed to these punishments, so they opted for something more grueling, People’s Daily reports.
The punishment may have pushed some employees to work harder, but it’s also pushed many out the door, with 50% of new employees deciding to quit. One female employee gave a list of reasons for why people made this decision: their incapability to meet expectations, high pressure, low income and, most importantly, shame caused by being punished in front of their coworkers.
Article 88 of China’s labor law states that “If any damage is caused to the employee, the employer shall be held liable for compensation.” One lawyer for a law firm in Chongqing claimed that employees have the right to report the incident to the proper authorities as a violation of human rights.
Netizens on Weibo also believe that employees should report their employer for this cruel and unusual form of punishment — while a few considered applying for a job at the firm.
“Employees got spanked last time when they didn’t ‘exceed themselves,’ and now more employees are being forced to eat bitter gourd. Why do Chinese companies take such a liking for punishing their employees?” one web user asked.
“Hey, I don’t mind eating some bitter gourd, it’s really tasty,” another teased.
“If I were them, I would definitely quit immediately. I won’t contribute my time and energy to work for a company that doesn’t even respect their employees,” one netizen wrote.
Chinese companies have a well-documented habit of taking extreme measures to ensure that their employees are meeting their sales targets. Just last month, a shocking video showing employees being spanked on stage at a training session went viral online, leading many to wonder how far employers will go and much workers will be willing to take.
Many Chinese employees are proud of their ability to chi ku (吃苦), a Chinese expression that directly translates to “eating bitterness” and means to “endure hardships,” but perhaps this Chongqing company took the phrase a little too seriously.
By Katie Ngai
[Images via Weibo]