The Power of Maybe in Employee/Employer Relationships

It’s been one year since moving to Taiwan, and one of the most important things I have learned is the power of the word “maybe.

I’ve noticed that most Taiwanese are extremely non- confrontational and indirect. This is especially true in employer/employee relations.  I am a pretty direct person, and sometimes probably a bit too blunt. Consequently, I have had to tone it down a bit whilst communicating with my boss. After a year of living here, I have had time to reflect on past situations with my boss, and I cringe at how poorly my choices of words were. Although unintentional, and completely due to my ignorance of the Taiwanese culture, with time I have started to adapt to their ways of indirectness and vagueness, which fellow blogger at My New Life in Asia  has observed “is the consequence of hierarchy, collectivism, and social roles”.

It took me a while, but I am just now learning how to communicate better with my boss; whenever I have a suggestion or request, I have learned to always preface it with a “maybe”. This has proven extremely effective, and for any of you newbies, I suggest you try it. And this doesn’t mean you should allow your employer to walk all over you by any means. I’m just offering a “respectful” way to get your point across. It’s kind of like when the English say “with all due respect” but what they really mean is “go fuck yourself”.

Here is a recent example:

Me: “Do we have Christmas Day off?”

Employer: “No. Schools don’t close on Christmas.”

Me: “I think that maybe Schoolhouse and KNS get Christmas Day off.”

Employer: “Our school doesn’t close on Christmas.”

Me: “Maybe the school can think about potentially closing, as Christmas is very important to us. It is kind of like you working on Chinese New Year.”

Employer: “If all of the teachers agree they want Christmas off, maybe we can reconsider it.”

Me: “I think that maybe we all do. How can we make this possible?”

Employer: “We can close Christmas Day if all the teachers come in on a Saturday to make it up.”

Me: “Maybe this will work. Thank you.”

This type of communication is pretty exhausting, but as I am a guest here, I try to sing their tune.

As for me, in 3 hours I have a meeting with my employer to discuss my contract renewal, and “maybe” will definitely be making an appearance. Let’s just hope I get out of the meeting before next year.

Which reminds me- Happy New Year y’all!


  1. FishOuttaWAter says:

    Interesting insight…perhaps being British this comes more naturally as we tend to “beat around the bush” in this indirect manor. “To be fair” its quite a good diplomatic skill. Thanks for the post!

    • Haha perhaps! My husband is British so I can relate to the “beating around the bush” jargon. However, I have come to find an appreciation for it’s subtlety. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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