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Asia CommentTaipan

Chinese bank rights wrongs, one misplaced passenger at a time

Some banks struggle to communicate clearly with their employees about the boundaries of sexual misconduct. But using diagrams is probably a bad idea.

An internal memo from a certain large Chinese bank attracted a lot of social media attention this week. The memo, essentially a code of conduct, used a series of comic drawings for the “dos and don’ts” of interactions between colleagues of the opposite sex.

Some of the proscribed behaviour makes sense, although it feels strange that it needs to be pointed out. For instance, don’t buy co-workers lingerie. Don’t show your underwear to colleagues.

Other rules are a bit more confusing. No-one should have nicknames; which seems a bit strict for people who spend a lot of time together. No-one should complain about their spouses; this would clearly rule me out.

Other strictures still are downright head-scratchers. Women are instructed not to ask men to help them open bottles of water. (What about other bottles? Can men be asked to open bottles of Coke Zero or Lilt? And can men ask women for help opening bottles? None of this is clear.)

Men offering women a lift home should make sure that their passenger sits in the back seat, not in the front. (What happens if the back seat is taken up by a pile of unopened water bottles? The rules do not get into specifics.)

It is easy to mock, of course, but the bank deserves credit for trying to tackle the problem of sexual misconduct. There are always going to be missteps on the path to progress. The important thing is that banks do care about sexual misconduct — even if they’re still struggling to understand quite what it is.

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