While I suspect there’s a lot lost in translation here,Foxconn chairman Terry Gou made a wildly distasteful joke this week at the Taipei Zoo, saying (according to WantChinaTimes): “Hon Hai (Foxconn) has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”
The comments came during a presentation at the zoo where the superintendant Chin Shih-chien gave a talk on feeding and taking care of his charges. Gou has apparently hired Chin to make recommendations and help Foxconn executives learn how to manage large organizations.
To be fair (and I don’t want to defend this guy, but still), he could have been talking off the cuff using a colloquialism like “herding cats” to a group of insiders. However, we must consider the worldwide animus aimed at Foxconn thanks to the recent suicides as well as a ThisAmericanLife piece by Mike Daisey, a noted thorn in Apple’s side.
Foxconn is much more benign than critics let on and, in the end, it’s companies like Foxconn that keep us in our gadgets. However, a CEO slipping like this – in front of a world already clamoring for his head – is pretty terrible.