At precisely 9am, the leadership and motivation workshop begins and the Shanghai executives from one of the mainland's leading computer firms start wrestling with a host of progressive management theories. Ten minutes later, a red-faced senior executive shuffles in. 'Stop everything,' shouts one participant. The 60 delegates are told to stand up and hold a minute's silence to focus their collective corporate thoughts on the error of their tardy colleague's ways. The miscreant - who is in the nation's top one per cent of earners - bows his head and walks to a corner of the room for his 10-minute dose of humiliation, while his colleagues go back to discussing the managerial benefits of lateral thinking over parallel thinking. Other companies make employees stand for five minutes, holding their mobile phone aloft if the offending article rings during a meeting. It is humiliating - but humiliation is a particularly effective motivator on the mainland, human resource managers say, and although it runs counter to a lot of modern thinking, it is widely implemented at all levels of society. In recent history, it played a pivotal role. Criticism and self-criticism were weapons effectively deployed by Mao Zedong for decades to keep a fifth of the world's population at his feet and away from 'political contamination'. Although society has transformed radically since then, psychological residues remain. Many universities, for example, post notices on bulletin boards about students who are in breach of campus rules. Some will make violators address student gatherings to publicly denounce their own behaviour and spell out their reformed ways. Dunce caps are foisted on underachievers in some primary schools, while in others, teachers make the children vote each week for the worst student in class. Staff from restaurants, beauty salons and department stores, among other enterprises, are made to line up every day outside the premises for a military-style drill. Model employees are commended and those who are thought to have let the team down are loudly chastised. Recently, outside one of the many exorbitant shark fin restaurants that cater to the capital's elite, a young waitress trembled as her manager screamed at her for spilling something the previous evening. The girl, who probably earns about 20 yuan (HK$18) a day, choked back tears as her 40-odd colleagues and dozens of people waiting at a bus stop looked on. 'She won't be spilling anything today,' one onlooker said, nodding in approval. While the leaders of many mainland companies abhor this approach, many others still use it because it is often perceived as having a more immediate impact than subtle methods of motivating staff. A human resources manager with a leading mainland domestic appliance firm said it had dabbled with the idea of introducing more sophisticated motivating techniques, but decided it was more effective to use its own version of the carrot-and-stick approach. 'We don't dangle anything,' she said. 'We hit them with both the stick and the carrot.'