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Are we too westernised to understand?

JosephUzah Jan 18.2017 20:21 + Add your comment
Tags: Expat Tales, Expat Rants & Advice, Business & Jobs Category:My Blogs

Chinese Managerial abilities can very often be linked to their values and beliefs. Even though major research suggests that the younger generation of Managers are way more qualified and more aware of the international business environment, their values and beliefs are often strongly shared and passed down from their predecessors. Three main value and belief systems which guide Managerial development in China are “Guanxi”, “Mianzi” and “Confucianism”. The first involves having social networks of people who are highly influential. The second meaning saving face and the latter is a set of principles and teachings on how to behave. These values and beliefs act as a moral compass which guides actions and decisions.

These Concepts are very important in China and are often in direct conflict with western Management ideals. The first belief system Guanxi has been noted to be very complex but yet extremely important. Managers who often succeed or gain promotions are not necessarily the most technically or intellectually gifted  but rather those with the right level of Guanxi. Guanxi in China can be broken down into 4 elements involving trust, favour, dependence and adaption. These elements greatly impact HRM practices and are deeply rooted in the Chinese culture ultimately influencing Managerial actions. Such actions often cause conflicts as some local practices are seen by expatriate Managers as unethical. Furthermore, in regards to performance the more Guanxi Managers have the more successful they are seen to be regardless of the technical ability they possess. This social system has been described in various literature as being the basis for which local HRM policies such as promotions, recruitment and development are decided. Guanxi can be compared to the leadership Management Exchange (LMX) theory.

The LMX theory suggests that Managers have an in group and an out group. The in group are the people the Managers’ trust and as such are given more responsibility. The out group however, are often alienated and overlooked with little responsibilities or limited promotions. To apply this concept to China, the in group can be seen as Managers who have special government relationships with officials and senior Managers. It has been noted that unlike most countries the Chinese government is heavily involved in businesses. Hence to gain advantages most companies have hired senior officials with military background or special memberships in the communist party.

“Mianzi” as stated early is also a term which greatly impacts Managerial decision making. Most Managers tend to avoid confrontation and are motivated to “save face” resulting in Managers telling stakeholders and shareholders what they want to hear rather than the truth from an expatriate’s point of view. In China to “save face” means to not be proven wrong in front of your peers or an audience. This phenomenon can be very counter-productive to Management as most Managers would not question problematic situations or their superior’s decisions if it means discrediting them even if they may be wrong.

The final belief system Confucianism, can be described as a learning system focused on social structure. It is a set of principles hierarchal in nature and focuses on the absolute respect for people in a position of power. Confucianist teachings and principles have various effects on organisations. The most notable effect however for this article is on Management. These effects happen in two forms, one is complete subordinate submission and the second the lack of individualistic goals or autonomy. in order word obeying every absolute order or instructions given by their superiors regardless of if it is right, wrong or simply unethical.

These belief systems adversely affects collaboration, planning and international trade.

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About JosephUzah

I am an enthusiastic, tenacious, and extremely hard working individual with both domestic and international work experience. In the last 2.5 years, I have had the opportunity to work in different countries including the UK, Ireland and China one of the world’s largest emerging markets and trade zone

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