Dealing with Chinese managers

Discussion in 'Working Women' started by indira, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. indira

    indira Junior IL'ite

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    The article provides some nice nuances about dealing with Chinese managers/co-workers. These tips would come in very handy if you ever need to work with Chinese nationals.

    Chinese Acquisitions
    In U.S. Mean Changes
    For American Workers
    July 5, 2005; Page A11

    The $18.5 billion bid by state-owned Chinese oil company Cnooc to acquire Unocal has unleashed a wave of Sinophobia in some American quarters. U.S. congressmen and others seeking to block the deal argue that China shouldn't be allowed to gain control of any of America's valuable oil and natural-gas resources.

    There's also a deeper fear: Whether or not Cnooc's bid succeeds, a wave of Chinese acquisitions of U.S. companies is likely in coming years as China seeks to keep its economy growing fast. Americans worry that after exporting so many U.S. jobs to China, they may soon be working for Chinese bosses at home.

    That's already happened to U.S. employees at IBM's personal-computer business, which was acquired by Lenovo this year. And Maytag workers may soon be employed by China's Haier, which has made a bid for the U.S. appliance maker.

    Similar fears erupted in the 1980s and 1990s, when Japanese investors gobbled up U.S. manufacturing companies, real estate and entertainment trophies such as Columbia Pictures. Americans agonized that they were losing control. And some U.S. managers who suddenly had Japanese bosses complained that their chances for advancement were being blocked.

    That's less likely to happen at a Chinese-owned company, contends Robert Kuhn, an investment banker and the author of "The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin." Japanese executives "often did feel they were better than American managers, and their highly stylized business culture isn't very permeable," he says. Chinese executives, by contrast, "admire American managers and want to learn from them." Thus Lenovo named Stephen Ward Jr. who had run the PC business inside IBM to head its PC operations. And Cnooc CEO Fu Chengyu has said he will retain all of Unocal's management.

    None of this means Americans with Chinese bosses won't have to change the way they work and manage. "They need to be aware that Chinese bosses tend to be more task oriented than their Western counterparts," says Grace Cheng, managing director of Korn Ferry's Beijing office. "They tend to be decisive, top down and, at times, can micromanage. As a result, they are less likely to be sociable and approachable."

    At meetings, Chinese bosses usually take the seat at the head of the table, and they seat their No. 2 on their left and their No. 3 on their right. They also expect to be called by their formal names or their job titles. And most wouldn't understand or tolerate the informal exchanges that often occur between U.S. bosses and employees.

    When a Chinese-American consultant who works for both U.S. and Chinese companies met recently with an American finance chief, he was taken aback when his client's secretary burst into the meeting to convene a surprise birthday party for her boss. Along with a cake, the secretary had hired a clown who poked fun at the finance chief. "I thought to myself, 'This could never happen in a Chinese office,' " the consultant says.

    Dian Terry, vice president of public relations at NCR's Teradata unit and former managing director of Hill & Knowlton's China office, learned that Chinese managers almost always seek consensus. "No one person can say, 'Yes,' and approve something, but one person can say, 'No,' " and a decision will be delayed until the person finally agrees with the group, she says. "Americans who lose their temper or push too hard with their own opinions are frowned upon," she adds.

    There's also a reluctance to deliver bad news. An American manager at a multinational consumer-products company was launching a new dessert product. He negotiated contracts with many customers before learning from a Chinese subordinate that the price of chocolate -- a key ingredient -- had risen sharply. "He avoided telling me until the 11th hour because he didn't want to say anything was a problem," says the manager, who had to try to renegotiate the contracts.

    CEOs and other top executives of Chinese companies have also lived less privileged lives than many of their American counterparts. Cnooc's CEO, the 56-year-old Mr. Fu, grew up in China's remote Western region before going to California to earn a master's degree in petroleum at the University of Southern California. In planning his move on Unocal, he turned to Charles Li, a senior banker at Morgan Stanley, who worked for several years on one of China's earliest offshore oil rigs, living in a tiny room with 14 other men.

    Because of their own pasts, Chinese bosses expect such qualities as tenacity, loyalty, respect and frugality from employees in addition to hard work. When a Chinese company acquired an overseas concern in another Asian country, the four auditors sent to do due diligence all shared one hotel room. "For Americans who are so used to privacy and personal space, this would be an adjustment," says Linnet Kwok, an executive recruiter at Bennett Associates in Shanghai.

    Yet Americans will have far more to worry about if Chinese companies can't compete on a level playing field in the global mergers and acquisitions arena. The more closely linked the U.S. and Chinese economies become, the more secure U.S.-China relations will be. "The more China advances economically, the more interconnected it is with the U.S.," says Mr. Kuhn.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2005

  2. orion80

    orion80 Platinum IL'ite

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    I have worked with Chinese managers and it is difficult to work with them.

    One annoying thing i noticed is they only care about the advancement of their local team and are ok to sabotage other team's work or steal their ideas and project them as their own. They are not concerned about getting caught even if there is an email trail proving the same!!! If you confront them with proof, they will not respond!!!

    I hope i will never work with a Chinese manager in future again.

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