Picking Your Battles in the Chinese Workplace

Picking Your Battles in the Chinese Workplace
Sep 20, 2018 By Degen Hill , eChinacities.com

There’s going to come a time while working in China that you’re going to disagree with your boss about something. Perhaps it’s a small issue or maybe it’s something you feel passionate about. It’s at this crucial moment that you need to decide, is this worth fighting for? This article offers some strategies for picking your battles in the Chinese workplace.

chinese workplace

Is it affecting your life outside of work?

For many people, work is merely a means to an end. Their real life is outside of work, spent with family and friends. However, if things at work start cutting into your personal life or days off, perhaps it’s time to talk to your boss.

In China, many companies expect their employees to work overtime because getting the job done is seen as more important the having a work-life balance. Ideally, this should be discussed during the interview and written into your contract. If these scheduling changes occur after you start, however, and its more than every now and again, it’s probably worth talking with your boss about it.

Remember to keep calm and don’t start throwing out ultimatums. One solution might be to work from home when you have overtime. Although still work, at least you can do it from the comfort of your sofa.

Long-term or short-term?

No workplace is perfect, and often people learn to live with smaller problems. Most issues in the Chinese workplace can be labeled as either short-term or long-term, and knowing which ones to bring to your boss is part of being a good employee.

Let’s say your office has weak air conditioning and it’s the middle of the summer. The heat will only last a couple of months and installing new air conditioning is costly. Complaining to your boss won’t get much done, and before you melt away, autumn will be here and air conditioners will be so last season. Besides, you can always bring in your own fan.

Long-term problems might be something like only getting 30 minutes for your lunch break, a slow work computer or a lack of office meetings. Remember, this is just one variable for figuring out which battles to pick in the Chinese workplace.

Think of your reputation

Offices often have ‘that’ person, with ‘that’ meaning a variety of things. No-one wants to be ‘that’ person who constantly complains and goes to see the boss over trivial matters. Life can be frustrating, and so can working in an office or for a Chinese company. However, no-one likes to be pestered about things continually.

Whenever possible, figure out solutions to your problems instead of bringing them to your superior. Pro-tip: It’s best not to pick a hill to die on when working in a Chinese office. After all, you’re just one piece of the machine.

Think critically

It might sound silly, but asking yourself questions related to the problem is one of the best strategies for picking battles. Think about who benefits, what the alternatives are, whether it’s personal, whether talking about it would create more problems and when is the best time to act. Even just mulling over these questions in your head can help you reach a solution.

We all get frustrated at work sometimes, which can lead to irrational decisions. We’ll complain, rant, grumble, argue or even worse, give an ultimatum in the heat of the moment. Looking at things logically takes practice, but in the end, it’s the best strategy for deciding which issues to bring up with your boss.

Learning to pick your battles carefully will give you a higher chance of ‘winning’ the fights you choose. In the Chinese workplace, there are many battles to be fought. By using the tips in this article, you might just find success out there in the trenches.

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Keywords: Chinese Workplace


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In life, we face challenges, obstacles and etc, what is more important that is to be rational at all times and soon you find yourself has nothing to loose.

Oct 01, 2020 11:15 Report Abuse



We disagree with people at work place sometimes, it is important that we think rationally before we decide what to do next.

Sep 21, 2020 10:12 Report Abuse



In China, you are a just a show piece for decoration, or you have a skill they have not copied or mastered yet well enough to throw you out the door. Don't indulge in fraternization or gossip, never take sides, keep your mouth shut and ears open, and be ready to "fight or flight" at all times. Welcome to the real wild west in the wrong GPS coordinates.

Sep 21, 2018 09:57 Report Abuse