5 Ways to Win Over Your Chinese Boss

5 Ways to Win Over Your Chinese Boss
Oct 31, 2016 By Thomas Ackerman , eChinacities.com

Chinese bosses have been alternately characterized as authoritarians and as consensus people. Heavy-handed and soft. That is in part because there are different kinds of bosses, and in part because Chinese culture can throw off our sense of what kind of a person we are dealing with. Customs differ from culture to culture and the workplace is no exception. Foreign and Chinese business practices have their differences and office cultures do too. If you are working for a Chinese company you will need to know how to have a good relationship with your employer.

How to Deal successfully with chinese bosses
Photo: @davestone

Knowing how to deal with your higher-ups will greatly impact your success at work, and some of the same principles apply to building beneficial relationships with your coworkers as well. Learning how to successful interact with authority in the workplace also helps you handle the other powers that be; knowing how to handle your boss will help you when it comes to dealing with the Public Security Bureau and other occasionally troublesome bureaucrats. Learning a few workplace norms in China is a necessity for advancing in a company. These 5 tips will earn you some respect, and at the very least, should keep you from getting fired.

Here are five strategies for dealing with authority in the Chinese office:

1) Know your place
Hierarchy is respected in public as well as in private life throughout the country. The subordinate respects the superior. If you're dealing with a direct superior in a Chinese company, or with a governing official, be sure to show them the respect due. Giving advice is often welcomed, but to criticize them in front of others causes a massive loss of face. Face is everything. You might naturally have some valid complaints, but save it for a private meeting. Try to avoid being too direct. While Chinese people may seem overly blunt when it comes to your weight or your pimples, you’ll have better results if your suggestions are presented cautiously and carefully.

2) Show respect
Another way to show respect, and maintain a hospitable relationship, is to address your Chinese superiors with the proper titles. The titles typically go after the family name. A few examples are as follows:

Manager: Jingli or zong jingli (the latter, which means head manager, can be shortened to zong)
Vice manager: Fu jingli or fuzong jingli (can be shortened to fuzong)
CEO: Shouxi zhixingguan
Department head: Buzhang
Director or chairman: Zhuren
School principal: Xiaozhang
Factory director: Changzhang

If you’re speaking in Chinese you can change the word for “you” from ni to nin to show respect.

3) Parse properly
If you want to understand what your boss thinks of your work or your ideas, be careful to discern the criticism from the praise. In China they are often mixed together. For example, if he generally praises your project, then points out some flaws, and then praises you again, he might have just torn you to pieces. Granted, the indirect communication can take years to learn, but even if you haven't had much experience with Chinese culture, keep in mind that most employers and workmates will communicate with less directness than you're used to. If you are really in doubt as to what has been said, ask a few follow-up questions. Don’t expect straight answers to questions, especially difficult ones, and try to avoid being too direct yourself. People will clam up and you won’t get very far. Try to cultivate “passive assertiveness”.

4) Work it
Chinese workers and employers respect hard work. Even if they've finished the tasks for the day, most will quickly attend to tasks for the following day. They frequently work overtime. If you drift too far from this ethic in the Chinese workplace, it makes you look bad in nearly everyone's eyes. Showing your boss and officemates that you keep busy, will help to give you a solid standing. This is especially important given that your Chinese coworkers, and even managers, are probably aware that you make far more then they do.

5) Take it outside
Chinese often talk business outside of the workplace. While it's not the most relaxing habit, it can still come in handy for you. If your boss invites you to have a meal or a drink on your off-time, it might be a great opportunity to express your own ideas to her. In fact, her ears might be more open than usual.

Warning:The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.

21 Comments

All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.

1

cosby_don
comment|73393|1595893

Once you figure out how to do the boss' job, you can separate yourself and start your own company!

Nov 09, 2016 14:09 Report Abuse

2

shaun69
comment|73367|1650867

Learn to respect the many elephants in the room.

Nov 04, 2016 08:50 Report Abuse

3

Robk
comment|73334|27601

This article is nearly SEVEN YEARS OLD?

Nov 01, 2016 03:59 Report Abuse

4

Chairman_Meow
comment|73348|1650386

Slow day in the CCP propaganda department.

Nov 02, 2016 10:15 Report Abuse

5

Guest388182
comment|73331|43131

appearances, appearances, appearances: nothing real matters...

Oct 31, 2016 03:50 Report Abuse

6

Guest388182
comment|73330|43131

bosses are bosses, whether Chinese or other; most are incompetent and insecure

Oct 31, 2016 03:48 Report Abuse

7

Guest388182
comment|73329|43131

Chinese "workers"?! Ha Ha

Oct 31, 2016 03:46 Report Abuse

8

Guest388182
comment|73328|43131

being valuable doesn't help if the bosses are too stupid to know what value is

Oct 31, 2016 03:46 Report Abuse

9

nick
comment|22109|0

seems the non drinker of alcohol beverage may not achive success at the dinner table???

Nov 22, 2011 16:55 Report Abuse

10

Anonymous
comment|30918|79422

WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE NON-DRINKER? YOU PROBABLY DONT EVEN SMOKE EITHER!!! Please get your act together, how are you ever going to socialize or fit into this culture, you could only be worse off if you are a vegetarian!!! omg

Sep 01, 2012 05:57 Report Abuse

11

comment|19209|0

Very pleased to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this great read! Thanks for taking the time to share this.

Aug 25, 2011 06:17 Report Abuse

12

Maitiu
comment|18967|48324

The idea that workers should be subservient and groveling to bosses strikes me as completely antithetical to everything socialism and even communism stands for, especially the whole class stratification. For a country that claims to be communist, this attitude toward workers would make Karl Marx spin in his grave.

Aug 15, 2011 14:10 Report Abuse

13

Long timer
comment|18265|0

The criticism in China - yep, you actually never know what opinion is true. They praise you - probably out of politeness. They criticize you moderately, mixing the good and the bad - probably "tear you to pieces". Interestingly, those Chinese who pick up some Western customs sometimes get the wrong idea that in the West we just always say exactly what we think, so they will criticize extremely directly, with no regard for the feelings of the person criticized.

Jul 18, 2011 19:37 Report Abuse

14

David
comment|18218|0

The last thing we need around here is bunch of cowering foreigners.
Your boss will probably think you are here because you are one of the losers, who couldn't make it in your own country.
Foreign workers can refuse to be exploited like domestic help.
If you are a foreigner, act like one!

Jul 17, 2011 15:49 Report Abuse

15

atza
comment|28528|0

"The last thing we need around here is bunch of cowering foreigners. Your boss will probably think you are here because you are one of the losers, who couldn't make it in your own country. Foreign workers can refuse to be exploited like domestic help. If you are a foreigner, act like one"

after 7 years in china i can only say this is the best comment in this thread. foreigners are not payed to work like a native, uneficcient and slow.

Jun 07, 2012 23:25 Report Abuse

16

Anonymous
comment|30917|79422

Thank you for this comment, I agree totally! Thanks for cheering for our side! I hope I don't sound to selfish or resistant - although I know that being diplomatic and respecting my adopted country and culture is important, having self-respect is also required to survive this experience! Plus, is it really necessary to lose all of ourselves just for a job experience? It is important to realize that not only are we questioned and thought of as foreigners that couldn't make it in our own countries of golden opportunity, but on the contrary, many of us were actually brought here specifically to help infuse a company with our much needed foreign qualities and expertise, so how can we do both? To be prominent and influential and at the same time subservient, and lose ourselves and submerge into their customs ? We have to keep our back bone stiff while interacting and representing who we are. Of course being polite is so important, but coming here just to play kiss up to keep the boss's ego intact, hmmm I don't remember seeing that in the job description or the contract!

Sep 01, 2012 05:53 Report Abuse

17

Sjama
comment|47420|258387

I certainly agree with you. The foreigners which have high paid jobs and an important role in the company hey work should behave like you said. However, not all foreign people in China are professionals (including me). We have, like we would back in our homecountry, to start low and follow the rules of this article to go far in our work. Certainly, by doing this we cannot abandon our traditions and characteristics, but we should control them.

Jun 12, 2014 18:42 Report Abuse

18

Doris
comment|18205|0

definitely true , it is common used for all companies from all over the country ....
anyway , i think , in china , the most important is all kinds of relationship , if you are good at dealing with them , then you are a succesful person ...

Jul 17, 2011 06:11 Report Abuse

19

Tahir
comment|18075|0

i think that these are the general point in any place of the world nothing special

Jul 14, 2011 04:30 Report Abuse

20

Sleeping Birds
comment|3722|0

I agree with what Thomas Ackerman mentioned above. As an overseas returnee, I found it uncomfortable as well.

May 31, 2010 20:37 Report Abuse

21

JJ
comment|3382|0

As unappeaing and annoying as it can seem, I find being passive aggressive goes a really long way in China in getting your message across and avoiding conflict. Much of it seems amazingly inefficient but if you study how Chinese interact you see there is a ton of unsaid communication and that's were a lot of the meaningful transactions take place. Once you have faith your unsaid messages are being received it gets much easier.

May 04, 2010 19:13 Report Abuse