Westerner Values and Chinese Values, aligned or notWhen I go to Western businesses in China, I am often struck by the mishmash culture that companies have put together. In pursuit of perfect resumes, they have forgotten that they need everyone to be on the same team.  I see companies talk about cultural fit when they hire someone. However, this might mean “they are tough like us”, likable, or simply that they will not rock the boat.

Actually, while there is one right path, there are a mind-numbing number of ways to run the business wrong.

You might assume because all of your accountants and engineers are Chinese, that they have much the same thinking.  Not so, the values they carry into your factories can be miles apart–and often are.

I will see a company who hires a manager who believes that business is a private war and that all is fair in war. Later they hire someone who believes that fairness is the key to business. And these are both important managers. Now, I pursue diversity on my team all the time; but I do not seek diversity in the business values that we need.

Some people you interview or already have on staff will have values much like yours.   However, you should see others as your enemies. For they will quietly push each day in a way that takes your culture down a path where anything goes.

Chinese Values are often different than ours and each other- What should we do?

Without hiring for values, your team will likely be a mess. Low productivity and high turnover naturally follow. At minimum, there will be too many things that you do not know about happening.   And you cannot blame your staff, for you were the one who made the mess.

So, if you want an old-school organization where lying, cheating and self-serving are the norm, then at least be consistent.   Get all people who play that game.

Be aware that your top Chinese management is critical.  Hire them and vet them to see if they are a match for the values you need on your team. But do not confuse values with style and national culture. For instance, failure to inform you about a threat to your business is not a Chinese characteristic. It is old school thinking and self-serving for that individual. It is a difference of values.

Finally, if you hire a Chinese top manager who has similar ethics to yours, he or she will naturally attract others with good ethics to the team. The wrong people will often self-select off. That’s good. But better yet, if you train everyone to guard the gates, then the wrong people will not even be able to get in. Outsource if this is off your core task to focus on, but make sure they understand the Chinese values issue.

What are you seeing?

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