Mr. Tang and Mr. Li are the participants of an interesting incident in the Beijing’s division of Intel China that can be analyzed with the help of some important Chinese concepts like face, hierarchy and preservation of social harmony.
Mr. Tang is the new manager of the marketing programs of Intel China in Beijing, and has a background of Western education and years of working experience in the United States. Mr. Li is a young but skilful account manager, enthusiastic and assertive, who has been carrying on the project of creating a manual of tips for software vendors for two months and plans to carry it on till its completion.
After taking over Beijing’s Intel division Mr. Tang decides to study the work of each employee and to make changes where necessary. One of his adjustments involves Mr. Li’s project. Since Mr. Tang considers this task extremely time-consuming and unsuited for an inexperienced employee, he decides to discontinue his project and assign him to a more appropriated one. He asks Qing Chen (Mr. Li’s supervisor) to inform him of his resolution, but Mr. Li opposes firmly to this change, asserting that his superior is not being respectful.
Analyzing the situation we can see that there are several Chinese communication patterns which play an important role and influence these people behaviour.
Mr. Tang uses an intermediary (Miss Chen) to communicate the problem to his employee, and this is a common strategy in China. He avoids direct confrontation with Mr. Li, and this is an act that aims to safe face for both of them.
However with his response, Mr. Li is causing Mr. Tang to lose face, he is endangering his authority and his ability to control and guide his employees. It’s clear that Mr. Tang is acting in the best interest of his company, and his power shouldn’t be questioned. In fact, in Chinese business context is very unusual to see an employee reacting like Mr. Li, questioning a boss’ decision and showing dissent.
But, even so, Mr. Tang shouldn’t fire him, given Mr. Li’s important role in the company and the number of guanxi he has established with other firms’ managers. Regarding Miss Chen, her lack of authority and of immediate response to Mr. Li’s critics is probably caused by her inexperience in managerial positions.
In their next meeting Mr. Tang should try to make him understand the reason of his decision, without forgetting to start by praising his work and his efforts. Chinese people are very concerned about reputation and the need to be respected by others, so to avoid both Mr. Tang and Mr. Li to feel embarrassed and lose face, the best solution is for Mr. Li to accept Mr. Tang’s decision. This act, that implies giving face, will be very appreciated by Mr. Tang, who in the future will not forget to reward his employee.
In China preserving the social harmony plays an important role when doing business, and Mr. Li should try to shape his working attitude according to this concept, that is also part of the Intel philosophy.
In conclusion, I find myself completely in accordance with Mr. Tang managerial style, he acted like a pure Chinese, not as an expatriate. Actually, given Mr. Li’s excessive response, it looks like he is the one who has been influenced by Western ideas.