As Chinese culture defines that only elder members of society can talk knowingly about subjects in both organisational and social contexts, employees therefore do not respect or listen to young managers thus conflict arises and poor performance results (Mwaura et al, 1998). The concept of “giving face” manifests the Confucian aspect of Chinese culture as this can often lead to many problems arising both in a social context and business. Bond and Kwang (1986) argue that the significance of the “face” concept severely affects the ability of a Chinese manager to make decisions.
As they tend to attach great importance to the views others hold about them more than in western cultures, Chinese managers therefore avoid actions that for them are high risk, or about which there is some uncertainty regarding the correctness of the outcome. This can lead to a breakdown in communication because if no employee is willing to take the responsibility for making a decision, effectively the decision just gets passed around until someone forgets about it and then the blame is passed on too.
This would cause significant problems during negotiations or when trying to develop relationships with western companies because nothing would get agreed and eventually a lot of tension and frustration would be caused. However, this concept of giving face can be misunderstood and lead to conflict arising as other cultures do not understand its significance and find it fairly rude. For example, Mah (2001) recounts one occasion when a close friend thought she was “giving face” to the British mother of her future son in law by complimenting on her beautiful gems and asking, “How much they cost?
” In Mrs. Wang’s eyes, she was giving her close relative a big dose of mian zi (face). But to Lady Sutherland, her bold question was merely a vulgar invasion of her privacy. The significance of this is it highlights how the culture discourse influences people’s actions and how they can be misinterpreted. But an understanding of why people may act differently to what you may be used to will help explain certain behaviours and also highlight what is required in terms of establishing and maintaining strong business relationships.
For example, the business practice of exchanging business cards carries more significant symbolic value in Japan than in other countries; it is a sign of respect and social etiquette (Cohen, 2002). By not following this process, conflict will arise within the relationship, as not following traditional formal greetings will immediately cause bad impressions. Conclusion As businesses become more international and far reaching, this paper has highlighted the importance of understanding cultural differences when attempting to create relationships, specifically between eastern and western companies.
As demonstrated, communication between different cultures is often very difficult because of the differences in meaning making defined by language, and also due to the underlying beliefs and values that influence what is the cultural norm. Therefore to rectify this situation, and thus develop and maintain relationships, organisations must acknowledge the importance of culture and at least make some effort to appreciate that differences are present, and try to gain a degree of “cultural literacy” (Schirato and Yell, 2000), to be able to understand better the intricacies involved in retaining a strong cross-cultural relationship.
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