3 Tips For A Project Manager In Understanding Chinese Business Culture

3 Tips For A Project Manager In Understanding Chinese Business CultureWhen you are on holiday, having all the time in the world, other cultures can be fun and exciting to explore. But when you are working or professionally travelling in other countries, cultural differences can cause quite a few obstacles on your way to get a project done.

Especially when cultures are very distinct from your own. Putting effort in understanding other cultures, can remove many barriers and help you achieve your goals with less effort and more pleasure. At first glance, another culture may seem impossible to understand. And maybe you even feel reluctant to make an attempt. But you might be surprised about the world that unfolds before you, and the things you might learn from it. All it takes is an open mind and the ability not to jump to conclusions.

When I first went to China, I suffered a horrible jetlag. As a consequence, I was sick during the first week. I went to see the client anyway, to get a team going on a project we started with them. While I was coughing around, my Chinese colleagues brought me hot water all the time. Of course I drank it, although it wasn’t really pleasant at an outside temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. Later I learned that many Chinese think that drinking hot water is good for health. That’s when I realized that my Chinese colleagues were actually trying to make my flu go away.

Here are 3 tips that could make cooperation with your Chinese colleagues a little easier and more enjoyable:

Tip 1: Criticism

In front of others (especially superiors), do not criticize anyone or question someone’s acts. Almost no-one likes to be criticized, but Chinese are especially sensitive to it. Making a Chinese “loose his face” or reputation, is one of the worst things that you can do. Even in case of small things, like opening a wrong document.

Tip 2: Verifying Comprehension

For that same reason of “losing face” or reputation, your Chinese colleague might say he understood what you just explained, although in reality he doesn’t. If he did not understand what you just explained to him, he could be trying to protect you from “losing your face” (for not having explained good enough). So don’t let this upset you! Instead, check up on him some time after explaining something to him, just to make sure he really got it right.

Tip 3: Creating Initiative

It can be difficult to get your Chinese colleagues to take initiatives. Many Chinese directly associate taking initiatives with punishments or loss of reputation for possible negative consequences. Therefore, if you want your Chinese colleagues to take initiatives, you should make it very clear what the rewards or advantages will be. And possibly take away any fear for punishments or loss of reputation.

I found these few tips to be very helpful during my trips to China and cooperation with my Chinese colleagues. Please feel free to share your experiences or comments below!

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Stefan de Vries

Stefan is a passionate, driven, project management specialist in the automotive safety industry. He is also curator of a site providing free tools promoting best practices aligning to the PMBOK guide and its principles.