have a friend, who works for an electronics related company in Europe. This
company has recently bought another company in China. The European
headquarter is quite happy about the work done by the Chinese engineers, but
they do have some difficulties in cooperating.
There were many facets of this, here is one. The main office in Europe would like to be informed as early as possible about emerging problems - but as it is, they never hear anything from the China branch except that everything is going well, even when things are going wrong. It seems that the Chinese are afraid of losing face and hide difficulties from the main office for as long as possible, which is not what the company wants.
My theory is that this is about break down of communication, and cultural differences. Does anyone here have any ideas about how to solve the problem, so that the main office gets early warnings about problems, and the Chinese branch does not lose face?” (A question from a Chinese forum)
Answer: We have to be cautious about dismissing a problem as a cultural difference. There are cultural factors here, but it can be a problem of less efficient working style and a fear to take responsibilities.
The possible solution is to explain that reporting problems does not necessarily lead to criticism or penalties; instead an early report will be awarded. The management may train the Chinese staff to identify what problems may arise and how to react. A close follow-up is necessary for being kept informed.
The management may also request regular reports about problems, instead of reporting only when problems come up. It’s easier for a Chinese person to follow the norm than being the first one to tell ‘secrets’.
Finally, it helps to establish a more private relationship with the China team by arranging drinks, dinners, outings, or even Karaoke sessions! After that, they will feel more relaxed and easy to open up in business. Private and business relationships are usually reciprocal in China.