Managing Chinese employees: dialogues from the notion of self

Cheung, Lai Wan (2011) Managing Chinese employees: dialogues from the notion of self. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores cross-cultural management from an employee's perspective. It investigates how Chinese employees make sense of their selves in relation to their expatriate managers and to their work in multinational companies (MNCs).

After three decades of reforms, China has become a major player in the global economy. Many MNCs have established businesses there. Their operations in China have presented human resource management challenges. To date, most relevant studies were based solely on managerial responses, where the voice of the employees is often marginalised or absent. This study seeks to position the research subject, Chinese employees, at the centre of the discursive space of this thesis, where their previously deprived voice will be accounted for.

The methodology is derived from hermeneutics. In-depth interviews with Chinese employees working in MNCs were conducted. Seven themes have emerged from interviews, which broadly fall into the following: supervisor-supervisee relationship, working in MNCs, and the organisational practice.

The findings show that "harmony" and "respect" were most valued by the interviewees when they handled differences with their managers. The interviewees perceived that competent supervisors would show "care and concern" and "trust" to subordinates. Additionally, the findings suggest that "development opportunities offered by the MNC" and "fairness exercised in the MNC" were the main reasons for them to join MNCs. The findings also indicate that "less complicated human relationship" was the most attractive aspect about their companies.

Drawing from the notion of self from both western and Chinese perspectives to interpret the findings, the thesis reveals possible limits of research often conducted by researchers following conventional (western) conceptual frameworks. The thesis produces insights by following ideas from Chinese sources. While the data is interpreted from a western perspective, there lies its limit. An attempt to re-interpret the data from a Chinese perspective generates further layers of meaning. The latter would be missed, if western conceptual frameworks alone were applied.

This study contributes to our understanding of the research subject. Valuable insights are gained into managing Chinese employees; and, practical implications are considered. Regarding methodology, the study lends support to a central position of postcolonial writers, namely, non-western subjects be allowed to speak in their own terms so that their lived experience is no longer unjustly ignored. As the 'self' is constituted by being in relation with the ‘other', the study arrives at a self-other integration, and suggests that such integration be pursued in future research. The integration requires researchers to, firstly, question what is lacking in interpreting non-western subjects from conventional theoretical frameworks, and secondly, to experiment with alternative frameworks so as to initiate dialogues. In attempting such dialogues, supplementary explanations and understanding about the subject can be sought and, indeed, recovered.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Xu, Q.
Keywords: Intercultural communication, international business enterprises, employees, China, self-perception
Subjects: H Social sciences > HF Commerce
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 13485
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 13:30
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2017 17:39

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