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The biz of biz in China (Part 2)

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Mind the gap Saturday Mind the Gap Saturday is a feature every Saturday where Blognation China tells its readership the differences - the gap - in the tech, mobile and enterprise worlds between China and the Western world.

So you know what kind of a feared corporate animal the "fried squid" is, heard that your friend has fallen victim to yet another jiaban, laughed along to the rare Taiwanese laughathon between nine and five (you should have been crackin'!), and "sharpened your knives before a fight".

What's next? The second installment of The biz of biz in China on Mind the Gap Saturday - on Blognation China, of course. Now that you know what the Chinese workplace offers you, here's what you need to know about integrating into the workplace.

Collectivist corporate China

By all means, it feels cool to swing by your Beijing office all dressed up the way you do back home. You're yourself, you've been yourself in the West, so why not be yourself in the east, too? They'll eventually recognize your efforts, so you can probably get away with a bit of (controlled) arrogance. And, oh, the team; half the time, they don't know what they're on about.

If you come to the People's Republic in that kind of a mood, however, be prepared to be sent back to the airport! In the nation of 1.3 billion, collectivism - or doing things in groups - is more like the order of the day. It's not that individuals are treated like total robots or neglected, but in China doing things in groups is more what you'll be after, day in day out.

Once you realize that you do need to work in a group, however, you'd do yourself (and the group, at that) a big favor by fitting in as much as possible.

That's not a cue for you to dump what makes you you, though, but in short, if you can balance the "you" with the interests and conformity of the group, you've pretty much made it. If you're trustworthy, honest, reflective, generous, and sensitive, you can make it easily in the Middle Kingdom. Keep your assertive, strong and outgoing self from the Western world - but do note that they may need quite a bit of tweaking.

Please mind the gap between the boss and the employee

The gap between the boss and employee is, as I mentioned last week, gaping at the very least. Although companies operated by the haigui (overseas Chinese) who are back on the mainland may be more democratic, the fact is that most companies in China are still very much a boss-ordered-this world. The difference between boss and employee is bigger than you think.

So what's the magical ladder closing the gap between the two? Emotions, that's for sure, but also trust and reliability. Do your stuff right, be on time and contribute, and always be right behind the man at the top - support your company. Tell the boss that you're in for the long run and that you want to make the company great. By that, we need to see action, not just mere words.

Having said all that, respect and obedience are still very much two things that will make many a boss's day. It's not that corporate dissent is totally verboten, but if an employee clashes with the boss, the chances of scoring the dreaded fried squid (Chinese for the pink slip) are higher in the PRC than in foreign lands. In China, authority is more pronounced - Chinese bosses (especially those in state-owned enterprises) don't like to be challenged.

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