November 28, 2021

The Chinese method, for successful first steps in business

FIRST WORK-. Listening to your interlocutors, expanding your network … Even without leaving France, the Chinese way of working can help you overcome this pitfall of your first professional experiences.

The Chinese have a lot to teach us. Mathilde Aubinaud, communication specialist wrote with Philippe Branche, who worked for a long time in China, a book entitled Better understand China (VA Éditions). A way of working, of forging relationships that is particularly inspiring for young French people who are embarking on professional life.

■ Use Guanxi, the “made in China” network to find allies in the company

Your network is always bigger than you think. The Chinese approach will allow you to better appropriate it. Guanxi, literally “door to access a group”, refers to interpersonal relationships between individuals. Born from the Confucian heritage, this concept is based on values ​​such as utilitarianism and reciprocity. It is part of a long-term perspective. Thus, giving before receiving is a principle that can be very useful in the professional relationships that you will forge. The notion of a Chinese network covers various relationships, whether personal, economic or political.

If in France we have a more restricted vision of the network, especially mobilized during a job search, in China it is exploited in a larger way. The perception of the network in China is not reduced to the only professional sphere but also takes into account neighbors, friends and family circle. The ability to bond with your future colleagues, for example by logging in via Linkedin, is important even before you start working. This Chinese-style reading of the network therefore invites us to rethink our classic vision of networks within the company itself.

■ The first weeks, pay more attention than ever to your contacts

From human resources to accounting, including the legal department, your interactions will be varied. The Chinese character for “connect” connects two ears. In China, for example, sharing consists first of all in listening. The character on the right connects those who listen. From the start of your new job, try to understand what your colleagues are doing and what their challenges are within the company. Also ask as many questions as possible. Empathy and attention to your interlocutor are crucial. It is therefore important to prepare well and quickly remember the names, concepts and acronyms of your new environment.

■ Respect the hierarchy by keeping the face

Disconcerted, surprised, embarrassed … So many postures that you do not want your interlocutor, client as colleague. In China, Mianzi refers to the reputation of the individual, self-esteem or even prestige. This concept concerns personal, family and professional life. The Mianzi can be better assimilated by understanding that China is an extremely hierarchical society. The position occupied by a Chinese in relation to other people demands a certain degree of respect and invites certain behaviors. It is a concept that we have and that we can literally lose or give away. We will thus ensure that his interlocutor, client as colleague, keeps his reputation and his self-esteem. So avoid any public denial, both written and oral.

■ With your future colleagues, do not be direct

Ms. Wang, professor at Beijing Language University explains: “The mode of communication in China and the West is very different. The same goes for the expression of “no”, for example. Rather, it will be a question of remaining evasive and vague or of diverting the subject. I think the most important thing is respect and mutual understanding“. In the conception of the work, the strategy which would be judicious to adopt would be prudence (literally see before, or foresee in Latin). This is an indirect approach, sometimes seen as a detour among Westerners. In Chinese, to be careful is also said: “little heart”. A poetic expression that could testify to the sensitivity in China. Westerners, for their part, most often take a direct approach and are not afraid of the no. But these two forms are not necessarily incompatible: a reciprocal inspiration is possible.

■ For the first years: create lasting relationships

The main approach to working in China is empathy, not imposition. Negotiation rather than confrontation. Maintain the link with a client or colleague. In China, professional relationships are also personal. Don’t settle for a nice email every 6 months. Take the time to talk to your customer, to call them through different channels. Always express sincere gratitude. In China, we do not greet a customer quickly but we will escort the guest or the customer to the door or to the airport. This gesture, this attention and this time taken are particularly appreciated and will allow you to have future support for your career.