Understanding Chinese culture leads to business success (Guest commentary)

Culture can affect how employees view development opportunities
By Huiping Iler
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/15/2009

The famous Chinese book, The Art of War, is widely used in the most prestigious business schools around the world. In it, Sun Tzu advises: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you will win all battles.” Whether you are an HR professional dealing with Chinese employees or an executive heading to China, it is imperative to make an effort to educate yourself on the intricacies of Chinese culture and recognize how their own culture differs.

A director of human resources from an Ottawa company called one day in distress. She was concerned and confused as to why a Chinese employee in Toronto had rejected sympathy flowers. A parent of the employee had passed away and the director was unable to send the flowers to the funeral home in time. So, instead, she arranged to have the flowers delivered directly to the employee’s home.

Little did she know that China is a nation with many superstitions. In Chinese culture, those flowers are associated with death and viewed as a bad omen. They would have been lovely and much appreciated at the funeral home. However, to accept such flowers into one’s house would bring the association of death into the home.