International Management Guides

International Management Guides

Designed specifically for the traveling manager, these short, sharp guides to being a manager in a foreign country offer invaluable insights and practical tips.

Intercultural Management - Hong Kong

Being a Manager in Hong Kong

In business situations you can expect Hong Kong Chinese to communicate directly and be willing to take a risk in order to achieve a particular goal. The Chinese in Hong Kong differ from those in mainland China in this and many other cultural behaviors, although it remains to be seen if these cultural behaviors continue in the future or if Hong Kong will adopt a more traditional set of Chinese values. In general, the Hong Kong Chinese are entrepreneurial and fast-paced business people.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management needs to bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions. They tell subordinates what they want done and how they expect them to perform the task. Subordinates follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status. For the most part decisions are reached at the top of the company and given to managers to implement.

Approach to Change

Hong Kong’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is high. Businesses in Hong Kong have a high tolerance for risk and a ready acceptance for change. The underlying mindset is that change, while difficult, usually brings improvements and enhancements with it.

Organizations and individuals are predisposed to a high degree of risk, partially because there are rich rewards for risk-takers who succeed and significant tolerance for those who don’t. In other words, risk-takers who fail are not deprived of future opportunities as failure is often perceived as a necessary step in the learning process.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Hong Kong is generally quite careful about time guidelines in business situations where schedules and deadlines are regarded seriously.

Effective cross cultural management skill will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.

Decision Making

Many business practices have their roots in Confucianism, which dictates the rules of behavior between managers and their subordinates. Intercultural sensitivity is key and it is important to remember that the culture is very. It would be unthinkable for Hong Kong Chinese subordinate to publicly question or disagree with their manager. Hierarchy is largely determined by position, age, and gender, although there are exceptions.

Employees understand their position within their organization. When delegating tasks, managers are careful not to ask someone to do something that is "below" their stature. To do so would cause both the manager and the subordinate to lose face. Cross cultural sensitivity is, therefore, important.

Boss or Team Player?

It is important not to become overly familiar with your staff or your authority will be eroded. Also it is important to treat all staff equitably; in return they will work obediently. One sign of rupture is an employee that suddenly disobeys orders. Intercultural adaptability is essential. It is important that you understand the shame that can be felt by any criticisms voiced in public. If any criticism needs to be made, it is best if it is done through a third-person and privately.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Be sure to bring an abundant supply of name cards with you and give one to everyone who presents one to you. Personal relationships are crucial to conducting business. Hong Kong Chinese must like you and feel comfortable with you to do business. Do not publicly embarrass your Hong Kong counterparts. Referencing mistakes past or present, or bringing up difficult topics publicly will work against you. If a difficult situation arises and needs to be addressed, pull aside the head of your Hong Kong counterparts and speak with them directly. If someone sucks air through their teeth, they are unhappy with what you have just said.

Your starting price should leave room for negotiation. Note a large price concession may be asked for at the end of the negations. Intercultural sensitivity is essential and you need to ensure you are not using any symbols or colors in presentations that can be misinterpreted as they have a symbolic meaning you are unaware of.