Motivating Factors
 “To understand motivation in China, one must understand that, from childhood on, the Chinese people are expected to subjugate themselves to the state and their identity and life goals center on their contribution to it.”  The Chinese worker is primarily motivated by the concept of saving face.  The Chinese worker will diligently perform his/her assigned tasks because he/she is keenly aware that they are accountable to the group, which is a powerful motivating factor.  Saving face is an important concept to understand, as it is the primary motivator for the Chinese worker.  A Chinese workers reputation and social standing rests on this concept.  Causing embarrassment or loss of composure can be devastating to the Chinese worker’s psyche.  The Chinese worker’s desire to not disappoint is manifested in his work.  The Chinese worker is very careful not to do anything to draw any individual recognition or attention, in an effort to fit in with the group.
Leadership Style
 The Chinese leadership style is very autocratic.  The Chinese worker is characterized by having an enormous amount of power distance with the supervisor.  The supervisor is all-powerful as in the patriarch.  The Chinese worker is expected to be respectful and obedient and to express explicit trust, even if the boss is inconsistent or arbitrary in his decisions.  In return, the Chinese firms often have a family type of attitude toward workers, regardless of their ability or performance.  The top managers make the ultimate decisions in a Chinese organization.
Incentive / Reward System(s)
Historically, China hasn’t had much of a monetary incentive program for its worker’s.  Because China advocated lifetime employment, and the jobs were state jobs, China did not see a need for a monetary reward system.  Workers were not expected to use initiative in solving problems because this was the job of the top manager and any error in judgment could cause them to lose face.  However, the government began to recognize the error of its ways and has recently begun implementing both financial incentives and moral encouragement as a way to elicit the desired results.  Incentives are based on the work unit’s performance versus the individual’s performance.  This encourages the Chinese worker’s to work as a cohesive unit.  Because of the collectivism that is instilled in Chinese worker’s incentives are based on group goals.

It is important to note, that the Chinese worker’s primary motivation is not for money alone, but for the opportunity to learn and advance.  The Chinese are primarily motivated by dignity and respect.


Sources:  Deresky, Helen, International Management (Prentice Hall 2000) p414-415.
Business Ethics in China,