Matter of hierarchy
In China, hierarchy has always had a fundamental role since the very beginning, with Confucius ideas and the theory of greetings. Each person in the society has a role and needs to respect his/her social status in order to keep the harmony, thus, “When the emperor is emperor, the governor is governor, the father is father and the son is son, there will be order and harmony in society”. This mentality is still deeply present in Chinese behaviours, even in the business domain, which is the reason why organizational hierarchy is fundamental in Chinese companies.
The very first time you meet your Chinese partners during a meeting, it will not be hard at all to discover who you are talking to.
Each person normally has a business card (both in Chinese and English) which informs you about his/her role within the company. We suggest you to place the cards in front of you when you sit at the table; which makes you easier to identify.
Generally speaking, the person who starts talking first is the most important person in the delegation, and pay attention that this person is going to respond to the partner of the same level: you have to pay the same attention by talking to your partner watching him/her directly in the eyes and not watching the interpreter who is interpreting for you.
How to identify different roles, who is the most relevant to me? It is very easy: just pay attention to where people sit at the table during a meeting, who leaves the room first, and who follows, who carries the gifts and who gives gifts.
Last but not least, normally negotiations and discussions of any potential issues that may cause tension are not handled directly between the top leaders of organizations but by the most trusted persons of the two parties.
Principally, the following are the most common high level management roles in a company. When you meet someone from the positions mentioned below, you should be aware that these people are normally a part of the strategic decision making process of the company:
- Chairman (Managing Director) – 主席兼董事总监
- CEO (Chief Executive Officer) – 首席执行官
- Personel Director – 人事总监
Unless you belong to the higher circle of your company, you will have a greater likelihood of meeting middle management staff:
- Marketing Director – 营销总监
- Sales Manager – 营销售总监
- Chief Accountant – 会计经理
- Research & Development Manager – 研发部经理
- Technical Director – 技术总监
- Human Resources Manager – 人力资源经理
- Production Director – 生产总监
Kai-Alexander Schlevogt - The Art of Chinese Management: Theory, Evidence and Applications Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA | 2002-06-15 | ISBN: 0195136446