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Cultural values, workplace behavior and productivity in China: A conceptual framework for practising managers

Philip C. Wright (Business Administration Department, North Point, Hong Kong)
Mike Berrell (Higher College of Technology, Academic Services, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Marianne Gloet (School of Management, RMIT Business, Melbourne, Australia)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of the Chinese cultural architecture on motivating workplace behaviour for enhanced productivity in Chinese workplaces.


The paper describes the Chinese cultural architecture and presents a cursory review of the substantive literature in this field. Based on this review, a conceptual framework for managing within Chinese organizations is presented, based on the first‐hand experience in the field as well as anecdotal evidence provided by practitioners in international management.


In the light of research, which suggests that the realities about motivation in the context of Chinese workplaces are more complicated than originally thought, this paper moves away from viewing Chinese workplace behaviour from a purely systems‐based perspective. Although ideas about collectivism and individualism certainly explain important aspects of workplace behaviour, an orientation to practicality and the emotive side of life in Chinese workplaces also affects behaviour in quite subtle ways.

Research limitations/implications

While the development of a conceptual framework for practicing managers provides a guide to managing in China, work that is more empirical is necessary to test the resilience of the framework.

Practical implications

The paper offers practical steps to improve the performance and productivity of both managers and employees in Chinese organizations.


The framework presented utilizes the conventional collectivism/individualism dichotomy with notions of practicality and emotion in Chinese workplaces. This is one potential step forward to the development of a more motivating management style in China.



Wright, P.C., Berrell, M. and Gloet, M. (2008), "Cultural values, workplace behavior and productivity in China: A conceptual framework for practising managers", Management Decision, Vol. 46 No. 5, pp. 797-812.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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