To read this content please select one of the options below:

Let the “other” speak for itself: Understanding Chinese employees from their own perspectives

Lenis Lai‐Wan Cheung (The Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




China is a fast‐growing economy, and many multinational companies (MNCs) have found their ways to infiltrate that market. The competition among the MNCs has generated human resource management (HRM) problems. When formulating approaches in dealing with these problems, the expatriate management of the MNCs often “speak for” their local employees, as if the latter has no voice of its own. It is suspected that MNCs know partly what their local employees value. With such limited understanding, the former may be ineffective in managing their local staff. The purpose of this paper is to report a study that explores the HRM problems from local employees' perspectives. To understand Chinese employees, the conceptual lens, stemmed from Chinese philosophical traditions instead of that derived from western experience, is used.


Data were collected through semi‐structured interviews with Chinese employees working in MNCs.


The findings suggest that “asymmetrical understanding” exists between expatriate managers and their Chinese employees, and that the former may know much less about the latter than it is normally assumed.

Research limitations/implications

The findings, illustrated through interviews, have shed light on how MNCs could manage their Chinese employees, and how a meaningful dialogue could take place: understanding the other (Chinese employees) on their own intellectual ground to overcome “asymmetrical understanding”.


By allowing the voice of the other to come forth rather than to keep it in the background as, at best, a whisper, the study helps create a platform for a meaningful cross‐cultural dialogue between voices from the west and the other.



Lai‐Wan Cheung, L. (2008), "Let the “other” speak for itself: Understanding Chinese employees from their own perspectives", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 4 No. 2/3, pp. 277-306.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles