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Variation in career and workplace attitudes by generation, gender, and culture differences in career perceptions in the United States and China

Xiang Yi (Department of Management and Marketing, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama, USA)
Barbara Ribbens (Department of Management and Quantitative Methods, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)
Linna Fu (School of Business, Central South University, Changsha, China)
Weibo Cheng (School of Business, Central South University, Changsha, China)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to compare and understand how age, gender and culture affect individual career and work-related attitudes in Chinese and American samples.


Online and printed questionnaires were administered to employees and managers in China, whereas in the USA, faculty, staff and students at a Midwestern university responded to an online survey. Snowball sampling technique was used to collect data. Independent sample t-tests were conducted to test the hypothesis.


The study showed different work values and attitudes in the workplace between Chinese and the US samples, and indicated the specifics influences that national culture has on them. Culture affects generational changes; generational differences in the US sample are bigger than in Chinese sample; work values differ across generations and cultures; traditional gender role differences persist more strongly across generations in Chinese sample than in the US sample.

Research limitations/implications

Generalizability issues; cross-sectional data.

Practical implications

US-based multi-national corporations need to understand these differences and better manage their diverse employees operating in China.


This study compared generation, culture and gender differences simultaneously; parallel groups at similar life stages were used by basing the boundaries of each generation on the distinct cultural events of each nation. This approach is more consistent with generation definitions than by using influential specific events of each country, respectively. Useful to managers, it will provide guidance for understanding work values and attitudes across gender and generations in the USA and China. Most benefit will occur for US based multinational companies that have Chinese operations, and manage employees with cultural, gender and generational differences.



This study was a collaborative project with the Collaborative Innovation Center of Resource-conserving and Environment-friendly Society and Ecological Civilization; and is partly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71221061,71210003,71272067).


Yi, X., Ribbens, B., Fu, L. and Cheng, W. (2015), "Variation in career and workplace attitudes by generation, gender, and culture differences in career perceptions in the United States and China", Employee Relations, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 66-82.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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