Setting off fireworks to celebrate renewal and ward off evil spirits is a traditional part of the celebration that marks
What will the New Year bring for Chinese?
- Avoid saying “Happy New Year” in Cantonese which comes out as Sen Nin Fai Lok. This last character, Lok, unfortunately sounds the same as the character meaning “decrease” or “drop” so it’s taboo to a lot of Chinese minds. A Malaysian or Hong Kong Chinese will not be happy when you wish him/her a quick descent in the coming year.
These days, managing successful partnerships with Chinese companies requires continued engagement, pragmatism and focus. Differences in culture, experience, and management practices mean that each side needs to pay systematic and explicit attention to clarity of communication and trust-building between the partners. Many partnerships have foundered and others will certainly do so in the future—be it from conflicting objectives, lack of mutual understanding, sheer cultural distance, or lack of effective follow-through on change management.
If you are a global team leader, show sensitivity towards your Chinese colleagues when organizing phone conferences or international meetings at Headquarters and make efforts not to schedule them during important holidays like Chinese New Year.
A case in point: a well-established global company with significant presence in the Chinese market, decided to hold one of their global meetings at a time coinciding with the Chinese New Year celebrations. Apparently they had checked with their Chinese colleagues who numbered about 10 in all whilst the rest of the global managers numbered about 30. The Chinese had not raised any public objections about the date to HQ but it was learned in private that not all participants were happy about having to travel to
There are numerous incidents where team members located in Asian countries routinely attend phone conferences late into their evenings. Why? Because their colleagues in headquarters are located more than 10 hours behind. Wanting to maintain politeness and harmony means that they will almost always acquiese to the inconvenient scheduling. At the same time, they are most likely to accompany that willingness with an exasperated shake of the head and ‘but-I-can’t-really-believe-they’re-actually-asking-me-to-do-this’ type of disbelief.
What to do different
If China is indeed one of the critical parts of your organization, isn’t it about time you do something about Chinese New Year as the Chinese have done for you on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or Halloween? Extrapolate the same spirit to your day-to-day interaction with your Chinese counterparts.
Respect differences and cultivate knowledge of your teammates’ cultures
Whilst different cultures vary in how they show respect, following some general rules for leading and managing cross-cultural teams should help you to score points and lead to positive results: