The business negotiation styles, practices and behaviour of Chinese employees working in Western multinational companies within China
This study represents a quantitative research project aimed at investigating the business negotiation styles, practices, and behaviour of Chinese employees working in Western Multinational Companies (MNCs) within China (the target Chinese employees). This research investigated whether these employees' business negotiation styles differ from that of employees of Chinese-owned companies (traditional Chinese negotiators), as has been reported in the literature. This study employed an original questionnaire used in a field survey to collect data from 160 Chinese employees working in a single department of a Western MNC in China.
Results of this study show there are six areas in which the target Chinese employees differ from traditional Chinese negotiators, usually involving the use of a more westernised style. These areas include; the influence of guanxi, use of negotiation tactics, Chinese business etiquette (such as banquets and gifts), the importance of relative status (age, company rank), contract rules, and attitude towards time spent in negotiation. However, the target Chinese employees still adopt some similar negotiation approaches to traditional Chinese negotiators. Specifically, they still see guanxi as important in negotiation, value face, communicate indirectly, and focus on the people participating in the negotiation. Thus, employees of the Western MNC retain the wish to know their negotiation counterpart well, whilst still emphasizing the forging of a long-term business relationship in negotiation.
This research also shows that both Chinese and Western values and beliefs co-exist among the target Chinese employees. Although these employees adopted more westernised negotiation styles, practices, and behaviour, and Westerners might find it easier to deal with them in negotiation, these employees’ attitudes toward negotiation still differ from those of Western negotiators. Moreover, this research finds the target Chinese employees ranked the negotiation goal of building a long-term business relationship as the most important element in negotiation. The importance of guanxi had similar rankings for both the target Chinese employees and traditional Chinese negotiators indicating that, although guanxi is still important, it is no longer the crucial element in negotiation to either group.
In addition, this study does not find any significant correlation between the participants' term of service, age, overseas experience or gender, and their overall negotiation styles, practices, and behaviour. It finds that participants who had overseas experience have less interest in knowing their counterpart at the beginning of a negotiation as compared to participants who have had no overseas experience. Male participants see guanxi as more important in negotiation than female participants do.
Overall, this study will enhance our understanding of the effects of working for Western MNCs on the negotiation styles, and practices of white-collar employees in China. Practical implications and recommendations are also provided for Western business managers and negotiators, based on the findings of this research.