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Getting self-Promotion in China

Mr. Schmidt is an employee from Europe who has been living in China for two years now and has been doing quite well. Mr. Schmidt is working for one of the country’s oldest and most traditional consumer product manufacturers in China. He has been successful in meeting his performance goals, has mastered the local language and he now believes he has qualified for a promotion.

However, Mr. Schmidt is uncomfortable tooting his own horn despite the fact that he knows he needs to do it as if he wouldn´t, nobody would do it for him.

Unfortunately, Mr. Schmidt had to leave the firm as after meeting with his boss to argue out his case. He explained how for the last two years, he had managed to meet his performance goals and how he had not only been a team player but also a good overall contributor. Even after explaining how much he had enjoyed his work in the company and how much he would be excited to take the challenge of the product manager, he ended up being frustrated. The conversation with his boss ended up on a positive note and he had high expectations on how the conversation ended. He waited for weeks and then months at least to hear from his boss but he was completely dismayed when he had nothing.

What exactly went wrong for Mr. Schmidt who seemed to act quite well? He was confidant, clear and straight forward about his goals and interests, and still he was polite and respectful to his boss. He did the right thing if he was in Europe, however, self-promotion works differently in China and because Michael did not know on the key cultural differences, he was set to fail.

Most people fail to understand that even though overt, self-promotion is universal in itself. The most important thing is to understand how it is done on a local level according to the value and norms of the local culture. For example in China unlike in Europe, the preferred style of communication is indirect. Being a straight shooter and getting to the point in Europe is culturally valued just like Michael directly communicated his message saying how he had exceeded his performance goals and how excited he would be to take the product manager position. This kind of courage and initiative is greatly admired. On the other hand, in China it would be seen as too direct having to put his boss in uncomfortable position of denying such an overt request. It would feel like an inappropriate demand from a lower-level employee. Michael’s action would be termed as immodest as Chinese cannot extol their virtues to a boss in such a manner.

The advice below will help you to self-promote and advance your career and at the same time, be modest, deferential and indirect.

Tip 1: Practice Patience

The best way to promote one-self is to simply do good work; this is according to the Chinese business culture. China’s underlying idea is that employees who do good work will ultimately be recognized as results speak for themselves.

Tip 2: Network Development

In China, one of the greatest and effective ways to promote oneself and advance in your corporate setting career is to have someone promote you in the social network or Guanxi. It is very important to work towards developing strong contacts with influential people as they can always advocate for you behind the scenes. By doing this, you can benefit from self-promotion in a direct and immodest manner without having to suffer the cost of doing so.

Tip 3: Change your communication style

One can learn to self-promote in both an indirect style and more discreet manner instead of asking your boss for a meeting. Instead of asking for a promotion, you can learn on how to become a modest and differential employee as this will enhance your reputation and put you in line for a positive feedback. You may feel, inauthentic at first because of the new behaviors unlike Europeans who school throughout their lives on the importance of assertiveness and self-promotion. People can however learn to switch from their cultural behavior and the results can be effective.

Tip 4: Get the best fit

If the above tips fail, you have another option to change company as most companies in China together with their leaders, have a more Western Orientation. With the experience of either working or living in the west you are a good fit for them. This happens to be true for the private companies which have been founded by the younger generation of Chinese profession.

Despite the foreign culture that you will find yourself in, it is crucial to go local. You can find out how self-promotion is done and adjust your behavior to the local culture. This will enhance your ability to move across the global economy and increase your chances of creating a positive impression in any given culture setting.