Chinese and Americans’ Work Culture Variations


Employment has been happening since the beginning of the civilization of societies across different cultures. However, some previous studies show that work values are significant across cultures in different aspects. In accordance with Kirkman and Shapiro (2005), job principles are important for a couple of explanations. To start with, these principles are a superb assessment of culture for they are formed more through sociological as well as cultural aspects than personal psychological variations (Kirkman, Shapiro, 2005). Secondly, the job principles of a company’s workers will have an impact on that company in many approaches from decision making through its potential to change to contact between management and employees, and motivation of workers. Individuals from different cultures can have disparate work attitude and relationships with their supervisor.

In this study, the difference in work attitude and people’s relationships with their supervisors across two different cultural groups will be explored. Two cultural groups are under scrutiny here, viz. the Chinese and the Americans, with possible reasons or factors behind this phenomenon. Research conducted by Matic (2008) has found out that work values are disparate across different cultures and thus one can easily infer that those work values will differently affect the work attitudes of an individual and their relationship with supervisors. In a bid o study this difference, this paper runs the research between two groups that have bigger cultural difference and variance. In this research, the Chinese and the Americans are believed to be different enough in value and culture to help one to derive interesting results.


Cultures can be defined as individualist and collectivist. In this study, individualists are associated with the American participants and collectivists are related to Chinese participants. As we know, collectivists will care more about the whole group while the individualists may focus more on the individual him/herself. Therefore, it is expected that Chinese participants work more diligently compared to the American participants. It is a reasonable hypothesis because whenever there is beneficial conflict between the company and individual, collectivist will be more likely to care for the whole group (in this case, the company or the organization they work in) more than her/himself. The simplest example is that if some work may be done by a certain deadline to bring the company more benefit and this work can also be delayed to the next deadline, but it will not bring benefit any more, the Chinese participants are more likely to work overtime and try to finish some task before the very first deadline. Additionally, there should be more cooperation in Chinese participants due to the effect of collectivism (Cheng et al., 2012). In addition to the individualism-collectivism theory, there are actually more theory behind it, for example, the self-theory and the value system.

Based on the study, Asians tends to view self as a smaller component comparing to the Americans. Besides that, due to the difference in the value system, the American participants tend to have an equal relationship with their supervisor while Chinese participants expect their supervisor to have more power than them and they should respect their supervisors more than they should respect their peer workers should. Just like the picture shown below (the blue refers to the Americans while red refers to Asians). As a result, the Chinese participants are expected to be more diligent, listen to their supervisors and try to finish everything on time even working overtime. In addition, Asian participants are more likely to have a hierarchical relationship with their supervisors while the American participants tend to have more friendly and equal relationship with supervisors (Wageman, Gardner, & Mortensen, 2012). The picture below should show the difference (picture with blue background refers to the American participants while the one with red background refers to the Chinese participants).

The picture below should show the difference

The picture below should show the difference



All the participants in this research are workers with an age from 23 to 30 years old. The American participants for this experiment will be Microsoft employees from Silicon Valley. More specifically, software engineers will be targeted. To make it consistent, the Chinese participants for this experiment will be the software engineers from Microsoft in Beijing. They both are software engineers in the same company but just different locations. So it is expected that they have similar non-cultural background, such as intelligence, age and educational background. To isolate more independent variable, equal amount of male and female were picked. Overall, around 200 software engineers will be tested in each culture group. And amid each culture group, there should be an equal amount of female and male. In other words, there will be around 50 male and 50 female participants again from Microsoft in Silicon Valley, and the same case for Microsoft in Beijing. For participants in each location, they must be born and raised in that area or location.

Apparatus and Materials

Based on the initial design, participants will be tested with a questionnaire that contains 9 multiple choice and 1 answer questions. The majority of the questions are prompting the participants to question how their reaction will be in a certain scenario stated in the question, or to what extent they agree what the question stated. There will be 5 choices for each question: either the 5 different possible actions or 5 different degree of agreement 1. Strongly agree; 2. Agree; 3. Neutral; 4. Disagree; 5. Strongly disagree. Those questions are a good reflection of employee’s work attitude coupled with how they view their relationship with their supervisor. There is also an optional part for every participants and it is about how participants’ subordinate view participants as a supervisor and how their relationship is, which is also important for there are many hierarchies in a company and this optional part will make the questionnaire applicable to everyone. Some of the questions are given as follows:

Employees function best together to solve problems and get the job done

  1. Strongly agree;
  2. Agree;
  3. Neutral;
  4. Disagree;
  5. Strongly disagree

If one late afternoon your supervisor suddenly tells you, “Hey, it is quite important, can you finish it by tomorrow morning? This will benefit our company/department. But it won’t hurt if you don’t finish it by tomorrow”. And you found that it takes 10+ hours to finish. What will be your response?

  1. Say, “yes, sir”. And start right away and don’t sleep and finish it by tomorrow morning.
  2. Say, “Seriously? I need a break”, but you still complete it by the following morning.
  3. Say, “Seriously? You got to be joking. Any other candidate? Alright, I will give it a try anyway”, and start right away and finish it by tomorrow morning
  4. Say, “No, I am tired. I won’t do it. It’s my private time after work”, and decline to finish it by tomorrow morning.


In this research, employees will take an online survey by getting an email request by their department managers. The department managers in both locations will be contacted to help in this study. Participants just require 20 to 30 minutes and finish the survey online. Tools like suveymonkeys were used to collect the information and complete the statistics. It was specifically mentioned to participants in the survey that they must have been born and raised in the cultural atmosphere of corresponding cultural group. They will also be informed that it is an anonymous survey and their responses will be confidential. Finally, they will need to know the hypothesis but in a simple and clear manner. In this study, the independent variables are the work attitudes and the relationships between supervisors and subordinates, as mentioned in the introduction part. Dependent variables are culture background and value system. Control variables are age, gender and knowledge conditions.


With regard to conflict resolution, the response indicated that the Chinese have a considerably weaker inclination for competing when judged the Americans. In the American group, the respondents showed a higher inclination for compromising and evading as compared to the inclination for cooperation and teaming up expressed by the Chinese. In addition, the Americans expressed a higher inclination for compromising that the Chinese did for teaming up. A dissimilar pattern appeared from culture-conflict resolution inclination. Collectivists (the Chinese) bear a considerably weaker inclination for competing as compared to individualists or their other strategies. Additionally, the Chinese strictly follow the commands of their supervisor at the organization.

Individualists (the Americans) have a higher inclination for evading and compromising than they bear for accommodating. The Americans also have the same relationship with their supervisor as with the fellow workers and the supervisor rarely passes a word of command. Moreover, collectivists bear higher inclination for compromising, cooperation and obliging as compared to the obliging inclination for individualists. In addition, proof is mounting that the Chinese and the Americans vary in the kind of basis they express for social conduct. Particularly, while the Americans create dispositional inclinations in describing the conduct of an individual, the Chinese create more situational inclinations.


By establishing a prevailing classification pattern, it had been forecasted that the Chinese would incline towards collectivism while the Americans are inclined towards individualism. In this regard, the hypothesis was endorsed. Anchored in the affirmation that the Chinese treasure group accord and shun conflict to defend affiliations, it was as well forecasted that the Chinese had a higher inclination to evading as well as accommodating policies (Roe, Gockel, & Meyer, 2012). The forecasts of conflict resolution inclinations of the Chinese and the American as were anchored in collectivism and individualism policies correspondingly. The results of this research indicated that individualists-collectivists approaches had a great impact in the conflict resolution manner, free from cultural influence.

The results propose that while individual objectives act to exclude policies incompatible with those objectives, birthplace (either China or the US) offer the grounds for distinguishing amid otherwise identical policies. This affirmation is in line with the hypothesis and the findings. Individualists express restricted differentiation in their inclination for conflict settling policies. Nevertheless, the degree of differentiation is reasonably steady across the two categorizations, suggesting that when individuals concentrate on their objectives, social setting has restricted effectiveness in forming tactical inclinations. It could be concluded that for people that treasure group objectives, culture offers extra powerful normative knowledge concerning the suitability of specific conflict settling approaches.

Additionally, in the collectivism approach the supervisor exercises command over the employees while in the individualism approach the supervisor does not exercise as much command. Entirely, the finding illustrates that whereas individualist-collectivist approaches are capable of capturing a number of cultural variations on conflict settling approaches, culture applies a separate and distinctive impact on these inclinations. The challenges of internalization and the intricacy of cultural variations signify that global cooperation skills will be of rising consequence and significance for global administration and cross-cultural relations at large. More importantly, this study reveals that collectivists and individualists dimensions do not lead directly into nation-specific variations in conflict settlement (Feitosa et al., 2012). Lastly, it is necessary that future research take into account the way other cultural aspects and appropriate features influence conflict settlement approaches.


Employment has been taking place since the beginning of the development of society across different cultures. In this paper, individualists are related to the American participants and collectivists are linked to Chinese participants. Collectivists care more concerning a whole group while individualists focus more on the individuals themselves. The Chinese participants work more industriously compared to the American participants. The Chinese are more probable to work overtime and attempt to complete some task prior to the very first deadline. Moreover, there should be more teamwork in the Chinese participants attributable to the effect of collectivism. The Americans have a tendency of having an equal association with their supervisor while the Chinese participants expect their supervisor to have power over them and they should respect their supervisors more than they should respect their fellow employees.

Reference List

Cheng, Y., Chua, Y., Morris, W., & Lee, L. (2012). Finding the right mix: How the composition of self‐managing multicultural teams’ cultural value orientation influences performance over time. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(3), 389-411.

Feitosa, J., Grossman, R., Coultas, C., Salazar, R., & Salas, E. (2012). Integrating the fields of diversity and culture: A focus on social identity. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(3), 365-368.

Kirkman, L., & Shapiro, L. (2005). The impact of cultural value diversity on multicultural team performance. Advances in international management, 18, 33-67.

Matic, L. (2008). Cultural differences in employee work values and their implications for management. Management: Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, 13(2), 93-104.

Roe, A., Gockel, C., & Meyer, B. (2012). Time and change in teams: Where we are and where we are moving. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 21(5), 629-656.

Wageman, R., Gardner, H., & Mortensen, M. (2012). The changing ecology of teams: New directions for team’s research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(3), 301-315.