Examining Chinese managers' work-related values and attitudes

Jessica Li, Jean Madsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine Chinese managers' perceptions of work ethic (work-related values and attitudes) and to provide insights on how managers interact with their workers. Design/methodology/approach: This is a qualitative study using a series of in-depth interviews to draw state-owned enterprises (SOE) managers' perceptions of work ethic. The inquiry process led to a single-case level of analysis where data are aggregated to incorporate a thematic approach. Underlining theoretical frameworks that guide the study are a combination of Western and Eastern work ethic frameworks and cross-culture management understanding of the concept of guanxi. Findings: Five themes that emerged from data analysis became the five dimensions of Chinese managers' work ethic profile. In addition, the study revealed four overarching themes that influence managerial behavior in Chinese SOEs: the absolute power of the boss; work is the center of life; social network ties to the workplace; and place hope in the hands of the boss. Research limitations/implications: The paper provides comprehensive understanding of the Chinese management work ethic profile. Future studies should expand to include managers from different generations and industry sectors. Practical implications: The paper highlighted the importance of matching cultural values with management practices. It identified differences between the west and east of their work-related values and attitudes, which have practical implications for developing effective management strategies and practices when working with Chinese SOEs. Originality/value: The paper provides an indigenous description of Chinese managers' work ethic profile and provides suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-76
Number of pages20
JournalChinese Management Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 18 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • China
  • Managers
  • Work ethic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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