A fellow Western GM who was new as GM in China told me, “Jim, they tell me calmly and clearly Yes and mean No and tell me No and mean Yes?!”
Ah, yes, any of us who have been here several months has faced this scenario.
We may at times throw our hands up in the air.
First, we need to realize that this does happen. Chinese people can answer very correctly while not meaning it all. Their parents and overall culture trained them to do this from early childhood. Gradually, there are more people who have moved, but you should consider two important ways to avoid getting hurt in this long term problem.
Yes and No in China Should Have Their Own Meaning
1. Have you found a way to ensure that the people you are hiring and the people you are signing contracts with know how to say Yes or No even when it is hard? You need to.
2. When the situation is a little uncomfortable and you clearly want a YES. Beware, they know they should say yes and often will give you one and feel they have done their duty. However, the wrong hires may not have any thought to implement along lines they have seemingly agreed to.
People exist whose yes means yes, so we have hope to have a less politically correct culture. How do you find these people? Sometimes, you can get lucky. Do you want to leave your business development to luck? I have been successful in China as avoided those people and then found ways in recruting to keep them out. Let the other guys propose them.
Yes, I like to put the guys to work who are strong enough to say what they mean. They cut out the crap and get things done. They, further, connect with workers along the way. Of course, you must also avoid the conniving guys who say yes and mean no, and they are even more important to keep out. See our Executive Recruitment in China.