Karen Moore is the HR director of a multinational company, QuestSource. The company has an office in Shanghai, and her Chinese counterpart is Tsang Yao, a pleasant, even-mannered man. While initially, Moore is pleased with the hiring and performance reports from China—believing that Tsang is doing a good job—she is later infuriated to learn that most of the hired employees are Tsang’s relatives. She takes this matter to her supervisor and the chief operating officer of the company, Daniel Young, who admonishes her for showing a lack of awareness regarding Chinese work culture. This paper analyses Moore’s reaction to this situation by understanding her perspective and that of the company and forwards an opinion on the situation.
If one were to contemplate on the basic pillars of ethical work culture in western civilizations, the foremost answers would be integrity and ownership to one’s work place. However, the veracity and applicability of these ideologies are questionable as almost all western civilizations have capitalist economies, which means that the people in an organization and the organization are primarily interested in monetary benefits. This is a rational approach in any business. However, the fact that financial gains are linked to ethics, raises concerns if ethics can be—and has been in certain cases—compromised. In the era when western philosophy flourished and developed under Socrates and his fellow philosophers, the commercial matters within a nation were only considered by the artisans and traders. The administrators and educators of the nation were never concerned with money matters, as they was considered to be a hindrance to mind development and thus, unethical (Singer 1993). While the basic tenets of western philosophy are based on the work done by the philosophers of that era, the civilization today most certainly does not follow the same system. Unethical and unfair occurrences are hardly unusual in the business world, and one can conclude that this is due to the nuances of human character. For example, Steve Jobs would have never been dismissed from an ethical Apple Inc. in its lean times—an organization that he had helped created (Steven 1994). Thus, this paper abides by the opinion that in organizational decision-making, leaders should thoroughly consider the situation before instinctively reacting to it. Moreover, as globalization has now firmly established itself as a trend that affects the way people conduct business, this attitude becomes even more important. Leaders—like all people, or perhaps even more—have certain mindsets and opinions they firmly adhere to. In a globalized world, shedding a certain mindset and adapting a new one along side or by eliminating the old one becomes very important for sustaining leadership.
In this case, Moore was swayed by her western ideologies of work ethics. Western business ethics recommend the application of transformational leadership, where the leader displays a high degree of integrity (Barret 2011). Thus, she was naturally angered by the fact that Tsang hired several of his relatives as employees within the company. She failed to consider and reflect on the reason behind his actions. She did not question him about his actions either. Her blind belief in the notion that Tsang was guilty of nepotism held her from analysing the situation. Furthermore, studies on the differences in the approach of Chinese and western managers have shown that Chinese managers tend to display a high degree of idealism and relativism (Dolecheck and Dolecheck 1987) (Trompenaars 1997). A greater degree of relativism implies that Chinese managers tend to discard widely accepted rules of morality for circumstantial needs of the organization, and thus, their ethical approach to decision making reflects a relativist attitude. A tendency to display idealistic behaviour among managers suggests that they believe that attractive results can always obtained by taking the “correct” or “good” path in a situation (Cleary 1993) (Wangdao 1997). Such managers focus on the compassionate and philanthropic aspects of a situation for making decisions that have ethical concerns. This ideology is consistent with the teachings of eastern or Chinese philosophy, where Confucius advocates that all actions should ethically focused on elements such as benevolence and compassion (Cleary 1993) (Wangdao 1997). Therefore, Moore should have considered the following facts before approaching Young:
Are Tsang’s reports about the performance of the employees incorrect?
Was the Shanghai subsidiary incurring a financial loss or was the growth rate stagnant?
Although he was hiring his own relatives, was he confident about the hired personnel’s skills and abilities?
Was the fact that working in a place where most people already knew each other actually enriching the work environment and thus, encouraging performance?
However, her failure to consider the cultural differences between her own western ideologies and the Chinese ones affected her views and actions as a leader. Young, on the other hand, was aware of the Chinese system and work culture, and he correctly admonished her for reacting in ignorance to these facts.
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