Chinese Employees’ Attitudes Towards Working in a Chinese-German Joint-Venture Company

Yveatte Rothermel, School for International Training


I began my practicum with OSRAM Foshan Lighting Co. Ltd (OSRAM FSL) in July 1996. My position was in the Personnel Department as an assistant to the Personnel Manager. One of the goals at this time was to build up the Personnel Department including a salary system, personnel policies, benefits system, etc. by integrating Chinese and German models. I also worked closely with the General Manager on special projects and on expatriate matters.

My personal interests mainly lie in the area of selection, preparation, support and reintegration of employees sent abroad to work. During my initial interview with OSRAM GmbH at the company’s headquarters in Munich I was told that little was being done in this area. I decided that once I arrived in China and started to work I would observe what kind of an impact this had on both the German and the Chinese employees.

During my initial observations, I noticed that there were many communication problems between the Chinese and the German employees. I heard many complaints and examples regarding these problems from both my German and Chinese colleagues. Many Chinese colleagues told me that the Germans just do not understand their culture and were not willing to see things from their point of view. The Germans said that the Chinese just can not think logically and the culturally inept say that they were just stupid. I believe that communication problems were only partially due to cultural differences. Most Chinese and Germans communicate with each other in English, a language neither group speaks fluently, which, I believe, adds to communication problems. I witnessed many conversations between Chinese and German colleagues where it is obvious that the lack of good English language skills on either one or both sides was the first problem. Through this research, I hoped to gain a better understanding of the Chinese employees’ views regarding communication and what problems they see regarding communication with German colleagues.

My paper actually explores two questions, one as I have previously mentioned is communication between Chinese and German employees and the other is why the Chinese employees chose to work in a joint-venture company. I chose to explore this question because I realized during my conversations with Chinese colleagues that there were significant differences between working in a joint-venture company and a state-owned enterprise in China. This is, of course, obvious, but the reasons they gave me were quite interesting. My colleagues stated that they were interested in working in a joint-venture company not only because of better monetary compensation, but due to the challenges, the chances for personal and professional growth, and the opportunity to use their foreign language skills.

It might seem that these questions are radically different and each deserve their own paper, but I believe that both of these issues have a great impact on the reasons why a Chinese person chooses to work in a joint-venture company. The work of all employees is impacted by their relationships with the Germans sent here to build up this company. This relationship also impacts the success of individual employees and the company as whole in China and further in Germany.