I saw an interesting article from Imagethief (who blogs about public relations in China. This post, “Monday PR blog: Vicious foreign bosses and the perils of e-mail”, highlights the need for cultural sensitivity (or perhaps just politeness) in the workplace. It also shows how a (foreign) company can suddenly suffer from a local backlash if it is seen as arrogant or exploitative.
The story revolves around an angry email, sent by a (Singaporean) boss to his secretary (and several colleagues). The email ended up in general circulation, in news groups, and…in blogs. Imagethief notes:
- “As a flack I found this situation interesting because it pulls three different risks for companies operating here into a nifty little vortex of PR disaster. Those three risks are:
• E-mail communication
• Cross-cultural problems
• The ease and speed with which righteous Chinese outrage can be turned upon foreign people or entities”
He goes on to note that:
- “we foreigners need to be wary of handing the more inflammable elements of Chinese society hammers with which to beat us. The odd angry youth railing about foreigners is probably inevitable, but in a competitive situation where you are selling to Chinese customers and trying to attract talented Chinese employees, appearing arrogant toward either your customers or your employees can put a deep crater into your brand.”
The manager who sent the email (and was “retired”), should have kept up with his reading, and taken a look at “One Billion Customers“, written by another PR man, James McGregor. Among the many worthy suggestions he makes is the following:
- “Stress respect and equality with your Chinese partners and employees. Insults and slights are never forgotten, and retribution is a certainty”.
All good advice, especially given the recent talk of “malicious” foreign investors, which I posted about here (“Malicious Foreign Investors” Could Use Some PR…and a Beer).
Read the full Imagethief article here.