Leadership partnership : Chinese and expatriate managers in multi-national construction companies in Hong Kong
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In the era of globalization, people from various cultures are being put together and interactions between them in the workplace are inevitable. The construction industry is no exception. How the management personnel respond to such development has been one of the most popular research areas in the construction management literature. Generally speaking, the literature states that project managers tend to adjust their style of management in a workplace in which he/she deals with subordinates from a variety of nations worldwide.For instance, western project managers, known for their conventional task-oriented management style, usually adopt a more people-oriented approach in a workplace that consists of subordinates from various other nations. Meanwhile, Chinese managers, known for their people-oriented style of management, lean towards the western style of task-orientation in managing construction projects in a multicultural working environment. Similar adjustments have also been discovered in other aspects of these project managers’ management, such as relationship cultures (i.e. communication & conflict resolutions, power relationship with subordinates, and power relationship with superiors and clients) as well.In light of such circumstances, this study aims 1) to investigate if intercultural adjustment takes place in Hong Kong’s multinational construction companies, and 2) to find out the relationships, from the perspectives of Hong Kong Chinese/Expatriate managers and of their subordinates between project managers’ leadership orientations (and relationship cultures) and project performance.The findings suggest that both local (Hong Kong) Chinese and expatriate project managers are experiencing a certain degree of intercultural adjustments. Interestingly, rather than the convergence of management style, which implies a unified set of practices which might be applicable to all project managers within an multicultural workplace, project managers adjust different aspects of their existing management practices. Meanwhile, some deep-rooted cultural values and beliefs are not easily altered, such as the notion of “face” among Chinese project managers and of individual freedom and equal relationship between superiors and subordinates among expatriate managers.The other conclusion reached in this study is that there are noticeable differences as to the relationship between leadership orientations (and relationship cultures) and assessments of project performance, not only among project managers themselves, but also between the perspectives of managers themselves and those of their subordinates. The disparities among the managers may lie in their varying degrees of intercultural adjustments (i.e. previous working/living experience abroad plus current working experience in the multinational workplace). Between project managers and subordinates, the difference is believed to be caused by 1) their respective positions in the project and hence the different perspectives incurred; 2) the subordinates’ innate judgment of project managers based upon their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which might not necessarily relate to the latter’s actual behaviours in leadership orientations and relationship cultures or 3) project managers’ perceptions of their own leadership orientations/relationship cultures styles reflecting normative judgment of what they ‘should’ reflect.
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