How to be Friends with Your Chinese Boss
The day that my boss asked if me if I thought he was too old to have an affair on his wife was the day that I realized that I should probably ‘tone down’ my friendship with him. It is not that I did not enjoy talking to him about topics unrelated to work. It was just that he was 30 years older than me and I was not really interested in talking with him about his personal life. Besides, I liked his wife and I did not want to be involved somehow in causing problems for them. On the other hand, I was happy that he thought of me as more than an employee. It signified that he not only saw me as a good employee but he also considered me to be his friend. If he could speak frankly with me about certain issues, I knew that I could reciprocate that frankness if I needed to ask a favor.
The best way to be friends with your boss is by showing him or her respect. Respect is the foundation of any good relationsip. Respecting your boss means coming to class on time, being truthful, and showing interest in the school. Respect does not dictate that you have to be on call 24/7 or perform services that are well out of the scope of your contract. But if you demonstrate to your boss that you recognize is position, there is a much better chance that he or she will appreciate you more and listen to your needs.
Another way to become ‘fast friends’ with your boss is to ‘kiss up’ a little now and then. This concept is especially important when you are with your boss at a business dinner. Making a simple toast to your boss and his friends will impress everyone and result in your boss ‘gaining face.’ Using a few common Mandarin phrases will also have a similar effect. As I mentioned before, showing interest and praising your school in the presence of your boss and his colleagues goes a long way towards establishing your friendship.
Last of all, do not engage in talking badly about your boss ‘behind his or her back.’ You may think that complaining about your boss is a good way to ‘bond’ with your workmates but you would be surprised how fast and frequently these types of conversations reach the ears of the school administration. If you have an issue, it is much better to talk with your boss directly. He or she will appreciate hearing from you personally and the end result will more than likely be better.
Every experience in China is different. I have worked with excellent bosses as well as bosses who never even learned my first name. Some teachers in China never actually meat the ‘real’ boss. But no matter who is in charge of your employment in China, it is important to take the relationship seriously and remember that such a friendship could be to your advantage someday in the future.