If you’re a student looking part-time to pay rent and fund free-time pursuits then hospitality can wonderfully complement your studies.

In my experience, many cafes are owned by Chinese families and it helps to understand how this affects your role in their business.

Respect is Stipulated

I’ve heard numerous Aussie workmates in various workplaces say “Respect has to be earned”. They declare this during a dispute with an employer. Its an admirable value to assert but must be understood for being culturally contingent. When employed by a Chinese business owner, respect for them should be given in virtue of their ownership of the venue and demonstrating you accept this will be greatly appreciated. However….

Establish Your Boundaries

Keeping the above point in mind, explicitly stating what you will and will not do effectively generates respect for your boundaries. Rather than offend an employer, it tends to build a healthier relationship with them  in the long term. For example, if you’re front of house staff and your employer asks you to perform personal tasks for them such as cooking their dinner or massaging their feet when they get tired, its okay to say no. Respect.

Don’t Tease the Cat with the Swinging Arm

If you can avoid it, try not to belittle your employer’s culture. When a money cat with a swinging paw appears on the register, or a giant jade toad with a coin in its mouth starts guarding the cafe entrance, say it looks great, you wish you had one at home and move on.

Be Honest and Accountable

If you’re late or make a mistake, no matter what, just take responsibility. By demonstrating honesty and integrity you will become a valued and trusted employee and this will lead to more work in future.

Do it Their Way, Even if You Think its Wrong

Related to respect, doing things the way a Chinese employer asks will go a long way towards a forming positive relationship with them. In truth, there aren’t particular ways of performing tasks that are “correct”, anyway. Digging in to defend your method only leads to problems. Its their business and how things are done can only strengthen or hurt the business, not your life.

Validate Your Employer’s Way of Thinking

If there’s conflict and fireworks start exploding over an event at work, one strategy to douse the fire is to suck it up and say you’re sorry. Take responsibility, express understanding of their way of thinking and things will blow over swiftly. Fight the good fight, give no ground and try to seize the day= get fired.

Know What Motivates Them

Getting along with others is often a matter of knowing what they want and understanding how they think of themselves. People don’t like hearing things about themselves that threaten their sense of self. Look for indications of what motivates your boss and include this  information in how you communicate with them. If someone is motivated by money, when suggesting a change, demonstrate how it will generate increased income for their business.

Don’t be caught standing still

Identify a long list of tasks you can perform at work and continually work on achieving them. Employers in general don’t want to see workers standing still and Chinese business owners are no exception. If you’re always doing something you will appear to know your job and be seen as hardworking- this is good.

These are eight lessons learned from experience at different venues with different kinds of employers and using them to stay on your boss’s good side will mean less problems at work affecting more important things in your life, such as study.

Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight


  1. Mervyn

    01/11/2012 at 10:37 am

    I read this article with interest and a timely stumble upon Asian employees attitudes when working for a western-owned company!

    Jiafei Jina*, Patricia Fosha & Chih-Chieh Chen. (2011) “When East meets West: interaction effects of organisational ownership structure, gender and (un)met expectations on workers’ attitudes in China” – Taylor and Francis online.

  2. Thomas Mort

    03/11/2012 at 3:53 pm

    Looks interesting Merv, I’ll check it out- certainly relevant reading to the times- cheers!

  3. Tom

    04/11/2012 at 3:17 am

    Just read it Merv- accepting that how business is done benefits from understanding significant differences between male and female perceptions presents a challenge to deeply embedded attitudes that won’t shift easily mate. I think the point the study makes about how expectations affect perception is an important philosophical one too: is there really an objective set of features of the world that an organisation could feasibly act on? The significance of employee expectations on their perceptions make it seem unattainable.

    Fascinating study, thanks for sharing mate!

  4. Emily

    04/11/2012 at 3:26 pm

    It’s so glad to read this article which talk about the culture difference between Chinese and Australian in hospitality business field. If there are more awareness of multicultural, people from different culture backgrand would understand each other more from other’s perspective.

  5. Thomas Mort

    04/11/2012 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks Emily! I hope people working in hospitality (or those hoping to) can use these ideas to develop more positive relationships with their employers. As you said, empathy for people with different cultural backgrounds is definitely an advantage in many domains.

  6. Fred Trinh

    27/04/2013 at 6:15 pm

    Hey this post is really interesting! In terms of part-time work, I think these principles work for all bosses, not particularly Chinese. I’ve worked with Mexican, Chinese, Malay, Turkish, Persian, Italian, Armenian & Aussie and I figured two thing: your boss is always right and they pay for you to work to every second!

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