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Images of the virtuous employee in China's transitional economy
Asia Pacific Journal of Management
  • Robin Stanley SNELL, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • Choo Sin TSENG, City University of Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
  • China,
  • Ethics,
  • Morality,
  • Propaganda,
  • Tradition

We examine contemporary images of employee virtue and managers' perceptions of actual employee conduct in Wuhan, Beijing and Xi'an, drawing on document analysis and structured interviews with 112 respondents in ten case study companies. The image promulgation strategies of the one joint venture enterprise and the two private enterprises in our sample entailed active avowal of tradition linked employee virtue, drawing on a mixture of Communist and Confucian moral imagery. In contrast, most of the seven state-owned or predominantly state invested enterprises had abandoned or marginalized traditional Communist imagery, none promoted Confucian imagery, and two emphasized alternative images of one-sided servility toward the customer. We infer, from managers' accounts, that the abandonment of tradition linked images by the state-owned sector was a tacit acknowledgment of prior covenant violation, and that outside the state-owned sector, tradition linked moral propaganda contributed to moral atmosphere only when part of a consistent high-commitment HRM strategy. In drawing out implications for theory and further research, we note the different socio-political contexts of organizations in China and the West, discuss the relationship between bonds or covenants and psychological contracts, and compare tradition linked employee virtues with dimensions of organizational citizenship.

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Copyright © 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Citation Information
Snell, R. S., & Tseng, C. S. (2003). Images of the virtuous employee in China's transitional economy. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 20(3), 307-331. doi: 10.1023/A:1024045415888