Friday, February 10, 2012

Another phantom job

A few weeks ago I was given an introduction to a promising-seeming job prospect by a British businessman I know here. A Chinese contact of his was apparently setting up some kind of business course, and needed experienced lecturers.

So... I tried to call her on the number I'd been given, two or three times, and she didn't answer. And she didn't call me back. 

I sent her a text message, explaining who I was, and asking her to phone or e-mail me about the lectures. She didn't.

Eventually, after nearly a week, I managed to get hold of her on the phone. And all she said by way of apology was that she'd been "too busy" to respond to my messages. (Yeah, right: you haven't had even 30 seconds free - which is all it would take to send a text message acknowledgement - for the whole of the last week? Bullshit!)

But we're talking now - what can she tell me about the course? NOTHING. Oh dear.

But she suggests we have a meeting about it!! Look, lady, there is absolutely NO POINT in us having a meeting if I'm not adequately proficient in the topics you want to cover, or I'm not going to be free at the relevant times, or the money you're paying isn't enough. Can you just fill me in on these BASICS over the phone, or by e-mail? (Maybe this is why she has so little 'free time' - because she spends too much time having pointless meetings.)

She agrees to send me an e-mail.  But she doesn't.

I e-mail her. I send her a couple of text message reminders. I ask the guy who introduced us to give her a prod for me. NO RESPONSE.

This is depressingly TYPICAL in China. People here are absolutely hopeless at keeping in touch, keeping you informed, observing basic business courtesies. It riles me no end (particularly this last month, when I've had two of these vexing non-communications running concurrently!).

I surmise that this woman had just volunteered herself as a go-between for a friend (or a friend-of-a-friend, or a friend-of-a-... of-a-... of-a-...) who had some involvement in trying to mount this course, and didn't actually know anything about it... and decided it wasn't worth her while to try to help out after all. Or maybe the course was cancelled, the idea dropped as unfeasible - and they didn't want to tell anyone because of the dreaded 'loss of face'.

But, you see, the problem with this failure to communicate is that it is so unprofessional and RUDE that it creates a terrible impression of you, your company or business, and, indeed, your entire country and its people. And it scuppers any chance of you ever doing business with - or receiving a favour, a recommendation, a business introduction from - the person you've offended (or any of his friends or colleagues, or anyone who reads his blog) ever again.

The Chinese really need to start assessing the 'face' culture in purely commercial terms, and realise how much money it's costing them.

1 comment:

John said...

The irony is of course that they've never had it so good. I think when dealing with overseas business they eventually get the message, which must really hurt for them, but this whole thing must certainly be preventing China's full potential- a scary thought for a laowai if ever there was one.
Historically it was a problem too and not only for them either. I didn't know this but a TV documentary told me how the first explorers to Japan forced trade at gunpoint as well. Imperialism, for want of a better word, is another irony then.