What motivates employees? A comparison of US and Chinese responses

Cynthia D Fisher, Xue Ya Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Differences in culture, history, economy, and political and management systems may lead to differences in employee job attribute preferences across countries. To the extent that this is true, managers and designers of motivation systems must understand the preferences of local employees. This study provides information on the job attribute preferences of Chinese employees at a major international hotel in Shanghai. Employee preference data were compared to published results from other nations. The pattern of preferences in China was unique compared to Russia, Taiwan and the United States. Chinese employees felt that good wages were most important, followed by good working conditions and personal loyalty from the boss and organization. Interesting work was relatively unimportant, especially to older employees, and 'being in on things' was not at all important. Supervisors at the hotel also provided information on the preferences which they believed characterized their subordinates. Unlike US managers who often badly misperceive the preferences of their US subordinates, Chinese supervisors accurately reported their subordinates' preferences. Expatriates in the hotel were much less accurate in ranking local subordinate preferences. Implications for motivating and managing Chinese employees are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-528
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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