“CHINESE SAY ‘NO’ WITH INACTION, RATHER THAN WORDS,” says Sai Yan, in her ClarkMorgan Insights video. She’s Chinese, and so I have no doubt she’s an expert on the topic. I also wholeheartedly agree, thanks to 12 years of managing in China. And it was Yan’s comments that encouraged me to make an executive decision regarding a potential partnership.
Eleven e-mails, three phone calls, and two SMS messages later, I still had no confirmation. Other’s were waiting for an answer, or at the very least, a polite “thank you very much, but not this time.” Neither were forthcoming. Instead, e-mails went without reply, SMS messages were ignored and on the few times a phone connection was made the response was, “let me get back to you tomorrow.” She never did.
And so, with Yan’s words ringing in my ears, I decided enough was enough. I made one last call, hoping that the woman in question would answer, to which she did. It wasn’t pretty.
I ignored the pleasantries, and cut to the chase. Why was there no response? Why was she disrespectful to me and others with her inaction? And was she aware that her inaction was damaging the reputation of her company, an international brand?
Her response was even more shocking than the cause for the phone call.
“I’ve been on holidays.”
“I don’t have authority to make decisions.”
Both classic avoidance tactics.
Knowing that not even the French had three months of holidays, and that her job title was preceded with the word ‘Managing’, I knew both excuses were ploys. I also confirmed that I’d been served a very cold shoulder from another manager in China who was afraid to say ‘no’. But rather than fight it, to request to be moved up the chain, I decided that enough was enough and not a minute more of time would be wasted. Not a win-win result that I write about in my book, but I’m well aware that you have to pick your fights. Such is challenge of doing business in China. When harmony is prized more than innovation, and where toeing the line is indoctrinated at an early age, understanding the tactic of simply staying put is vital to achieving long term goals.