The Motivations Behind Circle Members
Motive 1 – Favor Exchanges
When it comes to making personal achievements, Chinese always know that it is impossible for oneself to finish anything only by personal heroism. Accordingly, the more you want to succeed, the less you should act with heroism. Social relations that Chinese build up before starting favor exchanges are egocentric guanxi network. . To realize personal goals, Chinese will search the needed resources in their egocentric guanxi networks and, on the basis of the level of trust between each other, determine how many resources can be mobilized. Since such networks contain large amounts of resources, Chinese are fully aware that they need to rely on the power of a group of people to realize personal goals, and that sufficient resources are available for mobilization only if you keep building up relations. A person typically is in bad need of resources when he or she starts a business. In this period, Chinese will persevere quietly, work hard and do others favors so as to carry out favor exchanges and build up relations.
An important rule of conduct for Chinese is what Francis L. K. Hsu referred to as the ―situation determinism‖ thinking. With family ethics being the rule of conduct, Chinese always identify persons inside or outside their guanxi circles depending upon their relationships with the latter ones; and they treat the latter ones under different rules of conduct. Chinese always know who are inside or outside their guanxi circles, and are able to adapt them to the situation.
Chinese will also expand the applicability of the code of conduct for ―families‖ to their kin, clans, townsmen and even blood brothers and good friends. Accordingly, the guanxi circle of an individual is resizable, or elastic, depending upon the situation. The collectivism-oriented code of conduct for families applies to members of a guanxi circle, not to those outside it. In China, excellent professionals may work overtime and do many additional jobs without complaint so as to carry out long-term favor exchanges and, ultimately, join ―the guanxi circles.‖
For the part of Chinese, the primary reason for their willingness to work tends to be not wages/salaries or bonuses, but finding the desired guanxi circles. They are willing to do others favors as long as they feel that they have been accepted by the guanxi circle, that the guanxi circle, as a whole, is flourishing and promising, and that internal benefits are evenly shared. That's because they know that they ultimately will share more of the benefits as the guanxi circle develops. This is how they develop a sense of belonging to a small circle. On the other hand, however, Chinese will feel disappointed and leave an organization if they can never find the desired guanxi circle or if they join the wrong circle in which the leader fails to evenly distribute benefits or to allow for favor exchanges. Accordingly, a good leader is often able to manage a guanxi circle with the principles of family ethic so that all the members have a sense of belonging while seeing a growing number of resources available for operations. As a result, there will be more opportunities for achieving a win-win situation in future cooperation.
Sociologist He Cai saw a phenomenon of ―inversely differential mode of association‖ while he was studying migrant workers in China's building industry. Cai finds that a contractor will first pay off overdue wages to jobbers or short-term employees rather than the long-term team members, when the contractor suffers a shortage of funds for a contracted project. At this moment, members of his guanxi circle receive worse treatment than that received by those outside the guanxi circle. This suggests that circle members of can work together to address challenges and do not care about short-term inequity. Instead, they care more about possible benefits from long-term favor exchanges. Notwithstanding, guanxi contracts with circle members will become invalid once they fail to receive the desired long-term benefits. In this situation, it is often very difficult for the ties to restore, and they may even lead to negative feelings.
Westerners typically believe that Chinese are collectivistic. This is because Chinese do show behavior characteristic of collectivism on many occasions and on a short-term basis. Accordingly, westerners are prone to reach a conclusion, through questionnaire-based surveys, that Chinese are inclined to be collectivistic. In the case of favor exchanges between pseudo-family and familiar ties, in particular, they are more often characterized by collectivism – prioritize the others' interests over one's own; owe achievements to all the people; help others without explicitly asking for rewards; always share benefits with others. Such seemingly collectivistic behavior, however, is intended, in the long run, to build up relations and ultimately achieve one's personal goal.
Carrying out favor exchanges to join a guanxi circle, therefore, is a major motive for Chinese to work.