Stupid Foreigner Paying Chinese New Year Bonus

In china business by Michael Michelini4 Comments

Update Feb 2016: Get lots of requests on Chinese New Year bonus, 6 years later I wrote a much more detailed and professional post on my business blog: How Much Bonus Should I Pay on Chinese New Year?, check it out!

Again, I am reminded how little I know about the Chinese culture. I try to be observant, ask around what other companies are doing. But really, I barely scraped the surface in trying to understand the culture, the thought process of how it works…

Of course, like everyone in the world – money is important. But in China, money is even more important……

So today is the last day the office is open, and (I believe, anyway) everyone is anxiously awaiting their “red envelopes”, to see how much bonus they will be paid. Of course its not a requirement of any company to pay, but like in USA, its like year end bonus the company pays out to the staff.

I never wanted to be the one responsible for deciding this. I’m just a stupid white guy, how can I affect the culture. How much is normal. how much is spent for family gifts, what is the cost?

Really, I thought (maybe I was crazy), but by this time I would have a “china expert” manager who would advise me how much to pay, what days vacations are, and other staff / HR type things. Seems I have been ineffective in finding this…..

My other weakness, is I want to keep everyone happy. Except myself. My admin, Jojo, keeps reminding me that I need to take care of myself first, and then others. But really, I always thought the opposite….take care of others first and they will take care of you later , when you are in need. I think in China that is looked at as weakness. I need to be more direct, more definitive.

And I don’t want to underpay, for 2 reasons – (1) I want to reward people for working hard, and (2) I don’t want the company to look weak financially.

And its like a 2nd Christmas to me. I am not a fan of holidays….too much distraction and downtime.

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  1. I was just noticing that “problems” and “Chinese Business” are the two most prominent keywords on your blog. Fitting :). O! the giving out of all that money isn’t something I’d file under the positives for holidays from the companies perspective either. Love Love love

    1. Author

      hey dave,

      yea – I’ve been noticing those 2 keywords “china business problems” – maybe I should rename my blog!!! I didn’t even do that on purpose for SEO, I just kept picking the most relevant themes of each post. Hopefully someone can benefit by reading this…..

      Yea, well as you know me, I’m not doing this for the SHORT TERM money. And I want to keep staff happy. Aiya. I’m constantly told by Jojo that I’m not a sensible businessman and that I shouldn’t be a boss

      I DONT WANT TO BE A BOSS. I want to be a business owner. I think its different, just still have to do the managing myself – thought I had found others to manage the business, but I realized, no one can manage my business better then myself……that way I can’t blame anyone.

  2. I am experiencing the same thing as you. We want everyone to feel happy and want to carry on their hard work in the company so we just gave everyone pay rises and bought them CNY gifts. But an employee said that we need to give them their end of year bonuses and inferred that i didn’t understand because i was not Chinese. Our decision had been made with the Chinese business partner, as they were all receiving pay rises. But this employee feels that we have somehow cheated her out of what is rightfully hers. God! What should we do? We have been open a little over a year and are barely breaking even. Any advice?

    1. Author

      What I’m told is that the workers should understand if the company isn’t making much money………if not they are not worth it

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