A Cross-Cultural Investigation of Work Values among Young Executives in China and the U.S

Yue Pan, University of Dayton
Xuebao Song, Tsinghua University
Ayalla Goldschmidt, IBM Digital Media Solutions Marketing
Warren French, University of Georgia



– The purpose of the study is to investigate what values are now important to young American and Chinese managers, since they profile the direction in which their country is headed. It aims to explore if the ethical values of young executives in different countries are converging to a common global business culture. It also aims to argue that the individualism‐collectivism value dimension by itself does not capture the differences between the Chinese and American sample members. The vertical‐horizontal dimension, in contrast, seems to better delineate the value orientations among young executives in the two countries.


– In this two‐phase study, both attitudinal and scenario‐based measurements are applied to assess the strength of work value orientations among similar subjects in China and the USA.


– In study 1, Chinese respondents score significantly higher on a hierarchical‐vertical dimension than do the Americans, although the two groups do not differ significantly on the collectivism‐individualism dimension. In study 2, which entails resolving an ethical dilemma, the American subjects apply Egalitarianism as their most frequent expressed value, reflecting their horizontal perspective. The Chinese subjects, in contrast, rely strongly on a traditional vertical value system to resolve the ethical dilemma. Although both American and Chinese negotiators show a collectivist as well as an individualist orientation, their focuses are fundamentally different.


– The well‐established collectivism/individualism cultural dimension has been heavily used in cross‐cultural studies, sometimes without much discretion. This study was undertaken as a preliminary attempt to outline the cultural patterns observed among young managers in America and China. The paper argues that cross‐cultural differences underlying ethical conflicts should not be reduced to the single value dimension of individualism/collectivism.