Subcultural Differences in Taiwanese and Burmese Chinese Business Negotiation Styles

Article excerpt

The subcultural differences in business negotiation styles between Taiwanese businesspeople and a small group of Burmese Chinese who have businesses in Taiwan were analyzed. Negotiating styles of collaboration, compromise, accommodation, competition, and withdrawal were examined, focusing on influential factors such as subculture and relationship and task-oriented conflicts. Results showed that the main difference between the 2 groups was that whereas Burmese Chinese tend to shun conflict and may even submit to their opponent to prevent a conflict from escalating, Taiwanese are less likely to employ an accommodation strategy. The conclusion was reached that in a task-oriented or relationship conflict, in a business situation Taiwanese and Burmese Chinese people differ significantly in their use of collaboration, accommodation, and withdrawal as negotiation styles.

Keywords: business negotiation styles, subcultural differences, Taiwanese businesspeople, Burmese Chinese businesspeople.

Cultural diversity in small groups is an important concern because of demographic changes around the world (Oetzel, 2001). To understand these changes, many researchers have examined the influence of cultural diversity on small group processes and outcomes. Although several scholars have emphasized that cultural diversity can benefit group performance in certain tasks (McLeod, Lobel, & Cox, 1996), numerous researchers have indicated that cultural diversity also leads to less effective communication processes (e.g., tension and power struggles) because of different communication styles (Cox, 1994).

After a military government came to power in Burma in 1962, Chinese living in Burma faced racial prejudice and discrimination and, as a result, many lost their jobs or became bankrupt. Of those forced to leave, many moved to Taiwan and formed close bonds with the indigenous population. Consequently, there are now approximately 40,000 Burmese Chinese living in Huaxin Street, Jhonghe, Taipei County, and they make up about 0.17% of Taiwan's population (Chen, 2005; You, 2009). As a result of this influx, business relationships have developed between the Taiwanese and this small group of Burmese Chinese who have opened a variety of businesses, including restaurants, video, book, and grocery stores, focusing on traditional Burmese culture to cater to the group's needs. The business negotiation style and method of interaction of this group is shaped by their culture, and this often leads to misunderstanding and conflict with the Taiwanese majority. The purpose in this study was to explore the differences in business negotiation styles between the Taiwanese majority and the small group of Burmese Chinese who Uve in Taiwan.

Negotiation Styles

As Chang (2006) has pointed out, Chinese culture has incorporated various aspects of many nationalities and regions. Different cultures associated with the same region at different times and with various regions at the same time coexist and interact. Chang also observed that even when both parties in a negotiation share the same parent culture and negotiate in the same language, disputes or conflicts may still occur because the groups may have different values and action styles that reflect their different demographic backgrounds (see Figure 1).

The dual concern model developed by Blake and Mouton (1968) consists of two dimensions: concern for oneself and concern for another party. According to this model there are five negotiating strategies: competition, accommodation, withdrawal, collaboration, and consultation. Competition is characterized by the individual being assertive and uncooperative. Competitive negotiators pursue their own concerns at the other party's expense. It is a power-oriented mode in which the negotiator uses whatever power seems appropriate to win his or her own position; the ability to argue, rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means standing up for one's rights, defending a position that the negotiator believes is correct, or simply trying to win. …