The English expression "to save face" comes from the Chinese word for face (面子 miànzi), which describes one's reputation or dignity in social contexts. Concepts of honor, prestige, and respect exist in every culture, but in China, they play an instrumental part of most social interactions, especially in the business world. Mianzi promotes trust and respect, which are crucial to gradually building guanxi (关系guānxì), or connections, the engine oil of the Chinese economy. Mianzi is often misunderstood as narcissism possibly because of the popularity of fancy cars, designer clothing, and all the other trappings of status-obsession seen in major Chinese cities. However, the Chinese concept of
Mianzi In China Today
The importance of saving face in Chinese companies means that it is always a good idea to greet the boss in the morning, and not to refuse him if he offers something to you. It also means that conflict is routinely avoided, especially in public. Some Western professionals may feel the Chinese workplace lacks honesty because of the information which they may be getting from a co-worker, but this is usually due to a misunderstanding that occurs when a Chinese co-worker tells a white lie to save face for someone in the office. Between two Chinese people, the lie would be understood as a necessary avoidance of strain on the social harmony of the office, and there would be implicit knowledge all around that there was no intent to deceive.
It is always a good idea to find ways you can make the people you are working with feel that they have gained face when you interact with them. In general, making a point of praising others may be more important than avoiding putting blame on anyone. Communication is much more indirect in China, and it is normal to cite external causes for a problem which might be related to someone in the office. Try to be consistently positive, and exaggerate a little, since "great" actually means means good, "good" means okay, and "okay" could mean not so good.
Part of the difficulty foreigners