Supervisor and subordinate guanxi: A grounded investigation in the people's republic of China

Yong Han, Yochanan Altman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the growing number of studies on the topic of guanxi in a work context, there is a paucity of research on supervisor-subordinate guanxi in the field of organisation and management. This article critically reviews the extant literature on guanxi in human resource management and organisational behaviour and applies an inductive approach to explore the perception of guanxi from both superior and subordinate perspectives in the People's Republic of China. The study reports positive and ethical features of guanxi as well as unethical and negative practices in the Chinese workplace. On the positive side, guanxi comprises reciprocal exchange and perceived positive attributes, whereas its darker aspects include perceived unfairness and supervisor-targeted impression management. Managerial and research implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Guanxi
  • Impression management
  • Supervisor-subordinate relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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