Advances in Applied Sociology
2011. Vol.1, No.1, 56-63
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/aasoci.2011.11005
Factors Influencing Work Efficiency in China
Wei Wei, Robert J. Taormina*
Psychology Department, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Macau,
Macau (SAR), China.
Email: *
Received November 14th, 2011; revised December 18th, 2011; accepted December 29th, 2011.
The preferred methods of conflict handling are largely sociologically prescribed in China, but those methods
could reduce efficiency in the workplace. This study examined factors that could influence the efficiency of
working people since efficiency is important to the successful operation of organizations. Some relatively unex-
plored personality variables, i.e., Creativity and Resilience, Esteem from Others, Attrib ution for Success (to Self),
and Attribution for Success (to Others), and some more usual variables, i.e., Conscientiousness, Self-Conf id en ce , a n d
Organization al Socialization (Training, Understanding, Coworker Support, Future Prospects), were tested for their
expected positive relationships to three dependent variables, i.e., Work Efficiency, Conflict Handling-Avoidance,
and Conflict Handling-Compromising. Questionnaire data from 192 Chinese employees in Mainland China were
analyzed to assess these relationships. Correlation results indicated that all variables (except Future Prospects
and Attribution to Others) were positively related to Work Efficiency, and most were positively related to both
Conflict Handling-Avoidance, and Conflict Handling-Compromising. Results for the relationships of the per-
sonality and social variables to conflict handli ng and work effi cie n c y are discussed in terms of Chinese culture.
Keywords: Chinese Culture, Conflict Han dli ng, Compromising, Work Efficiency
Factors Influencing Work Efficiency in China
Chinese society is known for its dedication to Confucian
values, which stress harmony in social relationships as a prin-
cipal societal objective (Yang, 1995), such that, for example,
avoiding conflict in the near-term could maintain harmony over
the long-term. At the same time, however, as Lu, Kao, Siu, and
Lu (2010) noted regarding conflicts in the workplace, using an
avoidance coping strategy might not always be optimal, i.e.,
withdrawing from the stressful reality and conceding to fate
may give one momentary peace of mind and protect social har-
mony, but such passive adaptatio n does not eradicate the stress-
ors” (p. 301). No netheless , Kirkbr ide, Tang, and Westwoo d (1 991),
who used paired statements reflecting five conflict handling
styles (e.g., competing versus collaborating) found the most
chosen options for the Chinese to be compromising and avoid-
ing. While this societal preference for avoiding conflict to main-
tain harmony is a well-known predilection for the Chinese, what
has not been sufficiently examined is whether there are person-
ality factors that could influence one’s preferred conflict-hand-
ling style, and the extent to which each of the preferred conflict-
handling styles is related to the employees’ work efficiency.
Employee efficiency is an important concept for human re-
source management as well as for overall organization per-
formance. Organizations need to be efficient in order to com-
pete and survive in the modern economic environment. The rea-
son for this can be readily understood from the definition of the
word “efficiency” which means “to be productive without waste
(e.g., of time or energy), namely, “effective operation as meas-
ured by a comparison of production with cost, as in energy,
time, and money” (Merriam-Webster, nd). This implies that im-
proving employees’ efficiency at work should be very impor-
tant to the organization’s economic performance. According to
Taormina and Gao (2009), since efficiency is considered to be a
means to achieve organizational goals, high efficiency is de-
sired by management for their organizations to attain high ef-
Given the concern about avoiding conflict in Chinese society,
this research also considers personality factors that might be re-
lated to how employees handle conflicts at work, since conflict
in the workplace could create interpersonal problems, e.g., for
work teams, that could interfere with organization efficiency
(Liu, Fu, & Liu, 2009)
Since work efficiency, as a specific measure, was a newly
discovered variable (Taormina & Gao, 2009), there is no exist-
ing theory about it. The closest concept is work performance,
which is a very general term that could include a number of
different components, while work efficiency is a more specific
concept. There have been many studies on work performance,
and some indicate that good work performance contributes to
desired organization outcomes (Maxham, Netemeyer, & Lich-
tenstein, 2008). On the other hand, a few papers used a concept
named work efficiency, but they examined this variable in
terms of specific tasks (e.g., Paul, 1967), without examining
personality factors, such as the unique attribute s of creativity and
resilience, that might contribute to employee work efficiency.
Thus, this research also examines personality factors that may
be related to work efficiency.
Research Objectives
The main objectives of this research were to identify person-
ality and organizational factor s that could be related to employee
work efficiency, as well as to ways that employees handle con-
flicts at work. In particular, some unique and less studied per-
sonality factors, i.e., Creativity, Resilience, Esteem received from
Others, Attribution for Success (t o Self), and Attribution for Suc-
cess (to Others), as well as some more standard variabl e s, namely,
Conscientiousness, Self-Confidence, and aspects of organiza-
tional socialization (Training, Understanding, Coworker Sup-
port, Future Prospects), were examined for their possible influ-
ence on the dependent measures. Also missing from the litera-
ture are studies on the above variables using data from Main-
land China. Thus , this stu dy uses data from emp lo ye es in two ci ties
in southwest and northeast China, i.e., Kunming and Changchun,
W. WEI ET AL. 57
To facilitate understanding of the expected relationships among
the variables for this study, the dependent variables are described
first, followed by the independent variables with their hypothe-
sized relationships to the dependent variables.
Dependent Variables
Work Efficiency. Taylor (1911) first put forward the concepts
of efficiency when he introduced the scientific study of work
methods in order to improve worker efficiency. Taylor pio-
neered a method, now known as the “time-and-motion” study,
for determining the best way to reduce time and effort (improve
efficiency). Taormina and Gao (2009) indicated that efficiency
refers to obtaining the most output from the least amount of
input. Accordingly, managers should be concerned with em-
ployee work efficiency since high efficiency should lead to
lower costs but better products, which would benefit the or-
ganization. Consequently, since the specific variable of Work
Efficiency has not been sufficiently examined, and the factors
contributing to it are not clear, it is necessary to further investi-
gate work efficiency.
Conflict Handling. Barki and Hartwick (2004) defined con-
flict in the work setting as “a dynamic process that occurs be-
tween interdependent parties as they experience negative emo-
tional reactions to perceived disagreements and interference
wi th the attainment of their goals” (p. 216). Conflicts occur every-
where, including in the workplace; and since conflicts disrupt
personal relationships, they could disrupt work performance,
which requires finding ways to handle them. Blake and Mouton
(1964) suggested some methods that people use in conflict si-
tuations, and Rahim (1983) developed several measures for hand-
ling interpersonal conflict, including avoiding, compromising,
and dominating. As this study was conducted in China, where
harmonious relationships are a cultural imperative (Yang, 1995),
the dominating approach to conflict handling should be rare and,
for this reason, was not examined in this study. Thus, only the
two styles of Conflict Handling-Avoidance and Conflict Han-
dling-Compromise were investigated.
Conflict Handling-Avoidance. Rahim, Magner, and Shapiro
(2000) explained that, when there is conflict, the use of the avoid-
ing style refers to ignoring, taking no action, or withdrawing from
the situation; and stated that this style tends to not satisfy the
concerns of either party in the conflict.
Conflict Handling-Compromising. Rahim et al. (2000) stated
that, for this style, both parties must give up something in order
to reach a mutually satisfying decision. Furthermore, a person
using the compromising style would give up more than a domi-
nating person, but would address the concern more directly than
an avoiding person, thereby splitting the differenc e with the other
party in order to reach a middle ground.
Independent Var iables
Creativity. There has been a growing consensus among crea-
tivity researchers regarding the appropriateness of defining
creativity in terms of an outcome, such as an idea or product
(Amabile, 1988). In particular, Amabile’s (1988) definition of
creativity is the “production of novel and useful ideas” (126).
This makes creativity especially relevant to human resource
management, and, consistent with this operationalization, that
definition of creativity is adopted for this study.
Although not extensively studied in the human resource lit-
erature, some research has been conducted on creativity in the
workplace. For example, Rasulzada and Dackert (2009) found
that organizational climate and work resources were significantly
related to perceived creativity and innovation in organizations.
In addition, according to Oldham and Cummings (1996) em-
ployees produced the most creative work when they had crea-
tivity relevant personal characteristics, e.g., when they were in-
sightful, intelligent, original, inventive, resourceful, and reflec-
tive. These characteristics would likely allow such individuals
to think of ways to perform their work more easily and effect-
tively. Therefore,
H(1): The more Creativity employees have, the more Work
Efficiency they will have.
With regard to Conflict Handling (Avoidance and Compro-
mise), creative individuals would probably find conflict to be
disruptive to their work and , thus , when em plo yees ar e sub ject ed to
some problems with work and personal relationships in an or-
ganization, they are inventive enough to find new ways to avoid
them. Alternately, if the conflict is unavoidable, they might also
be creative enough to think of ways to compromise, but without
losing too much in the deal. Therefore,
H(2): The more Creativity employees have, (a) the more
Conflict Handling-Avoidance they will use; and (b) the more
Conflict Handling-Compromise they will use.
Resilience. Although the concept of resilience has been de-
fined in different ways, the dictionary definition of resilience,
i.e., “The act of rebounding or springing back” (Oxford English
Dictionary, nd) is used here. Likewise, research on resilience
has taken two approaches, namely, one that views resilience as
a set of traits (Jacelon, 1997), and the other, from the counseling
literature, sees it as a process of receiving support from other
people. Here, resilience is viewed as a personal characteristic.
Also, one theory of resilience that fits either approach is that by
Antonovsky (1987), who sees resilience as a characteristic of
people in good health, which allows them to resist threats to
their well-being and to spring back in the face of adversity.
With regard to Work Efficiency, the personal-characteristics
view would argue that resilient people would not give up when
they are faced with difficulties at work, and, instead, would try
harder to complete their tasks, which would result in better per-
formance. Thus,
H(3): The more Resilience employees have, the more Work
Efficiency they will have.
Regarding Conflict Handling (Avoidance and Compromise),
Resilience should also be relevant. The research from counsel-
ing, which, at the same time fits the Antonovsky (1987) model,
describes resilient individuals as having experienced and sur-
vived stressful situations. There is research support for this model,
e.g., that individuals who successfully survived stressful situa-
tions have personal characteristics that allow them to rebound
from the stress to live successful lives (Parker, Cowen, Work,
& Wyman, 1990). Thus, resilient people may be more sensitive
to stress, and, since conflict is stressful, they would want to avoid
it, if possible, or, if it is unavoidable, to compromise in order to
reduce its duration. Hence,
H(4): The more Resilience employees have, (a) the more
Conflict Handling-Avoidance they will use; and (b) the more
Conflict Handling-Compromise they will use.
Conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is one of the Big Five
personality dimensions, which characterizes people as being care-
ful, reliable, hardworking, and organized (Costa & McCrae,
1985). As such, it is likely to be an attribute that managers
would want their employees to possess, and it has been studied
extensively in regard to work performance. In particular, Bar-
rick and Mount (1991) conducted a meta-analysis of the Big
Five personality dimensions and argued that Conscientiousness
should be related to job performance because it relates to a
person being careful and hardworking, which are characteristics
that help one to accomplish their work assignments. They
found Conscientiousness to predict all job performance criteria,
and concluded that “Individuals who exhibit traits associated
with a strong sense of purpose, obligation, and persistence gener-
ally perform better than those who do not” (p. 18). Thus, this
variable is expected to reveal similar results with Work Effi-
H(5): The more Conscientious employees are, the more
Work Efficiency they wi ll have.
For Conflict Management (Avoiding and Compromising) and
Conscientiousness, relatively little research has been performed,
and is thus inconclusive. Antonioni (1998), for example, found
no significant correlations between Conscientiousness and the
two types of Conflict Handling. When the data were split for
student and managers in regression analyses, Conscientiousness
could not predict Avoiding for either group, and could not pre-
dict Compromising for students, but was a negative predictor
for managers, i.e., managers who were less conscientious were
more likely to c ompromise .
That study was conducted in the West, but since this study is
for Chinese, a different logical argument is used, i.e., if Con-
scientiousness is characterized by being careful, then conscien-
tious employees may prefer to avoid conflict; at the sa me time,
however, since conscientious people are also planful, reliable,
and responsible, they might also be inclined to compromise in
negotiations in order to reach more agreeable solutions to a con-
flict. Hence,
H(6): The more Conscientiousness employees have, (a)
the more Conflict Handling-Avoidance they will use; and (b)
the more Conflict Handling-Compromise they will use.
Self-Confidence. Based on Kolb (1999), self-confidence is
defined as the degree of perc ei ved proba bility of success a t a ta sk.
Some research found that self-confidence was related to past
experience and the feedback from past experience (McCarty,
1986). This research, however, views self-confidence as a pre-
cursor of Work Efficiency, with the idea that people who are
confident of their abilities would be more likely to perform well.
In other words, people with high self-confidence would likely
think that they are more able to solve problems at work, and
thus work more efficiently. This idea has been supported in a
study by Hanton and Connaughton (2002), who found that
higher levels of self-confidence were associated with higher
performance. Thus,
H(7): The more Self-Confidence people have, the more
Work Efficiency they wi ll have.
For Conflict Handling, people with high Self-Confidence
might believe they can readily solve a conflict and prefer not to
argue about it, and thus might avoid conflicts. For compromise,
people high on Self-Confidence might be open to using com-
promise because they would not worry about giving up some-
thing in the negotiations since they feel sure that they could rely
on themselves if the compromised solution does not work. There-
H(8): The more Self-Confidence people have, (a) the
more Conflict Handling-Avoiding, and (b) the more Con-
flict Handling-Compromising they will use.
Esteem from Others. Esteem is generally defined as the worth
or value that is placed on something or someone (Mer-
riam-Webster, nd), and, in psychology, is the positive regard or
re sp ect t hat p eop le h ave t oward themselves or toward other peo-
ple. Specifically, in Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs, esteem,
which is a higher-order need, is of two types, namely, self-
esteem and esteem received from others. Of the two, there is an
abundant literature on self-esteem in the workplace (see Pierce
& Gardner, 2004), but Esteem from Others is a concern of this
research because the respect that a person receives from co-
workers could affect one’s work performance and how that
person deals with conflicts at work.
In terms of Work Efficiency, the concept of “face” could play
a role. Face generally refers to a person’s respectability, or how
one is regarded in society. People “have face” when other people
re spect them, but “lose face” when they are publicly embarrassed,
and, in China, social reputation is very important (Hwa ng, 1987).
Thus, if a person already is respected by his or her coworkers,
he or she might desire to be more proficient and do excellent
work in order to maintain that respect. Therefore,
H(9): The more Esteem from Others employees receive, the
more Work Efficiency they will have.
Regarding Conflict Handling, face could also play a role. That
is, when conflicts occur, a person who is respected by others
might prefer to avoid becoming involved in them as a way of
precluding the possibility of losing respect because of disagree-
ments that could result from conflicting views or opinions. In
cases where the person who is highly respected by others can
not avoid a conflict, once again, in order to maintain the respect
they are receiving, the person might be more willing to com-
promise somewhat so that he or she is not seen as being too in-
flexible, which could result in losing respect. Thus,
H(10): The more Esteem from Others employees receive,
(a) the more Conflict Handling-Avoiding, and (b) the more
Conflict Handling-Compromising they will use.
Attribution for Success (to Self and Others). Base on Hei-
der’s (1958) causal attribution theory, whereby people make
causal inferences about why events occur, e.g., why someone
succeeds at a task, due to either one’s own efforts (internal) or
to environmental (external) causes. In this study, Attribution for
Success refers to successes in one’s own life and is examined in
two dimensions, namely, attribution to oneself for success (i.e.,
the individual’s own efforts led to the success) and attribution
to others for success (i.e., helpful efforts of other people led to
one’s success), which is a recent application of attribution the-
ory (Taormina & Gao, 2010). People who attribute their suc-
cesses to their own efforts would likely do so because of their
past achievements, e.g., in their jobs, and therefore should per-
form well at work. Hence, in terms of the dependent measures
in this study, people who are high on this factor should perform
well and have high Work Efficiency. Regarding attribution to
others, Work Efficiency focuses on one’s individual perform-
ance, so other people might not affect the estimate of one’s own
effectiveness. Therefore, a relationship is expected only be-
tween Attribution to Self and Work Efficiency.
H(11): The more Attribution for Success (to Self) em-
ployees engage in, the more Work Efficiency they will have.
With regard to attributions for success and Conflict Handling,
people with a high Attribution to Self (i.e., believe their suc-
cesses are due to their own efforts) would likely have a high
sense of personal achievement. Thus, they may be reluctant to
involve themselves in conflicts with others and avoid conflicts
in preference of searching for solutions that are more suited to
their own way of doing things. Also, in the case of conflicts
they can not avoid, they might tend to use compromise because
they believe that even if they “give up” something, they could
rely on themselves in case the compromise should fail.
H(12): The more Attribution for Success (to Self) em-
W. WEI ET AL. 59
ployees engage in, (a) the more Conflict Handling-Avoiding,
and (b) the more Conflict Handling-Compromising they use.
For people with a high Attribution to Others (i.e., believe
their successes are due to the help received from other people),
they would likely avoid conflicts in order to maintain good
relationships with others because they might need their help
again in future. And when conflicts happen that they can not
avoid, they would be more likely to compromise, again for the
purpose of keeping good personal relationship in anticipation of
obtaining help from others in the future. Therefore,
H(13): The more Attribution for Success (to Others) em-
ployees engage in, (a) the more Conflict Handling-Avoiding,
and (b) the more Conflict Handling-Compromising they will
Organizational Socialization. Organizational Socialization has
been defined as “the process by which a person secures relevant
job skills, acquires a functional level of organizational under-
standing, attains supportive social interactions with co-workers,
and generally accepts the established ways of a particular or-
ganization” (Taormina, 1997, p. 29). It has four domains:
Training, Understanding, Coworker Support and Future Pros-
pects. Training refers to the job-related skills organizations
provide to employees; Understanding refers to the employees’
cognitive comprehension of the way the organization works and
the ability to apply that knowledge; Coworker Support refers to
both instrumental and emotional sustenance that employees
receive from other workers; and Future Prospects refers to em-
ployees’ expectation about promotion and rewards that the or-
ganization makes available.
Previous research showed that these four domains were sig-
nificantly and positively related to Work Efficiency (Taormina
& Gao, 2009). With regard to Training, Bernardin and Beatty
(1984) pointed out that training and development are important
parts of the HRM process. Their model of the HRM system
demonstrates that through selection, training, development, place-
ment, and motivation, an organization can achieve effectiveness
and efficiency among its human resources. Therefore,
H(14): The more highly employees evaluate the Training
offered by their organization, the more Work Efficiency they
will have.
For Understanding, Reio and Wiswell (2000) studied infor-
mation seeking as part of workplace learning, which represents
increased understanding, and found that it played an important
role in job performance. In order to promote work efficiency,
an employee needs to learn well and understand how their or-
ganizations function, which should help them become more ef-
fective and efficient in their work. Therefor e,
H(15): The more highly employees evaluate their own
Understanding, the more Work Efficiency they will have.
For Coworker Support, positive relationships among coworkers
include assistance with tasks (when needed) and moral support,
all of which are expected to improve employee work efficiency.
Previous research has provided evidence for this idea, i.e., that
support among coworkers improves work performance (Lee,
1986) and performance proficiency (Taormina, 2004), and in-
creases productivity (Wolf, 1989); all markers of Work Effi-
ciency. And more recently Coworker Support was also found to
be directly related to Work Efficiency (Taormina & Gao, 2009).
Thus, those studies suggest a positive relationship between Co-
worker Support and Work Efficiency. Therefore,
H(16): The more highly employees evaluate their Coworker
Support, the more Work Efficiency they will have.
Future Prospects, according to Taormina (1997), are rewards,
benefits, opportunities, and promotions offered by a company
that represent types of reinforcement management provides to
its employees for doing good work, which should improve the
employees work efficiency . Alternately, if good job perfor mance
is not rewarded, employee motivation is likely to decline. Em-
pirical support for the positive relationship between Future Pros-
pects and Work Efficie ncy has been provided by Taormina and
Gao (2009). Therefore,
H(17): The more highly employees evaluate their Future
Prospects in their companies, the more Work Efficiency they
will have.
The respondents were 192 (62 female, 129 male, 1 no response)
Chinese adults aged between 18 and 58 years (M = 36.83, SD =
8.32) working in factories and private companies in Kunming
and Changchun China. Highe st education levels were: 3 primary
school; 21 high school; 53 junior college; 94 bachelor; 18 mas-
ter or above; 3 no response. For Marital status, 48 were single,
140 married, and 4 other (separated, divorced, widowed, or no
response). The average number of children reported was 0.68
(SD = 0.49). Regarding employment, all 192 were employed
full-time. Monthly income (in Chinese RMB) was as follows: 3
at <1000; 86 at 1000-2999; 64 at 3000 - 4999; 19 at 5000 -
6999; 11 at 7000 - 8999; 4 at 9000 or more, and 5 gave no re-
In addition to the demographics, and the 3 main variables
(Work Efficiency, Conflict Handling-Avoidance, and Conflict
Handling-Compromise), there were 11 independent variables.
Unless otherwise noted, all measures asked respondents how
well the items described them, using a 5-point Likert scale from
1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Demographics. Age and number of children were recorded
as given. Other codings were: Gender (0 = female, 1 = male);
Education (0 = none, 1 = primary, 2 = high school, 3 = junior
college; 4 = bachelor, 5 = master or above); Marital status (1 =
single, 2 = married, 3 = other); Employment (0 = none, 1 = part
time, 2 = full-time); Monthly income, in Chinese RMB (1 =
1000, 2 = 1000 - 2999, 3 = 3000 - 4999, 4 = 5000 - 6999, 5 =
7000 - 8999, 6 = 9000 or more).
Work Efficiency. Work Efficiency was measured with an
8-item scale. F our i tems were derived from Gao and Taormina’s
(2002) 4-item Work Efficiency scale, which identified some
generally accepted performance appraisal criteria across indus-
tries in China, e.g., “Able to meet deadlines.” To increase the
strength of the scale, four more items were added that came
from brainstorming by several professionals in the management
area, i.e., “Prioritize my tasks effectively”, “Complete tasks
quickly”, “Make efficient use of my time at work”, and “Use the
most effective methods for doing the work”. Respondents were
asked to indicate how often these criteria describe their per-
formance, and answered on a 5-point frequency scale, ranging
from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always).
Conflict Handling Styles. The two Conflict Handling Styles
of Avoiding and Compromising were each measured by 5-item
scales. All items were from Rahim’s (1983) scales for handling
interpersonal conflict. The five Avoiding items were from Ra-
him’s (1983) 7-item Avoiding subscale, e.g., “I avoid confronting
others”. And the five Compromising items were from his com-
promising subscale, e.g., “I negotiate with others so that a com-
promise can be reached”. Respondents were asked how often
they performed the actions described by the statements when they
have conflicts with other people, and their answers were recorded
on a 5-item scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (very often).
Esteem. Esteem Needs were measured using a newly created
12-item scale. All the items were developed from Maslow’s
(1943, 1971, 1987) theory of need satisfaction. According to
Maslow, Esteem Needs are of two types, Esteem for Self, and
Esteem from Others. Only Esteem from Others was assessed
with six statements on satisfaction with the respect and recogni-
tion the respondent receives from other people, e.g., “The pres-
tige I have in the eyes of other people”. Respondents were
asked how much they are satisfied with what is described in the
statements (items). Answers were on a 5-point Likert scale
ranging from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).
Attribution for Success. Two separate, 5-item scales from
Taormina and Gao (2010) were used to assess the extent to which
the respondents evaluated the successes in their life as being
determined by their own efforts, for Attribution-to-Self, or the
efforts of other people, for Attribution-to-Others. Sample items
included “Principally the result of your own effort” (for Self),
and “Mostly the result of help received from others” (for Oth-
ers). Respondents were asked to what extent they agreed or di-
sagreed that their successes in life were due to each reason (scale
Organizational Socialization. Organizational socialization
was measured using Taormina’s (2004) Organizational Socia-
lization Inventory, which has four subscales, namely, Training,
e.g. “This organization has provided excellent job training for
me”, Understanding, e.g., “I know very well how to get things
done in this organization”, Coworker Support, e.g., “My rela-
tionships with other workers in this company are very good”,
and Future Prospects, e.g., “There are many chances for a good
career with this organization”.
Resilience. This was measured with a 12-item scale. Three
items were from Connor and Davidson’s (2003) Resilience
scale, i.e., “When things look hopeless, I usually give up” [R],
I am able to make it through difficult times”, and “Coping with
stress strengthens me”, and one item was from Lang, Goulet,
and Amsel (2003), i.e., “I am easily discouraged by failure” [R].
The remaining items were newly created, i.e., “I do not let
things stop me from achieving my goals”, “If something bad
happens to me, I will bounce back”, “If I do not succeed at first,
I will surely try again”, “I keep on trying even in difficult situa-
tions”, “The difficulties in my life have made me a stronger
person”, “I am determined to finish what I start despite obsta-
cles in the way”, “I am determined to be a survivor, even in the
hardest times”, and “I am a person who has great resolve”.
Creativity. Creativity was measured with a 10-item scale.
Two of the items were from Simonton’s (1986) 12-item Intel-
lectual Brilliance factor of his Presidential Personality adjective
checklist, and the adjectives were converted to statements, i.e.,
I am an insightful person” and “I am an inventive person”.
The remaining eight items were newly created, i.e., “I am a
very creative person”, “I enjoy coming up with new ideas”, “I
have a vivid imagination”, “I like to create new things”, “I en-
joy trying different ways of doing things”, “I am very good at
brainstorming”, “I am very original in my thinking”, and “I can
solve problems that cause other people difficulty”.
Conscientiousness. To measure Conscientiousness of the
Big Five personality dimensions, its subscale of Perfectionism
was assessed. This was a 10-item scale composed of four items
from the Perfectionism scale of the HEXACO Personality In-
ventory (Lee & Ashton, 2004), two items from the Abridged
Big-Five dimensional Circumplex Model (AB5C; Hofstee,
deRaad, & Goldberg, 1992), one item from the Revised version
of the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa &
McCrae, 1992), and three newly created items, i.e., “Dislike
mistakes”, “Like things to be in order”, and “Am not bothered
by mistakes” [R].
Self-Confidence. This was measured by a 10-item scale.
Four items were adapted from Lane, Sewell, Terry, Bartram,
and Nesti’s (1999) 9-item Self-Confidence Scale of the Com-
petitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (e.g., “I feel confidence in
myself”). Three items were adapted from Kolb’s (1999) 5-item
Self-Confidence Scale (e.g., “I have confidence in my own de-
cisions”). Two were adapted items from Hirschfeld et al.’s
(1977) 15-item Lack of Social Self-Confidence Scale (e.g., “I
am very confident about my own judgments”), and one item was
adapted from Day and Hamblin’s (1964) 10-item Self-Esteem
and Self-Confidence Scale (e.g., “I usually feel that my opin-
ions are inferior”). All the items were slightly reworded to
focus more on introspective self-confidence rather than a spe-
cific social context.
Procedure and Ethical Considerations
As the objective of this study was to assess Chinese people
on their Work Efficiency and Conflict Handling, a purposive
sample of employees was used, i.e., data were collected from
employed people in factories and companies in Kunming and
Changchun, China. With permission from management, ques-
tionnaires were brought to the locations on work days and per-
sonally handed to the employees, who were asked to complete
them during their break times. The questionnaire took about 10
to 15 minutes to complete, and, when finished, were handed back
to the researcher on site. Together, 192 co mpleted questionnaires
were returned out of 230 that were handed out, yielding a re-
sponse rate of 83.48%.
Ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Associa-
tion were followed in the study. Informed consent of partici-
pants was obtained verbally and through the cover page of the
questionnaire, which introduced the survey and gave the re-
searcher’s contact information. Potential participants were in-
formed that their participation was entirely voluntary, and that
they could stop responding at any time. They were also assured
that their identities, personal information, and responses would
never be revealed to anyone, and that their data would be used
only in combined statistical form so that they could never be
personally identified.
Demographi c Dif fer ences
Although no hypothese s were made regarding the demograph-
ics, t-tests and ANOVAs were performed to assess their differ-
ences on the dependent variables of Work Efficiency, Conflict
Handling-Avoiding, a nd Conflict Handling-Compromising.
For Gender, there was only one significant differe nce, with Fe-
males (M = 3.54, SD = 0.73) higher than Males (M = 3.24, SD
= 0.87) on Conflict Handling-Avoiding, t(189) = 2.37, p < 0.05.
For having Children, there was also only one difference, with
the No Children group (M = 3.70, SD = 0.61) higher than the
Having Children group (M = 3.45, SD = 0.73) on Conflict Han-
dling-Compromising, t(182) = 2.35, p < 0.05. There were no
other significant differences among any other demographics on
any of the other dependent variables.
W. WEI ET AL. 61
Variable Correlations and Test for Common
Method Bias
Correlations were computed for all the variables to assess
their relationships and to test the hypotheses. Overall, all hy-
potheses were supported except four, i.e., not significantly
related were: H(2a) Creativity and Conflict Handling -Av oidi ng;
H(8a) Self-Confidence and Conflict Handling-Avoiding;
H(13a) Attribution for Success to Others and Conflict Han-
dling-Avoiding; and H(17) Future Prospects and Work Effi-
To test for possible multicollinearity of the data, common-
method bias was assessed by factor analyzing all the variables
together, using the maximum-likelihood approach with a forc e d,
one-factor solution (see Harman, 1960). The resultant Chi-
square value is then divided by the degrees of freedom to
assess model fit, whereby a ratio of less than 2.00:1 would
indicate common- method bias (i.e., a single factor). For this
study, the ratio was 5.63:1, suggesting that common-method
bias was not a concern.
All of the correlations among the main variables and the de-
pendent variables, as well as the means, standard deviations,
and Cronbach Alpha reliabilities of the variables, are shown in
Table 1.
Three regressions were run to determine the extent to which
any of the independent variables could statistically predict the
dependent variables. For Work Efficiency, 36% of the variance
was explained, F(3,168) = 31.66, p < 0.001. Three variables en-
tered the regression equation (all positively), with Attribution
for Success to Self explaining 27% of the variance, Self-Confi-
dence explaining 7%, and Conscientiousness explaining 2%.
For Conflict Handling-Avoiding, 8% of the variance was ex-
plained, F(2169) = 7.48, p < 0.001. This time, two variables
entered the regression, with Attribution for Success to Self ex-
plaining 6%, and Gender explaining 2% (with females higher
than males on this variable).
For Conflict Handling-Compromising, 26% of the variance
was explained, F(3168) = 20.15, p < 0.001. Three variables en-
tered this regression (all positively ), with Attribution for Success
to Self explaining 21% of the variance, Conscientiousness ex-
plaining 3%, and Attribution for Success to Others explaining 2%.
This research examined personality and organizational factors
for their relation to employee Work Efficiency and how em-
ployees handle work conflicts. While there were a few demo-
graphic differences, this discussion centers on the main person-
ality variables and their relation to the dependent measures,
particularly from the perspective of Chinese culture.
Personality, Work Efficiency, and Chinese Culture
Among the variables selected for study, Self-Confidence and
Conscientiousness have been commonly used in human factors
research, while others, especially Creativity, have been used less
frequently. In particular, although certain personality variables,
namely, Creativity, Resilience, and Esteem from Others, have not
been extensively studied before, these factors were found to have
significant and positive correlations with Work Efficiency. Fur-
thermore, in regard to Chinese culture, even though Creativity
and Resilience are often thought to be characteristic of western,
“individualistic” culture, both of these variables had relatively
high mean scores on their measure ment scales. This suggests that
these personality characteristics are not unique to any particular
culture, and implies that managers in Chinese cultu re could begin
to look at these characteristics among their employees.
Table 1.
Means, standard deviations, Cronbach alpha reliabilities, and correlations of the main variables (N = 192).
Mean SD Work EfficiencyConflict Handling
Avoid Conflict Handling
Compromise Alpha
Work Efficiency 3.95 0.61 - - - 0.93
Conflict-Handling Avoid 3.33 0.83 0.14+ - - 0.83
Conflict-Handling Compromise 3.53 0.69 0.35**** 0.47** - 0.84
Creativity 3.63 0.60 0.40**** 0.09 0.26**** 0.90
Resilience 3.64 0.55 0.35**** 0.15* 0.27**** 0.86
Conscientiousness 3.51 0.42 0.37**** 0.17* 0.30**** 0.69
Self-Confidence 3.68 0.45 0.44**** 0.07 0.19** 0.84
Esteem from Others 3.53 0.58 0.33**** 0.22*** 0.29**** 0.88
Attribution to Self 3.58 0.58 0.50**** 0.24** 0.44**** 0.74
Attribution to Others 2.88 0.69 0.01 0.13 0.16* 0.79
Training 3.46 0.76 0.14+ 0.14+ 0.11 0.88
Understanding 3.69 0.70 0.31**** 0.19** 0.25**** 0.86
Coworker Support 3.67 0.64 0.20** 0.09 0.12 0.81
Future Prospects 3.09 0.83 0.05 0.02 0.03 0.82
+ p < 0.10; * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.005; **** p < 0.001.
In traditional Chinese thinking, self-promotion is antithetical
to the culture such that creative employees do not come forward,
which makes it is difficult to identify them. That is, the hierar-
chically structured culture, which is reflected strongly in Chinese
organizations, leads the employees to wait for instructions from
their superiors. At the same time, the employee with creative
ideas would be inhibited from promoting those ideas for fear of
being seen as self-aggrandizing, and, consequently, possibly
being rejected by his or her coworkers. Likewise, he or she
might fear being seen by superiors in a negative light, e.g.,
since the superior is expected to be the leader, the superior
might think the creative employee is imposing on his or her
leadership and thereby causing him or her to “lose face” by
presenting new ideas that everyone expects the leader to put
forward; and/or the leader might regard the creative employee
as a bothersome “show-off” who does not fit in with the group.
The positive correlations between creativity and work effi-
ciency, along with the limiting organizational circumstances for
creative people, imply that managers could try to find ways to
foster creativity among employees. For example, research has
suggested that creativity can be taught (Williams, 2001). At the
same time, managers also need to find ways that allow creative
employees to propose their creative ideas, e.g., by creating chan-
nels (perhaps written ones) through which to put forward those
ideas, without suffering negative consequences either from their
peers or from their superiors.
Personality, Conflict Handling, and Chinese Culture
Regarding Conflict Handling, first, it is well known that so-
cial harmony is paramount in Chinese culture (Yang, 1995).
Thus, among the many ways that conflict could be handled, the
two most suitable in Chinese culture are to avoid them or to
compromise in order to resolve them amicably (Kirkbride et al.,
1991). The results found some personality variables positively
related to conflict avoidance (although the correlations were not
especially powerful). This might be because avoiding conflict is
practiced by almost everyone through out Chinese society, which
means that, for Chinese people, no particular personality char-
acteristic is especially asso ci ated with avoiding con fli cts.
For Conflict Handling-Compromising, there were much stronger
positive correlations; and the difference with Avoiding is as
follows: The act of avoiding conflict is very easy to do, i.e., when
conflicts occur, one only needs to stay away (or walk away) from
them. Compromising, however, requires a person to have some
special skills to do this successfully. For example, to be good at
compromise, one must be able to negotiate, know what to ask for,
what to give up, how much to giv e up, and when to give up. The
remarkable finding in the results was that many of the variables
selected for this study were so highly, significantly, and posi-
tively related to compromising.
These correlations may be strong for reason s that can be fou nd
in Chinese culture. Because of the importance of maintaining
social harmony, and since interpersonal conflicts are inevitable
in life, it becomes necessary to find ways to compromise that
are agreeable to both parties. In looking at the results of the re-
gression analyses for predicting the use of compromise, three
variables, namely, Conscientiousness, Self-Confidence, and At-
tribution to Self for one’s success in life, account for all the ex-
plained variance, and this is a strong effect (R2 = 0.26; f 2 =
0.35; for computing effect size, see Cohen, 1992). The correla-
tions and the variables that predicted compromise may be de-
termined by Chinese culture.
In particular, traditional Chinese culture teaches one to be
co nscientious in various ways, such as through obedience, work-
ing hard, being trustworthy, and maintaining harmony with others
(see Chinese Culture Connection, 1987 ). Thus, conscientiousness
seems to be advocated in Chinese culture, and its characteristics
of being careful and responsible make persons with those quail-
ties more effective at reaching mutually agreeable compromises.
Regarding Self-Confidence and Chinese culture, there are (an-
ecdotal) examples of Chinese Deans in Chinese universities, e.g.,
one gained self-confidence from successfully attaining a profess-
sorship in an overseas university, and, when appointed as Dean
in a Chinese university, refused to compromise, using his au-
thority as a power to win in any disagreement. But this refusal
to compromise led them to be disliked by all his subordinates.
On the other hand, when a person abides by Chinese values, he
or she would fit better into, and be more likely to succeed in,
Chinese society, which includes interacting successfully with
other people. With such successful experiences, one becomes
more assured about how to reach agreements, including “giving
up” something in the process of making compromises in order
to maintain harmony with others.
For Chinese culture and Attribution for Success to Self, which
was the third variable that predicted compromi se, again, one’s past
successes and per sona l ach iev em en ts in lif e th at ar e ga in ed thro ugh
abiding by Chinese values likely lead to greater self assurance
and self reliance, which allows one to be less afraid to make
Overall Summary
This study assessed how the Chinese societal preference for
harmony may impact two preferred conflict-handling styles in
relation to work efficiency; and found a stronger positive cor-
relation between handling conflicts by using compromise (ver-
sus using avoidance) and work efficiency. Also, Creativity, Re-
silience, Conscientiousness, Self-Confidence, Esteem from Others,
Attributions for Success to Self, and most of the dimensions of
organizational socialization were also positively and significantly
related to Work Efficiency. Taken together, the results seem to
imply that the Work Efficiency of Chinese employees could be
improved in many ways, including through organizational socia-
lization and the use of compromise in handling conflicts. Finally,
Chinese culture appeared to be very useful in explaining how
some social and personality characteristics can be influential in
predicting such important outcomes as work efficiency and
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