Business Culture

How to report to your boss in Chinese – 汇报 (Huì Bào)3 min read

28 February 2021 2 min read


How to report to your boss in Chinese – 汇报 (Huì Bào)3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The word for ‘report’ – as in to report to a senior is a tricky one in Chinese. It is one of the easiest words to get wrong and cause offence in day-to-day working life in China.

The most commonly used ‘report’ is

汇报 (huì bào) – to report

But it is not as simple as that. The top leader (领导 – lǐng dǎo), middle management (中层 – zhōng céng), and lower levels (基层 – jī céng) are clearly defined and all know their place. This determines how they engage and communicate with each other – both formally and informally.

Depending on where one sits in the hierarchy, and what the context is, will depend on the kind of report is reported to the boss. Even if you are not in the system, and even a foreigner, to deliver the wrong report in the wrong way is unforgivable – especially if you already have a pretty good grasp of the language. Even Chinese interpreters can get them wrong so look out for confused or offended looks on the other side of the table.

The main words used to ‘report’ stuff include:

呈报 (chéng bào) – to deliver or send a report to a very senior leader

呈现 (chéng xiàn) – similar in seniority, but can also mean verbal reports

汇报 (huì bào) – standard, normally verbal reporting, the safest option

上报 (shàng bào) – submitting a report in writing to a senior, normally used in the third person, and requesting permission

报告 (bào gào) – less distance between rank in the reporting, but still enough to be lower in the hierarchy

通报 (tōng bào) – more informal, normally done verbally

通气 (tōng qì) – most informal, always verbal.

How a report is delivered, and how it is described is also a way to show politeness and respect. To get it wrong does the opposite. Chinese is an honorific language – there is a polite form of you, 您 (nín). And there are standard polite words that fit around that, and the various ways to say report are particularly important.

At the same time it is also a way to demonstrate your own seniority in the system (even if technically you don’t belong to it) – so you can’t also be too polite either. It also varies if the reporting is to a political leader, or a business leader; if you know each other well, or not.

To a Chinese CEO, even if you are also a CEO, the standard huì bào can be used instead of chéng bào (that would be going to far!) which is normally used to present recommendation to policy makers.

In the middle of an organisation is where is gets difficult, and it is often a fine balancing act of showing enough respect, while not weakening your own position too much – your career might depend on it!

It also depends if the reporting is going on in a setting where others are present; privately you might get away with tōng bào, but otherwise a huì bào is much safer.

More so in China than in the West, a company will be judged on how its hierarchy plays out. In China the boss should be served by his team – this shows discipline, and that it is a good company to work with. So behind closed doors it can operate like a family, with a patriarch at the centre, but in formal meetings the hierarchy is made clear, with the boss at the top served by his or her team, reporting things in the right way.

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