Article Text

Download PDFPDF

‘Face’ and psychological processes of laid-off workers in transitional China
  1. Bingxin Wang1 and
  2. Kenneth Mark Greenwood2,3
  1. 1. Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2. James Cook University Singapore, Singapore
  3. 3. Department of Clinical Psychology, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
  1. Corresponding author : Kenneth Mark Greenwood, BBSc(Hons), DipCompSc, PhD, DPsych, Dean of Research & Professor of Psychology, James Cook University Singapore, 149 Sims Drive, Singapore 387380; and Department of Clinical Psychology, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100088, China, Tel.: +65-6709-3888, Fax: +65-6709-3889, E-mail: ken.greenwood{at}


Objective The objective was to explore the psychological experiences of laid-off workers in contemporary transitional China and to formulate a theoretical model of these.

Methods In-depth interviews of 26 laid-off workers were conducted and analysed using grounded theory techniques.

Results Four themes underline the psychological processes of these laid-off workers – feeling of loss, feeling of physical pain, feeling of fatalism, and final acceptance. These are characterized by Chinese culture and its philosophy – feeling of loss is dominated by their loss of face (diu mianzi), physical pain is a somatization of their mental painfulness, their fatalism is traced back to the Chinese ancient theocratic concept of Tian Ming, and their acceptance of reality to their final making face (zheng mianzi) is sourced from both Confucianism and Daoism.

Conclusion The psychological experience of laid-off workers (or unemployed workers) is likely to have varied manifestations in different cultural contexts. The psychological processes of Chinese laid-off workers (or unemployed workers) might be different from those of laid-off workers in Western countries. A therapeutic intervention to cater for the needs of laid-off workers derived from the four themes might be effective.

  • laid-off workers
  • unemployed workers
  • state-owned enterprises
  • psychological process
  • China

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.