Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling [NOOK Book]


The popular media often portrays Asian Americans as highly educatedand successful individuals—the "Model Minority."

As the ethnic minority with the largest percentage of college graduates, many Asian Americans do enter the professional workforce. However, many of them seem to stall in their careers and never make it to the corner offices.

Leading executive coach Jane Hyun explores how traditional Asian values can be at odds with Western ...

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Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling

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The popular media often portrays Asian Americans as highly educatedand successful individuals—the "Model Minority."

As the ethnic minority with the largest percentage of college graduates, many Asian Americans do enter the professional workforce. However, many of them seem to stall in their careers and never make it to the corner offices.

Leading executive coach Jane Hyun explores how traditional Asian values can be at odds with Western corporate culture. By using anecdotes, case studies, and exercises, Hyun offers practical solutions for resolving misunderstandings and overcoming challenges in an increasingly multicultural workplace. This timely book explains how companies will benefit from discovering and supporting the talents of their Asian employees and shows Asians how to leverage their strengths to break through the bamboo ceiling.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061983528
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 710,743
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jane Hyun is an internationally renowned executive coach and global leadership adviser to Fortune 500 companies, business schools, and nonprofit organizations. She speaks frequently on the topics of authenticity, culture, and leadership. A graduate of Cornell University with a degree in economics, she is the author of Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling. She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xvii
Part I Understanding Asian Cultural Influence and Its Impact
Chapter 1 Your Asian American Roots and You 3
Chapter 2 "But I Didn't Mean It That Way!": How Cultural Values Can Help or Hinder You at Work 27
How Asian Values Affect Individual Behavior and Workplace Interactions 27
"Technical but Not Management Material": Dispelling Stereotypes and Inaccurate Perceptions 46
Chapter 3 The Latest Trends in Corporate Diversity Practices 55
Part II Career Choices and Getting in the Door
Chapter 4 Doctor? Lawyer? Or Inner-City Teacher?: How Cultural Influences Impact Your Career Choices 73
Chapter 5 To Thine Own Self Be True: Understanding Yourself, Your Vision, and How to Break Your Bamboo Ceiling 91
Understanding Yourself 93
The Seven Stories Exercise 93
Understanding Your Asian Identity 103
Asian Identity Exercise: How Assimilated/Acculturated Are You? 103
Work-Related Values and Motivators Exercise 107
The Trusted Advisor Assessment 108
Authority and Hierarchy Exercise: A View of Your Relationships with Bosses, Peers, and Subordinates 114
Understanding Your Vision 116
The Forty-Year Vision 117
Understanding How to Break Your Bamboo Ceiling 132
Identifying Your Bamboo Ceiling 132
The Career Mobility Checklist 134
Chapter 6 Perfect for the Part: Mastering the Face-to-Face Job Interview 141
Chapter 7 Moving Past the Hors d'Oeuvres Table: Finessing the Art of Networking 172
Part III Getting Ahead on the Job
Chapter 8 On-the-Job Mobility Strategies 187
Learning to Toot Your Own Horn: Navigating in Corporate America 187
Superior Mentoring Strategies 213
Staying in the Succession Planning Pipeline 225
Getting Your Voice Heard: Saying No...and Pushing Back with Diplomacy 228
Chapter 9 Extending Your Reach: Professional Associations and Affinity Networking Groups 240
Chapter 10 Getting and Maintaining Your Worth: Show Me the Money...and a Promotion! 249
"How Am I Doing?": Acing Performance Management Discussions 249
Negotiating Your Compensation and Severance Package 252
Epilogue: Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling 263
A Conversation with Andrea Jung, Chair and CEO of Avon Products 273
Appendix A Summary of Challenges to Management 277
Appendix B Asian Pacific American Organizations 281
Bibliography 307
Index 311
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First Chapter

Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling
Career Strategies for Asians

Chapter One

Your Asian
American Roots
And You

My first impression upon meeting Trinh was that she was far more Chinese than I: engaged with the (Asian) community, fluent. Also, less polished, less assimilated than I. But there are some who would consider her very un-Chinese. She speaks up, she fights, she exposes hypocrisy. She cares less about race than about basic moral courage ... The irony, then, is this: I am perhaps more Americanized. She is perhaps more American.

-- Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian


The 2000 U.S. Census reported that there are 11.9 million Asians in the United States, a 72% increase since the previous census. Compare that to the total U.S. population growth of 13% for the same period. Even though Latino Americans are the largest minority group in raw numbers, Asians are the fastest-growing minority group, and the population is expected to double by 2020 and triple by 2030. Forty-four percent of Asian Americans over age 25 have graduated from college, the highest percentage for any racial group. These numbers imply a success story. However, these statistics don't always tell the whole story of what really happens to Asian Americans once they leave the halls of academia for corporate America.

Who are Asian Americans? Far from being homogeneous, we are of varied Asian ancestry. We represent multiple nationalities and languages as well as many social and political viewpoints. At last count, there were over 80 distinct Asian languages spoken in the United States. Even within each specific Asian group, there is considerable variability in education, class, and acculturation level. In addition, there is a long history of war, political unrest, and resulting prejudices in many Asian nations. What further complicates matters is that non-Asian Americans often think of Asians as a homogeneous group of people. Companies tend to view us as the Asian Pacific American constituency and do not necessarily categorize us by our specific nationalities.


An Asian American woman who works at a large distributor of home appliances notes: "I used to be quite involved with Asian networking group activities. But lately, I find a much deeper sense of community with the multicultural women's networking group. As a new mother attempting to juggle home and a very demanding job, I identify myself as a woman and mother first, then take my ethnicity into consideration next." You can define yourself along a continuum of factors, your cultural heritage being one of them. Most people describe themselves differently throughout the stages of their lives, such as oldest daughter, father, mother, Catholic, manager, Asian American, cancer survivor. Yet we know these tags don't fully define us or what we are capable of. We're each composed of so many qualities, skills, ideas, emotions, values, and behaviors that a few descriptors won't do anyone justice. We also know these self-ascribed tags aren't necessarily how we are perceived by others, especially those who don't know us well or who know us in other contexts.


In workplace scenarios particularly, perception is often reality. As a result, what they don't know can hurt you. An assessment of your character and how you perform is based not solely on the quality of your "work deliverables" but also on how you interact with your colleagues. It's not what you say but how you say it. How confident do you sound? How articulate are you? How well do you motivate others on your team? Do you take the time to chat with colleagues, whether it's to discuss a project more thoroughly or to just socialize? Other cues that may brand you can be as superficial as how you dress, how you carry yourself, and what your facial expressions are. Behavior is often misinterpreted by people from different cultures, because it is visible, unlike motivations, feelings, intentions, and thought processes. At the most basic level, an underrepresented group like Asian Americans will stand out more.

To manage your career then, you must manage your personal brand -- your image, how you come across. And knowing yourself is the first step in shaping the impression you make and in achieving your professional goals. You must understand your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and internal driving forces to guide how this all plays out in a work environment.

You may already know that your Asian background is integral to your identity. But not fully realizing how that background manifests itself in your attitudes and behaviors may cause misunderstandings in a Western corporate setting. Your Asianness doesn't have to work against you, however. In the process of deciphering your Asian cultural values and integrating them into your workplace persona, you can leverage your natural talents and maybe even learn new skills. You will learn the tools to help break the bamboo ceiling without compromising yourself. Training in selling, presenting, negotiating, and assertiveness can tap and channel your knowledge to enhance your presence and capabilities.

Keep in mind that professional upward mobility requires action on your part. It's unrealistic to expect that your managers and colleagues will automatically want and know how to unearth the true you and understand all you are capable of offering. People miscommunicate and misunderstand one another all the time; there will always be inaccurate perceptions of underrepresented emplyee populations. You have to take the initiative in clarifying the issues to effect change.

The corporate world is also recognizing that it's up to them as well. By 2050, the majority of Americans will come from non-Caucasian backgrounds. When a managing director from a top financial services institution went to a Harvard recruiting luncheon in 2002 to identify candidates for the investment banking training program, she was surprised to see more than 50% of the students who attended were of Asian descent, including a majority that were students who resided in Asia. She realized then that if this was the future of her company, she had better start understanding Asians better as her new recruiting targets -- as the pipeline of potential bankers at her firm.

Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling
Career Strategies for Asians
. Copyright © by Jane Hyun. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2005

    The missing link on corporate Diversity Initiatives

    I first came upon a recommendation to read this book from an article by Anne Fisher of Fortune magazine on Fortune's 2005 diversity issue. This book is an excellent guide both to corporate HR personnel and Asian employees trying to move up the corporate ladder! Asian employees and the direct correlation of their work habits to their culture have been an underlying mystery in the workplace because very little study has been made for this group-until now. This book is a breakthrough in explaining Asian tendencies in the workplace and is very helpful both to the employer and the employee-Asians or otherwise. Certainly a must read for those creating and leading the Diversity Initiatives in their companies! The book not only offers case studies, but it also includes worksheets for understanding how one's Asian culture serves as the foundation of his/her work mannerisms and tendencies. It offers tips on how to overcome cultural challenges as well as tips for the employers on how to make Asian workers feel more open. These tools will ultimately increase productivity, promote Asian leadership in the organization, and help form a truly diverse corporation. I found the description of different mentorship programs particularly useful to me, as I believe mentorship is the most effective way in honing future leaders internal to the company. As a Filipino-American and an aspiring leader in a Fortune 100 company, I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014


    I really wanted to like this book but I couldn't. I felt like she was saying the same things over and over again. I do agree with the premise that asians in the workforce do have different values than their western counterparts however this book doesn't really provide any answers that most of us couldn't figure out already.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012


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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    To Spirit

    A black shecat with dark red paws stalked in.Im Lilyfang Stripes Shootingkit and many others but right know im apearing to you to say that this is pokemon territory ad we need to respect them or else they might take over the clans. So you should go somewhere else or else. A lot of people dont like t when an oposite species is here.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    Im not gonna tp your house sheesh.....

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    *reads the note, and runs away*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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