This paper contrasts the socio-cultural systems underpinning employment relations in the West and in the Overseas Chinese case. The analysis centres on the norm of reciprocity which, whilst taken as a universal phenomena, exhibits significant cross-cultural variation. Western employment relations are characterised by a model of impersonal rational economic exchange in which individuals engage in a utility calculus. Chinese employment relations remain more fully embedded in the wider socio-cultural system of which reciprocity is a vital and integral part. Employment relations are sustained by a personalistic tacit moral order. The implications for managing employment relations in changing and multi-cultural situations are discussed. The sustainabilty of the different employment relations systems are also discussed.