In today’s increasing globalization and multi cultural companies the importance of our background and our culture gets put to the side. We tend to ignore the fact that we all have very much different backgrounds and work together without paying attention to the person and the culture behind our colleagues. To be able to work in a healthy, successful and efficient way we need to realize and work with our differences, not ignore them.
The cultural clashes, especially in business and within management can be devastating for a company. If not being aware and working with it, many misunderstandings, mistakes and unnecessary looses can be made. When working with people or companies from all over the world, we need to be educated in how to coop with the differences even if you do not know each and every culture very well. We need to have knowledge, competence and understanding to be able to be successful within a multi cultural environment.
2. Definition of Subject
This project is an overhaul and general view of the subject as a whole. We have tried to cover as many parts as possible but at the same time make it clear and precise. Although our main goal is to improve our business skills, we have tried to prove the importance of the subject not only in business but also in everyday life.
In this way we believe we have given an introduction to the problems culture van bring in business if not aware of it and that the project will not only help us, but to awake an interest and awareness of the reader as well.
3. The meaning of culture
Culture can be seen as the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
The word Culture is a very broad term, which has many different meanings due to different nations and traditions. In the list below some other definitions of this term are listed:
Culture is communication, communication is culture.
Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning.
A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group’s skills, knowledges, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behaviours acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, in one hand, be considered as products of action, in the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
Culture is the sum of total of the learned behaviour of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
4. The importance of culture in business
The increasing globalisation of business is having significant impact on contemporary management in dealing with people from various cultural backgrounds. Cultural differences, if not understood properly, can be significant barriers to the implementation and success of a business venture. Today’s managers and business leaders confront decision problems in various management issues while working in different national and cultural environments. Also, managers working in the corporate headquarters of global organizations have to deal with various management and HR issues relating to employees from different cultural backgrounds. The objective of a successful management is to explore the challenges posed by rapid globalisation of business, understand and analyse management and human resource issues for making effective decisions in the contemporary cross-cultural business environment.
Nowadays the need for “culture change” has never been greater because business leaders everywhere are realizing the importance of having the right culture to support… and yet they continue to make decisions that have a harmful impact on their culture, and ultimately their business results.
It seems as though many business leaders do not understand culture, or what causes it…primarily their own behaviour.
In a domestic environment the reaction to cultural impact on the managers’ activities is automatic: the various cultural influences that fill our lives are simply a part of our history, and we react in a manner acceptable to our society without thinking about it because we are culturally responsive to our environment. The experiences we have gained throughout life have become second nature and serve as the basis for our behaviour.
The task of cultural adjustment, however, is the most challenging and important one confronting international businesses. Managers must adjust their efforts to cultures to which they are not attuned. In dealing with unfamiliar environments, managers must be aware of the frames of references they are using in making their decisions. Once a frame of references is established, it becomes an important factor determining or modifying a managers’ reaction to situations; social and even non-social.
When a manager operates in other cultures, business attempts may fail because of unconscious responses based on frames of references acceptable in one’s own culture but unacceptable in different surroundings. Unless special efforts are made to determine local cultural meanings for every environment, the manager is likely to overlook the significance of certain behaviours or activities and proceed with plans that result in a negative or unwanted response.
For example, a Westerner must learn that white is a symbol of mourning in parts of Asia, quite different from Western culture’s white for bridal gowns. Also, time-conscious Americans are not prepared to understand the meaning of time to Latin Americans. These differences must be learned to avoid misunderstandings that can be lead to business failures. Such a failure actually occurred in the one situation when ignorance led to ineffective advertising on the part of an American firm; and a second misunderstanding resulted in the lost sales when a “long waiting period” in the outer office of a Latin American customer was misinterpreted by an American sales executive. Cross-cultural misunderstandings can also occur when a simple hand gesture has a number of different meanings in different parts of the world. When wanting to signify something is OK, most people in the United States raise a hand and make a circle with the thumb and forefinger. However, this same hand gesture means “zero” or “worthless” to the French, “money” to the Japanese, and a general sexual insult in Sardinia and Greece.
To avoid such errors, the foreign manager should be aware that business strategies and judgements are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each manager in terms of his or her own culture. We take into the business environment, at home or in a foreign country, frames of references developed from past experiences that determine or modify our reactions to the situation we face.
Cultural conditioning is like an iceberg – we are not aware of nine-tenths of it.
In any study of the business system of different peoples, their political and economic structures, religions, and other elements of culture, foreign managers must constantly guard against measuring and assessing business against the fixed values and assumptions of their own culture. They must take specific steps to make themselves aware of the home-culture reference in their analysis and decision making to achieve their business objectives. To obtain effective business results, managers must remember that, as every culture is built on certain core value orientations it appears necessary to identify the most important aspects for the individual country on the basis of a number of key variables.
5. Managing culture in general
It is very hard to know what life is really like in a country or region whose culture one has never experienced directly. But it is very easy to have the illusion of knowing what it will be like–from images furnished by popular communications media, from reading, or perhaps having met a few people from there, here on home ground. Simply ‘knowing about’ another culture, however, is not the same thing as knowing what it will be to do business there, on its terms. Every Managing culture has distinct characteristics that make it different from every other culture. Some differences are quite evident, even to the unsophisticated (e.g. language, religion, political organization, etc.). Others can be so subtle that while foreign visitors may be vaguely aware of them, making adjustments is a complex process and one may remain uncomfortable and off balance for quite some time.
One of the difficulties managers and other business men have in adjusting to foreign life comes about because they take abroad with them too much of their own cultural baggage. This is misleading stereotypes and preconceptions about others, coupled with a lack of awareness of that part of themselves which was formed by there on culture. As a result, suddenly feeling like a fish out of water is a not uncommon experience. It is in fact something which should be anticipated as normal and likely, at least for a while.
According to Robert Kohls, former Director of Training and Development for the United States Information Agency; “Business culture is an integrated system of learned behaviour patterns that are characteristic of the members of any given society. It includes everything that a group of people thinks, says, does, and makes–its customs, language, material artefacts and shared systems of attitudes and feelings. The business culture in different countries is a mirror of the countries own culture. First you have to learn the countries culture before you embark on its business culture.
6. Cultural prejudgements
Numerous studies have been done to identify specific characteristics that distinguish one business culture from another. Most overseas companies are often unfortunately captured by misleading and often dangerous stereotyping. Most Germans, Japanese, Italians, etc., have stereotyped perceptions of ‘the American manager,’ just as most Americans have stereotyped images of ‘Germans,’ ‘Japanese,’ ‘Italians, managers etc. In short, misperceptions may exist on all sides. Frequently, the stereotype of the American is far from complimentary: the selfish manager who expects everyone to speak English, the arrogant patriot who thinks every country in the world should pattern itself after the United States, the manager who sees the anonymity of traveling abroad as an opportunity to drop all civilized inhibitions–all have contributed to the development of this unfortunate stereotype. It is up to you to behave in a manner that will convince your hosts that this is indeed an unjustified stereotype that cannot be applied arbitrarily, at least to yourself.
It may seem a bit contradictory to suggest that because of the unique social and cultural milieu in the United States, most American managers tend to be less reserved, less inhibited, and less restrained in their efforts to communicate friendliness and sociability. But in some countries abroad this outgoing manner, especially in Asia, can be grossly misinterpreted: a friendly smile and a warm “hello” on a meeting in Kuwait City could easily be interpreted in a bad way. This is to say that until you develop a feel for the social customs characteristics of the area where you are conducting your business, it is wise to be more formal and restrained in your social contacts. By the same time, do not expect the local managers to welcome you immediately, with open arms; their formality and restraint are not necessarily an expression of unfriendliness but may simply be characteristic of their social manner with strangers.
Unfortunately, attempts to categorize cultural characteristics often end up in cultural stereotypes that are unfair and misleading. In adjusting to your job abroad, you will therefore have to deal not only with real cultural differences, and also with perceived cultural differences. Keep in mind that managers of other cultures are just as adept at stereotyping you as we are at stereotyping them–and the results are not always complimentary. So when you do business in another country try not to fall on stereotypes, because this fall has led to a lot of problems for managers doing business abroad The following are a few examples of the qualities (some positive, some negative) that others frequently associate with the “typical” of different countries
How we see managers:
- outgoing and friendly Americans
- informal Nordic countries
- loud, rude, boastful Americans
- hard working Japanese
- extravagant and wasteful Latin Countries
- sure they have all the answers Americans
- wealthy Gulf countries
- always in a hurry Americans
While a stereotype might possess some grain of truth, it is obvious when we consider individual differences that not every American fits the above description. The same is true about your hosts vis-à-vis your own preconceptions, for example, about the Japanese, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Saudis, etc.
7. Culture Shocks
Many managers go through an initial period of excitement to be able to do business abroad, overwhelmed by the thrill of being in a totally new and unusual environment. As this initial sense of “adventure” wears off, they gradually become aware of the fact that old habits and routine ways of doing things no longer suffice. They gradually (or suddenly) no longer feel comfortably themselves. The way of managing as you do back home, do not work in the new country. If this happens to you, as it is likely to, you will feel like the outsider you in fact are. Minor problems may quickly assume the proportions of major crises, and you may find yourself pushed back and you start to wonder what you are doing here. You may feel an anxiety that results from losing the traditional frame you have of doing business, a kind of psychological disorientation. You will indeed be experiencing what has come to be referred to as “Culture Shock”. Such feelings are perfectly normal, so, knowing this and with a bit of conscious effort, you will soon find yourself making adjustments (some quite subtle and perhaps not even noticeable at the conscious level) that will enable you to adapt to your new cultural environment. There is no clear-cut way of dealing with culture shock. Simply recognizing its existence and your accepting vulnerability to it is an important first step. As long as you know in advance that you will probably fall victim to culture shock at a certain level, you can prepare yourself psychologically to accept the temporary discomfort and turn it into an advantage by learning from it. As Robert Kohls says, “Culture shock is in some degree inevitable” you can never totally learn another culture or business culture by just reading and learning about it. You have to experience it, but off course you should be prepared before. In a research project between Seimens , IBM and Toshiba located at IBM New York the people from the three countries were gathered at an office of American model. The Japanese were unhappy, wanting to knock out some walls which they thought inhibited informal communication. The Germans complained about not having exterior windows which would allow them to see outside, and were uncomfortable with the interior windows which allowed people to look into their offices. This is a good example of how different culture meets and directly creates clashes. To meet those clashes the companies has to make special preparation in order to make everything run smooth.
8. How to fit it
Social customs in life and in business differ greatly from one country to another. It is therefore impossible to give guidelines that will be applicable in every culture. Always keep in mind that you are the guest in someone else’s country. Therefore, you would be safe to assume that your behavior should be regulated pretty much in the same manner as if you were the guest in someone else’s home.
Politeness: In keeping with the relatively formal manner of social customs abroad, you should place much more emphasis on the simple niceties of polite social intercourse than you might at home. For example, should you approach a person of higher rank than you in France always be courteous enough to begin your conversation with, “Bonjour, Madame (Monsieur, Mademoiselle)” before you launch into your matters.
Humour: While each country has its own particular brand of wit and humour, very few cultures appreciate the kind of “kidding” that which Americans are accustomed. Comments, even when intended to be humorous, can often be taken quite literally. In some countries you should never make fun of money and its value.
Speaking the language: When it comes to language, most people will be extremely flattered rather than amused at your efforts to communicate in their native language. Do not be intimidated or inhibited when practicing your own limited command of the language. A couple of words of caution might be in order: do your best to avoid slang expressions, which are usually unique to the particular culture, and which may therefore be totally meaningless or inappropriate in the context of another culture. You have to be aware of the differences between the “familiar” and the “polite” forms of address.
8.1 Special Note to Women
Some business women, in certain overseas (e.g. South America, the Middle East and parts of Europe) have a hard time adjusting to attitudes they encounter abroad, in both public and private interactions between men and women. Some (but not all) men in such countries openly demonstrate their appraisal of women in ways that many western women find offensive. It is not uncommon to be look down upon because you are a woman
You will have to learn what the unwritten rules are about what you can and cannot do abroad. Women can provide support for each other, and former women with experience suggest that you get together several times early in your stay overseas to talk about what works and what doesn’t for dealing with the unwanted situations. Western women are seen as “liberated” in many ways, and sometimes can the woman’s roll in society lead to cultural misunderstandings and some cultures can look very bad on this.
9.1 What is a stereotype?
A stereotype is a generalization about a person or a group of people. They are formed when we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the necessary information. It is a generalized image of a person or group, which does not acknowledge individual differences and which is often prejudicial to that person or group
. Many times stereotypes are negative and formed by the most basic of information and many times they are not negative. They are formed from personal experience but without sufficient information. It is often said that many people fear that which they do not know. Since people are afraid of things unfamiliar to them tend to not try to become familiar with new people or experiences. We have stereotypes for everyone. Whether it is a catholic girl or a history teacher, where there is a difference there is room for a stereotype. Each person can fit into a group that has a stereotype. Someone had a boring history teacher once or met a rebellious catholic school girl, they then passed on their experience or others might have had a similar encounter and suddenly these groups of people have their own unique stereotype. Many minority groups are also given a stereotype because they do not belong to the majority, thus they are less known.
But where do these stereotypes come from? Why does everyone know the one about dumb blonds, or stupid football players or kids that wear glasses must be smart or Americans are obese? Simple–television, radio, magazines and any other media source is still a major influence in helping to form ideas and perceptions of the world and its people. Popular television shows, for entertainment purposes, still portray characters according to their stereotypes. Every show needs a stud, a damsel in distress, a funny guy or girl, and the “average Joe”. They use stereotypes to dramatize characters, but really it’s just reinforcing these ideas and keeping people from forming opinions based on real life experience.
Children learn about stereotypes from their parents or other adults near them. They then take these ideas and misconceptions and grow with them. They might feel that it isn’t necessary to get to know a certain person or persons because of a negative stereotype they already have. So they remain closed off from new experiences and less open to meeting new people. This is why stereotypes still exist, because change isn’t happening as much as it should be. We are all to blame for the lack of awareness we have for one another. People are separated by many factors that keep these stereotypes alive. Geographically of course we cannot all live within one another’s presence. Many people do not have the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures, so they are forced to form opinions from what they learn on their own or from what others tell them. Social class also creates a division among people. Since we tend to stay close to people like ourselves we might never get to know the billionaires of the world or people living in third world countries. Billionaires might look at the poverty stricken and see laziness. Those on welfare might look to the billionaires and see people who only care about money and nothing else. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends because we either aren’t given the opportunity to know these different people or we just don’t want to know them.
9.3 Stereotypes in the workplace
Stereotypes are also harmful in the workplace. Men think that women are too sensitive; women think men are too aggressive. We tend to associate different genders with different jobs; such as women are hairdressers, men are engineers. The same goes for different races and cultures. African-American men are expected to be athletes or drug dealers while Japanese people are supposed to be little business men and Saudi Arabians all have business in oil. These stereotypes create biases and judgments, so that when different people come into a workplace there is already a preconceived notion as to what type of an employee they might be.
9.4 Reducing the Problem
It is safe to say that almost everyone is guilty of stereotyping. Whether it’s a harmless stereotype like tall people are clumsy or short people are quick, it’s still a generalization of a group of people, and it’s unfair. We put a stereotype on everyone and because of that we tend to judge people before we actually know them. We try to predict how a person might act, or we might treat someone differently based on what we believe to be true about them. So how do we overcome this problem, or at least reduce it? Marilyn Lopes from University of Massachusetts offers some helpful suggestions:
- Focus on every person as an individual.
- Become more aware of stereotypes and how they interfere with our ability to perceive and interact with people.
- Remember that there are more differences within a group than between groups.
- Recognize that we’re all part of many groups, none of which can totally explain or define who we are.
- Learn to look at things from the other person’s point of view.
- Adapt a more humble, tentative attitude about the accuracy of our judgments.
- Be willing to learn more about the culture / background of people different from ourselves.
- Take opportunities to neutralize stereotypes when we hear them.
It seems simple enough. All we need to do is be more open to people and realize that everyone is unique and although we may share similar qualities and characteristics, we are not the same. Stereotypes have proven to be of no benefit to anyone. We can’t begin to say we know everyone, or how everyone acts, because that is impossible. We can share our personal experiences, but we can’t let those form a complete opinion about a whole group of people, it just isn’t right. So my advice to everyone: look a little deeper before passing judgment so that someday we might be able to rid ourselves of these stereotypes.
10. Managing across cultures
10.1 A Nordic experience in a Latin country
Cultural spheres of influence
Regional cultures refer to differences within countries (such as the various Lander in Germany) and similarities between countries (such as in Scandinavia). It is important to recognize both, in order to avoid the assumption that doing business in Rome is the same as in Milan, or the assumption that doing business in Indonesia is so very different from Saudi Arabia. Recognizing regional cultures helps us to appreciate why certain industries flourish in different regions, and why trading partners may be more eagerly sought across some borders rather than others.
Interaction sphere of influence
Far these differences within countries may also explain the similarities between countries. Far example, cultural similarities of French-speaking Belgians and Swiss with the French themselves are attributed to historical events (the influence of Rome and Napoleon) which brought about shared religion, and language. Cultural differences also exist between cities or between urban- and rural-based companies. Osaka and Tokyo (Japan) or San Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) have differing reputations for being more task-oriented (hard-working) or more concerned about quality of life (relaxed). For example, one Indian executive described the culture of Bombay as very commercial, as it is a city where people come from all over India to make money. New Delhi, which houses the government, has a more administrative face, and Calcutta is seen as the cultural centre. A similar case could be made in Germany for Frankfurt, Bonn, and Berlin, respectively.
Companies located in large urban centres, whether Paris, New York, London, or Tokyo, tend to have different cultures from rural-based companies. Toyota consciously cultivates its image as a “country bumpkin”arid prefers to locate foreign operations in tray communities in the United Kingdom and the United States. Companies have also moved headquarters from large urban centres to improve productivity through enhancing quality of life, and not only for tax benefits.
10.2 Work experience
The problem of mobility itself differs across cultures. For example, the proportion of managers with working partners is particularly high in Sweden. For this reason, 50% edits companies often make ittheir business to assist spouses in finding jobs in the community. Continental Europeans are also less inspirited to use abroad, preferring
Remain in dose contact with their extended family. These family ties have greater importance ran for British managers, who may be more accustomed to leaving their children. Distant boarding schools.
10.3 Making contact
A northern European feels uncomfortable when people are standing or for that matter driving too close for comfort. This can also be observed in queuing behaviour. While standing in! In, northern Europeans who! Eave a space for comfort should not be surprised if a Latin European quickly fills it. These cultural! Differences in queuing behaviour were clearly evident at Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris), posing problems for crowd control! Normally practiced in the United States and Japan. The northern Europeans and Anglo-Saxon guests became quite annoyed with the Latin Europeans filing in the gaps, as they interpreted intro be breaking in line.
The idea of intrusion is not) us physical. Try is also psychological! Thus, what many North Americans consider a perfectly friendly line of questioning, may be deemed importuner or overly familiar by iron-Americans. This difference is particularity! Key to manifest itself at the “getting to know each order” stage of an international negotiation or prospective coi!
10.4 Dress codes
Other c ray artefact, the prevailing dress code, also differs in degree of formal to; can serve as a subtle signalling mechanism. Northern European managers tend too more informality than their Latin counterparts. At conferences, it is not UN! Ikeiv facts:
Scandinavian managers would be wearing casual clothing, eschewing the office uniform Cr and jacket. Meanwhile, heir French counterparts are reluctant or remove their rues jackets.
For the Latin managers, site is important, while Anglo and Asian managers co -want stand out or attract attention in their dress. French women managers are likely to be dressed in ways that Anglo women managers might think inappropriate -the office. The French, in turn, think it strange that American businesswomen dart “man-like” business suits (sometimes with running shoes). In addition, corporate or: -seems to be colour-coded. Women working in the United Kingdom have been adviser – -tee wear red, or brighten collared sirs and dresses. Bankers at one Dutch bank brown suits.
Dress code may also signal task orientation. For example, rolled up shirt sac’ considered a signal of “gearing down tee business’ (United Stares) or “relaxing on rot -(France). One verve hot day, at an m-house company seminar at a beautiful conference centre, a German manager arrived in a dark tie and jacket. . When asked why he was so dressed up, he replied. Here to work”. Ideas currently in vogue regarding dress code include “dressing down ad. “Dressing for the customer”. Some US companies have designated certain dado Fridays, as days when people are encouraged the come too work in more casual (chicory = those they would wear at home). This created problems in London.
11. Internal integration
11.1 Relationships with people
Pittance of task versus relationships
Key assumption differentiating cultures is the importance of river tasks. He statement “Leer’s keep this strictly business” is likely to confuse, nor offend. Angers in Asia, Latin American, and the Middies East. Here, managers prefer or do business with people they know. A relationship must be established before business can
American and northern European managers prefer to focus on the task and to keep personal relationships at1 Amery’s pride themselves on having good business sense business with friends and family, as these relationships are considered to interfere with sound judgement. People should be hired on merit (ability and past accomplishments) and not on “connections” (Guan in China and le piston in France). The idea that you need to develop relationships in order to accomplish tasks is viewed with suspicion, and dismissed as company politics.
In Latin cultures, frankly and first, taking precedence over ail cask. Latin European manger from chair Anglo count whether they would lie to save friend who had caused an accident from criminal prosecution while almost nine out of ten Anglo managers refused to lie to save a friend, only two-thirds of Latin European respondents refused to do so.
For the Anglo culture, objective “reality”, the truth about what readily happened, is more important than personae ties. In Larine cultures, reality must be considered in the context of the nature of the relationship and circumstances. This dimension is referred to as universalism versus particularise. In universalise cultures people believe that the rubies and regulations should apply to everybody, and not just your enemies, as Brazilian managers would say.
12. Linking assumptions: space, language, time
In Anglo—Saxon and northern European culture; time, like money, is regarded as a finite resource which is spent. Time is seen as “monochromic”, structured in a sequential and linear fashion. Managers run these countries typically expect to have appointments scheduled in hour or half-hour slots. Indeed, if in a discussion, they will probably finish their conversation before acknowledging a new arriva1. Monochromatic man concerned (some say obsessed) with starring meetings on time, and on spending time productively.
In Latin European and Middies Eastern cultures, time is experienced as unlimited and. Managers from these countries typically believe that time expands or accommodate activities, and that several activities can happen concurrency. A Latin manager may be lire to a business meeting because it is unthinkable to pass a colleague or friend in the corridor without stopping ormake a contact. The friend would be highly offended. Business meetings are likely fragmented with interruptions of calls and visitors, as well as discussions going on at once. This reflects the importance of relationships, which more task-oriented managers find irritating
Finding the right people is often one of the most important challenges, particularly when with the nature of the local labour market or the available human resources.This makes difficult the task of finding those candidates who have the competence to get rhea job done and who seem likely to fit in with the existing corporate culture. This may mean that a company has to look in very different places to find the same kind of people in terms of abilities as well as behaviour, beliefs, and values. What represents a standard profile in one country may be quite exceptional in another.
12.3 Compensation and reward
The idea of special rewards for special efforts may not be so readily accepted elsewhere. In the Danish subsidiary of one group over the others. In addition: new Danish employees argued that everyone should get the same amount of bonus, not 5 percent of salary, and some even insisted that there should be no differences in pay newer bosses and secretaries.4° This reflects strong assumptions of vegetarianism.
13. Culture exists in every society
Culture is everything that people have, think and do as members of their society.
These are the specific learned norms based on attitudes, values and beliefs. Culture is often based on long standing traditions that have been passed from elders to the younger generation. It can be evolved through societal and religious influences. When culture makes contact with other cultures, a type of cultural borrowing takes place and is more prominent when languages are similar or identical.
Culture not only influences daily life but also effects business transactions that take place in that community. Because culture can vary from country to country and even area to area doing business in a foreign country can cause complications for even the best of business managers. The culture of the country a company does business in can and will effect many of the business decisions that the company has to make. Cultures are made up of group affiliations. Ascribed group memberships include those based on gender, family age, caste and ethnic/racial/nation backgrounds, they are determined at birth. Acquired group memberships are not determined at birth and include religion, political affiliation and professional and other associations. These affiliations often reflect the status the individual has in the country’s class system. Therefore manager’s must make themselves aware of the implications certain positions will have and target those job vacancies to the appropriate groups or they must be aware that their products will appeal to only a certain segment of the population of the country and determine who that segment is. Another way that culture has effect on business decisions is the concept of competence.
Some countries feel that competence should be highly rewarded while others feel that seniority or some other quality is more important when determining promotions or hiring. Some countries legalize their cultural beliefs through laws regarding hiring and they too must be taken into consideration when making business decisions in a foreign country. Cultural attitudes towards the importance of work vary from country to country and impact the management styles, product demand and levels of economic development.
The reasons why people work and how hard they work changes from area to area. Some work harder than they need to make more money to purchase luxuries that are sought in that culture. Other cultures take a more laid back approach to working. Often as economic gains are achieved attitudes change, workers often do less work when incomes are raised. If workers believe that they will be rewarded when they succeed and is there is uncertainty of success.
Some countries value high need achievers, or people who work very hard to achieve material success or career success even if it negatively effects their social/family relationships. Other countries however, place a higher value on the relationships one has with their family and their friends than the success
they achieve at work. Some cultures differ as well in their ranking their physiological, security, affiliation, esteem and self actualization needs. They may feel that activities that satisfy their self actualization needs are more important than activities that ensure their security needs are achieved.
Businesses must be aware of these factors for many of the decisions they must make in order to be successful in that market. Different cultures differ in the way they view occupations and the relationships between employer and employee. Many cultures view certain jobs as the “best” jobs, but these jobs deviate from country to country or culture to culture. Some cultures also find it demeaning to work for a boss while others feel that it is important to be part of an organization. Some cultures use autocratic styles of management, while others use consultative. Another area of concern is the degree ofuncertainty regarding rules and effects on the company. Some cultures want to know the specific guidelines and rules of the organization and how
breaking them could effect the company. They also plan to work for companies for a long time. Other cultures do not have as much loyalty to the company or their rules. Some cultures trust easily while others spend lot’s of money on monitoring other’s actions and making contracts to ensure compliance. Cultures that believe in self determination, rather than fatalism will work hard to achieve their goals. In several countries they have a very collectivist culture and work for the group instead of individual rewards.
These variables all impact the success or failure of the company in it’s endeavors in a foreign market and an organization must be very aware of these issues to ensure a smooth transition. Language, both silent and vocal, reflect the environment of the society. Language in itself is a unifying force.
Translating a language into another can be difficult because of varying environmental factors. Words in different cultures also may have different meanings, so a phrase that is socially acceptable in one culture would be unacceptable in it’s translation to another culture. Languages such as English, French and Spanish are widely accepted and often people who speak these languages are not motivated to learn new ones. Silent language is when messages are exchanged through nonverbal cues like colours, appropriate distance between people, time, status cues and body language. When meeting with foreign cultures a business person must be very aware of what is acceptable or not acceptable to certify that they do not insult their prospective partners or customers. Many countries deviate in the way that the receive and process information. Some cultures require broad information while other’s want more focused relevant information. Many cultures are comfortable with dealing with many tasks while others want to handle one at a time. In numerous countries national norms hold that principal issues should be handled first while other cultures require small issues be cleared up before the main ones. If a company is going to operate successfully in an international capacity they must be attentive of the process of communicating and problem solving. As Canadian business people one has to understand the differences between our culture and the cultures of foreign markets.
Canadians are very self determinate in their approach to business, and payless attention to the effects of fate. We usually have a scheduled approach to tasks and take one task at a time, rather than multi-task. We are also time and task oriented, a Canadian business man might stay late to work on a task that was supposed to be accomplished by 5 PM while other cultures will leave the office early to have dinner with their family and finish the project tomorrow. Canadians rarely beat around the bush they tend to get straight to the point while other cultures feel that it is more sophisticated to be less blunt.
Canadian tend to limit physical closeness to a pat on the back, while other cultures hug and stand very close to each other, even other cultures believe that physical touching in any way is inappropriate. Canadians also recognize and promote individualism. We value the many subcultures that exist in our society and believe in an individual achieving their goals. Other cultures take a more group oriented approach to accomplishing goals and achieving recognition. An example of a foreign culture that many Canadians do business with is the Japanese culture. The Japanese culture is one that is based on collectivism. People work together to achieve goals that benefit the group as a whole. Their primary motivation for work is the honour and welfare of the collective group. Japanese language is very subtle, they believe that it is very sophisticated to derive the main point from a broad conversation without having to spell it out. Japanese culture require punctuality for business matters but allow tardiness for social engagements. The Japanese also place meanings
on every gesture and recognize negative responses through fanning of the right hand in front of the face and sucking air. Japanese culture also regards individual space as something that should be maintained at all times and that hand shakes should be weak with a nod of the head and downcast eyes. The Japanese culture views gift giving as extremely important and requires business gifts to be exchanged on Jan.1 and July 15 (year-end and mid year).
To the Japanese image is everything so gifts with well known logos are important. Gifts should not be given in even numbers and never give four of anything. Wrapping should be done in Japan by a wrapping service as many colours and decorations have significant meanings for example, white means death and bows are not used. The Japanese also believe in lavish entertainment and reciprocation. They place high value on seating and will seat people according to their rank. The Japanese begin business negotiations very formally but follow their dinners with several trips to the bar, each decreasing in formality. The Japanese culture is very different from Canadian culture and is an example of how one culture must be aware of the connotations of another culture when doing business with it.
14. What a manager can do
What a manager can change falls distinctively into the three categories stated in the definition of change: people, structure and technology. The manager can make alterations in these areas in an attempt to adapt to or facilitate change. The change of people involves changing attitudes, expectations, perceptions and behaviour. These changes are used to help people within organisations to work together more effectively. Changing structure relates to job design, job specialisation, hierarchy, formalisation and all other organisational structural variables. These changes are ones that need to be flexible and not static to be adaptable to change. Technological change entails modification of work processes and methods and the introduction of new equipment. Changes in this area have been enormous especially in the areas of computing and communications. The organisation also has its own personality or culture. This environment and culture can be the generator of forces for change. Needs from within the organisation can stimulate change, these are internal forces for change.
New strategy, new technology and change in employee mix or attitudes are all internal factors that can create force for change.
The introduction of new equipment or technology can create the need for change within the workplace. The staff will need to learn how to use the new equipment and it may affect the duties required of them. Their jobs may have to be redesigned. New company strategies, which may involve the change in management practices, enterprise agreements and industrial relations, will create a vast variety of needs for change. So will the attitudes of the workers. In fact employee attitudes can create the need for new company strategies in the case of job dissatisfaction, poor team spirit, lack of commitment and job insecurity.
External forces affecting an organisation demand change by creating threats and opportunities. The organisation it compelled to respond to these threats and opportunities. These external forces are apparent in many of the segments of the organisations external environment. These include political-legal, technological, economic, marketplace and sociocultural dimensions.
The political-legal environment is that which consists of government bodies, pressure groups and laws. It is pertinent for companies to keep abreast of and change in political environment because these changes can have dramatic effect. Change in political environment can see legislation introduced that will not make selling or providing a product feasible or somewhat difficult. There are many political factors and laws that can affect business. Pricing, competition, fair trade packaging, labelling, advertising, product safety and minimum wages can all affect business. The marketplace is a major contributor to forces for change. These forces are created by changes in customer buying needs, expectations and buying habits. The lifting of import tariffs or market deregulation are other factors. The technical environment is created by developments of new products or processes that affect an organisations opportunities and operations. These advancements in technology purvey benefits and impel organisations to change.
The first factor to consider for motivating change deals with whether the organisation is facing some obvious need for change, such as increasing competition; pressure on prices; changing customer needs / expectations; advances in technology; reductions in external funding; or regulatory changes. The actual change does not occur until the force for change exceeds that of the force resisting the change. People who may not necessarily lose from the change still contribute to the force resisting change. People inherently resist change because change causes uncertainty and ambiguity. Through good management these uncertainties and ambiguities will be removed and the resistance to change will not be as great. Change can be modelled by two different metaphors: calm-waters and white-water rapids. The calm waters model involves unfreezing changing and refreezing, this is also the some as Lewin’s model of change. We have seen that planning is a tool that can be used to predict change. In this environment of predictability the calm waters metaphor is an apt model. The organisation is in a stable environment and can anticipate change so it goes through a process of unfreezing, changes implemented to overcome differences and meet new goals, and refreezing to keep changes in effect and return to stable environment.
An organisation that is well structured for change is one that is organic. An organic organisation has the structural characteristics mentioned above and others like wide span of control, cross-functional teams, free flow of information and low formalisation. Leadership is crucial to facilitate the vision required for an organisation to become a learning organisation. Leadership can be used to reduce the resistance to change by altering people’s attitudes, expectations, perceptions and behaviour through motivation, communication, participation, facilitation, negotiation manipulation and coercion. The environment and that we create through change and trying to encourage change is one that is conducive to stimulating innovation. We need to have flexible structures, good communication, and culture that is relaxed and supportive of new ideas. An organisation’s culture can be a prevailing force for innovation or seriously threaten the innovative endeavour. Crucial to the implementation of cultural change is management’s ability to use leadership and provide a shared vision of the future. In a chaotic, dynamic world of change we must be able to come up with new ideas and inventions in order to compete in the global market. Those who are good innovators are the ones who can gain competitive advantages. Change and survival are synonymous. Survival demands change. Managers must be intuitive and read the current and changing situation surrounding them and make the best decision to coordinate work and apply resources. We have discussed what change is, how we depict it and what forces or creates change. Change implemented correctly can unleash employee creativity and potential, reduce bureaucracy and costs, and provide ongoing improvement for an organisation. Given these benefits it would seem a good idea to encourage change.
14.1 The manager’s role
Many organizations appoint internal change agents who are critical to how change will be implemented and accepted within the organization. Ideally, they possess both technical know-how as well as social skills and are perceived as credible advocates of change. They must be knowledgeable about the particular process being changed, as well as how it interacts with and affects other processes within the organization. This builds their credibility as leaders. In addition to technical expertise, change agents should also have strong social skills. Effective leaders will be able to define and communicate what is expected to each person within the organization in a non-confrontational and non-threatening way. In effect, a change agent is the company’s “salesperson” for change. They need a firm understanding of other disciplines within the organization and must be diplomatic in their interactions, willing to ask tough questions and influence policy wherever appropriate.
They must be trustworthy and thick-skinned enough to face criticism and resistance to change. Finally, they should be effective in communicating, practicing, facilitating and training for the organization’s new and improved way of being.
For innovation to be elemental and changes to be implemented successfully, every employee must have the mindset, skills and incentive to contribute and embrace a culture of innovation. To achieve this goal, the leader or management team must be committed to creating an environment and culture that unleashes creativity, strikes for joy and humor in the workplace, can overcome the natural tendency toward risk aversion, and a willingness to contribute and the ability to embrace change. Additionally, the understanding of the forces of change constantly reshaping business today needs to be broadened throughout the organization. Through encouragement of new mindsets that help break through to new levels of customer service, continuous improvement, and personal empowerment, the basis for a perpetually innovative organization can be created. Once the cultural basis has been adopted, the organization needs to provide the platform and provide the resources for its employees to be innovative and handle the stress of change and competition.
One thing all of these new organizational forms have in common is that they resemble webs or networks – clusters of specialized units coordinated by communication and relational norms rather than by a hierarchical chain of command. “Specialization” is the key word because increased specialization enhances organizational adaptability in several ways. First, by focusing on more narrowly defined task domains, specialists accumulate large amounts of in-depth knowledge and expertise. By focusing their attention, they are also better able to monitor – and more likely to recognize and correctly interpret – indicators concerning impending environmental shifts likely to affect their special areas of expertise. Additionally, the assignment of cross-functional teams can eliminate the time involved in the usual linear iteration. Ideas are floated and tested against people who bring a range of knowledge – technical, financial, aesthetic, market – to the table. Hence, any action or structure!
e that enhances interaction among employees in the system will promote the emergence of greater creativity and adaptability.
Last but not least, managers must learn to lead by not leading. Leaders have to learn that managing an organization as a complex system means letting go of control. The idea of the old top-to-bottom approach of centrally coordinated hierarchies and a bureaucratic chain of control has to be abandoned. Through training and education sessions both subordinates’ and managers’ ability to be innovative and open for change can be enhanced.
Nevertheless, change agents are hardly ever appointed to implement a proposed change in an organization in which everyone, everywhere, every day embraces his mission. In reality, managers of changing organizations are faced with opposition.
Today’s world is a diverse and advanced one. We can talk to someone on the internet across the world and make video clips with our cell phones. People have more personal liberties and rights, and the standard of living has greatly increased. There are hundreds of cultures, religions, and personal ideologies that influence daily life and these are born from the billions of people we have inhabiting our planet. Yet no matter how many technological achievements we make, how much education our children receive or how many improvements we make in life, we are still in some ways very lacking of basic knowledge and fundamental ideas. Instead, we carry with us stereotypes and prejudices that keep up from growing and evolving into better human beings.
The aim of this project was to raise the importance of noticing and working with the cultural differences in today’s business. We have during our work discovered a lack and ignorance among people not taking notice of the backgrounds and the differences among us. We assume that people are to be professionals and act in one and the same way. But being professional in one country is not the same as in another. As we have said in our project, cultural differences are like ice bergs – we can only see a small part of them. We do not know how many problems or failed negotiations that comes out from not understanding each others background.
Today we think we are free from prejudgments and stereotypes, we think we are global and professional, a part of the new millennium. It is amazing how wrong we are. Just looking at ourselves, how we look at Japanese, Americans, Italians… This is the biggest problem to solve – to realize that we need to work with it, we need to pay attention of how we think. Nothing can change if not starting with ourselves. We hope by this project not only to have opened our own eyes, but also yours!
Finally we would like to thank Prof. Meloni for his help, guidance, support and his patience throughout the course and the project.
16. End references
1. Clipart, Microsoft Windows XP.
2. www.saudiarabien.com Downloaded 27/05/2003
3. www.times.com Downloaded: 27/05/2003
4. www.racerelations.about.com/cs/stereotypes/ Downloaded: 20/05/2003
5. http://www.nncc.org/Diversity/divers.rea.stereotypes.html#anchor579591 Downloaded: 20/05/2003
6. Barney, J., Ricky, W., (1992), The Management of Organisations, Houghton Mifflin Company, U.S.A.
1. Barney, J., Ricky, W., (1992), The Management of Organisations, Houghton Mifflin Company, U.S.A.
2. Managing across cultures, Susan C. Schneider and Jean-Louis Barsoux
4. http://www.nncc.org/Diversity/divers.rea.stereotypes.html#anchor579591Cross Cultural Management (May 2005) by BigBalli