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Starting with defining culture this reflective practice assignment (RPA) follows the importance of intercultural management skills in the International Hospitality and Tourism Management. It focuses on my own cultural background and the reason for choosing the other culture. Following that theoretical models of cultural behaviour are used to analyse both the cultures and its implications are written down. Stereotypes and potential difficulties in relation to work among both the cultures are described. Brief sections on three management skills topics are covered in this assignment with appendices demonstrating tasks and exercises. While it is also kept in mind that in each of these skills it relates to those required by managers in international hospitality & tourism industries. Finally this assignment reflects on the tasks and exercises on evaluating own intercultural awareness and provides a personal plan for improving in these areas.
Comparative and so called 'intercultural' studies are becoming increasingly more important in the global business environment. Culture in international business nowadays is recognized to have a major role to play in the international sales, marketing, recruitment, management and mergers (Dahl, 2004). Culture therefore is defined as a distinctive way of life for a particular group of people and as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another" (Hofstede, 2001,p 9).
Hospitality is a diverse area of economic activity, within which exact scope and definition are inexpressible (Lashley and Morrison, 2000). However, it is a sector that is characterised by diversity in terms of the range of business types and customer profiles (Baum, 2006), geographical dispersal, stochastic demand cycles and, in peripheral locations, a predominantly small business structure (Getz et al., 2004). In particular the international hospitality and tourism industries present significant opportunities to work with and serve diverse groups. The impact of culture though should not be forgotten or sidelined in these activities as Reisinger and Turner (2003 p.1) highlight "The elements of national cultures have a significant impact on tourists' behaviour, their holiday expectations, experiences, satisfaction and consequently repeat visitation."
As the importance of culture is clearly understood from the prospects of Hospitality & Tourism above, I would be concentrating on Indian culture and the U.S. culture . As Indian culture is mine own culture but selection of U.S. culture is based on its customs, traditions, values and beliefs which I noticed on my visit to U.S. What fascinates me about U.S. is the generosity and openness of its people. I never paid attention towards its culture dimensions and would now like to analyze it with respect to the different models.
Cultural Differences Model:
Adler 2008, comments that differences in work related attitudes exist across a wide range cultures. One of the most important studies which attempted to establish the impact of these culture differences on management was conducted by Geert Hofstede. He identified five "value" dimensions (Schneider et al 1997) on which countries differed. Appendix A provides Hofstedes scores between India and U.S and the definition of each dimension.
Power Distance: India's high Power Distance over U.S (Appendix A) indicates a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society (Hofsede, 2001). It implies that in U.S I am expected to avoid their bosses frequently in order to get their work done (Adler, 2008). I will have to be less hierarchical and have to tend to cope up with less formalized rules and procedures. I as a manager in U.S will have to be practical and systematic and will need to consult my subordinates before making decisions (Mead, 1998).
Individualism vs Collectivism: The high Individualism ranking for the United States (Appendix A) indicates a society with a more individualistic attitude and relatively loose bonds with others as compared to a collectivist country like India (Hofsede, 2001). Implications for me would involve stress on my individual achievement and right and would need to focus on satisfying my needs (Mead, 1998) as opposed in India. I as a manger will need to aim for variety rather than conformity in work and will have to make decisions individually (Mead, 1998).
Masculinity vs Feminity: U.S high masculinity score (Appendix A) indicates that the male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure (Hofsede, 2001). Therefore it implies that I need to be more concerned with task accomplishment while money will be the main motivator to me (Schneider & Barsoux, 1997). I will be expected to be more assertive and competitive and will possess value associated with achievement (Mead, 1998).
Uncertainty Avoidance: According to Hofsede, (2001) India's low scores (Appendix A) on uncertainty avoidance indicate the culture to be more open to unstructured ideas and situations. While U.S low scores also indicates "greater equality between societal levels, including government, organizations, and even within families" (www.geert-hofstede.com). As both the countries are reasonably similar to each other therefore it's unlikely to have problems for me in U.S.
Long term Orientation: India's high long term orientation (Appendix A) indicates the culture to be "perseverant" and "parsimonious" (www.geert-hofstede.com). Therefore it implies that i need to respect for tradition, fulfil social obligations, and protect one's 'face' in a short term oriented culture like U.S. (www.geert-hofstede.com).
Based on his experience in the Foreign Service, Edward T. Hall published two books, "The Silent Language" (1959) and "The Hidden Dimension" (1969). In them, he identified two classic dimensions of culture. Firstly, he identified high-context and low-context cultures, in this sense context means the information that revolves around an event (Hall, 1977). Schneider & Barsoux (2003 p. 44) suggest that in a low context culture "The person and the situation are not particularly relevant to the discourse."
Therefore it implies that I coming from India, a high context culture (where communication is highly dependent on the situation and the person) needs to communicate directly and clearly or explicit. I will be expected to come to a point nor just beating around the bush (Schneider & Barsoux, 1997). Nor will I be expected reading between the lines as seen in my culture. Everyone should understand my message and i as a manager should write agreements rather than just speaking as in U.S they place greater reliance on written legal systems to resolve disputes- which is reflected in the size and structure of their legal professionals: 1987 data recorded 279 lawyers per 100,000 people in the U.S (Mead, 1998).
The second concept given by Hall was to do with the how different cultures structure or manage their time i.e. polychronic verses the monochronic time orientation (Hall, 1977). I being an Indian (polychromic) which means time is experienced as unlimited and spontaneous, needs to value it like money and should regard it as finite resource which is spent while moving to U.S (Schneider & Barsoux, 1997). As manger i would be expected to have appointments scheduled in hour or half an hour while just doing only one task at a time (Dahl, 2004).
Issues of Stereotypes and Generalisations:
Human beings need to generalize about their environments in order to operate efficiently. One way of generalizing about other people is to apply stereotypes. It treats a group of people as though they were all cast from a single mould, all the same and regular in time (Mead, 1998). For e.g. when we meet someone from the U.S we are apt to think, "This is an American" (much to the concern of Canadians and South Americans). While western cultures (U.S) people had a perceptions about India, the literacy rate is low and they are orthodox people as they come from the country of Tigers and Snakes. Research indicates that managers are ineffective in cross-cultural situations when they either deny having stereotypes or get stuck in them (Schneider & Barsoux 1997). Therefore according to Mead (1998), the international manager needs to continually readjust his conceptual map of the other culture in the light of cultural shift and the evidences provided by new subcultures.
Potential Difficulties in Work Relationship between the two cultures
In U.S people believe that they can really control their future. They are more specific to plan things (Althen, 2003) Indian people, however, believe that everything goes by God's will and make short term plans (Davies, 2004) U.S people are more goal-oriented, where as Indian people are more people oriented. They make their goals around people of the family. They even change their goals sometimes if they do not suit the needs of their family or family members (Davies, 2004) On the other hand, U.S people are always ready to do anything to get the job done or achieve their goal. While Gannon (2009) also says U.S people are independent and relaxed, while Indians tend to be extremely family-oriented and hard working. U.S peoples enjoy mobility and change, while Indians seek stability. People in U.S like privacy and are very independent. They believe the individual is supreme and do not like to work in groups, but Indian people are collectivist people. They always enjoy working as members of a group. (Althen, 2003)
Intercultural Management Skills
"Motivation" as a term has typically been viewed as an active theory as it is linked with an individual force to act in a particular way (French 2007). It is defined a "A psychological process through which unsatisfied wants or needs lead to drives that are aimed at goals or incentives" (Hodgetts & Luthans 20003,p 379). They suggest that the process of motivation is universal, which states most people are motivated to follow goals that they think are important, putting themselves first, however culture also has a role to play in influencing one's goals that are pursued. The content theories identify on focusing on understanding what people want, or what initiates their behaviour to work while the process theories focus on how peoples wants, needs and desires affect their behaviour or how work behaviour is initiated, redirected and halted (Mead & Andrew, 2009).
Studies done by Kovach (1994) and Silverthorne (1992) shows that U.S employees tend to rate 'interesting work' as most important or second most important for themselves, while their superiors consistently guessed that good wages would be most important. US employees often ranked good wages fifth in the list while their superiors tend to miscalculate the importance of 'being in on things', interesting work, and appreciation of work done as compared to subordinates' rankings (Fisher & Yuan, 1998). While reflecting on my own motivation in Appendix B it was found that the motivator factors like job recognition, advancement are important to me than the hygiene factors like job security, working conditions. In Appendix C I found out to be cooperative (which means I as a manager will reward groups or teams) and benevolent in measuring perceived fair interpersonal treatment.
Erez (1997) claims that one of the challenges that managers in Hospitality and Tourism industries face is linking employee motivation to organizational goals. This link occurs when employee behaviour that leads to the achievement of the organizational goals also directly creates a sense of self-image and wellbeing, and leads to the achievement of organizational rewards and recognition, as well (Erez 1997). It is also claimed by French 2007 that managers must be aware of how best to motivate their staff in order to add workers efforts within the overall aim of achieving organisational goals.
The term "intercultural" or "multicultural" team refers to the team that consists of members from different cultures, different nationalities or both. Many hospitality organizations as any multinational companies use multicultural teams to deal with the demands of the increasingly competitive global business market (Matveev & Milter 2004). As Adler 2008 says multicultural teams are either highly effective or highly ineffective depending on how effectively cultural diversity is handled. To work effectively with diverse workforce multicultural teams need to know the cultures they are interacting and also must appreciate their team members' personalities, conflict behavior, and life experiences (Triandis and Singelis, 1998 cited in Matveev & Nelson 2004).
Managers working in international Hospitality & tourism industries carry out their organizational goals through multicultural teams (Reisinger & Turner, 2002). U.S team members therefore prefer consultation, participation, cooperation, and practicality. They are focused on individual achievement, value assertiveness, emphasize advancement, strive for earnings, open to change and risk taking, and very non hierarchical (Althen, 2003). Indian team members on the other hand exhibit more emotional dependence on the team, are more hierrarchial, orderly, traditional, particular, value interpersonal and interdependent relationships, ambitious to achieve harmony (Gannon, 2009) . Therefore, the U.S and Indian managers differ in their definitions and perceptions of appropriate and desirable communication behaviour when achieving high levels of team performance. Appendix D provides a task which reflects how I personally act to cultural dilemmas and observe conventions within a team.
Communication-Role of Languages
Intercultural communication occurs when there are interactions between peole from different cultures. Therefore culture influences language by creating different ways of expressing beliefs, values and perceptions as said by Feely (2003,p 207), "language represents the expresses the culture, the value system beyond it". In some high-context cultures, being expressive about our emotions could lead to the other person judging us as immature and a potential cause of shame to the group, whereas in low-context cultures, deliberately hiding your emotions is considered to be hypocritical (Adler, 2008). Beamer (2008) claims that 65 to 75 percent of managerial time is spent talking to others, the figures can rise to 90 percent for the highest level of management, hence verbal communication skills cannot be ignored and since the workforce is diverse in the hospitality industry, verbal communication suffers a lot.
As tourism bring hosts and guests from a variety of cultures with different characteristics, expectations and values, hospitality and tourism managers need to be extensively trained and educated in intercultural communication (Wijesinghe & Davies, 2001). Therefore hospitality and tourism business have a duty to nurture and maintain effective intercultural communication between employees, especially where languages are concerned (Baum et al, 2007). As suggested by Feely (2003) the effective language management within business can be done by 1.Language Standardisation 2. Language Officers 3. Selective Recruitment 4. Translators.
In 'High Context' cultures like India, verbal messages convey very little meaning without the surrounding context and it includes the overall relationship between all the people involved in the entire process whereas in 'Low Context' culture like U.S the message itself means everything (Guirdham,1999). In U.S English is the standardises language while in India although it is one of the largest English speaking countries in the world , there are about 14 regional languages. Appendix E suggests variations in language (English) within British and U.S culture.
The international manager
As per our concern to the study, these intercultural skills are very important in international and tourism business. Since this industry is experiencing internationalisations more often, it is necessary to understand the culture of that particular country where it is going to expand the business (Wijesinghe & Davies, 2001). The manager who is handling the overseas operation must understand the cultural gap and differences between the two countries (Adler 1997) to satisfy the demands of the internal consumers and investors and maintain brand standards, achieve economies of scale across internal operations (Harzing 2001).
Reflecting on myself, as a manager
The various tasks and exercises helped me analysing myself as a future intercultural manager. The Cultural Preferences in Organizations Indicator (CPOI) helped me to understand the underlying priorities, preferences and values and of the people we interact in an organization (Appendix F)
On scoring Hofstede dimension i came to know where i lie on each dimension which will help me improving my intercultural adjustment with respect to the host culture (Appendix G)
The Customer Service Self Assessment (CSSA) helped me knowing my personal values and work preferences which can affect my responses to customers. Refer to (Appendix H)
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN:
Cross-Cultural adaptability inventory (CCAI) questionnaire helped me recognize my strongest and weakest areas in terms of adapting to live in another culture and to interact effectively with people of other cultures. (Refer to Appendix I) These scores inform me of my personal ability to make the most of what I possess and tell me about how I can adjust with people from all cultural backgrounds without making myself feel uncomfortable because of the positive nature and self esteem I hold in me. The low scores of Personal Autonomy and Flexibility / Openness shows that I need to have a sense of self understanding and need to set up goals and gain self efficiency. For this, I need to be highly self motivated and should have confidence. Therefore I need to work upon this aspect and focus on learning to appreciate and respect people from different culture. However, due to my reserved nature I also need to improve a lot on my communication skills as initially I tend to get nervous while talking to new people. For this I would try and take initiative to talk to different people
Also looking at my lower scores , I feel I am a mediocre as I have a tendency to overlook things and jump into my conclusions, rather like to listen, think and react to situations while involving myself as well as others. The areas of improvement for me could be putting myself out of my comfort zone and making some sacrifices. This would result in better outcome of situations. I need to give more attention to small details which I tend to overlook and eventually become bigger problems. Therefore my personal developmental plan would be to stay positive and should focus about myself and my surroundings. This will help me to carry forward my willingness to adapt to any kind of situation with a positive attitude and self belief that I can achieve anything I want.
For improving my intercultural adjustment when I as a manager moving from my home culture (India) to the host culture (U.S), will follow the four dimension suggested by Medenhall & Oddou (1998) on his cultural adjustment model.
Self-orientation - where I will build my self-esteem and self-confidence via a developed understanding of my own culture.
Orientation to others- where my ability to interact with host-nationals will be developed by learning and experience of that culture
Perceptual dimension - where a better understanding of the underlying values of host culture will help me analysing their behaviour.
Cultural toughness- where I will gain the ability to cope with the widest cultural differences between the two cultures.