Recognizing cultural differences in the workforce


Recognizing culture differences is the necessary first step to anticipating potential threats and opportunities for business encounters. There are features of American culture which FPD expert knows but they either do not know or may have misapprehended. This provides opportunities to learn about the cultural richness of the other. Finally, despite the best intentions of both parties, a business relationship can turn sour because of something cultural of which either side is aware. Thus they can discuss differences that are plain to see , and begin to explore or shed some light on what the FPD expert can not see ,what they can not see, and try to imaging what it is that both can not see. Discussing cultural differences are thus avoided :' It's only personality ' ; ' We all work for the company ' ; or ' We are all engineers'. Another reason for avoiding discussions about cultural differences is the fear of stereotyping, of not considering the other as a person in their own right but as ' representative ' of their culture as we see below. However, if cultural differences can not be discussed then they can not be managed-neither to avoid misunderstands nor to develop productive synergies.

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When Cultures Clash( Cultural differences is not desirable )

There is no shortage of evidence of cross-cultural friction between businesses. In very cross-border alliance there are seeds of potential cultural conflict and misunderstanding. The problem is that senior executives ranked cultural differences malaise may go unrecognized. It may therefore be some time before cultural differences are surfaced and diagnosed. In one Franco-American joint venture the problem was only recognized after eight years of collaboration. Called in to investigate problems of cooperation, a French consultant interviewing American managers was shocked at the Iitany of complaints aimed at their French counterparts. Such complaints may seem trivial at first glance, but were apparently rather important, as eight years of collaboration had not resolved them. The belated realization that cultural problems were responsible for poor cooperation alerts us to the need to anticipate potential misunderstanding. Failure to pay attention to culture can, in fact, have disastrous consequences.

Whether engaging in strategic alliances, setting up operations abroad, or attracting the local market, companies need to discover how culture can be harnessed to drive business forward. Companies also need to analyze the potential for culture clashes that can undermine good intentions. Managers involved in these cross-border adventures need to recognize the symptoms of cultural malaise and to find out what is causing the irritation. To capture the potential benefits while limiting the potential misunderstanding, managers must be prepared to articulate how they see their own culture and to recognize how others may experience it. However, it not as easy as it seems.

Discovering Cultural Advantage( cultural differences is desirable )

The Johari window, described earlier, can be used to stimulate awareness, first be asking managers to describe their culture as they see it, then as other see it. It is difficult to describing their own culture, and have to rely on what others have said about their culture. Through it, managers being to recognize that what they take for granted in doing business may not be shared. And while usually everyone mentions the importance of showing respect, this can be done in many different ways.

Moreover, managers can be ask to indicate which aspects of their culture are seen as a plus, which might be leveraged to achieve competitive advantage in conducting business, and which may prove a hindrance. In this way managers can begin to think through the implications of national culture for competitiveness.

Again, our aim here is to alert managers to the potential risks, or missed opportunities, of ignoring the impact of culture. In each interaction across cultures there are cues that signal potentially powerful undercurrents which can either undermine or prople our efforts. Very often our initial reactions and stereotypes of others can provide important signals to help surface cultural differences. By allowing these difference to be open to discussion we can achieve insights instead of accumulating blind spots. Not only do we begin to appreciate the other person's culture, but we begin to better understand our own. By being alert to these cues, we can then anticipate the potential impact of culture, and consider alternative approaches to management.

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Artifacts And Behavior

Culture assumptions can be observed in artifacts and behavior such as architecture and interior design, Greeting rituals, dress and codes of address,a nd contracts. So to discover the meaning of culture, we need to start with observation.

Greeting Rituals

More clues can be found in formalized exchanges such as greeting rituals.The importance of these rituals should not be overlooked. Some countries, such as the United States, tend to play less attention to protocol, but for others it is taken quite seriously .In France, greetings are highly personal and individual.A general wave of the hand to say hello to everyone when arriving at the office, as in the United States, is considered insulting to French co-workers who expect to be greeted individually by name, shaking hands and making eye contact. Otherwise, you have signaled that you do not remember having greeted that person in the first place, and therefore that they are not important to you . Leaving rituals follow the same procedure.

Another part of the ritual that generates a fair amount of confusion is the degree of body contact expected in greeting. For example, a girl was quite distressed and uncomfortable when her French male colleagues insisted on kissing hello and goodbye. However, taken by surprise when, in the United States, mere acquaintances might greet them with a hug.

Making Contact

Another aspect of the initial encounter is the amount of physical space considered necessary to be comfortable. French executives will not appreciate inquiries into their personal lives, their family circumstances, or how they spent the weekend.Their professional life and their personal life are regarded as quite separate domains. A senior HR executive at Disneyland Pairs expressed surprise at a French executive who, in 18 months of working there, had not once brought his family to visit the park - this in spite of the provision of free passes and the staging of events for family members. Nor was this due to lack of time. The executive in question had no intention of mixing family and work, even though the corporate culture actively encouraged it.

Observations of how people get to know each other, the degree of formality and personal contact preferred, reveal underlying assumptions about what is considered to be public versus private space. Americans tend to be more open, informal, and easy to approach than Europeans or Asians. However, Europeans often complain that relationships with Americans tend to be superficial. While it may be more difficult to get to know a European, the relationship once established is often more enduring.

Dress Codes

Another cultural artifact, the prevailing dress code, also differs in degree of formality and can serve as a subtle signaling mechanism.

French women managers are more likely to be dressed in ways that Anglo women managers might think inappropriate for the office. The French, in turn, think it strange that American businesswomen dress in ' man-like ' business suits. (sometimes with running shoes). In addition, corporate dress seems to be color-coded. Women working in the United Kingdom have been advised not to wear red, or brightly colored suits and dresses. Dress code may also signal of task orientation. For example, rolled up shirt sleeves are considered a signal of ' getting down to business ' (United States) or ' relaxing on the job ' (France).

Ideas currently in vogue regarding dress code include ' dressing down days ' and ' dressing for the customer '. Some US companies have designated certain days, such as Fridays, as day when people are encouraged to come to work in more casual clothes, like those they would wear at home. Other companies are also encouraging workers to dress in ways to match the customer. Doing business with Levi-Strauss may mean going to head office wearing jeans, rather than a Channel suit. However, efforts to encourage a particular dress code, at work or otherwise , may be rejected, particularly in France where the style of dress is seen as an expression of the individual.

Task 3

Hofstede's Model Of National Culture

National culture differences in the values and norms of different countries are captured by five dimensions of culture.

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Individualism versus collectivism. The relationship between individuals and groups. In countries where individualism prevails, values of individual achievement, freedom, and competition are stressed. In countries where collectivism prevails, values of group harmony, cohesiveness, and consensus are very strong and the importance of cooperation and agreement between individuals is stressed. In collectivist cultures. The group is more important than the individual, and group members follow norms that stress group rather than personal interests.

Power distance. Which a country accepts the fact that differences in its citizens' physical and intellectual capabilities give rise to inequalities in their well-being. This concept also measures the degree to which countries accept economic and social differences in wealth. status, and well-being as natural. Professionally successful workers in high-power-distance countries amass wealth and pass it on to their children. Low-power-distance countries are more interested in preventing a wide gap between rich and poor and discord between classes. Advanced Western countries like the United States score relatively low on power distance and are high on individualism. It suggest that the cultural values of richer countries emphasize protecting the rights of individuals and, at the same time, provide a fair chance of success to every member of society.

Achievement versus nurturing orientation. Countries that are achievement oriented value assertiveness, performance, success, and competition and are results oriented. Countries that are nurturing oriented value the quality of life, warm personal relationships. and service and care for the weak. The United States tend to be achievement oriented.

Uncertainty avoidance . Just as people differ in their tolerance for uncertainty and willingness to take risks so do countries. Countries low on uncertainty avoidance (such as the United States) are easygoing, value diversity and are tolerant of differences in what people believe and do. Countries high on uncertainty avoidance (such as France) tend to be rigid and intolerant. In high-unceitainty-avoidance cultures, conformity to the values of the social and work groups to which a person belongs is the norm, and structured situations are preferred because they provide a sense of security.

Fig.1, Fig.2 - It is important to bear in mind that the five dimensions and the respective country and raised about the ability of these values to make meaningful predictions about consumption patterns.

Long-term Versus Short-term Orientation

The last dimension that Hofstede identified concerns whether citizens of a country have a long-term orientation or a short-term orientation. A long-term orientation is likely to be the result of values that include thrift and persistence. A short-term orientation is likely to be the result of values that express a concern for maintaining personal stability or happiness and for living in the present. The United States and France, which tend to spend more and save less, have a short-term orientation.

Table.1 - It is ten countries score of national culture. National culture is a determinant of organizational culture poses some interesting problems.

Task 4

Task Strategies

Creating A Sense Of Purpose

One of the most important elements of successful teams is having a ' shared sense of purpose ' . Creating a sense of shared purpose is not an easy task, particularly when first allegiances may be to functional, business, or country units. In addition, different cultures have different assumptions about the reason for team: to share information and discuss problems, to make decisions and take action, or to renew contact and build social relationships. This will determine issues such as the frequency of meetings and contacts, who should attend, whether the meetings can take place through conference calls or need to be face to face, and the time needed to be set aside expressly for socializing.

Creating a sense of purpose not only means agreeing on what the group is expected to accomplish overall, but also ' setting specific performance goals and objectives '. Given the different expectations of the purpose of teams. In fact, the common prescriptions for making shared purpose explicit and setting precise goals and objectives can be taken as somewhat naive, if not impossible. In high-context cultures, the sense of purpose may be more implicit. Spelling it out, clearly articulating a vision is experienced more as a feeling, something more intuitive, rather than concrete and tangible.

Setting Agendas

Setting agendas is one area cultural differences can be source of potential confusion and friction. Indeed differ in expectation as to whether an agenda is set at all, or whether the flow of the meeting should take its own course.

In monochronic cultures, agendas items are expected to be dealt with systematically, decisions taken, deadlines respected, and one person speaks at a time.In polychronic cultures, rigid agendas are likely to be perceived as inhibiting creativity in meetings,deadlines serve more as guidelines than unalterable facts, and it is, on the whole, more acceptable for several people to talk at the same time without it being experienced as chaos.

Another important cultural difference in setting agendas is high-context and low-context the degree to which things are spelled out versus inferred.

Assigning Roles And Responsibilities

Teams also need to decide who is to do what. This means assigning roles and responsibilities within the team.

The roles and responsibilities of team leaders and members also differ significantly between cultures. The preferred choice of team leader is clearly influenced by different cultural assumptions.In France, the team leader is chosen based on the power and political influence he or she holds with the organization. Many prescriptions from American gurus stress the importance of choosing a team leader with good interpersonal skills and who can serve as a facilitator, particularly warning against choosing team leader on the basis of narrow, task-specific knowledge or hierarchical position.

In cultures where the hierarchy is important, the team leader is expected to chair the sessions and have the final word on any decisions.

In keeping with the different notions of the role of a team leader, there are also different expectations of the role of team members. These differences are particularly noticeable during brainstorming sessions which rely on speaking out, challenging authority, and participating on equal terms in decision-making.These types of behavior are difficult in cultures where respect for age, titles, or authority is the the norm. The assumption that members are on equal footing just does not hold.

Reaching Decisions

Culture also influences how teams decide and on what basis decisions are taken:majority rule, consensus, or compromise.Reaching decisions by voting, or majority rule, may be seen as fundamental to democratic process wherein individual opinions are represented. Voting rests on assumptions of egalitarianism, and individualism; everyone ' s vote counts equally. It neglects the role of voice and silence, and of power and influence.

American often assume that silence means agreement. This approach also often neglects the formation of coalitions and the subtle pressures for conformity or willingness to go along with the group.Voting also creates winners and losers which may create problems in cultures where consensus is valued and saving face is more important.


Create An Ethical Culture

First, an organization can encourage people to act ethically by putting in place incentives for ethical behavior and disincentives to punish those who behave unethically.

Second, organizations can design an organizational structure that reduces the incentives for people to behave unethically.

Third. an organization can develop fair and equitable human resource procedures towards

the management of its diverse employees.

Fourth, organizations can put procedures into place giving subordinates access to upper-level managers to voice their concems about unethical organization;.behaviors they might observe.

Fifth, create a strong board of directors from outside the company with no ties to top management.

Recognize Corruption

Corruption can be defined as ' The misuse of authority as a result of considerations of personal gain which need not be monetary and includes bribery, nepotism, extortion, embezzlement, and utilization of resources and facilities which do not belong to the individual for his own privates purposes' . French and US managers were found more likely to blow the whistle. In addition, managers in France were more willing to let slide a minor infraction concerning pollution. The greater likelihood of enforcement in the United States was considered a key factor in explaining the differences found in the study.

Differences were also found in the way of resolving ethical dilemmas : US managers were more likely to consult with their boss, while differences can be taken as evidence of greater collectivism when compared to the US: sharing of information and consensual agreements, loyalty, and pressures for conformity.

The study also asked managers to rank the factors which they considered to contribute to unethical behaviour. For both groups, the most important factor was the behaviour of superiors. US managers placed more importance on the behaviour of peers as a determining factor, laws and regulations were considered unnecessary in Hong Kong dur to the strong social controls created by intense interpersonal relationships. Need for regulation to improve ethical conduct in business.

Unethical Behavior Occur

lf there are good reasons for individuals and organizations to behave ethically, why do we

see so many instances of unethical behavior?

Lapses in individual ethics. In theory, individuals leam how to behave ethically. Although middle managers know this was wrong, they followed orders because of the power the firms partners had over them. They were afraid they would lose their jobs if they did not behave unethically and shred the documents-and they were used to obeying orders. Nonetheless, in the end, their actions still cost them their jobs.

Ruthless pursuit of self-interest. We normally confront ethical issues when we weigh our personal interests against the effects our actions will have on others. People who believe they have the most at stake are the ones most likely to act unethically. Similarly, it has been shown that organizations that are doing badly economically and are struggling to survive are the ones most likely to commit unethical and illegal acts such as bribery, although many other organizations will do so if they are given the opportunity.

Outside pressure.Many studies have found that the likelihood of unethical or criminal behavior increases when people feel outside pressure to perform. If company performance is deteriorating. Fearful of losing their jobs, they may engage in unethical behavior to increase the value of the companys stock. lf all outside pressures work in the same direction, it is easy to understand why unethical organizational cultures develop. The social costs of unethical behavior are hard to measure but can be easily seen in the long run. They take the form of mismanaged organizations that become less innovative.

Organizations like this spend less and less money developing new and improved products and more and more money on advertising or managerial salaries. When new competitors arrive who refuse to play the same game, the mismanaged organization begins to crumble.

Organizational Ethics

An organization can purposefully develop some kinds of cultural values to control the way its members behave. One important class of values that falls into this category stems from organizational ethics. the moral values, beliefs, and rules that establish the appropriate way for an organization and its members to deal with each other and people outside the organization. Ethical values rest on principles stressing the importance of treating everyone fairly and equally. Organizations are constantly making choices about the right. or ethical. thing to do. Company has to decidewhether to allow its managers to pay bribes to government oficials in foreign countries where such payoffs are an accepted way of doing business. even though they may actually be illegal. Ethical values are a product of societal. professional, and individual ethics. (See Fig.3)

Societal ethics. The ethics of the country or society in which the organization exists are important determinants of its ethical values. Societal ethics are the moral values formalized in a society's legal system, in its customs and practices. and in the unwritten norms and values that its people follow in their daily lives. Most people automatically follow the ethical norms and values of the society in which they live because they have internalized them and made them their own. When societal ethics are codified into law. An organization is legally required to follow these laws in its dealings with people inside and outside of the organization. One of top managements main responsibilities is to ensure that the organization's members obey the law. Indeed, the managers can be held accountable for the conduct of their subordinates.

Fig.3 Sources of Organizational Ethics

Professional ethics. Professional ethics are the moral values that a group of similarly

trained people develop to control their performance of a task or use their resources.

People internalize the values and norms of their professions just as they do the values and

norms of their societies, Generally, they follow these norms when deciding how to

behave.Ethics help shape the organization's culture and determine how members deal with other people and groups. Most professional groups have the authority to enforce the ethical standards of their profession.

Individual ethics. individual ethics are the personal moral values that people use to structure their interactions with other people. ln many instances, personal ethics mirror societal ethics and originate in the law. But personal ethics are also the result of an Individual's upbringing. They may Stem from his or her family, friends, or membership in a church or other social organization. Because personal ethics influence how a person will act in an organization, an organization's culture is strongly affected by the people who are , in a position to establish its ethical values.

As a result, values and norms emerge that lend themselves to employee turnover and a temporary relationship between companies and employees. This is what has happened at many companies in the high-tech sector, which has gone through great turmoil in recent years. There are many different kinds of incentive pay linked to individual, group, and company performance that affect employee work attitudes and behaviors. To retain their employees, give them bonuses and company stock linked to their contributions or years of service. This tends to make employees feel like "owners" of the company.

Ethical Perceptions. Culture, or nationality, also iniiuences salespeople s beliefs about the ethics of common selling practices and the need for company policies to guide those practices. Salespeople need to stay within the law, of course. Moreover, in order to maintain the respect of customers, salespeople must know what is ethically acceptable in a culture. For example, in the United States, giving a bribe is tantamount to admitting that your product cannot compete without help. However, in many cultures, receiving ; bribe is seen as a privilege of having attained a position of infiuence. An understanding of the ethical norms in a culture will help the company maintain a cleat. Image and will also help the company create policies that keep salespeople out of the tense and frustrating situations where they feel they are compromising their ethical standards.

Strategies For Managing Ethical Dilemmas

While the globalization imperative has challenge fundamental cultural and business assumptions throughout the world, many practices which may seem objectionable, remain firmly embedded in the host-country environment. The decision has to be made whether to impose parent company or home-country rules in host countries or to play by the local rules of the game. Apparently, few American companies were implicated. This was attributed to taking seriously US anti-corruption legislation and corporate ethic policies.

Consider the case of South Africa, under apartheid, where different decisions were taken for different reasons. Some companies such as Polaroid or General Motors chose the path of ' civil disobedience ', operating in ways to bring about social change by breaking the rules of apartheid. Thus, as the case of South Africa demonstrates, different countries and different companies adopt different strategies when faced with these ethical dilemmas. Thus the relationship of the home company or country to the host country, being considered an insider, powerful, and important, is critical. Nevertheless, despite instance (Cuba, Iraq, Israel ), arriving at a common approach to operating in other countries for economic reasons remains elusive.

What are the appropriate criteria for judging ethical behaviour: ' How it would look in the press '; or ' How it would look in the mirror '? Is it enough to consult your personal sense of right and wrong? Or is this an individual or collective process? These issues need to be addressed by both managers and their companies, in order to define their role as global citizens.

The Relationship Between Profit And Ethics

The motivation for ethical behaviour and for social responsibility has become a hot topic in the business press and within academic circles. Top management also argues that these initiatives, such as recycling, economic sense. Economists, however, protest that ' ethical fund investing is a clever marketing tool that dupes people into thinking they doing something moral ' They argue that the stock market carries no moral value, merely a price.

Many managers believe that there is an inherent trade-off between being profitable and socially responsible. Acts of corporate social responsibility may in fact be the consequence of profitability rather than the cause. It is easy to be magnanimous when things are going well. The relationship between profit and ethics is doomed to an eternal debate between the ' economists ' and the ' humanists ' , or on the front lines, between the finance and human resource departments. The question remains whether morality and personal self-interest are necessarily mutually exclusive. Ethics make good business sense, it represent a personal ' way of being ' and integrity. In addition, ethics should be considered a fundamental necessity, an unassailable assumption, in conducting international business. Others contend that ethical behaviour provides the moral underpinnings of a free society and a free economy and can thereby be justified as an imperative of globalization. Yet notions of what is moral and ethical do not necessarily translate across national borders.


Culture And Strategy

According to Karl Weick, "It is as if there were a common set of issues in organization that some of us choose to call culture and other choose to call strategy", a renowned organizational scholar, when he provided a set of statements to readers and asked them to decide whether the first word in each should be ' strategy ' or ' culture ' .

The Rational/Economic View

Many of the strategic management frameworks including the prescribed tools and techniques, affirm the belief and value of a ' rational analytic ' approach.This approach takes for granted certain assumptions. It assumes, for example, that the environment and the organization are objective realities that are similarly perceived and analyzed by intelligent managers.

Managers making strategic decisions often find themselves confronted with environmental uncertainty, ill-structured problems, and socio-poliitical processes.Managers see different things, Create different realities, and then act accordingly. Thus multiple interpretations of and responses to supposedly similar situations are likely. As such, nation culture can play an important role in determining different types of strategic behavior.

While widely acknowledged that managers and organizations are limited in their capacity to digest all this information, thus subject to ' bounded rationality ', the precise ways in which rationality in decision-making is limited, or more specifically culture-bound, have remained unexplored. In other words, how does culture influence the way managers gather and interpret information, choose between decision alternatives, and establish criteria for action?

Clearly, much of the discussion to date regarding strategic management has been based on beliefs that environment and organizations are objective realities and that strategic decision-making is a rational and analytic process. Digging deeper, we discover underlying assumptions that environments are intelligible and predictable,and that by taking action, or doing, strategic objectives can be achieved.This functionalist, instrumental view of the world.

Dynamic View Of Strategy

Strategy is a dynamic process, not a static perception, which is energized through feelings.It is not a bundle of facts, figures, and ideas assemble in older by the logical mind. Planning is the reflection of the flow of collective psyche synthesized with purpose.

Underlying this notion of strategy that find dramatically different cultural assumptions. It highlights the role of feelings, or emotions, not just analytic rationality.It questions the nature of truth as determined by facts and figures, and logic, rather than by spiritual purpose. Furthermore, it view strategy as a collective process, and as dynamic-what is needed is to go with the flow.


The dynamic view assumes that managers have less control over their environment which are difficult to know, and that taking action does not necessarily make things happen. And the rational analytic approach also assumes that managers making strategic decisions follow a similar route, gathering all relevant information, generating all possible alternatives, evaluating the costs and benefits of each alternative, choosing the optimal solution, and then acting upon it. So I think the rational is the most appropriate for FPD at this moment in time.