Cross Cultural Work Adjustment Cultural Studies Essay

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A Comparison between Australia and Pakistan

Adjustment is required to reduce degree of uncertainty, increase effectiveness and reduce stress (Wong, Jun 2001, Brandl and Neyer, 2009). This is the era of globalization and companies need to be familiar with host culture and its surroundings to perform outstandingly. Cross cultural awareness is becoming more and more important for managers, posted abroad. Knowledge of cross cultural work adjustment may result into decrease in ambiguity in terms of business dealings and dealing with stake holders (Yakushko and Sokolova, 2010). Literature shows that there are differences between cultures with in a country and across countries (Hirtenlehner et al., 2010, Mohammed et al., 2010, Runyan et al., 2010). This geographic cultural difference is creating problems and difficulties for international managers to understand and adjust between the cultures. But at the same time, it is most important for managers to understand the differences of cultures; they will be working in. The reason of high importance of cross cultural knowledge is because failure in adjustment may result in early return of expatriate to home country and waste of human resource development cost to company (Paik et al., 2002, Watt et al., 1996).

To explore the process and factors effecting cross cultural adjustment, an interview was conducted with Mr. Hafeez Niazi in person, who had multi-national working experience. This interview will provide a base to learn cross cultural adjustment in terms of work and general adjustment.

Mr. Hafeez Niazi is a Pakistan based Australian, who has worked in a number of countries including Pakistan, KSA, UAE, Bahrain and Australia. His adjusting and flexible nature made him to work successfully in various countries. He started his career with Oil and Gas Development Corporation Pakistan (OGDC) as a data base engineer. He served 3 years in OGDC, left as assistant project manager and moved to oil exploring countries. He worked in different Muslim countries for 12 years and then came to Australia. At the moment he is working with Xstarta-Cooper, as project manager at Townville. The main focus of report will be his experience in Australia. As rest of his working experience was in rich oil exploring countries and there is not much difference between Pakistan and other Muslim countries as compared to the difference between Australia and Pakistan (Watt et al., 1996).

His Australian work experience will be the main focus of report. He has been working in Australia since 2002. As a project manager he has to monitor day to day activities and managing smooth flow of operations. He is liable for surveillance of cooper withdrawn per day and then reporting it to headquarters so that they may be able to align with supply and demand. Australian economy totally relies on mining industry and there are number of people employed in this sector. The greatest contribution in Australia's economic development among the industrial sector has been contributed by the mining industry. For a period spanning over more than 100 years Australia's mineral industries have built an infrastructure encompassing whole of the country (Martinez-Fernandez, 2010). So it was very important for Hafeez to cope up with the culture and working environment of Australia and organizational culture. As an individual, Hafeez has an exploring nature and willing to take to accept the challenges, so he took this position and was ready to face the challenges, because if he met the challenges properly then it was going to give him ultimate satisfaction. After analyzing Hafeez's experience it can be said that he passed through U-Curve cultural adjustment process(Ward, 1998) .With a change in job position a person encounters new circumstances which stimulate a high level of job satisfaction in the person. But as the time passes on there is a decline in the satisfaction level attained initially and the person gets used to the job and his level of interest decreases (Ashforth, August 2004).

Pakistan has rich treasure of arts crafts and various traditions. Pakistani culture is much influenced by its religion, family, status and various customs. Islam is the major religion, followed by a large number of Pakistanis. 5 pillars which include, Prayers (Five Times in a day), Fasting (During Ramadan), Alms, Pilgrimage, and believing in only one GOD i.e. Allah are mostly followed principles by all Pakistanis. And these pillars determine the way of life as well (Kwintessential, 2010). In Pakistan there are different ways of greeting. Pakistanis greet physically to the same sex. They normally shake hands; hug and women some times kiss each other(Saeed Tahir, 2010). Family is the most important factor which influences Pakistani culture. According to (Hofstede, 2010b), Pakistani society is a collectivist society (See Appendix 3). So they prefer to be in groups and be loyal to them. They are more loyal to family as compare to business and social network (Kwintessential, 2010). According to Hostede, Pakistani society is hierarchical. High power distance is observed. People are called by their titles. And respect is given on the basis of designation and age. Gift giving is a common habit. Even if they are visiting some one for the first time, they prefer to buy some sweets or some gift for the host. As far as Business Customs are concerned they are also influenced by the General Culture. People who follow these Islamic principles offer prayers 5 times in a day, so you may not find them in their offices during the prayer time (Kwintessential, 2010). Trust worthy and already known people are preferred by Pakistanis to work as they are high un-certainty avoiders argued by (Hofstede, 2010b). Business cards are commonly used, when both parties are meeting for the first time. Appointments are highly appreciated and try to be in time and expect to wait for 10 - 15 minutes.

As far as company is concerned it is an old experienced multinational player in the market expected to bring new standards, skills and techniques in the market. And this was true as there are some other key players like Rio Tinto and etc are also playing in the market. So in terms of efficiency and perfection of operations Hafeez's performance is highly dependent on employees working at Townsville plant. Australia is a multicultural country with a huge population of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) people (Griffin, 1992) including Asian, Africa, South Americans, Chinese and etc. In addition to that Hafeez faced some difficulties in terms of language, technology, legal system, religion and Aussie way of life. This heterogeneous culture made him passed through cultural shock.

Although Hafeez is a success story but he faced many challenges on his way. One of the major problems he faced was multicultural employees. He was not aware about different religious affairs, ways of greeting and calling boss.

Cultural Shock

As Hafeez told earlier that he was dealing with employees of different cultures. So it was pretty difficult for him to learn different ways. Once he was hugged and kissed by her colleague, which was really shocking for him. As a Muslim he is not allowed to do so. So it was quite a miserable situation for him and his face turned red because of shame. Australia is a country with low power distance (Hofstede, 1983). One of his subordinate called him Hafeez, the day he joined Xstarta. His subordinate did not use any word like Sir or Mr. which was really shocking for him. But by the passage of time he became normal with such things.


Motivation of employees was another problem for him. He got some extra ordinary hardworking employees. But he didn't know how to motivate them. (Esomar., 1970) explained that people get motivated after getting rewards. These rewards could be extrinsic or intrinsic. Once, Hafeez appreciated his Chinese employee in front of his subordinates. Chinese are not that extrinsic(Xu and Zhang, 2010). This appreciation resulted into red face of her. Hafeez found that rewarding an employee individually from collectivistic cultural back ground will not make them feel comfortable. As far as his Australian subordinates are concerned they like to get more extrinsic awards, as Australia has individualistic society (Hofstede, 1983) as compare to other Middle Eastern countries and his home country which was reason of finding problems in motivating his subordinates . Hafeez came up with the idea of circulating weekly flyer with the name of employee of the week and some other tips regarding health, energy saving or water saving. And if that employee belongs to individualistic culture then he will be rewarded individually otherwise team name will be published on flyer.

Because of culturally diverse employees, Hafeez introduced a new way of motivation. He prepared an individual profile working under him. In which he categorized each of them against Maslow's Need theory. Then he started rewarding his employees against their current status. He provided job security to employees of Grade 1. He figured out that if reward doesn't change the status quo of person, it will make him less satisfied(Salceanu and Trifu, 2010).

In addition to rewarding, he started organizing employee retreat on bi-monthly basis. In this ceremony lower level of employees are guest of top management. Top management used to serve them with food and drinks. And all of the employees and managers ate their stuff on same table. Such type of informal gatherings decreased the distance between employees and the top management (Fisher, 2009).


Hafeez gave voice to everyone with the view of discussion. According to his views he wanted everyone to ask and to discuss because discussion can remove ambiguity and helps to achieve the goals(Yulk, 2006). He wanted to equip all of his subordinates with right of raising voice. Hafeez believes that voice does audit, bring creativity and help organization get maximum out of its human resource. In Hafeez's views most of the employees had already achieved first 3 stages of Maslow's need theory (Maslow, 1954). He wanted to provide them with self esteem and self- actualization. In this regard the major step he took was decentralization of authority. He delegated authority to employees to think about organization and come up with new ideas. He didn't want to limit the creativity. More over to better adjust in Australian culture he delegated authority to decrease power distance and make people feel comfortable. Hafeez discovered that most of his subordinates are not reserved and belong to individualistic society. He kept himself at arm's length to employees as he wanted to be available all the time. Hafeez adopted policy of "Be a mate" so that his employees can come over and discuss matters with him.

In Pakistan where culture is collectivistic sometimes expression of emotion is considered to be embarrassing (Aycan, 2000). People do not share their desires and an opinion openly in Pakistan but it is quite common in Australia, Hafeez said. He realized that paternalistic style is not considered appropriate in individualistic and low power distance society.

Different Work Practices

Hafeez had to work with diversified business practices. In Pakistan they had different operating system. There were different security measures taken by OGDC as compare to Xstarta. Even there was different reporting system as Pakistan is not exporting oil and gas so the reporting system and that weekly reporting but they are high uncertainty avoiders (Hofstede, 2010). But here in Australia, Xstarta which is a multinational and exports cooper, they report on daily basis to meet supply and demand. So here in Australia, Hafeez had to update his skills to meet up the demand of new employer as they are moderate uncertainty avoider as well (Hofstede, 2010a). It was not that difficult because the interviewee was working in Pakistan which is high uncertainty avoider country and Middle Eastern countries, the economy of which is dependent on oil export, so he was pretty much aware about daily based reporting system.

As far as working relationship and deadlines are concerned, Australians are pretty strict in case of deadlines. Specially if there is any meeting both parties need to be in time (Hall, 1976).

Communication Practices

Australian communication culture is considered to be low context communication(Nguyen et al., 2007). Messages are mostly conveyed by rationale argument. Gudykunst et al. (1988) explained that low context culture tend to be individualistic. Hafeez found a great difference of communication between Australia and Pakistan. He started explaining every single task to subordinates. Employees were given chance to ask and argument. Back in Pakistan he used to tell the task and never went in details. He started characterizing the job into small tasks and started explaining task to the person responsible for accomplishing task.

Successful Adjustment

Hafeez was successful in recovering from cultural shock stage. And the main reason behind his success was his interpersonal characteristics, skills and his exploratory nature. In addition to that his organization supports him to recover from cultural shock by providing him some cultural therapies (Selmer and Lauring, 2009). Moreover while travelling to Australia he prepared himself to overcome from cultural shock. Hafeez had been working in other Muslim countries but he had no experience of dealing in western culture so he helped himself to become successful expatriate (Aycan, 1997).

Organizational support was offered to Hafeez in order to plan and counter differences present in the technical infrastructures. In addition to organization, his colleagues helped him a lot to adjust. Zero-order correlation results explain that help of organizational-supervisor and colleague's help to adjust but regression analysis consider only co-worker's support to be effective (Ayree, 1996).

Moreover it is considered that expatriates can figure out the cross cultural differences and that is why Hafeez was aware about the cultural areas he was in need to work on (Selmer, 2007).

As suggested by (Ng et al., 2009), Hafeez went through three different stage of adjustments i.e. General, work and interaction adjustment. And these adjustments are result of his professional and non-professional personality attributes. He understood his challenging position properly and to meet his meet his internal satisfaction, he went through whole process smoothly and quickly. His individual personality attributes self efficacy and self preparation helped him a lot to cope up with the cultural distance (Kotler, 2009). Luckily his organization provided him with time and facilities to adjust faster.

All these factors led to Hafeez's recovery from the initial cultural shock and he slowly reached an adjustment stage that was followed by attaining a mastery level. Aycan (1997) argued that employees are more enthusiastic towards new over assignments because they are more motivated and feel less stress from new culture. It is understood that although Hafeez had a tough time but he managed to tackle the challenges posed to him.


Although Hafeez did a fantastic job of adjusting well in Australia but there are quite a number of recommendations that could help out to make process of adjustment easier.

In Hafeez's case, company's success stories made him very much motivated to exert more effort to adjust properly. But his colleagues and staff were involved in giving him actual experience so he may learn by himself which proves Australian culture as Masculine culture (Hofstede 2010).

Moreover to develop skills and motivate employees Hafeez should have rotated the jobs of employees, which can create interest, motivate employees and could help employees to enhance their skills (Lin, 2007).

Limitation of Study

One of the limitations of study is that Hafeez is the only sample of study. Sample size was too small. Only one person was interviewed and examined. So the results and recommendation cannot be generalized because what he experienced in Australia could not be the case with any other expatriate from Pakistan. In addition to that, Hafeez was presenting only one sector, i.e. mining sector rather than the entire Australian economy. The working condition for each industry could be different that could result in different work adjustment practice for expatriates. Furthermore there was no measurement index was used to analyze except Hostede's 5 dimension index. So to measure the depth of his experience was difficult. Moreover there was no evidence collected or any other Pakistani expatriate interviewed, regarding whether the above statements are correct or not? In addition to all above limitations, both interviewee and interviewer were originally from same cultures. So the things they were considering different or shocking might be not much intense for someone from other Muslim country like Turkey.