Dimensions In Introduction To Cultures Cultural Studies Essay

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Each person bears with one's patterns of thinking, feeling, and likely ways of conducting one's self which were learned during their lifetime. According to Hofstede (1997) termed this pattern of thinking feeling and acting as "mental programs". The foundation of this mental programs lies within the social environments in which one grew up and collected one's life experiences. It starts with the family and continues with the neighborhood, to school, through various groups one is a part of during one's youth. And later on to the workplace and in living community

The term culture comes from the Latin word "colere", meaning to build on, to cultivate or to foster. The term culture however is so vast and encompasses various dimensions, so that it is hard to define.

Culture can be best compared to an iceberg, just as an iceberg has a visible section above the waterline and a larger invisible section below the waterline, culture has some aspects that are observable and the others that can only be suspected, imagined, or intuited.

Figure 1: Iceberg model


Iceberg model

The tip of the iceberg represents a cultural subset: behaviors, words, customs or traditions. The biggest and most important part nevertheless - the cultural values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes or feelings are hidden below the surface. This hidden part of culture is vital to how people all over the world operate, however largely unconscious and usually not articulated.

Culture is the learned shared and enduring orientation pattern in a society. People demonstrate their culture through values, ideas, attitudes, behaviors. According to Hofstede (1997) cultural differences occur according to region religion gender generation and class. Regional ethnic religious cultures make up the difference with in the country

Culture is the collective programme of mind which distinguishes one category of people from another. Category of people can be a nation, region or ethnic group women versus men, old versus young, a social class, a profession or occupation or even a family (Hofstede, 1994 in taggart and taggart, 2002)

1.1 Culture shock

Culture shock is defined as "the trauma you experience when you move into a culture different from your home culture" (Chaney, Martin, 2000).

"Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. These signs include the thousand and one ways in which we orient ourselves in the situations of daily life." (Oberg, 1960, quoted from Gibson, 2000) These signs and symbols represent the above mentioned characteristics of a culture like language, religion or art and usually give us a sense of orientation and guideline. When losing these signs individuals may feel distressed, insecure or helpless.

2. Dimensions of Cultural Differences

According to Hofstede (2001) Research has shown that countries differ significantly in (please refer Appendix 1)

Power Distance

Uncertainty avoidance

Individualism versus Collectivism

Masculinity versus Feminity

Long-term versus Short-term orientation

1. Power Distance:

Power distance is the extent of inequality among people which is the population of a country deems acceptable. In certain societies power is concentrated among a few people at the top who make all the decisions. Conversely in other societies power is widely diffused and relations among the people are more democratic (Jain & tucker 1995). Power distance is to a significant degree, determined by society. The inequality can be seen in a number of areas including social status and prestige, power, and wealth, among others. The higher the Power Distance Index score, the greater the power distance, or degree of difference between the most and least powerful individuals of that country. Power distance is the extent to which less powerful members of an organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally china has high power distance ranking

E.g: Malaysia has high power distance (With high power distance inequalities, gap between rich & poor exists).

2. Uncertainty avoidance:

It is about how society deals with uncertainties. Jain& Tucker (1995) describe it as a degree to which people in the country feel structured over unstructured situations

According to Hofstede, "On the national culture level, tendencies toward prejudice, inflexibility, and stubbornness, intolerance of different opinions, traditionalism, superstition, racism, and ethnocentrism all relate to a norm for intolerance of ambiguity, measured and expressed in a national Uncertainty Avoidance Index."

The organization with low uncertainty avoidance will be easy going with value diversity and tolerant of differences.

The organization with high uncertainty will be Rigid, Intolerant and have conformity with definite structure.

E.g: United States of America has low uncertainty avoidance.

E.g: In Japan high job mobility is seen in cultures with low uncertainty avoidance

3. Individualism versus collectivism:

Individualism is when people identify themselves as individuals. Collectivism is portrayed by tight social frameworks in which people differentiate between their own groups and other groups, people require in groups to care for their members protect them and give them security in exchange for loyalty of members (miroshnik 2002).

Individualism and Collectivism refers to the relationship of individuals and groups within a society. People in individualistic culture learn in terms of "I", whereas people in collectivist cultures think in terms of "We" that includes extended family.

Individualism is about individual achievement freedom competition.

Collectivism is about group harmony, Cohesiveness, consensus and cooperation

High individualism goes with low power distance

E.g: United States of America has high Individualism

E.g: Japan has high collectivism

4. Masculinity versus Feminity

Masculinity is the degree to which the main values in the society stress assertiveness and acquisition of money and things while for the most part not stressing concern for people. Feminity is the degree to which the main values in the society stress relationships among people, concern for others and the overall quality of life. Masculine societies define gender roles more strictly than do feminine societies (Miroshnik, 2002).Masculinity-Femininity dichotomy refers to the gender role differences across society. Certain societies tend to value characteristics associated with masculinity (assertiveness and quantity) while some other societies value traits associated with femininity (nurture and quality). In a masculine society with strong uncertainty avoidance managers tend to be very assertive and materialistic

5. Long-term versus Short-term orientation

Long term orientation indicates people's orientation towards the future, and short term orientation stands for orientation towards the past and present.

Long-Term Orientation (LTO) dimension refers to the focus for people's efforts in relation to time. Societies with low LTO expect immediate gratification while societies with high LTO more readily accept deferred gratification of needs.

3. Different types of Cultures

Hofstede (1997) has identified that people carry within themselves various levels of cultures. They are

National Culture

Organizational Culture

3.1 National Culture:

The most significant section of culture is National culture. Hofstede identifies five different independent dimensions of culture as we discussed earlier in dimensions of culture, where each country varies with other (please refer Appendix 2).

Hofstede (1997) identified that cultural differences according to region, religion, gender, generation and class which makes a difference within countries. Generation difference is symbols, rituals and heroes which makes clear. However, they are often over rated technological progress leads to difference between generations. Social classes are also linked with educational opportunities with one's profession.

3.2 Organizational Culture:

Organization culture represents the collective values, beliefs and principles of organization members and is a product of such factors as history, product market, technology, strategy, types of employees, management style nation culture and so on(cross cultural management by ray French publisher charted institute of personal and development 2007)

3.2.1 Characteristics of organizational culture: (please refer Appendix 3)

Artifacts/Symbols: Are visible objects, actions, stories that represent the culture most easily changed, rites, rituals, ceremonies, stories, myths, legends, symbols


Behavior Patterns: Are Shared ways of interacting, approaching a task shared ways of responding to something new

Norms: Are socially constructed preferences Group expectations about how things

Should be done

Values: Are preferred states feelings & beliefs about what's good or right

Shared Assumptions: Are taken for granted not conscious Hard to change

3.2.2 Basic building blocks for organizational culture:

Characteristics of people within the organization

Organizational ethics

Employment relationship

Organizational structure

National culture

3.3 How National Culture Influence the Organizational Culture

According to Luthans (2002) identified some of instances occurred and how culture vary can influences organizational culture.

How people see themselves

People viewed as honest & trustworthy

People regarded with suspicion and distrust

People's relationship to their work

Some societies attempt to dominate their environment

Some try to live in harmony with it

Individualism versus Collectivism

Some cultural values encourage individualism

In some cultures, collectivism, group orientation and loyalty is important

4. Time dimension

Past oriented

More focused on present

Futuristic in orientation (Firms will spend great deal of money to train employees, strong mutual commitment)

Sequential (Perform one acting at a time, keep strict appointment)

Synchronous (Perform more than one action at a time, appointments are approximate)

5. Public and private space

Bosses sit together with employees in same room

According to Nelson & Gopalan (2003) they have observed plenty of reasons to anticipate some sort of connections between national and organizational culture, they state that these individual opinions, values, attitude and beliefs are influenced a great deal by their domestic culture which affects the whole organization. But Hofstede (1985) study discovered that organizational sets of values displayed an element which indicates nationality of organization founders and main leaders.

4. Inter cultural communication and conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of human experience. Consequently, people in relationships find themselves in conflict on a regular basis. Intercultural differences occur for various reasons including difference in assumptions made by different cultural groups about what are appropriate and desirable behaviors in a given situation, different attitudes and values and different attributes made by person from different cultures about the same behavior. Because of the intercultural communication in and between organizations today this topic became quite important. Conflict is definitely one of the major organization phenomena organization theories that do not admit conflict provide poor guidance in dealing with problems of organization efficiency, stability, govereence and change for conflict within or between organizations is intimately related as symptom cause effect to each of these problems. Organization conflicts Is important for managers to understand the organization behavior and organization process (Afzalur Rahim, 2001)

Rather than seeing conflict as abnormal, according to kolb and Putnam Conflict is the stubborn fact of organizational life (Kolb and Putnam 1992). According to Pondy (1992) arenas for staging the conflicts, and managers are both fight promoters who organize bouts and as referees who regulate conflicts. Furthermore, Pondy asserts that conflict may be very important essence in organization if conflict is not happening then organization has no reason for being .One study which is surveyed on workers found that almost 85 percent reported conflicts at the work (Volkema and Bergmann 1989). With an increasing awareness of cultural diversity it is important that we become familiar with the issues surrounding promotions and harassments. In fact one can see the training in organizations as a form of preventive conflict management (Hathaway 1995). Recognition of conflict occurrence at work has led to books on mediating the conflict in workplace (Yarbrough and Wilmot 1995), this shows how managers can learn the conflict management skills to intervene in the disputes in an organization. Core cultural conflicts are evaluated and shown (please refer Appendix4), Intercultural conflicts are influenced by three barriers (please refer Appendix 5) respectively.

Managers in new roles need to positively manage the inevitable group conflicts. By anticipating the source of conflict as well as its causes, they may use conflict to produce new ideas and optimum solutions.

To better understand conflict in a multi- cultural task group an overview of culture and cultural diversity is necessary.

According to Adler (1991) culture is operationalised into six dimensions. These six cultural dimensions can be expressed in the following questions:

What is the nature of people?

What is a person's relationship to nature?

What is a person's relationship to other people?

What is the primary mode of activity?

What is the conception of space?

What is a person's temporal orientation?

Diversity between cultures can be observed in the differences on these six dimensions and the core cultural differences in conflict is shown (Please refer Appendix 4)

E.g: The differences that may be found on these six dimensions between North American and Chinese group members are:

Mixture of good and evil and change is possible vs. good and evil and change is impossible.

People dominant over nature vs. harmony or subjection to nature.

Individualistic vs. group (hierarchical or lateral).

Doing (i.e. employee works hard to achieve goals) vs. being (i.e. employee works only as much as needed to be able to live)

Private vs. public.

Future/present vs. past/present (Adler 1991, pp. 20-21)

Adler's discussion on culture and cultural diversity provides insight into the notion that each member of the multi-cultural task group bears differences with other members on the outlook of himself, relationships with others, the world and nature. How does this aspect of cultural diversity affect the group life and development so important within the milieu of the organization?

Looking at the issue of conflict as well as group development, one can see that in almost every aspect culture can have a major impact on how conflict is perceived and responded to. In addition to this cultural diversity gives rise to conflict in the group's life and development in two additional important ways:

4.1 Mistrust as a source of conflict: Mistrust as a source of conflict: According to Triandis (1965) trust in a multi-cultural task group is difficult to develop. If there is no communication among members, a trusting relationship is difficult to develop. Moreover, mistrust precipitates a condition for conflict.

E.g: Japanese managers in the US and Arabic countries tend to interact among themselves, make decisions with consultation of Tokyo rather than local management, are reluctant to respond with definite answers, and frustrate the foreign workers (Elashmawi, 1990).

4.2 Miscommunication as a source of conflict: Miscommunication as a source of conflict: Even though members of a task group have to communicate, cross-cultural communication problems occur.

According to Adler (1991) pointed out that there are three barriers to cross-cultural communication.

Cross-cultural misperception: which means that our perceptual patterns are selective, learned, culturally determined, consistent and inaccurate (because we usually perceive what we expect to perceive).

Cross-cultural misinterpretation: This means that we categorize situations from our own countries perspective and apply it to other countries. In addition, we categorize behavioural norms of ethnic and national groups, which are called stereotyping.

Cross-cultural misevaluation: which means that we use our own culture as a standard of measurement or self reference criteria to judge another culture as good and normal, if it is similar to our culture, and as bad and abnormal, if it is dissimilar.

4.3 Sources of Conflict: (please refer Appendix 6)

5. Strategies for building inter cultural awareness to promote better understanding:

5.1 Intercultural communication:

proper international communication helps in resolving the conflicts across linguistic and cultural boundaries it is a form of knowledge for identifying and restricting the undesirable effects of noise and is form of cross- cultural networking behaviour for creating productive interpersonal exchanges of ideas and experience Intercultural communication facilitates collective acts of knowledge sharing, group learning and networking (Holden 2001)

Intercultural Communication considers interpersonal communication which has the added characteristics of cultural 'variance' between those people involved, in one or more areas such as values, beliefs, thoughts, patterns, practices including language and other habits of behaviour. Cultural variance can be salient in that it can create differing expectations and interpretations of interactions between people Scollon & Scollon (2001: 13)

5.2 International Negotiation: (please refer Appendix 7)

5.3 Cross cultural awareness:

In order to understand the cultural implications of their decisions and possess the ability to turn cultural difference to the competitive advantage managers require skills to operate in a global marketplace to be successful, high level of understanding is needed as to the ways in which different cultures approach issues which is needed to negotiate and communicate effectively across the cultural boundaries demands. In earlier days individuals selected by companies to become the international mangers tomorrow are likely to be but in today's multicultural society we have to interact with people from different cultures increasingly, hence Cross Cultural Awareness Programme is important in managing these interactions successfully (Please refer Appendix 8).

5.3.1 Cross cultural awareness programme:

Cross Cross cultural awareness programme is designed not only for diversity awareness and introduction to cultural but also as a practical guide for communicating effectively across different cultures. cross cultural awareness programme will give better understanding and awareness of how the culture impacts on an organisation and person. It provides necessary foundation, framework and tools to develop the competency and sensitiveness to the other cultures. Intercultural awareness is definitely a necessary tool to conduct business successfully at global cross roads in today's interconnected world. Cross cultural awareness or intercultural awareness programmes are designed such that to provide participants with the set of essential skills that enhances their global competencies.

Cross cultural awareness programmes covers all the important aspects that managers needs while working across cultures or in multicultural teams. Some of the important areas focused in cross cultural awareness workshops are as follows:

Implications of the cultural differences on corporate styles and business results

Negotiating styles across different cultures

Effective communication styles across different cultures

Proper effective HR policies in cross cultural teams

Presentation skills in an cross cultural scenarios

Effective sales strategies for the clients from the different cultural backgrounds

Strategies to work more effectively with the other cultures

Identifying the crucial cultural differences and similarities affecting the way people from different cultures work

In today's multicultural society with increasingly interconnected business world almost everyone benefits from the cross cultural awareness both public as well as private sector organizations gain enormously from an intercultural awareness programmes. In public sectors job centres, council offices, police, education departments and hospitals are partial list of organisations that greatly benefit from cross cultural awareness programmes and also in private sector, companies that do business globally or have the multicultural clients or employees from different cultures benefit from the cross cultural awareness programmes. Specially designed cross cultural awareness programmes for companies outsourcing or off-shoring their business processes to other countries is also conducted as a part of this. If working with multicultural clients with international teams, or with global manager, cross cultural awareness programme will give effective competency skills for the global success.

5.3.2 Key cross-cultural competences:

Cross cultural awareness programme gives the most effective skill set for conducting an global business successfully or working effectively in an multicultural teams. Intercultural awareness programmes improve confidence in working in a cross-cultural team increase the cultural sensitivity in team members build cross cultural competence in the managers. It helps to ensure and integrate cultural factor in an strategic decision making to make one cross culturally successful and competent

5.4 Cultural awareness training:

Global success of any international organization requires more than the ability to offer right products and services in an right markets.  high level of cultural awareness and intercultural competence and right people are required to succeed when working across the borders and cultures.  Cultural awareness is essential competency for all employees working across cultures and lack of cultural awareness at both professional and social levels can lead to miscommunication and ultimately rejection by the host culture colleagues, clients, acquaintances and the neighbours. It is especially important for employees being sent abroad to live and work, organizations planning to combine with or acquire another company or individuals who work with the counterparts and clients around the world.

Cross cultural training is extremely important for the employees being relocated to another country.  Without cultural preparation and strategies provided through intercultural training programmes international assignees and their family members struggles to adapt to life and work in that country and will experience the significant culture shock.

The inability to effectively manage with this intense cultural transition may result in a failure of international assignment which has huge cost implications for an organization and a negative impact on the employee's emotional flexibility and inability to perform well in future.

Global relocation trends survey report conducted by the GMAC respondents in 2008 claimed that cross-cultural preparation has a direct impact on the financial success of a relocation/assignment and they rated cultural awareness training as the third most key initiative to increase ROI of international assignments.

Despite of this, companies are still failing to make the cross cultural training mandatory and therefore risk huge financial loss from an early returns and damage to relationships with the international counterparts through cultural faux-pas and misunderstandings.

6. Conclusion:

For such a multinational company whose Head Office is located in the UK and has production centers in China, India, Malaysia and Latin America ,which has a policy of employing managers to the production centers outside their own cultural background, there will be cultural differences and due to its impact the company should definitely plan for intercultural awareness of managers since they are responsible for the effective operation of company's production centers, this can be done by conducting cultural awareness programs and by proper intercultural training such that in future they may not face any intercultural problems further.


7. Bibliography