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1. Proposed Topic Area
1. Have you clearly indicated the discipline or sub-discipline in which your area of interest resides?
The study will focus on examining the influences of culture on the communication of the employees in the high street fashion shops in Nottingham. The focus of the study is to find out whether culture has any impact on the communication within an organization. It will look at the impact of culture in the day-to-day communication process within the organizations. This area of research is selected because Nottingham has culturally diverse population and many foreigners are working, along with the locals, in the high street fashion shops at different designations, so this will see the impact of the culture on the routine communication within the organizations. The topic of the study falls under the management discipline and appears under the sections of International Human Resource Management.
2. Proposed Working Title
- Have you clearly indicated the particular focus or areas of focus that you will address within your chosen topic area?
- Are you sure this is not a strategic question? (check Fisher 2007, p. 34) Influence of culture on communication within organization in high street fashion retail stores in Nottingham.
- Proposed Research Aims
1. Have you been explicit about what is it that you are trying to find out or resolve?
The main aim of the study is to look at the impact of culture on the intercultural communication within the organizations. There are many issues under this topic that need attention and I would like to build my study on these key issues. These issues include how the people from different countries and cultures operate and communicate (intercultural communication), how the employees from different countries handle the fear, anxiety, confusion etc. (culture shock) when they have to work in an alien culture. How the managers have reacted (culture imperialism) towards those foreign employees? Whether they tried to influence them by promoting their local culture, using the authority vested in by the organization or the foreign employees voluntarily embraced the foreign culture upon their own free will. In addition, do employees feel inferiority complex (cultural cringe) where employees experience their culture as substandard when compared to the other culture.
Neuliep (2006) suggested that managing and bringing people together from different cultures in an organization is one of the key issues in companies in recent years. He further describes that organizational culture is in fact the same as the country's culture and if the standards vary across different cultures then their way of working within an organization will be different. Therefore, this study will analyse the impact of culture on communication within organizations. For this study, two high street retail fashion stores in Nottingham will be identified and the interviews with managers and questionnaires from the employees will be conducted. This research will conclude with few recommendations about how the organizations can ease the process of communication with multicultural employees. This research will prove as a guideline, along with previous studies, for the organizational communication with employees from different cultures.
4. Research Context
- Have you provided a clear indication of why this is a business and management related topic of interest?
- Have you been explicit about the organisation/ the organisational section/ region/nation, and feasibility of data collection?
The notion of Global Village by Marshall McLuhan has transformed into reality in the twenty-first century. Changes in the technology and society have made our planet very small place. Many countries who have been involved in many wars are now joining forces in the economic and political fronts. Mass migration to the developed countries has forced the residents of the developed nations to live with the people of different ethnic origins, beliefs, values and nationalities (Neuliep, 2006). Sometimes, the result of this mixture has been disastrous like the war in the former Yugoslavia. Schlesinger argues that there should be some common goal between the diverse population otherwise the differences between them, will drive them away from each other. DuPraw and Axner (1997) contend that when a group of people with diverse cultural background work together in an organization, the values and beliefs of the different cultures collide with each other. People misunderstand each other and might respond in ways, which influences the relationships between them. Hofstede (2001) has spoken about the same conflict between the cultures that when people from diverse cultures interact with each other, their actions and words can be perceived differently by others.
The issues of cultural diversity in the organizations mainly originate because of the values and beliefs, which employees brought from their previous culture. Sometimes, people try to stick with those values and this creates problems at the new work place. Most of the times, the employees try to abide by the rules and policies set by the organizations while they are still influenced by their original cultures. For the organization to enhance the cross-cultural communications, they first have to look for the barriers, which are hindering the way of the effective communication in the organization (French, 2007). Organization should have the knowledge of the differences in cultures if they want to enhance the communication and minimize the barriers in a diverse culture environment.
Lot of authors and anthropologist have worked on the culture and its effect on the communication in the organizations and they have presented many theories. In the present paper, the impact of culture is analysed from the perspective of managers and the employees working in the high street fashion retail stores and its influence on the communication. In addition, in this study Hofstede's five dimensions of culture will be used to assess the impact of culture on communication within the two high street fashion retail stores in Nottingham.
5. Outline Literature Review
- Have you provided an overview of work in the field?
- Have you ensured you include ‘authors & arguments & themes'?
- Have you critiqued in depth, the work of at least two authors in relation to: their choice of research methods, their findings and their conclusions?
- Have you ensured that this section links directly to your Research Questions?
This literature review will help to analyse and will give a better understanding of the topic area i.e.; the influence of culture on the communication within an organization in high street fashion retail stores in Nottingham. The main purpose of this literature review is to provide the detailed description of concepts and theories of different authors for culture and communication. The literature review will start with culture and then explain the models of Richard Hall, Fon Trompenaars, Hofstede and then will carry on to explain communication and impact of culture on communication.
Many authors have talked about culture and have given different definitions. Trenholm and Jensen (2000) have defined the culture as a group of values, beliefs, and customs, which binds the people together and provides them unity. Tayeb (2001) defined culture as the forces of values and beliefs, which are present in a society and these forces, affect their ways of life. The major contributors in cultural field are Geert Hofstede, Edward T. Hall, Fons Trompenaars. One of the famous definitions of culture was given by Hofstede (2001) where he described culture as “the collective programming of mind” which helps to differentiate between people of different groups. Hall, on the other hand, described culture as the means of communication (Rugman, 2006).
The major theoretical perspective, which makes a connection between culture and communication, is provided by Edward T. Hall. He is considered as one of the leading figures of the intercultural communication. His famous work was Low and high Context model in which he described that cultural differences should be taken from the perspective of different styles of communication in a society (French, 2007). His model focuses on the interaction of people from different culture and its influence on the behaviour and focuses on the correlation of language and context in communication. In cultures with high context communication, most of the time people do not convey their thoughts but keep those with them and use the body language to express themselves. While in low context communication, people are clear and open about the information they share with each other. His paradigms for intercultural communication have some implications. These include focusing on the micro-level, non-verbal communication in high context cultures and access to information in high-context cultures (French, 2007).
Geert Hofstede is one of the earliest and best-known psychologist well-known for his study on the culture in IBM where he did a research on employees in 72 countries. It is one of the most popular theories, which explains the influence of culture on the management. He developed a typology consisting of four cultural dimensions through a society can be classified. He examined the values and belief of 145,000 employees of IBM from 40 different nations and mapped some of the key cultural issues. These include power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculinity. The Power Distance shows the level of degree to which a culture accepts unequally distributed power in the organization. High power distance means organizations with more autocratic leadership and has very little employee involvement in the decision making process (Rugman, 2007; Rodrigues, 2009). Hofstede (1980) and Blodgett et al (2001) described that people, living in high power distance culture shows optimistic emotions towards their supervisors and pessimistic emotions to the less power people in the organization or culture. The second dimension, Uncertainty Avoidance, is the measure to which the people feel threatened by the vague situations. When in a society, the level of the uncertainty avoidance is high, the demand for the consensus and written rules are high which can be linked to the high context society proposed by Hall, while in societies with low uncertainty avoidance, people are more risk takers (Hofstede, 1980). The third dimension, Individualism, is actually the tendency of the people that care should be taken of themselves, organization, or their family and stresses their own interests rather than for others. Under this category, people try to imagine, that individual interests are more important than the groups (Hofstede, 1980) while under Collectivism, individuals see themselves as the part of the organization or group. They think of themselves as part of family or organization. The fourth dimension, Masculinity/Femininity, is the value assigned to the competitiveness, performance, achievement, and materiality. Individuals from masculine culture are more competitive and aggressive where as people from feminine culture are considered more humble and modest and they have concern for the quality of life (Blodgett, 2001; Muller et al, 2008). This dimension sometimes also renamed as Quantity of Life vs. Quality of life. Hofstede has included another dimension in his framework (Muller and Tuner, 2004). The fifth dimension, Long vs. Short-term dimension, describes the importance of future against present and past. Long term values are more focused towards future like saving while the short term are more oriented towards past and present, like respect for tradition, beliefs and social obligation (Hofstede, 2003).
Many authors have used the Cultural dimension framework of Hofstede and it has been widely used in different contexts around the behavioural and management studies. Blodgett (Blodgett et al, 2001) used this cultural dimensions model to discuss the attitude and behaviour in the field of management. Grainger and Hedges used the framework to compare stereotypes across different cultures. Chang and Ding also used Hofstede's framework. They used this model to look at the four dimensions, and conducted the research in twenty-two countries of Asia.
Fons Trompenaars is also one of the leading contributors of the cross-cultural communication. He along with Hampden introduced the seven dimensions framework. Trompenaars used the model of Hofstede cultural dimensions, enhanced his framework by comparing different national cultures, and focused on the factors arising because of the cultural differences in organization. For their study, they conducted a survey of 15,000 employees in 50 countries. The survey was aimed at analysing the problems that could arise because of doing business in different cultures. After his survey, Trompenaars gave his seven important dimensions of cultures. By using the questionnaire data, Trompenaars made a continuum and placed the countries on the map using the dimensions. The relative positioning used by Trompenaars in his seven dimensions presented important information about the conflicts, organizational and management problems that could arrive because of the interaction of people from different countries (Trompenaars and Hampden, 1997 and Rugman and Collinson, 2007). The first dimension, Individual vs. Communitarian, means in culture individuals are more concerned about their own benefits than the organizations while the communitarian gives importance to their close groups and society. The second dimension, Neutral vs. Affective, looks at feelings and relationships among the people in the workplace. In the emotional context, people are more open in expressing their feelings while in the neutral people at the work are not that open and does not give their opinion more often. The third dimension, Specific vs. Diffuse, that whether the work relationships exist just in the organization or do they extend to outside of the organization. In the diffuse situation, people are afraid of narrowing down the gaps between their personal and work life. Achievement vs. Ascription refers to the status of employees in organizations and differentiating between different cultures where power, authority and credibility is based on the merit while age, gender, or class tends to be the norm of that culture. Universalism and Particularism, states that rules and regulations are applied at all times regardless of situations. The sixth dimension, Time differentiation has different meaning for different cultures. The sequential and synchronic views the attitude of the people towards the deadlines and punctuality o arriving at the meetings. The seventh dimension, Internal vs. External, people believe that with the technique and tools they can dominate the nature while in the external people see nature as the supreme power. Differences in religion, around the world, are the main cause of the difference in this dimension (Trompenaars and Hampden, 1997).
Over the years, the above-mentioned theories have been criticized for implementation and reliability. Hofstede has been criticized for implementing his framework. The American and European managers conducted the survey, analysing their own countries, and this lays doubts on its impartiality. Blodgett (2001) identified that Hofstede framework was mainly based upon the national level analysis whose aim was to compare the values and behaviours of the people across the nations. However, Hofstede insisted on saying that his work did not meant to compare cultural differences at individual level, as he knew the variations in analysing the same or different cultures. Some authors have described the work of Hofstede and Trompenaars as simplified, problematic and served their own purpose rather than the specific needs of the organization or the culture (McSweeney as cited in Harris, et al, 2005). Still, many authors in the world believe that work of Hofstede and Trompenaars cannot be ignored and their research is still applicable in organizations and cultures around the world.
Communication is the process through which we try to express our feelings or try to convey our message in an attempt to have a mutual understanding. Communication is the process of sending a message whether verbally or non-verbally as long as it provides some kind of information to the target (French, 2007).
Business communication refers to the communication going on in the organization for the sole purpose of business. Business communication has proved to be one of the most important areas of the business. People conducting business across different cultures will face some difficulties, which they will never find in their own culture. Therefore, to overcome this, organizations have to adapt to the differences (Rodrigues, 2009). Communication and developing relationships with different people from different cultures will not have many benefits but also it will reduce conflicts at the work place and will increase the individual employee growth through tolerance (Neuliep, 2006).
Right now, communication is crossing national boundaries; it is not necessarily different from any other communication activity, what is different here is the intercultural communication activities among people of different cultures (Wells and Spinks, 1994). This types of the communication is the result of the different business contacts within the business area, education, tourism, mass-media and entertainment but also because of the increasing pace of the immigrants because of the labour demand, education etc. For this purpose, the business communication should occur without any problems. The intercultural communication occurs when people from different cultural backgrounds come together in a working environment or at any other place and exchange verbal or non-verbal methods of communication. When people from different cultures come together, conflicts happen. Conflict is the part of any healthy communication in the organization and we can never remove conflict from the organizations. However, with the use of the intercultural communication within the corporation we can reduce the conflicts (Neuliep, 2007). Inter-culture communication is a very vast field and lots of author have worked on both the culture and the communication. The theories on communication developed by the researchers have been used in the areas of business, management, marketing, advertising, and website design.
Intercultural communication plays an important role in the communication process. Inter-culture communication is often described as different issues that come to forefront when people from different cultures come together at the workplace. The effective communication process depends upon the attitude and the understanding of the people and how they cope up with those cultural issues.
Reasons for choosing Hofstede's Five Cultural Dimensions research:
The term culture has always been difficult to define not because it is a complex topic but because different authors have come up with more than three hundred definitions of culture and there are more than dozens of dimension of cultures addressed by the authors. Of all the prominent researchers in this area, Hofstede's work is still recognised as the best of others. Stohl (2001) recognised the work of the Hofstede as the most influential scholarly work in the area of the literature. The definition of the culture provided by the Hofstede i.e., “the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the member of one human group from another.” This clearly focuses on the differences in the cultures. The model provided by the Trompenaars is the variation of the work of the Hofstede and more or less talks about the same areas. The work of Edward Hall categorized culture in the high and low context, which can be related to uncertainty dimension of Hofstede. Although the work of Hofstede is adopted from the Hall theory of low and high context but the Hofstede work is more comprehensive and also it can be applied to analyse the impact of culture on the communication. In addition, the five dimensions of Hofstede consist of the same issue that arise in the organizations and those issues impacts the communication in the diversely culture organization. After reviewing all the cultural models and analysing the cultural dimensions and the concepts for the work related inter-cultural communication within the organization, this paper will be based upon the Hofstede's five cultural dimensions model. The study of intercultural communication within organisations has been done but the prominence given is less within the high street fashion stores where there is increased number of cultural issues affecting communication. Hence, a literature gap has been found which would be explored in the research.
6. Research Questions (s)
- Have you briefly outlined your research question(s) and articulated clearly what exactly you intend to find out.
- Do these questions link directly to the work outlined in the Literature Review Section above?
- Have you explained what key operationalisable concepts you are interested in using?
- Have you expressed your question(s) which can be answered in the time available (feasibility), rather than as vague expressions of what you might do?
- Do your questions pick up the key themes explored above in the outline literature and do they link directly to the research strategy that you describe below?
What is the impact of the culture on communication within organization in high street fashion retail stores in Nottingham?
I intend to explore my general question by asking the flowing sub questions:
Sub Question 1:
What is the organizational culture? How adoptable the organizational culture is?
Sub Question 2:
What are the distinguishing factors of culture effecting the intercultural communication within the organization?
All the above sub-questions described in this section have been explored in the literature review. The general question along with the sub questions can be easily answered in the time provided for dissertation using the research methods discussed in the next section. I have divided my work for the dissertation over period of two months (See Question 9 for Gantt Chart).
7. Research Strategy/Methods
- Have you provided a clear description of how you plan to carry out your research?
- Have you explained why you have chosen particular research methods?
- Have you clearly identified your population and sample(s)?
- Have you identified what data you anticipate collecting?
- Have you indicated what forms of analysis you propose to undertake?
- Have you identified the major sources of risk (e.g. over reliance on a single individual/company, access requirements, time requirements)?
This paper presents a critical review of the existing literature on the culture and its impact on the communication within an organization. Beside these, special emphasis will be laid on using the cultural dimensions of the Hofstede and then getting the data according to those issues, which effects the organizational communication. This section of the proposal discusses the most suitable ways of conducting research, the selection of the research methods, data analysis techniques in the end will explain any risk attached with the selected companies.
For this paper, qualitative research will be used because the influence of the culture on the communication of the organizations cannot be recorded by surveying the data from the managers and the employees of the stores. The statistical survey cannot be used to gather the social issues affecting the managers and the employees in the organization. So, for the primary research, the semi-structured interviews will be used to collect the data from the sample. Semi structured interviews are considered to be one of the useful methods which can be used to capture the data from the respondent's views of the particular issue or what he thinks about the particular topic in more details.
Semi-structured interviews are in between the open interview and pre-coded interviews. In semi-structured interviews, the respondent has the feasibility of answering the questions in a way, which they prefer. In these interviews, a critical incident approach can be used where the respondent is told to think of any incident from their work which involved a particular incident (Fisher, 2007). The qualitative interviews are more interactive than the pre-coded interviews because the interviewer can take the interview to any direction or any area which he wants to talk about. The structured interview technique is not feasible for this study because as it does not give the researcher the option to have a conversation about the event happening in the organizations (Easterby-Smith, 2008). The unstructured interview helps the interviewer to uncover information from the source and get new information about the problems faced by the organization. For the purpose of this study, the interviews will be conducted from the managers of the high street fashion retails stores. One of the limitations of the semi-structured interviews will be the authenticity of the interviews meaning the information given by the interviewer is true. The tactic to handle this limitation is to strategically developing the questionnaire and giving the assurance to the interviewee about confidentiality of any information disclosed by the respondent.
The approximate time for each interview will be determined after a pilot interview. Also during the interview, the interviewer will also be taking some notes. This will not only help interviewer for formulating the next question but also it will be helpful for later use. After the interview, the interview transcripts will be transcribed in order to extract the important points from the interview to use them in the study (Fisher, 2007).
Another qualitative method being used in this paper is Questionnaires. Questionnaire is very widely used in the investigation of any matter. Although, they are considered to be the one of the simplest tools to gather data but their design in not simple at all. One of the most important things to keep in mind while designing the questionnaires is that what type of questions should be included i.e. whether opened ended or close-ended question will be used. Even a mixture of both the open ended and the closed ended questionnaire can be designed (Fisher, 2007). For this study I am using the open-ended questions, which is actually a written statement consisting of more than a line. Open-ended questions allows the researcher to ask important and informative questions and while their analysis can be time consuming and difficult (Mark Easterby-Smith, 2004). The questionnaire will filled by the employees of the high street retail stores in Nottingham and will approximately take 10-15 minutes to fill it. The response rate for my questionnaire will be high as the retail stores under study are not very big and the individual employees can be followed to get their information for study. One of the implication for the both the semi-structured interviews and questionnaire will be that during the time of gathering data from managers and employees, the fashion retail stores in Nottingham will be going through one of the busiest time of the years and every store will busy preparing for the Christmas and New Year. Asking for time during this part of the year will be the least thing, which they will hope for. To overcome this, semi-structured interviews and questions have to be precise and to the point, so that in less time valuable data could be gathered.
The data provided through the interviews and questionnaires will provide the large part of the research. For the secondary data, we will collect information from various resources like books, academic journals and authenticated sources from internet (Like CIA Country fact book etc). As the whole project is based upon the finding of Hofstede's theory, the data collected from interviews and questionnaires will be grouped around various cultural dimensions provided by the Hofstede's framework and then their impact will be analysed on the communication process after individually analysing each cultural dimension, this in the end will help to formulate the theory for the findings.
8. Ethical and legal concerns
- Have you provided a clear description of any potential ethical concerns within your project, including during the collection of data or presentation of findings?
- Have you described how you will preserve confidentiality and anonymity of organisations and individual respondents?
- Have you ensured you have discussed means for respondents to know about the research and their role within it, and that their participation is voluntary according to the principle of informed consent?
- Have you considered whether anygood or harm may be caused by the research to individuals or organisations?
- Have you discussed if there any ethical guidelines in the field (e.g. from professional bodies) that you will be following?
- Have you discussed how you will ensure that any data held on respondents is to be processed according to the Data Protection Act 1998, and stored according to safe practices (e.g. in a secured (electronic) container)?
If you are undertaking any primary research, you must give further details below about how you will address any ethical issues within your research:
During the process of research, there is always some ethical issues to be resolved. During the preparation of this research proposal, the code of ethics followed by the University of Nottingham Trent has been strictly kept in mind and the research will be strictly adhered to that. The participants would be informed about the research before hand and there will not be forced to provide any information.
This research will be basically looking at the culture affecting the communication in the organization and the research methods for this are semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. There will be many areas in the research where the questions of ethics might arise but I would do my best to eliminate any of those. The foremost will be that people will hesitate to provide the information about their working environment and any kind of issues or problems they have faced during their work, the matters of confidentiality will come to play. Therefore, the participants will be informed in advanced before participating that this research is strictly for educational purposes. There will be mo commercial use of the research and the information will not be shared with anyone. The outcome of this research will not be influenced by any of the organizations or the managers/employees involved in this study. In qualitative research the security of the data is bit difficult, the common practise that could be used effectively is that the name of the interviewee and name of the employees asking to take part in filling the questionnaires can be changed (Bryman, 2001). All the information being collected from the participants in the research will be highly confidential and all the files will be encrypted using strong passwords in order to protect the rights of the participants of this research.
- Have you identified the key stages and dates for activities that must be completed before others can start?
- Have you identified what problems with access can you anticipate?
- Have you identified what activities are necessary in their own right and which are conditional on others being completed?
The research project has been divided into small activates. The whole process of research will take about 4 months giving the researcher ample time to complete the whole process of research. Also, in certain week when there will study weeks for other subject some hours will be provided to the research. The following table provided the breakdown of the different activates which will followed during the research period:
10. General Guidelines
- Have you avoided using lists or bullet points?
- Have you just described an author or author's work instead of explaining or critically evaluating it?
- Have you clearly linked the paragraphs within each section, and the sections themselves?
- Have you proof read your work and ensured there are no spelling, grammatical, or copy errors?
- Have you ensured that you have included a complete set of references in Harvard format?
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