International Business Culture For Managers Cultural Studies Essay

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Before looking at other cultures, it is important to reflect your own culture. The term culture has been defined in a variety of ways. There is no single definition of the term "culture". One of the earliest definitions cited by Ferraro (2002) was offered by Edward Tylor over 125 years ago, who defined culture as "that complex whole thing which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." Culture is shared by at least two or more people. A general view of culture is that it is about the relationships among individuals within groups, among groups, and between ideas and perspectives. Culture can be defined from a historical perspective, that is, the traditions that are passed on to future generations; from a behavioural perspective culture can be defined as that which is learned and shared ways of behaving in life; symbolically it can be defined as the arbitrarily assigned meanings that are shared by a society. In a normative perspective culture is defined as the ideals, values and rules for living (Jandt, 2004). According to Fan (2000), "Culture is learned, shared, compelling, interrelated set of symbols whose meaning provides a set of orientations for members of a society. These orientations, taken together, provide solutions to problems that all societies must solve if they are to remain viable."

Hofstede defines culture as "the collective mental programming which distinguishes the members of one category of people from one another." In this definition "culture" is likened to a software program that governs the manner in which people think, behave, and/or respond to any situation facing them. According to Kumar and Sethi (2005), "Culture is to human collectivity what personality is to individual." Within a culture there will be a range of attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviour. The parameters for the acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour in a society are set by culture. Culture can be generalized, but care should be taken in applying those generalizations to individuals (Gibson, 2000). It influences the way in which it engages with the outside world as well as the way in which it deals with its own internal problems. All these cultural definitions by any means does not imply that every individual in a given culture will think and behave in the same fashion.

Intercultural skills are needed by people working in all kinds of organizations. It is important for international organizations to understand how people from different social and cultural groups behave, interact and perceive the world. Managers engaged in cross border transactions are often faced with the need to bridge the cultural gap that exists between their cultural background and that of their foreign counterparts who possess a different cultural background (Kumar and Sethi, 2005). Culture is transmitted through the process of learning and interacting with one's environment, rather than through the genetic process. Every culture has its own unique way of relating with the world with different individuals differentially exhibiting the impact of culture, personality and the situation in any concrete situation.

People from the same culture generally derive the same meaning from the signs they read, words they hear, or behaviours they see. But when a person comes across a new culture, his/her behaviour may not be consistent with the host culture's norms and values, because for them 'what' is seen or heard may not explain 'why' it occurs. To be a competent intercultural communicator, you must be aware of how diverse cultural rules influence the communication context. Otherwise, you may encounter a variety of surprises- some of which could be embarrassing, detrimental or both! (Samavar et al) Culture is compared to an iceberg, some of which is visible, but much of which is difficult to see, or invisible (Fig 1. Cultural Iceberg). The unseen and underlying values of culture can sink a cross-cultural business transaction just as the unseen iceberg can sink a ship-Parker (1998).

2. Classification of World Culture

Management is getting things done through other people. In order to achieve this, one has to understand the people who are involved which means understanding their background, from which their present and future behaviour can be predicted. For business managers, the study of culture requires two skills: analysis of how the behaviours, norms, assumptions, and values embedded in culture shape persons and organizations, and awareness of how culture shapes our own assumptions about work life, family life, business, government, and even globalization.

2.1 Cultural Values

"Cultural values are principles or qualities that a group of people will tend to see as good or right or worthwhile" (Author, from chaper what is culture). Indian culture is the most diverse culture you will come across throughout the whole world. It varies from those of East Asia. Indians are multi-actives (Appendix) who have created a society where privacy is rarely indulged in. The attitude that if you succeed, you are well off; if you fail, it is destiny that was unkind, encourages Indians to be risk takers. The most important elements of ideal Malay behaviour are respect, courtesy and gentleness towards others. Malays are motivated to develop deep and lasting relationships with family, friends and worthy, respectable partners. Foreigners in the eyes of Chinese are inferior, corrupt, decadent, disloyal etc. But once you are fully aware of how Chinese view you, you will find it easier to deal with them. Some of the superior Chinese values are modesty, tolerance, courtesy, respect for elderly, respect for hierarchy, gentleness, etc. The Chinese and the Japanese belong to the reactive (Appendix) category. The Japanese are culturally very different. There is a great interdependence between all members of a group and an abundance of moral and social obligations, both vertically and horizontally. Favours can be demanded from people in their group and these have to be granted. The cultural values of Latin Americans are personal dignity, family, group loyalty, emotional, flexible, etc.

2.2 Leadership and Status

Leadership involves people who influence others to act in certain ways so that goals are attained. "Leadership is social influence in an organizational setting, the effects of which are relevant to, or have an impact on, the achievement of organizational goals"- Brislin (1993). Indians have a tolerance of, and respect hierarchy. As stated in Kumar and Sethi (2005) that "In Indian culture, leadership is by personality. It is the magnetism and personal charisma of the top man that is believed to make the difference." The boss must be humanistic and initiate promotion for his subordinates. In Malaysia leadership capabilities are expected to be demonstrated by people born in high positions. Demonstrating leadership and caring attitude confirms that status is inherited and not earned. Malays expect their leaders to act as role models who are spiritually and religiously in tune (paper, abdul rashid). Like Indians Malays expect promotion to be accorded by a caring senior. In China, less powerful people should be dependent on the powerful who must protect them and take care of their careers and welfare. The ideal boss is benevolent autocrat who must be obeyed and tell the subordinates what needs to be done. It is impossible for a general manager in Japan to resist the demands of a section leader demanding promotion for the employees, because the employees work under their wing and have remained loyal. Blunt language is too brief and out of place, politeness can be seen when interacting with others. For example, no Japanese boss would say 'Tidy up the office.' They are obliged to say to their subordinates, 'As we have some important visitors coming and since we wish them to get the best impression of our company, perhaps we could improve the orderliness around here' - Lewis (1999). In Latin America, status is less a matter of achievement than of completeness, whereas in many Western societies it is achieved through hard work, accomplishment and sometimes wealth. In business, a senior manager has to reward the subordinates with loyalty, courtesy and protection and expects unquestioned obedience and respect from them. Status is based on age, reputation and often wealth. Latin employees indicate willing and trusting subservience to their establishments- Lewis (1999).

2.3 Values that Influence Behaviour in the Workplace

Hofstede (year) identified four dimensions of value that influences behaviour in the workplace. The four dimensions are individualism, masculinity, power distance and uncertainty avoidance. The individualism-collectivism dimension is the degree to which the cultures are loosely structured or tightly integrated. The masculinity-femininity dimension describes the assertive or nurturing value of a culture. It pertains to societies in which social gender roles are distinct as opposed to overlapping. Power distance is the degree of inequality among people that is the distribution of influence within a culture. Uncertainty avoidance reflects a culture's tolerance of ambiguity and acceptance of risk. The table (table 1) below shows the score of cultural dimensions by country. China and Malaysia are not included in Hofstede's study. A score close to 100 represents an individualistic country, more masculine country, country with large power distance and country with high uncertainty avoidance.

2.3.1 Individualism versus Collectivism

This dimension reflects the relationship an individual is expected to develop with others. High individualism refers to acting independently where the interest of individuals prevails over the group's interest, whereas high collectivism refers to working in relationship with others where interest of group prevails over the interest of individual. An individual from highly individualistic culture faces difficulties in understanding the collectivist values. The Indian culture has traditionally been characterized as a collective one. Also India is characterized by vertical as opposed to horizontal collectivism where vertical collectivism stresses on maintaining the integrity of hierarchical order whereas horizontal collectivism emphasizes the sameness among individuals. Malays are group oriented than many other people. They are a collectivist culture. Based on the study of two countries Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are approximately close to China, the cultural values of China can be determined. The Chinese culture is a collectivist culture because of the high value the Chinese attach to the family/referent group. Even though Japan is placed somewhere in the middle between individualism and collectivism, Japan is a group oriented culture. Latin Americans like Asians tend towards a collective view of self.

2.3.2 Masculinity versus Femininity

Important culture concepts are addressed by the terms masculine and feminine. Greater separation between men's and women's role describes masculine culture, whereas feminine culture tends towards equality. In a masculine culture, both men and women are ambitious and competitive, while they are modest in feminine cultures. Chapter 8 dimension of culture (author) states that "in the workplace, in masculine cultures, managers are expected to be decisive and assertive; in feminine cultures, managers use intuition and strive for consensus." From the table it can be seen that Indian and Malaysian cultures are more masculine than feminine. Japan has the highest masculinity index. People in Japan do not want to work under a female boss or a manager. Latin American cultures are also more masculine than feminine.

2.3.3 Power Distance

Power distance reflects the extent to which a society accepts that power is distributed unequally in society, its institutions and organizations (Parker, 1998). It also refers to power, prestige and wealth that are distributed within a culture. The power and the influence are in the hands of a few individuals in cultures with high power distance. Inequality exists between superiors and subordinates that can be seen from the wide salary gap between the top and bottom of the organization. The table clearly shows that the Indian culture has a high power distance index, Malaysia has the highest power distance index and most of the Latin American countries have a large power distance ratio.

2.3.4 Uncertainty Avoidance

Malays are attracted to concrete tangible rewards. They are also satisfied doing work if they have opportunities to show and receive appropriate respect from superior, peers and subordinates. In contrast, the Chinese are motivated by financial rewards. They value hard work or diligent, pragmatic, wealth or prosperity, face, harmony and risk taking.