Culture Consists In Patterned Ways Of Thinking Education Essay

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Culture embodies an imperfectly collective system of interrelated perceptive, formed by its members' shared experiences and history.Culture influences every aspect of the way the group members interact with each other and the understanding of cultural differences helps group members to understand to each other in a better way foe effective implementation of the given tasks and goals.

Firstly, I would like to introduce my PALS group members that consisted of 6 members from Germany, Nigeria and Pakistan. The majority of members were from Pakistan who were further divided into subcultures namely sindhi, kashmiri and punjabi which shows the cultural variations within Pakistan.

Hofstede asserted that cultures could be distinguished along four dimensions namely individualism/collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity/ femininity and long -term versus short -term orientation.

Power Distance: refers to the beliefs that people have about the appropriateness of either large or small differences in power and authority among the members of society.

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Uncertainty avoidance: focuses on the extent to which a society feels threatened by uncertain and ambiguous situations.

Individualism versus collectivism: refers to the degree of integration between members of society and the relative value of individual over collective needs.

Masculinity versus Femininity: the relative emphasis in society on achievement and accomplishment versus overall quality of life.

Long term versus short term orientation: The relative emphasis in society on others' perceptions and viewing events along a time continuum (Tian, 2004).

Based on these dimensions Hofstede illustrated the different countries' culture in terms of region, religion, gender, equality and class. Hofstede demonstrated the results of his study with the help of index score, which categorizes country-specific scores of the examined dimensions. The application of hofsted findings within our PALS group is represented in the following table:

Nationalities

Dimensions

Power Distance

Individualism

Masculinity

Uncertainty Avoidance

Long-Term Orientation

Pakistani

55

14

50

70

-

Nigerian

77

20

46

54

16

German

80

67

50

60

118

The application of hofstede theory to our PALS group reflects the culture that constitutes both the individualism and collectivism orientation. In terms of the group efforts and processes a significant difference pertaining to individualism score represents a major obstacle, as it is argued that individualistic culture's (i.e. Germany) group members prefers division of tasks with individual responsibilities, whereas, in collectivist cultures (i.e. Nigeria and Pakistan) tasks are meant to be completed in groups. A broadly established notion is that Westerners are individualists, with the self-distinct from the in-group while, Asians are collectivists, with the self-identified with an in-group. Though this supposition is commonly acknowledged at a theoretical level but the evidence regarding the impact of individualism-collectivism on explicit responses at an empirical level is lacking (Cole, 1979, p.160 cited in Noordin and Jusoff, 2010).

Initially the group members faced certain problems that influence group effectiveness in the first two sessions. The main reason for low group cohesiveness was lack of contribution from some group members as indicated by the learning log. After few lectures the positive development enhancing group effectiveness in the third and fourth session can be explained by Kolb learning styles.

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According to this cycle, the first stage of learning is through experience where learners would rely more on their ability to be open-minded and adaptable to change. The group members at this stage faced unstructured situations resulting in unsatisfying experience in the first two lectures. It was until the third session that group members were able to reflect upon the bad experience and finally developed an understanding of the concepts to avoid such experiences in the future. During this stage members analyzed the ideas, situations and their implications and started looking at things from different perspectives. The learning log clarify that clarification of concepts were helpful in increasing group effectiveness and that members got an in-depth idea of the tasks to be completed. During this phase of the learning cycle group members compare their observations to conceptual and theoretical material and seek to develop an explanation that can be generalized for their experience. For theoretical material, members of the group attended lectures and go through relevant articles and discussion to analyze the tasks requirements properly. However, during the reflecting and theorising phase there was a conflicting issue as few group members were not able to think about the possibilities that could improve the situation in the next session whereas, other members were well equipped with the understanding of topics for analysis. In order to resolve the conflicting issue two of the members who were well understood with the topic motivated others through informal conversation by giving them guidelines to avoid the ambiguity inherited in giving tasks. The main element during this phase was the allocation of subtasks on the individual basis to each member mainly for increasing group effectiveness. The underlying purpose for this attempt was to increase each member's feeling of responsibility toward the group thereby avoiding the propensity of dependent on others. In addition, those members who lacked participation in the past sessions were enabled to have pleasant experiences in the next sessions such as praise received from other group members. Hall (2001) refers these intrinsic rewards as 'soft rewards' that offers certain recognition from peers in the event of sharing effective knowledge. Such rewards have positive impact on the individual's motivation and give them the feeling of being more respected and satisfied which increases their self confidence and improved growth.

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Although a variety of dimensions have been used to reflect culture, the cultural grouping has been typically defined by national boundaries. Hofstede (1983) acknowledged the existence of cultural differences between groups within nations and cited various levels of subcultures based on religion, region occupation, social class, gender and age. Hofstede examined that "statements about national culture or national character smell of superficiality and false generalization" (1983:77). Likewise, Clark (1990) asserts that the "nation has been used as a proxy for culture because it is easy to define and delimit, but culture is border free."

In terms of cultural similarities and dissimilarities within the group there was division between Nigerian and Pakistani culture which was further divided in the form of subcultures i.e. kashmiri, Punjabi and Urdu. Subculture is defined as a secondary group within a societal group that exhibits a shared pattern in the relative importance placed on the motivational domains. It is a subdivision of a national culture, composed of a combination of social situations such as status, ethnic background, regional and rural or urban residence and religious affiliation, that together form a functional unity which has an integrated impact on the participating individual ( Hannerz, 1992).

Throughout the learning process of 'Cross Cultural Management module, members of the group in terms of their cultural background impacted heavily on group work process.

This statement is further supported by Jais (2007) who stated that national culture "consists in patterned ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values".

Hofstede (1980) describes individualistic societies such as Germany where individuals are competitive rather than supportive, self-centred, pursue their own goals and have a low need for dependence on others. On the other hand, members of collectivist cultures like Nigeria and Pakistan have a 'we' rather than 'I' orientation interact with each other in an interdependent manner and take action jointly as a group in a co-operative fashion rather than on an individual competitive basis, thus subscribing to the moralistic values of joint efforts and group rewards (Noordin and Jousaff, 2010, p.160). This difference translates into the individualistic motto "tasks prevail over personal relationships" and the collectivist motto "personal relationships prevail over tasks" (Hofstede, 1991:67).

A further aspect of initial problems faced by the group was regarding the division of tasks where German member prefers sub-division of tasks and in contrast Pakistani and Nigerian members favoured individual task towards the attainment of objectives related to assignment. This might explain the reason that why one of our Pakistani members did not prepare the individually assigned tasks in the first meeting as they were not familiar with this approach. In the second and third meeting our German member prefers division of assignment in sub tasks so that he can work on his own to show his skills being different from others as he was more knowledgeable than rest of members. Therefore, when it was agreed that we have to do research on pharmaceutical company he asked to divide the questions among everyone which disappointed rest of the members of being rude and non cooperative towards group tasks.

According to Fiske et al (1998 cited in Goncalo and Staw, 2006) people in individualistic cultures presume that their uniqueness is a direct outcome of their distinctive qualities, for the reason that the norms of individualistic cultures stress being "true" to one's self and resist to social pressure if it contradict his own values and preferences. Whereas, in collectivist cultures individual's identity is strongly related to her/his social group where the key purpose of the individual is to promote group's interest. Thus, people in individualistic cultures are likely to be consistent in their views and maintain them in the face of opposition, whereas, individuals in collectivistic cultures might consider the failure to yield to others as inconsiderate and rude.

Another aspect that contributed towards initial problems was communication style of the different members of our PALS group as it has been seen that in the case of being ineffective about forming an effective cultural communication, individuals may feel themselves excluded and arouse the feelings of suspicion, lack of confidence and even hostility. Likewise, Chevrier (2003) focus on how diversity increases the complexity, confusion and ambiguity in group processes and thus becomes potentially distressing for the efficacy of the team (Seymen, 2006).

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Karoc-Kakabadse and Kouzmin (2001,p.304) asserts that the foremost reasons for problems encountered in cross-cultural communication stem from the fact that individuals from diverse cultures have different understanding regarding the communication process and different styles of dialogue (Seymen,2006).

During the early stages of group work and processes I was not fully aware of the different preferences for different kinds of interactions within the group which are also emphasized by Hall's (1960, cited in Schneider and Barsoux, 2003) categorization of high context and low context cultures.

In high context cultures people rely heavily on the overall situation to interpret messages, so that spoken messages can be ambiguous or vague. In low context cultures people rely more on the explicit verbal content of messages. Members of high context cultures like Pakistani and Nigerian, use non verbal cues and information about a person's background to a greater extent than members of Low context cultures, like the German. In a high- context culture most of the information (to be communicated) is either in the physical context or internalized n the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. In contrast, in a low context society, the mass of the (communicated) information is vested in the explicit code. People in high context culture adopt a role-oriented style whereas; people in low-context cultures use a personal style ( Guirdham, 2002).

In the initial phase of our PALS group work one of our Pakistani member did not performed his tasks properly as it was bit difficult for him to understand the concepts initially but I convinced him through my support this behaviour disappointed our German member as he feels that it was his responsibility and criticise him in front of the whole group. This kind of behaviour restrained the trustful relationship in the group process in the start but everyone realized that German member being a part of western environment considered his right to criticise him when he did not adhere to his agreement of fulfilling the given tasks. It was understandable that no one takes this personally due to the typically strong division between private and work situations existed in western countries (Schneider and Barsoux, 2003). This degree of separation that exists between private and work life is proposed by Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1993) as specific versus diffuse cultures.

In specific cultures, people separate their personal and working lives whereas, in diffuse cultures work and social life overlap. Communication in diffuse cultures is high-context (Pakistani and Nigerian), with much information being exchanged through non-verbal signals and shared understandings. This can make very difficult for someone from a specific culture (Germany), who is used to low-context communication where much more is made explicit. The ambiguity of high context communication, while frustrating to someone from a specific culture is welcomed in a diffuse workplace culture because it is seen as allowing people to use their judgement and initiative rather than expecting them to simply follow orders (Hopkins, 2009). In order to resolve conflict within the group informal face to face communications plays a vital role which alleviates the initial irritation and further fostered a trustful relationship among groups. This trustful relationship also enabled me to convince German member to perform the sub tasks in a collective manner thereby enhancing each individual's understanding and knowledge. This entire team process reflects cultures that are both task oriented (German) and relationship- oriented (Pakistani and Nigerian). In Germany trust is based on an individual's predictability and integrity that translates German member's punctuality, dependability and honesty towards the assigned tasks. In relationship- oriented cultures individual's predictability and integrity is related to other people in terms of concern, support and care for other people. But one drawback connected with culture is that delivering a task on the promised date is considered to be crucial and does not necessarily lead to a loss of trust where time is more elastic and statements and words are taken less literally (Schneider and Barsoux, 2003, p.230).

During this process of group work I came across to know about every member's participation towards group tasks very well. Though everyone participated to desired extent but two of our Pakistani members were very easy with their responsibilities towards the tasks and somehow were dependent on others for task completion. The implications of this collectivism - individualism distinction for working in group settings seems clear: in so far as the group has a well- defined task goal, this is more likely to be internalized and acted upon by collectivists than individuals, with the result that performance decrements for the former (due to social loafing) should be the exception rather than the rule (Brown, 2000).

This problem of social loafing was quite disturbing for rest of the members especially our German member however, I tried to convince everyone and resolve this issue through raising accountability by making their performance expectations clear and identifiable. Hence, this really helped our group towards a building more cooperative approach that entails everyone's participation and I was appreciated for being an active member of the group.

In brief, this overall group process and tasks enabled me to gain an insight into different culture (Germany) and subcultures (Kashmiri, Punjabi), which helped to me to understand and build trustful relationship with them. In terms of learning through group activities what I gained was 'cohesiveness is the solution to many problems' i.e. it is because of group harmony and cooperation that I was able to gain in depth knowledge of cross culture issues. One important thing which I would like to mention here is my relationship with German member which enabled me to adapt many aspects of individualistic culture in terms of commitment, punctuality and honesty. The German member, according to my point of view, benefited from our learning experience because of different subcultures in terms of values, customs and rituals which enable him to experience and improve his skills from different social groups.

In terms of each individual impact on our PALS group it can be said that majority of students were from Pakistan and it can be assumed that with them the impact of national culture was stronger than German member, which prevailed the group harmony and cohesiveness forming a collective effort to complete the tasks. Overall, this learning process was a great experience for me because I came to know a totally different culture and widened my scope for cross cultural learning process.

Question 2

Power is an emotionally charged concept, because those with power can build up or tear down people, relationships and institutions. Pace and Faules (1994, p.172) synthesized several definitions of power into "the capacity to influence, regulate and control outcomes". An individual's power, in fact, is interdependent with the power of others and with the structure of organization (Braynion, 2004).

Nowadays there are still wide differences in the distribution of power among women and men in organizations. Although there is a rising number of females who enter the workforce but women's access to leadership positions still remain inadequate (Ridgeway, 2001 cited in Weyer 2007). This indicates that female leaders are evaluated more negatively than their

Expectation states theory as well as social role theory hypothesizes that gender influences the way individuals are perceived by others, perceive others, and perceive themselves (Korabik, 1997). This supports the finding of Heilman (2001, p. 657) that "gender bias in evaluation is a primary cause for the glass ceiling and thus the scarce number of women in top leadership positions".

According to Ridgeway (2001), expectation states theory predicts similar effects of behaviour and evaluation as social role theory. However, expectation states theory expands upon social role theory and implies that "it is the status element of gender stereotypes that cause such stereotypes to act as distinctively powerful barriers to women's achievement of positions of authority, leadership, and power" (p. 638). Whereas social role theory proposes that bias in evaluations is based upon the incongruence of roles held by women, expectation states theory proposes that the lower status of women causes bias in evaluations.

Oakley (2000) explained the three categories that act as a barrier for women and minority groups to occupy the top leadership positions in society:

Corporate practices such as promotion, recruitment and retention.

Cultural and behavioural causes such as preferred leadership style and stereotyping.

Cultural and structural explanations embedded in feminist theory.

Eagly and Karau's (2002) role congruity theory seeks to elucidate the prejudice towards female leaders and states that a there is significant overlap between the male gender role and the leadership role. Furthermore, masculine traits such as 'taking the initiative' and 'ambitious' correspond to attributes which are commonly expected from (effective) leaders. As a result, an incongruity is likely to be perceived between the female gender role and the leadership role (Heilman, 1983).

According to this reasoning, Ridgeway (2001, p. 642) argues that "the enforcement of behavioural expectations created by the status elements of stereotypes creates a legitimacy process that affects the ability of women leaders to exercise directive power and achieve compliance".

The describe role conflict for women is due to authoritarian gender stereotypes which is mirrored through the fact that traditional followers are prone to show less professional respect for female leaders. Therefore, in order to resolve the problem of prejudice towards female leaders it is suggested that followers' prejudices against female leaders should be reduced (Pawlowsky et al., 2001 cited in Wolfram et al, 2007).

While such trends in culture and research are encouraging, the obstacles that women face across various leadership situations, including outright prejudice, are often entrenched, subtle and serious. Additional evidence show that management ability is linked with 'possessing predominantly masculine characteristics' so that followers often prefer male to female bosses-though this preference is changing somewhat. More perniciously, if, as Eagly and Karau (2002, 576) note, there is an 'incongruity' between 'expectations about women' through traditional gender norms. Women, for instance are viewed as more communal, selfless etc and men are seen as more agentic (Deaux and Kite, 1993 cited in Zoli et al, 2008). Indeed, confidence and power-seeking behaviour when exhibited by women is perceived in negative terms, given gender cultural norms-even as aggression thus presenting women leaders with 'double-binds' that prevent their managerial effectiveness.

It is perhaps ironic, then, given such perceptions, that most studies also find little actual differences between men and women in leadership performance, or that if women and men do differ in leadership style, they do not really differ in leadership effectiveness (Thompson, 2000 cite in Zoli et al, 2008) for instance found that many women managers, when interviewed, possessed the same traits as male managers, while other studies found that female and male managers actually behave in similar ways in leadership roles (Gibson, 1995 cited in Zoli et al, 2008).

QUESTION 3

Govindarajan and Gupta (2001, p. 63) use the term 'cross-border team' and define it as a 'team of individuals of different nationalities, working in different cultures, businesses and functions, who come together to coordinate some aspect of the multinational operation on a global basis' (Puck et al, 2008).

The cross cultural team in our PALS group reflected the different approaches to group tasks in terms of individual versus group tasks that affected negatively on group's efficacy. Further the context of high versus low communication context impacted group effectiveness. Working with people from different cultures with team work approach requires careful identification and the nature, understanding the implications of cultural differences, building awareness of cultural differences, knowing how to manage these differences and finally formulating the appropriate framework that address the cultural differences to leverage the diversity in a team. Within our PALS group, factors that contributed towards effective cross cultural team performance includes balancing the team, developing the framework of leadership behaviour, inter-team working, team autonomy, shared understanding of goals and feedback. Higgs and Rowland (1992) identified that, in cross cultural teamwork developing a shared understanding and commitment to team goals is of prime importance. They also suggested that each team member should be able to understand the tem purpose and charter, team objectives, values, role of each team member and the process of team working (Bhattacharyya, 2010).

During the entire course of study my experience within PALS group enabled me to achieve sustained benefits from diversified group which further fosters development of creative processes to reflect my skills in terms fulfilling the tasks. The advantage of multi cultural teams enabled me to carry out the processes more effectively and efficiently within the allocated time span.

In general, the benefits of cultural diversity in multi-cultural teams are mainly attributed to their greater variety of perspectives, skills, values and attributes as compared to culturally homogeneous teams (Seymen, 2006).

However, despite probable advantages, there are also negative outcomes associated while working with multicultural teams in terms of difficult verbal and non verbal communication among team members, higher levels of mistrust and stress, lower group cohesion and numerous conflicts (Adler 2002 cited in Seymen, 2006).

In line with Hills (2001) I believe that one cannot enforce a team culture as it is deliberately encouraged by appropriate leadership traits and skills. Hence, from my point of view, the selection of strong team leader within our PALS group was very effective for the establishment of unified team culture. Different activities initiated by the team leader further strengthens the team culture e.g. drinking tea or playing different games to increase the interaction among group members. I believe that interaction within cross cultural group enabled me to have an appreciation for different cultures and subcultures and helped me to remove my cultural blinkers and developed an understanding and affinity with other cultures (Morrison, 2002).

After working in a cross culture group my experiences lead me to draw the conclusion that everyone in my PALS group get along really well with the given tasks and thereby improved group effectiveness collectively. However, cultural differences and language problems do create some problems in the initial phases but I believe that everyone including me overcomes these problems to some extent and gained valuable experiences in group work. The cross cultural experiences enabled every individual of our PALS group to polish their skills to become a part of an international environment.