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The process of defining organizational culture goes by the fact that the definition in itself is vague. According to Schein, “culture is what a group learns over a period of time as that group solves its problems of survival in an external environment and its problems of internal integration” (Schein, 1990 : p111). All these develop over a period of time and become a part of organizational culture and they are turned into underlying assumption of what should and should not be done. Schein further adds that these underlying assumptions are the key to understand organization culture and their manifestations which he calls as artifacts and values. Artifacts are referred to as visible items such as organization layouts and values are organization specific beliefs such as ways to handle problems (Schein, 1990).
On the scale of cultural values expressed by Hofstede, UK scores high on individualism, low on power distance and uncertainty avoidance, which means British employees are based on individual characteristics, do not prefer hierarchical organization structure and do not essential need organized approach and regulations (Hofstede, 1993). In UK organizations openly display of emotions and expressing positive or negative attitudes are very rare scene and thus are preferably avoided. During meetings, British colleagues will approach business with an air of formality and detachment. This kind of work force attitudes can be reflected with Schein's three levels of organizational culture under “values” of how people think and feel under different circumstances (Schein, 1996). It is more individualistic attitudes and loose bonds between employees that make them more self oriented rather than working under groups, thereby building close relationships (Jodie 2007). Successes in these organizations are measured by personal achievements than group activities leading to less group motivation and togetherness in achieving a common organizational goal.
On the second dimension of Hosftede which is power distance, UK organizations tend to be relatively low compared to the world average of 56. One of the reasons that can be argued for low power distance is the equality between the social level in these organizations between managers and their subordinates, as there is a less rigid system in place for addressing superiors. The orientation factor inside the organizations helps to keep a strong cooperative involvement within the power levels and this enables to create a more stable environment between the employer and the employee. This involves the underlying assumptions that determine perceptions, thought and process of different individuals and their feelings (Schein, 2004). For example if we take an English company, characterized by a low power distance, we will find that subordinates interact with their superiors to suggest alternative solutions of a problem or a decision (Meier, 2004). Relationships between superiors and subordinates are frequent and they are considered like a way of improving the performances of the group. On the contrary in an Indian organization which is characterized by high power distance, people are strongly linked with the idea of respecting the hierarchical authority and the obedience of the superiors is considered the best way of achieving the goals of the company. Here, relationships between managers and their workforce are strongly affected, particularly with regard to the recognition of the power. In this way high power distance individuals need a forceful manager that tell them what to do, on the contrary, low power distance individuals prefer a laxer manager and they do not always accept his ideas or decisions. It will be a challenge of these organizations to unearth them as it would enable in building a better understanding with the workforce which would result in addressing newer challenges faced in this dynamic business environment.
On the third dimension of Hofstede which is uncertainty avoidance, UK is on the lower end compared to the world's average of 65. It is worth saying that Countries with weak uncertainty avoidance like UK are relatively secure, less dependent and don't feel endangered by the views of others. There will be little differing of thought process within the organisation and working together in complex tasks would be much easier. For example if we consider French managers that are characterized by high uncertainty avoidance we can see that they take a long time to make a decision. They analyse all aspects of the decision and try to evaluate their decisions logically. So they tend to think more before acting and sometimes if the risk is too high they could even refuse to act whereas a British counterpart, low on uncertainty avoidance, would be more pragmatic. They accept the risk of making mistakes and always prefer to act instantly instead of thinking long (Meier, 2004). In this sense, also subordinates with a culture of low uncertainty avoidance are more willing for rapid changes than those with a culture of high uncertainty avoidance. In this case, the challenges of managers is to understand which is the better strategy to adopt in accordance with achieving the company goals and be able to change, as needed, their behaviour and that of their workforce, showing a good capacity of adaptability and flexibility.
The above discussion has shown that many problems are likely to appear in a workplace where different cultures, behaviours, attitudes, values and beliefs meet. Managers of multinational companies should possess sound knowledge, management skills, personal traits, characteristics and motivation to manage a multicultural workforce. The best way to overcome these difficulties and conflicts is to educate the managers about cultural differences in order to make the workers aware of the diversities and make them know how to be more open and tolerant towards each other. Eventually, as the growth of multinational companies has been steady there is certainly an immense need of understanding of in-depth cultural issues for ensuring harmonious and productive work-culture in every organisation.
- Hofstede, G. (1993), ‘Cultural Constraints in Management Theories', Academy of Management Executive 7, p81-94.
- Jodie R. Gorrill (2007), Intercultural Communication, cross cultural Training communication Group, www.communicaid.com/cross-cultural-training/culture-for-business-and-management/doing-business-in/British-business-and-social-culture.php# [Accessed: 3rd April 2010].
- Meier O. (2004), Management Interculturel, Paris, Dunod.
- Schein, E. (1990), ‘Organizational Culture', American Psychologist, 45 (2), p109-119.
- Schein, E. (1996), Culture: the missing concept in organization studies, Administrative Science Quarterly 41, p229 - 240.
- Schein, E. (2004), Organizational culture and leadership, 3rd ed, San Francisco: Jossey - Bass.