National Culture and Management
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Published: Thu, 21 Dec 2017
National culture is very diverse in the UK and affects management and organisation in a number ways. National culture includes the pervasive, shared beliefs, norms, values, and symbols that are occur in daily. National culture is normally transmitted by symbols and rituals and many often take these for granted and this includes management of organisations. Management today is bound by many rules and regulations and have to work in accordance with national cultures to ensure that their companies get mainstream attention whilst taking care of the norms displayed by the nation’s people. This paper will look at national culture at the organisational-unit state of multi-business firms and how it affects management and how organizing takes place
National culture is known to trigger changes in the corporate management control to benefit local business-unit circumstances. The role of management is more complex than many people contend. To put it simply, management adopt holistic responsibility for the outcomes of projects. If projects or organisational objectives are not satisfactorily achieved then the management takes full responsibility for this due to the fact that they set out the criteria for achieving such aims and oversaw the entire project. Managers have numerous roles which imply critical thinking on their behalf and the general rule of thumb is that management entails the effective planning, leading and control of resources in order to meet objectives as set out in the mission statement. Indeed the resources in question fluctuate on the basis of the type of industry the organisation trades in but from a general perspective such resources include personnel with their abilities and experience in addition to non-human elements i.e. machinery, raw materials IT and capital all of which play a pivotal part in contributing to the role of management. Work from Mead (1994 pg 55) shows that national culture at the multi-level data reveal small business-unit effects relative to corporate effects. The work from Mead suggests that in the presence of dominant national culture, management and the organisation work harder to uniformly implement control within their firms to reflect national culture conditions.
Estienne (1997) defines culture as –
“Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action”
The graphs shows how national culture is divided out
Manifestation of Culture at Different Levels of Depth (Mead – 2005)
Culture in the narrowest sense also refers to knowledge of the arts. This includes music and sculpture. The concept of culture which is taken on by people through different ways of thinking and acting or other cultural issues in the wider sense all affect management. According to Jackson (2004 pg 23) there are 2 diagnostic models that help the manager. These are Hofstede’s Model of National Culture and the 7d Cultural Dimensions Model. According to the Hofstede Model of National Culture there are clear elements and concerns about equality and power distance. Power distance is the extent to which people accept inequality in power. In companies there is likely to be antagonism and conflict as employees may be unwilling to accept higher power e.g. some employees may dislike their manager because they are bossed around and this may affect morale and motivation in an adverse way. Furthermore, the concepts of the Hofstede’s Model of National Culture underlines the importance of management and organising when trying to manage individuals and the groups within society that attempt to balance out collectivism and individualism. Other components of the model which relate to national culture include gender roles i.e. masculinity and Confucian values.
In addition to establishing and deciphering tasks, management take account of this model and that consider aspects relation to –
Communication/ Linguistics – The geographical variance in organisational location involves a linguistic barrier where language is not easily comprehended in some parts of the world. Jargon and slang are regional and thus renders them inappropriate for other geographical locations. Management seeks to reduce the usage of jargon to minimise ambiguity amongst employees particularly in a multinational organisation.
Cultural values – Cultures are highly sensitive so the conformity to cultural imbalances highlights the role of management. Semiotic and verbal messages are interpreted differently by many cultures and the role of management dictates that they are privy to such sensitivities.
Many other roles include working as a co-coordinator in ensuring that staff is progressing with their work smoothly. Familiarity with teams’ abilities forms the basis of coordination and ensures that they can collaborate effectively without compromising the output. Should there be a discrepancy in working relations then the role of management dictates that they intervene and remedy the problem to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. The role of management entails time consciousness and facilitating as contended by Quinn (2002). It’s important to be proactive since time is money in business and adopting a somewhat relaxed approach can ultimately be catastrophic. The role of management implies that they need to show real conviction in their approach to motivating, encouraging and rewarding their personnel. Similarly, it’s imperative for management to be innovative and empower their staff so that they can learn from each other and share skills which will benefit the organisation production. However, in different cultures people are likely to interpret this type of information differently and, as a result, may take offence from this. The dissemination of knowledge provides a foundation upon which to base a learning culture within the organisation. Management have an obligation to coach employees and adopt a democratic stance where they seek to improve morale and confidence and suggest training regimes to improve confidence and working relations. Employees can find certain instructions as being vague and open to interpretation and coaching can eliminate this ambiguity by providing greater clarification. In many organisations managers are democratic meaning that they adopt a political role where they seek to negotiate with stakeholders to maintain a harmonised relationship and this is due to national culture and what the country expects. Being political also ensures the general web of contacts is widened giving organisations greater access to resources. Every management regime has a unique style and likewise their objectives are also unique and the management role needs to reflect the objectives set out. In general development is the key in achieving goals. Development provides growth and stability. Torrington (2001) cites case where cross cultural themes helped the manager to divide the components into smaller parts. The case was from Waitrose in France where the manager used the Hofstede model to simplify the components and relax the regulations concerning power and allowing workers to work freely with no conflict appearing. On the basis of the evidence cross cultural management helps managers in making easier the recruitment and selection process as well as creating organisational compatibility. However there are obstacles regarding culture and how various cultures respond differently when faced with different situations. In this context managers need to balance out their plans.
As cited by Hodgetts et al (2000 pg 54) the concepts of Hofstede’s individualism foundation is about the preference for a loosely knit social network. In this network individuals almost always look out for their own self interests. Collectivism in contrast is a tightly knit social network where individuals look after each other and companies protect their member’s interests. Through linking this concept to organisations, individualism is likely to lead to a network where there may be a range of opinions as workers only look to protect their own self-interests and may not be doing what in the best interest of the organisation as a whole. Through linking collectivism to organisations, if every worker looked out for each other good communication links are likely to result between them which is likely to lead to better input into tasks and objectives and so favourably affecting motivation levels in the organisations. As well as this there is common ground in that everyone would have similar beliefs since everybody is on the lookout for the self-interests of others. The work of Hofstede shows how individualism is closely linked to the wealth of nations e.g. from evidence from Lee (2008) we can see that the UK and USA are very individualist whereas countries like Pakistan and Columbia are very collectivist nations. The final dimension of national culture according to the work of Hofstede is masculinity and femininity. Masculinity is known by Hurn (2000 pg 12) to be a cultural preference where the aim is to strive towards achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material success. Femininity on the other hand is a cultural preference for cooperation, group decision making and quality of life. Through linking the concepts as provided by Hofstede to management and organisations there are some occupations that according to society only men are capable of doing e.g. a mechanic and there are some occupations that are more suitable for females such as an air hostess. However, today both of these occupations are widely taken on by both genders since people are looking to expand their learning horizons rather than worrying about what type of job it is. Evidence from Mead (2005 pg 34) cites the slogan “ if you want to do it then it shouldn’t matter about gender roles” This is exactly the slogan in cross cultural management that mangers have thought about and found that the female gender is more effective at doing certain jobs which according to society were more male orientated. (Mead, 2005)
Looking more into the dimensions of national culture and linking this to management, there is a clear bond between individualism and power distance e.g. the US has a high individualism rate and below an average rate of power distance. (Lucas et al, 2006 pg 28) This means that there is more focus on self-interest and so the reverse trend is that they do not accept inequality easily. With respect to collectivism and management take for example a third country like India where people who work in a group to boost communication and motivation means great loyalty. The management always takes the lead role as is expected and allows others to take part after he or she has spoken. This is known as high power distance which is common in third world countries. In a collectivist approach though there are likely to be ways in which subordinates can affect the management’s way of thinking e.g. taking the first step to complete a task before the management does. As a result of this evidence provided by Lucas (2006) it can be claimed that there is a link in the organisations to power distance and uncertainty avoidance. Some companies always look to avoid uncertainty and due to this the worker is aware where they stand e.g. working for the government. Hofstede’s research established that in different organisations and situations different nationalities were gaining different power distance, uncertainty avoidance relationships, e.g. in Germany laying down regulations and guidelines was found to be a method of equalling out this relationship whilst in the UK improving communication elements which existed between different departments with more training proving to be a help. (Demers, 2002) The theory associated with group dynamics is related to an interactive process that is primarily linked to altering patterns of tension with the ultimate aim of incorporating cohesion within a team of different culture. The way in which a team is impacted by dynamics assists in determining how leadership and dominant sub group patterns unravel. The effects of group dynamics would therefore influence players from a behavioural perspective and how their attitudes are affected over a certain period of time. Any changes can either be indelible or temporary. If the former theory is correlated to the sport of rugby, then the captain, vice-captain, the starting line-up and the substitutes would have an important role in team cohesion. The status of an individual player is a massive element with regards to their powers of influence but similarly the character of a player is similarly imperative. A player with a history of absence has no status and as a consequence can have a detrimental impact on the team though this would mainly depend on the player’s ability to impose their expertise and notions on the team.
The final element is motivation which according to theorists such as Blassingame (2002 pg 75) is closely related to individualism-collectivism. Research shows that the USA has the highest motivation factor due to individualism therefore employees are realising their needs. In a collectivist approach workers first of all realise their duties towards the group and so self-motivation would not be a primary aim according to such an approach. Motivation is culture bound. Maslow strongly emphasises that individualism has led to the expectancy and equity theories of motivation. These theories highlight rational and individual thinking as a basis of human behaviour. As a result the emphasis is placed on achievement. The theories don’t offer universal explanations of motivation but reflect the values system of different countries and their cultures.
Cultural Awareness and Extent of Global Involvement – source Stonehouse 2000
Today, it appears that there are a huge number of languages that are used in organisations for business reasons. For the management of organisations who want to expand their businesses into international markets according to Selmer (2008) will come across huge communication challenges and barriers. Such barriers will relate to communication which is likely to increase difficulty in communicating in those countries that do not share a common language with them. To put it simply, management are likely to find it a lot more difficult in communicating in a nation that does not share the same language as they do and so cross cultural management is likely to impede business success. International business is extremely dependable on good communication. Jackson (2004 pg 46) cites that language is the primary component behind this dependency as organisations more and more increasingly begin dealing with other companies many of whom communicate in a different language. Due to this it becomes more likely that there will be an increase in the number of problems that they are likely to come across. To challenge these difficulties managers need to blend in the cross cultural atmosphere with effective communication mechanisms that must run inherently throughout their organisation.
There are four levels of management within the management hierarchy all of which comprise of distinctive roles. The hierarchy consists of top management, middle management and first line management with the chief executive sitting at the top of the tree. The role of first line management implies arguably the most important tasks in an organisation. The role involves obtaining the trust and dedication of front line staff as well as adhering to customer requirements. The middle and senior management are simultaneously consulted in order to maximise success. The role mainly involves daily supervision of workers to maintain working cycles. The experience they gain from exposure to such an environment stands them in good stead in moving up the managerial hierarchy. However, there is still the issue of communication and misinterpretation and this presents a large problem when management organise work and try to motivate their workers.
There may indeed be difficulty in communicating and this may lead to larger problems, but in many cases there are ways in which organisations have tried to reduce problems and increase motivation by simplifying communication elements and which lead to better motivation amongst people. These include the use of simple and basic language with lingo and slang being cut out. Another way is to rely more on written forms of communication so that records and transcripts of what has been said can be kept for checking purposes. This cuts downs on misinterpretation. Due to this companies and management show greater level of formalisation than had previously existed. Another good example would be e-commerce. This is a cross cultural method where the website exists in difference languages to make all round interpretation easier. In a similar way there is ethics. Ethics will vary. Some will be ethical by choosing particular markets to target whilst other will just want to make money.
The essay has shown effects of national culture on management and organisations because as different cultures have different beliefs about how to do things, these beliefs converge and lead to divergence views which management must use in organising their organisations due to diverse cultures. Different countries have different ways in coping with their cultures and due to this there are different levels of power and uncertainty. National culture varies in each country and transnational companies who look to expand their markets need to take account of these cultures so that when they enter the country in question they know exactly what to expect when employees people from within that country. There are clear issues which relate to language, motivation etc. and these need to be fully understand before the management can go ahead with the expansion.
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