Culture refers to the unique characteristics of behaviors and norms that are identified with a certain community (Luthans 2008 p 45). Different communities around the world have different social structures that are governed by rules either borrowed from the community’s history or through religious and secular cults. The cultural norms dictate the way a community integrates with other communities and the level of business relationships that can be accepted in the community. It is therefore necessary for international business men and women to conduct extensive research on the different cultural beliefs and practices that are common in their countries of interest to help them plan their management strategies. This essay is a critical evaluation of the influence of culture on management across various cultural diversities.
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As organizations and companies continue to extend their territories to acquire international status, there is need to study and understand various cultures so as to identify their importance and impact on the business. This would go a long way in improving the process of human resource management as it helps in understanding the needs and habits of the employees. International management is faced with many challenges that are related to culture. This is due to the fact that the top management usually makes overall decisions regarding the operations of all the subsidiaries located in areas with various cultural practices. This denies the managers in the subsidiary entities the freedom to make prompt decisions whenever there is a cultural conflict within the organizations (Matsumoto 2008 p 40). These conflicts may arise due to the various aspects of culture that are practiced by the communities which may be related to religion, environment or level of civilization.
Language barrier is an example of a cultural issue that challenge the management while establishing their authority in the subsidiary companies located in different cross cultural societies. This results to problems in communication which necessitates for interpretation so as to deliver information. To solve this, the managers should resolve to study the different languages so as to communicate effectively with the personnel (Koen 2005 p 109). This also increases trust in the working relationship which is a fundamental requirement in a successful business environment.
According to research, trust, which can be defined through its basic components that include effective communication, conflict management and understanding, is directly proportional to productivity. In different cultures, trust is perceived in different ways and thus, it is important for the managers to study the details of every culture so as to develop professional and effective methods of resolving conflicts. While some cultures base trust on the productivity of an individual over a period of time set, others, for example those of Asian origin develop trust from casual discussions over meals then later venture into business topics (Thompson 2005 p 65). Without this knowledge, a person out of ignorance can possibly lose his chances of closing up a deal due to lack of trust which could have been formed if the right procedures were followed to establish it.
Failure to understand cultural practices of a person or a community which you are in business with could have great financial implications on the business. An example is the different perceptions that different communities hold against a certain gender. In certain cultures, women are viewed as inferior to men and as such, it is a taboo for them to conduct any negotiations regarding business (Matsumoto 2008 p 41). In that respect, sending a woman representative to represent the organization in such an environment could lead to losing the deal which could have been negotiable were it done by a man. Misunderstandings can occur if the rejected party is not aware of such a practice. This therefore calls for managers and entrepreneurs to conduct efficient ground work regarding culture before approaching the other party involved in the negotiations. If this is done, it would be possible to plan ahead or to give in to the cultural demands of the other person for the sake of completing the deal.
While conducting international business, several issues may arise which may result to conflict of principles regarding certain cultural ideologies. In some countries, the culture of employing children who are underage is widely acceptable. This goes against majority of countries which does not support child labor. While investing in such a place, the managers have a responsibility to uphold the principles of their mother countries by refraining from supporting child labor (Georgianna 2007). This is a decision that would be regarded as unwise by the locals of that country who does not condemn the practice and it may also mean losing the chance of cutting down the production process through cheap labor. Making such a decision could later be of great advantage to the business as there would be a possibility of acquiring recognition by human rights organizations which may earn the business international good will.
Understanding cultural beliefs and practices of the persons you are dealing with, be it business partners or employees helps to understand their actions and avoid unnecessary conflicts and embarrassment. This could be worse especially if the habits you find peculiar in them mean the direct opposite of what you perceive them to be (Matsumoto 2008 p 35). For example, the body language is perceived differently in different cultural settings. In some cultures e.g. western culture, direct eye contact portrays honesty where as it is a sign of lack of respect in the Eastern culture. This could make it difficult for a meeting between persons from these two regions to come out with agreeable solutions based on trust due to their different perceptions on the eye contact (Thompson 2005 p 78). The mode of dressing also speaks much about a persons’ character in some cultures than it would in others. Deciding on the best attire to put on while attending a business meeting or an employee reporting for work would therefore require consultation as it may result to conflict between the involved parties. Failure to do this could result to wearing something that could portray lack of seriousness or commitment. For example, a woman wearing a sleeveless top and a pair of shorts could be held with low esteem in a Muslim community regardless of her place of origin or the prevailing weather conditions.
While managing international organizations and businesses, culture plays a big role in influencing business decisions and determining its success. This is due to the role played by politics and politicians in controlling businesses operations. This could be for example as a result of the culture of corruption and nepotism that may be supported by some governments whereby winning tenders for government projects would require payment of bribes or hiring of employees related to the politically correct individuals (Georgianna 2007 p 550). This requires the managers in the subsidiaries to make choices between upholding the virtues of the main office which could be against the vice or to give in to the demands of the government. Failure to give in would eventually mean that no tenders would be awarded to the business thus lowering its chances of succeeding. The governments’ policies on employment could also be a major challenge to the management in international companies as they determine the perception of employees and employers towards solving crises (Georgianna 2007 p 580). Some cultures are reluctant towards dealing with violence as a means of solving crises where as some promote peace and calm. It is therefore necessary for the management to identify the best areas to set their investments so as to avoid losses that may occur as a result of poor government policies in dealing with crime and violence.
Cultural Differences between the United States and France
In regard of the Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions, United States and France have little in common in terms of culture (Hofstede 2005 p 64). Where as the United States is known to accommodate changes and a wide range of cultural practices, France on the other hand exercises high levels of patriotism that resist interference with their cultural settings. This means that visitors coming to France have to adapt to the cultural settings and not the other way round. This was a factor that contributed to the low number of visitors of French origin (approximately 20% of the total visitors) on the Euro Disneyland which was designed with an American setting (Hofstede 2005 p 95). For it to be successful, the Americans should have incorporated the highest percentage of French culture in designing the park so as to attract more French citizens. If it was the French who had invested in the same style but in America, the reaction would have been different as Americans would have accommodated their style without any hardships.
The other cultural dimension that contrasted the French cultural practices was Individualism (Hofstede 2005 p 98). This is the extent to which a society is divided into groups which share a common heritage e.g. family, for the purpose of helping one another. In this dimension, loyalty to the provider is the key factor that holds the group together. Due to the high individualism in Americans and the need to help those who are loyal to their way of life, they introduced a dress code for the employees that characterized the American way of dressing which was seen as an attempt to assimilate the French into the American culture. Due to this, the French who are also individualistic though at a lower score, refused to provide labor for the park.
Mistakes Made in Managing Euro Disneyland
The management in Disneyland made a mistake by designing the park to match other American parks back at home. Due to this, the French who exercise high resistance to change and patriotism did not take this well and thus only a few visited the park during its first year of operation in which it realized a huge loss. The management introduced a dress code for the employees that characterized the American way of dressing, an action that was seen as trying to assimilate the French way of dressing. Due to this, the French who are also individualistic though at a lower score, refused to provide labor for the park (Hofstede 2005 p 72). To deal with this, the management should have given the employees the liberty to choose their desired way of dressing which was in line with their protective culture.
Power distance index is the dimension that dictates the perception of the less fortunate members of the society by those with power (Hofstede 2005 p 85). As such, they are accorded fewer privileges in the management and less contribution in decision making. The management in Disneyland consisted mostly of Americans who could not converse fluently in French. This did not go down well with the French who also score a high power distance index close to that of the Americans.
Trompenaars’ Research on Organizational Culture in Relation to United States and France
Trompenaars research identifies various cultural differences between US and France. In his observations, (Trompenaar 2005 p 58), notes that Americans do not concentrate much on creating relationships with employees but instead, practice universalism whereby rules are given priority over relationships and as such, conflict resolution exercises uniformity across the whole population unlike the French who are more particularistic and are bound to solve conflicts according to the context of the crises at hand.
The French management takes a communitarian dimension whereby decisions and liabilities are shared jointly by the management. Failure or success of an individual representative of the management is the failure of the whole system where as Americans exercise the individualistic cultural dimension whereby every individual is accountable for the decisions he makes (Trompenaar 2005 p 65). As such, success or failure is credited to the individual.
Lessons that Disneyland Company Should Have Learned About Dealing with Diversity
Cultural diversity refers to the existence of many cultures within a society or an organization. Understanding and respecting it is an essential requirement especially for those intending to invest in foreign countries (Zander 2004 p 280). Disney land would have been a great investment in France if the Americans had recognized the importance of understanding and accommodating diversity. Trying to assimilate the French into behaving and dressing like the Americans was a mistake and they should have learnt from the attitude of the French towards it. Dealing with Cultural diversity requires first to study the different cultures before taking steps and investing. Disneyland should also have learnt that it is not possible to change the culture of a society that values and protects it. If they had researched well, they would have accommodated the French culture instead of trying to impose their own.
Cultural differences play a major role in influencing international organizational management. This is due to the diverse nature of how the different cultures perceive various management styles that some times result to conflicts between the management and the society. It is therefore necessary for managers and CEOs to conduct effective research on the intended market groups so as to develop strategies that would be of benefit to the business. American interests in France hit a snag as they tried to control the operations of Disneyland. Their main failure was the lack of appreciation for cultural diversity that resulted to low generation of income from the company. Instead, they tried to impose their culture on the French citizens who came to visit the park and those who worked for the company. This was rejected by the French who according to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have a low correlation to the American culture.
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