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A Cross-cultural Comparison of Work Ethics

A Cross-cultural Comparison of Work Ethics

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Business Ethics: A European Review
A cross-cultural comparison ofBritish and Turkish managers interms of Protestant work ethiccharacteristics
Mahmut Arslan
Theoretical framework
This paper discusses work attitudes of Turkishand British managers in terms of Protestant workethic (PWE) characteristics. Max Weber broadlyargued that Protestantism, in particular Calvin-ism, played an important role in the developmentof capitalism in the West (Weber 1985). He be-lieved that Protestant societies had a particularwork ethic which was quite distinct from non-Western societies. Weber explained the contribu-tion of Calvinism to the development of capitalismthrough 'the spirit of capitalism'. He believed thata new morality, 'the spirit of capitalism', encour-aged hard work and productivity by means of thereligious beliefs of some Protestant movements.He argued that 'the spirit of capitalism' could betaken to be unique to these Protestant groups.It should be noted that Weber did not arguethat a non-Protestant society could not produce'the spirit of capitalism'; he simply emphasisedthat Catholicism and Islam had not developedsuch a spirit (Weber 1985). A MusHm societycould hardly produce PWE-like values because,Weber argued, three factors prevented the devel-opment of 'the spirit of capitalism' in Islamicsocieties (Weber 1982). These are Sufism, warriorethic and oriental despotism.Sufism was an obstacle to the development of acapitalistic spirit because of its other-worldlycharacter. Weber believed that Sufism encour-aged a fatalistic way of life.• Warrior ethic or 'the spirit of conquest' wasseen as the antithesis of the productive capitalistspirit.• Weber argued that the despotic character ofIslamic empires restricted property rights andhence capital accumulation.Although some non-Christian religious groups,such as the Japanese and the Jains of India, havesucceeded in achieving considerable economicsuccess, the main discussion on this topic hasbeen conducted in the context of the Judeo-Christian ethic (Ali 1988), and most of theresearch on the Protestant work ethic has beendone in the West. The need for further studieson the work ethic of non-Christian groups stillremains (Ali 1992). For instance, Turkey, as acultural bridge between the West and the Islamicworld, represents a potentially interesting researchopportunity to look at changes of work values inan industrialising Muslim society.Although there is no well-defined statements onthe actual dimensions of the Protestant work ethic(PWE), the broader meaning of the PWE refers toone or more of the following beliefs and attitudes:• taking hard work and industriousness asreligious duties,a negative attitude to leisure activities.
© Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2000. 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 IJF, UKand 350 Main St, Maiden, MA 02148, USA.
13
 
Voiume9 Number
1
January 2000
frugality and productivity,punctuality and time-saving,pride in work,• commitment and loyalty to occupation andorganisation,need for achievement,• honesty,• taking idleness, wasting time and money asvices,internal locus of control (one first must blamehimself or herself instead of others),• taking ambition and success as the signs ofGod's favour,taking poverty as a universal indicator of sinwhile taking wealth as a sign of God's favour(Furnham 1990).From a management point of view the PWE maybe seen as a cultural input into organisationstructure which can affect organisational cultureand effectiveness. Organisational culture is definedas dominant values adopted by an organisationthat create a common understanding amongmembers about the nature of organisation andthe desired behaviours ofthe members (Can 1991).Some important characteristics of organisationalculture are directly or indirectly related to thePWE such as individual initiative, risk tolerance,identity, and reward system (Robins 1989). Indi-vidual initiative refers to the degree of responsi-bility, freedom and independence that individualshave. Individual initiative overlaps individualismand internal locus of control of the PWE. Risktolerance shows the degree to which employees areencouraged to be aggressive, innovative and risktaking. This also overlaps risk taking and inno-vative attitudes in the PWE. Similarly, identity iscontained in the PWE as loyalty to organisation.Finally, the reward system refers to the degree towhich reward allocations are based on employeeperformance criteria in contrast to seniority andfavouritism. The PWE encourages reward systemswhich are based on productivity.My main concern in this paper is to explorewhether managerial attitudes of Muslim Turkishmanagers are similar to or different from theirProtestant British counterparts in terms of PWEvalues. Although few researchers make compari-sons of PWE values in Islamic and Westernsocieties (Ali 1988, 1992, Furnham and Muhiud-din 1984) there is no comparison between Turkeyand Christian cultures based on PWE values.Turkey, as an emerging capitahst economy, isbecoming the first industrialised Muslim nationwith a secular regime. For example, Hefner (1995)believes that the time will come when Islamicnations become developed economies; that timemay have already arrived in two of the mostimportant countries in the Muslim world, Turkeyand Indonesia. These two non-Arabic countriesare important since both are experimenting withcapitalism and cultural pluralism in a way neverundertaken in the Muslim world. A study of PWEvalues of Turkish managers and its comparisonwith British managers will therefore contributeconsiderably to our knowledge of the culturalaspects of Turkish business.Britain was chosen for the comparison becauseof its original and rich PWE heritage. Weber(1985) took British and Anglo-Saxon societies asideal examples of the PWE. He addressed theimportance of non-Conformist tradition and itsrole in developing the 'spirit of capitalism' inBritain and in the
US.
Although present-day Britishsociety is known as a post-Christian society, I choseparticular Protestant groups to pursue PWEbeliefs. The relationship between PWE endorse-ment and religious affiliation has been examinedin many cross-cultural studies. For example, Kim(1977) showed that there was no significantdifference between Protestant denominationsand Catholics. Ray (1982) investigated PWE inAustralia and found that Catholic/Protestantdifferences were not significant. McCarrey
et al.
(1984) argued that there was a strong similaritybetween Anglophone and Francophone Canadianmanagers. Ma (1986) showed that for TaiwanesePWE scores were not related to religious beliefor affiliation. Similarly, Furnham and Reilly(1991) found that PWE values were not relatedto religious affiliation. Furnham
et al.
(1993)measured PWE values in 13 countries and resultsshowed that participants from richer. First Worldcountries tended to have lower scores than those
14
) Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2000
 
Business Ethics:
A
European Review
from Third world countries. Niles (1994) foundthat
Sri
Lankans
had as
strong
a
work ethic
as
Australians
had. Ali
(1988) claimed that Arabexecutives
had
higher
PWE
levels than theirScandinavian
and
American counterparts.
Method
Mirels
and
Garrett's PWE scale (1971)
was
usedto examine whether Turkish
and
British managershad similar
or
different attitudes towards work.This scale includes
19
items, and is one of
the
mostfrequently used scales
for
the cross-cultural exam-ination
of
the PWE. Although
it
does
not
containall dimensions
of
the PWE
it is a
good measure-ment tool
to
make
the
sample larger. Each itemhas
a
scale ranging from
(1) to (7),
representing'strongly disagree'
and
'strongly agree'
in a
Likertscale. The scale was translated into Turkish
for
theTurkish group
and a
re-translation
was
alsoconducted.
The
scale exhibited
a
satisfactoryreliability score (Cronbach Alpha = 0.84).To make the sample more representative,
I
chosepractising Protestant managers from certain
non-
Conformist movements such
as
Quakers, Pente-costals, Calvinists, Presbyterians,
and
Methodistsbecause Max Weber argued that Calvinist-PuritanProtestantism with
its
this-worldly asceticism
or
religious individualism
was the
core
of
'the spiritof capitalism'. Similarly,
I
chose practising Muslimmanagers
in
Turkey from
an
Islamic business-men's association,
and
some adherents
of
famousreligious movements such
as the
Light
and the
Nakshibandiyya
movements were included.
The
sample consisted
of
randomly chosen
100
Britishand
74
Turkish first-
and
middle-level managersbetween
the age of
35
and
55. Respondents werepersonally contacted during
the
data gatheringprocess. Every effort
was
made
to
assure
the
comparability
of the
samples
and
procedures
for
the study.A factor analysis with varimax rotation revealedfive dimensions
of
the PWE. These PWE charac-teristics
are
'work
as an end in
itself,
'money
and
time saving', 'internal locus
of
control', 'hardwork brings success',
and
'negative attitude
to
leisure'. Five items were excluded because
of
lower factor loadings.
A
multivariate analysis
of
variance (MANOVA)
was
conducted
for
overallresults
and
univariate t-tests were performed
for
each item.
Results and discussion
A multivariate analysis
of
variance
in
Table
1
shows
the
overall results that there
is a
significantdifference between Turkish
and
British managersat
the
95 percent level.
Tabie
1:
iViANOVA results
EFFECT
..
RELIGIONMultivariate Tests
of
Significance
(S =
1,
M
=
6, N
=
78%)
Test Name
PillaisHotellingsWilksRoys
Vaiue
.48162.92907.51838.48162
Exact
F
10.5516110.5516110.55161
Hypoth. DF
14.0014.0014.00
Error
DF
159.00159.00159.00
Sig.oi
.000.000.000
Note..
F
statistics are exact.Observed Power at .0500 Level
TEST NAME(All)Noncent.
147.723
Power
1.00
Note:
p<0.05
© Blackwell Publishers
Lid.
2000
15

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