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organisational culture in India and USA

organisational culture in India and USA

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University of Tennessee, Knoxville

From the SelectedWorks of Carol Tenopir

November 2008

The Eagle and the Elephant: Comparing Organization Culture in the United States and India

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Available at: http://works.bepress.com/carol_tenopir/106

The Eagle and the Elephant: Comparing Organization Culture in the United States and India.


This exploratory study records and compares the organizational culture in six high tech firms: four in the US and two in India. Prior research into the national culture suggests that there are significant differences, and the organizational cultures should mirror these differences. Naturalistic observation was used for the data collection. The findings indicate that culture fell into 7 categories: communication; information; heroes; innovation; architecture; attendance; and attire. There were subtle difference between the firms in the United States and India, but the cultures were found to be similar in some and different in other categories.

Organizational Culture in US and India - 2 The Eagle and the Elephant: Comparing Organization Culture in the United States and India. Introduction Culture influences the way people think, act and relate to one another. Sinha (1990) wrote that culture reflects the way of life of a people: it includes traditions, heritage and a design for living. Further, it is the sum total of the beliefs, norms and values that relate to the manner in which a society behaves (Sinha, 1990). Just as societies have cultures, so do organizations. According to Weick (1979), organizational culture is the manner in which the basic assumptions of how a firm operates and the values that it holds to while pursuing its goals are communicated. The members of an organization share patterns of perception and understandings of their work life. The organization’s culture provides its members with a knowledge base that serves as a guide for the interpretation of information, actions and expectations while they work for a firm (Weick, 1979). More recently, Hofstede (2005) suggested that organizational culture is “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or organization from another.” Hofstede (2005) found that organizational culture exists not only in the mind of the organization’s membership but also in the mind of the organization’s other stakeholders, including the firm’s customers, suppliers, labor organizations, neighbors, government and the local/national media. This study records and compares the organizational culture in six (6) high tech firms that are engaged in creating innovative high tech products; four (4) in the United States and two (2) in India. Prior research into the similarities and differences in national

After a discussion of the methodology used in this study. Literature Review Overview of Organizational Culture Hofstede (1980) found that national and/or regional culture has a strong impact on the culture of the organizations located in that area and he identified five dimensions to measure all types of cultures: (1) power distance1. and thus the organizational cultures should mirror these differences (Dhawan. the results and discussion sections identify issues related to culture and discusses the similarities and differences in organizational culture between the United States and India. The researchers used naturalistic observation to investigate the organizational culture of these firms by shadowing employees as they completed their daily tasks. During the data collection. between members of society 2 Collectivism versus individualism measures the relationship between the individuals in the group and their orientation to themselves versus their group members . Roseman.3 cultures between these two countries suggests that there are significant differences. (2) collectivism versus individualism2. & Rettek. 1995). including the relationship to authority. observations were recorded about the corporate culture and notes were taken to understand how these cultural guidelines seemed to interact with communication and information events. This manuscript begins with a review of the literature on organizational culture. Naidu. both in general and then specifically for the United States. 1 Power distance relates to the degree of social inequality.Organizational Culture in US and India . India and in high tech firms.

This hero gives the employee a sense of what can be accomplished. or stability. measuring the manner in which people handle uncertainty and ambiguity 5 Long-term versus short-term orientation looks to the importance of fostering virtues oriented towards future rewards versus past and present rewards . For example. innovation. 1982). the top salesperson or the original founder of the firm may be a cultural hero to the employees. 1985). each have an effect on how employees understand their roles and expectations. Organizational culture has been defined as the shared basic assumptions that the group members learned in order to solve problems within the workplace (Schein. Heroes are important for an organization’s culture as they serve to embody the firm within a person or group of people. Throughout an employee’s tenure at the firm. A strong culture exists when all employees are aware of the organization’s values. and (5) long-term versus short-term orientation5. what behavior should be emulated and the rewards that are possible should these cultural goals be attained. there may be a celebration at the 3 Femininity versus masculinity examines the traditional social and emotional values placed on males versus females 4 Uncertainty avoidance. rites and rituals and the cultural network. 1982). in high tech firms.Organizational Culture in US and India . heroes. attendance and participation in these rites and rituals provides an opportunity for management to stress the values and visions of the organization. such as communication.4 (3) femininity versus masculinity3. Each component is important in the creation of a strong culture. (4) uncertainty avoidance4. Organizational values are the core beliefs and visions that the employees hold about the firm. Organizational culture can also be defined as either strong or weak (Deal & Kennedy. These values. For example. collaboration. Organizational rites and rituals are important both in maintaining the firms’ culture and communicating their values to employees (Deal & Kennedy.

S. once inside the organization. Wallach (1983) identified three separate.5 completion of a product or the release-date of a software program. the formal network is presented to employees first at the employment interview and then at the new employee orientation. there may be additional formal communication methods (i. Bureaucratic cultures are characterized by clear lines of authority and responsibility and by highly organized. 2003).: newsletters) as well as informal methods of communication (i. measurable organizational cultures: bureaucratic.e. although most of the studies have looked at the models of culture rather than a description of how a culture is embodied within the organization (cf: Miller. U. However. The final component of a strong culture is the organization’s cultural network which defines how cultural information is disseminated to the employees.Organizational Culture in US and India . Often. Another early study into organizational culture was the identification of the eight (8) characteristics of “excellent companies” by Peters and Waterman. These eight items were shown to assist in achieving success in the marketplace. Other rituals might include the company picnic or a reward for an innovation or participation in a research conference.: grapevine) that will be utilized to disseminate the cultural information. (1982). Deal and Kennedy (1982) introduced the ideas of the company rites. organizational communication scholars have studied organizational culture for the last twenty-five years. compartmentalized and . stories and corporate heroes in the formation and continuation of an organization’s culture.e. innovative and supportive. Their research demonstrated the importance of myths. rituals and symbols of the company into the culture discussion.

an organization’s culture. Supportive cultures promote “family values” such as harmony. risktaking and creativity are valued. 2004). Organizational Culture in India India is important to study since the economy is booming and there is an increase in multinational business ventures. However. 2005) and in 2005. fair and helpful to each other and to the organization. openness.6 systematic work. 2005). Lastly. Rather. workers are friendly. Innovative organizations provide workers with challenge and stimulation.Organizational Culture in US and India . Wallach (1983) suggests that in supportive cultures. value. also tend to be associated with high levels of worker stress and burnout. Bureaucratic organizations are hierarchical. It has become a preferred destination for establishing outsourcing centers (The Economic Times. Keyton (2005) noted that no single artifact. Innovative cultures are results-oriented environments where challenge. collaboration and trust. India controlled 44 per cent of world outsourcing business (NASSCOM. 2004. or can create. Keyton contends that “organizational culture is a set(s) of artifacts. values. or assumption is. This growth is primarily a result of an estimated 30-50 per cent cost saving over similar work in the US as well as the availability of thousands of well-trained professionals who can speak fluent English (Ramchandran & Voleti. The traditional view of work in India was that of a . In sum. however. These environments.28). structured. and assumptions that emerge from the interactions of organizational members” (p. regulated and procedural. culture emerges from the complex interplay of these elements from all of the organization’s members. Saini & Budhwar. Sinha and Sinha (1990) documented some of the differences in organizational culture between India and the West. friendship.

in the Indian culture. The organizational culture during the British rule was often characterized by emotional aloofness of the superior and tight control over the subordinates (Sinha. Tayeb's (1987) investigated the differences in cultural values and thinking between English and Indian people and noted that the Indian employee was fearful of people in power. submissive. and moderate on masculinity dimensions. 1990). relatively low on individualism and uncertainty avoidance. and more law -abiding than was the typical English employee. nor the Hindi religion have been organized in this manner. dependent on others. In large-power-distance situations. it is important that organizational leaders are aware that that 'hierarchy and inequality are deeply rooted in Indian traditions' (Jain & Venkata Ratnam. Once a hierarchy is established. Large organizations were not common in India prior to the British takeover of the subcontinent. 1994. in part because neither traditional work. (1970) Indians feel more at ease at work in superior-subordinate roles than with equals. Hofstede (2005) found that India scores relatively high on power distance and long-term orientation. the existing social system. Further. collectivist.Organizational Culture in US and India .7 duty that should be performed either in the family or within the inter-caste framework. fatalistic. It would be common for organizations in this type of culture to centralize power in as few hands as . caste conscious. obedient to superiors. superiors and subordinates consider each other as existentially unequal. Roland. 1980). Thus. Sinha (1990) repeated that the Indian social system is steeply hierarchical and Indians are highly status conscious. Peer group relationships induce anxiety until the peers are ranked on some real or imaginary dimensions. According to Kothari. juniors yield to seniors on every conceivable on-the-job or off-the-job occasion.

1978. Pichler & Srinivas.Organizational Culture in US and India . and organizational commitment (Kono & Clegg. In fact. The features of Indian firms are changing as a result of denationalization. Sinha (1990) found that in Indian organizations. 2001). a preference for personalized relationships. 1980) and the preference for personalized relationships and networking are parts of that collectivism (Sinha & Sinha. Sharma. Kahar. 1990). The organizational values that continue to be part of societal and organizational culture deal with hierarchical social structures and relationships. (Hofstede. India is a “collectivist" nation. the superior-subordinate relationship in India is more personalized than contractual (Sinha. Kanugo & Mendonca. Motivational tools in Indian organizations are more likely to be social. 2001. 1990) as Indians prefer personalized relationships (Sinha & Sinha. Varma. Finally. 1990). 1998. departments and divisions (Sinha. Czander & Lee. 1990) of Indians. 1984. 1976. interpersonal and even spiritual (Budhwar & Khatri. Romzek (1989) discussed organizational commitment as a . 2005). most of Indian organizations have numerous overlapping as well as fighting in-groups that often interfere with the functioning of the formally designed sections. Dayal. social networking. and by the efforts of business organizations (Kono & Clegg 1998). privatization and deregulation. 1994). In comparison to those in the USA. there is a tendency to form ingroups that may lead to the creation of factions within the organization. collectivistic orientation (Sinha & Sinha. 1990.8 possible since subordinates expect to be told what do rather than to participate in the management of the company.

is individualistic (Ezzy. 1998. Engineering cultures tend to encourage the worker . For example. many IT workers can be characterized as being intolerant of ambiguity. 1998). norms and values of the engineering culture has become internalized and dominates the employees' subjectivity. Kunda. 2001). If possible. This highlights a major difference between the behavior of organizational workers in the U. an employee is dissuaded from leaving a job. Typical high tech culture has a flat hierarchy with less rigid and austere control (Burris. 1996. employees seek better opportunities by moving to similar professions in other organizations and remain loyal to their jobs rather their organization (Kono & Clegg. technologists themselves are different from other types of organizational workers. and preferring logical rules and procedures (Schein. 1992). 2006). 2000). Cooper. Ezzy (2001) points out that the language. and masculine (Wright. (Kono & Clegg. Some research has studied the high tech engineering culture. where the unemployment rate is high. Technology and corporate culture Technology continues to change the nature of work within organizations which also influences the organizational culture. Kunda (2006) wrote that the high tech culture is a place where the only constant is change and the every effort to describe it is already outdated. and India.9 sense of attachment to a work organization. 1998). In India. Additionally. precise and accurate. Indian employees will want to work at the same firm for their entire career. In the United States.S.Organizational Culture in US and India . 1986). The research in this area suggests that improved technology in organizations alters organizational structures such as institutionalized roles and patterns of interaction (Barley.

. beliefs and customs that govern the behavior of people within an organization. The data 6 7 Women are historically under-represented in the high tech engineering field. A total of one hundredthree employees (US: 58 men.Organizational Culture in US and India . each one has developed a significantly different culture for accomplishing its necessary tasks. decided which employees would be observed. Thus. the avoidance of conflict in the workgroup and the acceptance of new technologies. organizational culture has been defined as the system of norms. values. 5 women) from four high tech firms in the United States and two in India were shadowed in their respective workplaces. RQ1: What is the current organizational culture within high tech firms in the United States and India? RQ2: Is there a difference between the organizational cultures of high tech firms in the United States and those in India? Methodology For this study. meetings. not the researchers. Wright (1996) found that the masculine characteristic of the engineering and computer culture is one “requiring aggressive displays of technical self-confidence and hands-on ability for success” (p. 11 women67. culture is seen as one explanation for what makes each organization unique.10 to develop moral frameworks that are individualistic and have little concern for other people. While the six companies that were visited are engaged in similar activities.86). Organizational culture is also the understanding of imbedded communication patterns. Research Questions In sum. India: 29 men. attitudes. The companies. design engineers and technical professionals were observed in their places of work as they completed their daily responsibilities. etc). The events of an entire workday were captured (including lunch.

all the observers were graduate students from a large Indian University. Naturalistic Observation . The research teams ranged from three to six members depending on the number of employees being shadowed and the length of time the teams were on location in each of the six firms. Computer Scientist and Project Manager. the nature of communication. Departmental staff members and those providing administrative support or lowerlevel project team support were not included in the study. Advisory Programmer. the researchers/observers were faculty and graduate student teams from a large Southeastern University while in India. The participants were selected by the organization being studied. Validation and Testing Engineer. service or system within a high tech engineering firm. Participants The individuals that participated in the study were 103 active members of design and development teams for a product. Principal Electronic Engineer. In the US. within these criteria. Software Engineer. Men and women of all ethnicities were eligible for participation. the amount of communication and the range of technology used. and Technical Lead. the participants held a variety of project roles and responsibilities.11 collected included observations about the physical work environment. Examples of participant job titles were: Senior Component Design Engineer. However. the researchers had no input into which employees would be observed.Organizational Culture in US and India . Micro-Architecture and Logic Design Manager. All members of the teams were trained in the technique of naturalistic observation. and their tenure at the firms ranged from new hires to experienced senior staff.

2004.12 This study utilized naturalistic observation qualitative methodology. has been used in a number of studies for organizational communication (ie: Kramer & Hess. However. employed naturalistic observation as one tool to better understand the information needs of high tech engineers. psychology academics (Eager & Oppenheimer. 1981). 1981) have permitted the observer to interact with the participant to clarify issues related to the organization’s culture. (2) to understand the specific circumstances of an event (for example. Observers were instructed to talk with the engineer/technical professional participants for any of the following reasons: (1) to identify a software package or process. whether it was . the technique has been used to study the information behaviors of music students (Notess. 2003). These discussions were used to clarify what the researchers were observing. the observers were encouraged to communicate directly with the participants at discreet points throughout the workday.Organizational Culture in US and India . 2004). also known as shadowing. Observation Procedure In this study. 1997). Additional. Some prior studies that have used naturalistic observation required the observer to maintain a socially acceptable distance from the person being observed and required that the observer not interfere with the tasks or habits of the worker (Eager & Oppenheimer. Notess. the studies that have focused on information seeking/behavior (Fidel et al. 2003). Fidel et al (2004). 2004. 1996). Thompson. Wilson & Streatfield. 1996. Naturalistic observation. 2002) as well as to observe the information behaviors of security analysts (Baldwin & Rice. determine whether a phone call was scheduled. and social services departments (Wilson & Streatfield. as well as web interface test participants (Thompson.

the name of the other participant in a conversation was not recorded). the data were recorded on an instrument designed specifically for this study. For example. or company-related information. activities. No new or different data was collected at the later firms.Organizational Culture in US and India . These written reports were combined and the information was categorized into the different dimensions of culture detailed below. Coding Instrument During the observations. observations were recorded to only a general level of specificity. and (4) to better understand the employee’s work environment. the new format simply made the coding process easier. the team made revisions to the observation instrument and added a special form for organizational meetings specifically designed to capture the context. the data did not include specific internal product and personnel names. Breaks and meals also were observed in order for the researchers to get a balanced view of the workday.13 personal or was business related. nor did it include the specifics of a communication event (for example. the information seeking process. or the communication in the workplace. and whether the person being observed received the call on a land line or mobile phone). Results and Discussion . To protect the proprietary nature of the work being observed. After observations were completed at the first company. activities and key events that occurred during these interactions. The data on culture was recorded on the coding sheets and also written up at the conclusion of the each day’s data collection. the working process. (3) to answer any questions that the participant may have about the methodology and purpose of the study.

One unique cultural “rule” within Company A (USA) was the understanding that any cell-phone or pager message must be answered within 3 minutes if the employee was in the office. 1979) and they align with the components used to assess the strength of an organization’s culture (Deal & Kennedy. (6) Attendance. . (3) Heroes. or within a reasonable period of time (under 30 minutes) if the employee was out of the office or at home. (6) intranet/email..14 Our observations about organizational culture recorded artifacts. (5) video-conferencing. (2) Information needs.Organizational Culture in US and India . actions and expectations at the firm (Weick. and (7) instant messaging. These categories represent the knowledge base that guide the workers’ interpretation of information. (4) 2-way pagers. (2) cell phone. Organizational Value: Communication A corporate value that was present in many of the observed organizations was communication between and among its employees. (3) voice mail. Company B (USA) did not provide its employees 8 The 7 technologies were: (1) land-line telephone. Company A (USA) offered its employees seven (7) technologies to communicate within the firm8. values and behaviors (Keyton. 2005) which were mapped into the following categories (1) Communication. The other US firms were not as focused on communication within the organization as Company A but the organizations still supported communication channels that encouraged employee contacts. For example. it was a web-based program that could be used by project-team members to communicate their progress to fellow workers across the globe. 1982). This imparted to employees that concept that communication was highly valued. (5) Architecture. (4) Innovation/ Diversity. The cultures all highly valued communication between employees and in some cases with others outside the firm. and (7) Workplace Attire. An eighth method was introduced during our visit.

a significant amount of information was disseminated to employees and group/team members via e-conferencing and/or presentation software. The presentation data-file might be distributed 9 The five technologies were: (1) land-line telephone. The company did not actively discourage cell phones. . (2) voice mail. (3) e-conferencing. in each firm. but it discouraged cell phone usage for work conversations. Land line phones and email were also important communication channels. (4) email. Company C (USA) provided five technologies for in-firm communication9. Company D (USA) encouraged the use of IM by providing a corporate IM system that included the ability to save and archive the conversation. In India. Company F (India) made strong use of landline phones and email. Company E (India) allowed cell phone usage and these were used quite freely.Organizational Culture in US and India . Organizational Value: Information In all six companies there was a strong suggestion that information sharing is a part of organizational culture regardless of which country in which the organization is located. but the use of cell phones was considerably lower there than in the other firms. although the technologies were quite different. This firm permitted personal cell phones. although the channel through which the communication took place was different between the two countries. and (5) cell phone. In sum. sometimes even within the same building.15 with cell phones. particularly for personal calls. The use of landline phones was markedly more common in Indian firms than in US firms. communication was also valued. For example. but they were rarely used. however their personal cell phones were used at times as a way to communicate. communication was found to be an important organizational value in all six companies.

This was quite different than in other firms where patent recognition was confined to an individual’s workspace or name badge (ie: Company B (USA)). there was a museum of the history of the organization and profiles of some of the most important employees in the firm’s past. All the employees shadowed mentioned these features at some point during the visit. Other hallways were lined with recognition of the patents earned by company employees. Although there have been extensive renovations to the buildings in order to create efficient office space.Organizational Culture in US and India .16 electronically to all meeting participants prior to the gathering or as a summary after the meeting. the information was repeated verbally and questions could be asked of the presenter at that time while the others in the meetings were reading the information. Company F (India)’s elaborate corporate museum featured a multimedia presentation about the history of the firm and . at the meeting. photos and text about the product and its key design team members. The company is housed on the grounds that had previously served as the country estate to the founder and his family. Organizational Value: Organizational Heroes The recognition of organizational heroes was an area in which marked differences were noted between the companies. In one of its buildings. Company B (USA) placed a high value on its heroes. Company E (India)’s facilities pay homage to one corporate hero – its founder. The major corridors were lined with displays of the product as it had changed and grown over the years. These displays included prototype items. Company C’s (USA) corporate heroes were its innovative products and the people who built them. often both on their laptops and on the large projection screen. the buildings retain many of the special architectural features associated with the founder. Company B (USA) also painted its workplace in firm colors. Also.

many non-American workers in the US organizations preferred to bring their meals from home. but instead focused on the successful products created by its employees. the observed firms demonstrated a strong value towards innovation and teamwork. However. Another form of diversity in India was the use of different languages. everything from vegetarian stir-fry to deli sandwiches. For example.17 the role of its founding members. many firms had cafeterias where the diversity efforts were forefront. the product was the focus of the “hero” dimension.Organizational Culture in US and India . However. Hence the firms valued the innovative and creative workplace that was formed by assembling an eclectic workforce rather than simply valuing diversity. as well as honoring the different religious traditions of the employees. in both Indian firms the founders are highly regarded and employees were very knowledgeable about their stories. This was quite different than the US firms where the heroes could include inventors and products rather than focusing on corporate founders. All types of foods were available for purchase. Each of the observed firms had overt examples of methods that would facilitate the diverse workplace. In sum. despite the availability of ethnic foods. Organizational Value: Innovative Workforce / Organizational Diversity While all of the US firms were very diverse in terms of different ethnicities and nationalities. while there was diversity within the work groups. In the US firms. While English was both the predominate and unifying . at lunch the employees often ate with people of similar ethnic backgrounds rather than with colleagues from the work-group. Static displays did not feature these individuals. Cafeterias at the two India firms also offered a wide range of food representing cuisine from western cultures and from various Indian cultures .

architecture helps to identify the organizational culture type: bureaucratic. As a cultural dimension. The comparison between the United States and India is complex for this cultural dimension as the definition of diversity is different between the two countries. as well as to understand the communication norms. innovative or supportive (Wallach. This suggested an innovative culture since workers were given privacy to address challenges but also provided with physical proximity to provoke stimulation. different linguistic and religious traditions.Organizational Culture in US and India . Most of the firms we observed provided cubicles for the engineers. Kanada. 1983). Company D (USA) was the exception as each member of this team had a separate office. Bengali and Tamil. . Many of the offices had large windows. the Indians would disagree as the firms employ people from several different Indian cultures. for example. The manager noted that this arrangement had been designed to bring together innovative energies necessary for software development. Organizational Value: Architecture Architecture is another important part of organizational culture.18 language. Several of the offices were arranged in pods where the doors where located near one another in order to facilitate interaction. While an American would suggest that the Indian companies were not diverse in national origin. Telegu. but one that has not been thoroughly addressed by communication scholars. complete with a door and solid walls. However architecture needs to be understood in conjunction with other organizational values to more accurately identify the culture type. other languages were used including Hindi.

The higher-level team members had cubes in an area that included floor to ceiling windows and only one or two cube neighbors before being separated by a floor to ceiling wall. in Company B (USA). but the cubicles for the group were in a room that held about 24 cubes and included windows that provided natural light. engineer cubicles were typically arranged in large rooms. every employee was treated equally. Both of these suggested a bureaucratic culture because it exemplified the line of authority and promoted compartmentalized work. there was a hierarchy to the location of the cube. and management had offices that were located around the perimeter of large cubicle rooms. Company C (USA) had cubicles for team members. each floor of Company B (USA)’s building was identical in layout and in décor. In Company F (India). Further. Companies E and F (India) both created cubicle clusters that created a pattern that was not geometric in nature. In Company A (USA). This is discussed more fully below. However. although this identification did not match with the level of communication that took place between workers in the cubicles. and the buildings would have room after room of these cube-clusters. This suggested a supportive culture since it promoted equality. the manager had a large corner office with windows that was near his/her team’s cubicles. and which were designed to encourage interaction in work groups and privacy from other work groups. managers had slightly larger cubicles situated on the edges of the room near the windows.Organizational Culture in US and India . and there were no offices for any one regardless of status within the organization. In Company E (India).19 In other firms. This cubicle arrangement suggested a supportive culture which valued .

This fits with the more collectivist nature of India. the height of the cubicle wall also had an impact on the amount of communication that took place between co-workers. Company F (India) had walls of approximately five feet tall. although the cubicle of the higher-level manager was somewhat taller and provided an area that was not directly visible as someone walked by. . Architecture also influences organizational values such as communication. Company C (USA) had 5-foot tall walls for most cubicles. but there were some walls that were taller to separate the cubicles. did the wall stifle communication or did the lack of communication suggest the need for higher walls. The most common forms of personalization were photos. collaboration and trust. For example. all the cubicles had full sets of work tools such as the whiteboards and multiple computers so it appeared that the personalization did not conflict with work productivity. In the six firms. permitting people walking by to look into the cube and acknowledge the worker inside. Some employees would post memos from 10 However. In Company A (USA).20 “family values” such as harmony. the question is causality.Organizational Culture in US and India . The amount of individualization of cubicles was low in Companies A and B. However there was a marked difference in the degree of cubicle personalization observed at the six firms. which would tend to traits identified with a bureaucratic culture. the walls were about five feet high. In Company B (USA). It was noted that Company B (USA) had the lowest amount of internal communication10. openness. Future research should examine this phenomenon in greater detail. friendship. limiting the ability to look over the top to a small number of tall employees. Also. the cubicle design in Company B (USA) included an additional “wall” that permitted the worker inside the cube to be hidden from others. Company E (India) had five foot walls in the cluster. the walls were six feet high.

Company C (USA) seemed to encourage individuals to personalize their cubicle.Organizational Culture in US and India . the design of the two Indian firms suggests a supportive culture which mirrors the collectivist nature of the country.21 management. Company E (India) encouraged personalization but seemed to have some rules regarding how much space was allowed for the display personal items. This fit well with an innovative culture which encourages creativity and risk taking. The office spaces in Company D (USA) very much reflected the personality of the work space owner. the nature of the personalization in terms of family and cultural content suggested a supportive culture that encouraged openness and friendship through displays that captured the essence of the private person. photos. Company F (India) had little personalization beyond family photos and possibly a cultural icon. In sum. maps. and items related to the employee’s hobbies outside of work. Organizational Rites and Rituals: Attendance . While these firms did not encourage large displays of personalization. Decorations included plaques from work accomplishments (corporate recognition. patents). In contrast. plus awards or recognitions. In addition to photos. This did not match with bureaucratic organizational culture suggested by the cubicle design. suggesting that the culture type was dictated by the firm and not the national culture. The US firms’ architecture demonstrated more variety in culture type. Some cubicle owners had mp3 players (which they used with earphones) and a couple had brought small coat racks or personal desk lamps. there were small keepsakes such as statues and humorous pictures.

companies the dress code was “corporate casual. the six firms approached this in various ways. Women might . and in some cases dress jeans. At Company E (India). Companies A and C did not require daily attendance. an engineer at a higher management level might stay home to conduct intercontinental meetings while an engineer at a lower level would be expected to attend the meeting from his/her office. although engineers were expected to be available to accomplish necessary tasks particularly near a project deadline. In the U. engineers worked a very regular schedule. and these buses are kept to a strict schedule. this culture dimension appears to be dictated by the individual organization rather than the national culture. For men this was generally something like “Docker-style” slacks and a polo shirt. Organizational Rites and Rituals: Workplace Attire Employee attire did reflect the regional culture of the area (Hofstede. Second. 1980). the workplace for high tech development is known for encouraging innovation by fostering a laid-back attitude and having few rules for employee behavior. The other US firms expected that all employees would be in the office daily.S. In the U. In sum. the philosophy of the upper managers is that work can be completed during regular hours and that employees need time to be with their families. However.Organizational Culture in US and India . At Company F (India). It should be noted that the company provides free transportation to employees from the primary residential areas.S.22 Generally speaking.. employees who were higher level managers had greater flexibility for their schedule. although there were varying degrees of flexibility regarding the actual workday schedule. For example.” and it was difficult to differentiate the status of the different employees.

firms. several women engineers noted that the Indian women’s business suit has become the salwar-kameez (or kameej). the majority of people wearing traditional business attire (i. . This very casual dress was frowned upon at Companies C and D unless there was a specific casual day. At both India companies. which is a long tunic worn over complementary pants.. however.e. Corporate casual was also the style at Company E (India) however. When asked about cultural issues.23 wear something similar or a casual skirt. beliefs and customs that govern the behavior of people within an organization. although ties were only used for certain occasions such as important meetings. The information and communication behavior of the engineers was governed by both written and unwritten rules. values. often the engineer could not offer an explicit explanation.S. it was obvious that the engineers had a clear understanding of their company’s existing corporate culture. Through the research. the findings about workplace attire appear to reflect difference in national culture. Thus. At each of the U. either vendors or customers. coat and tie) were representatives from other organizations. the avoidance of conflict in the workgroup and the acceptance of new technologies. At Companies A and B only a few engineers came to work dressed very causally (i. culture is seen as one explanation for what makes each organization unique. At Company F (India) suits and sport coats were common. Culture is also the understanding of imbedded communication patterns.Organizational Culture in US and India . attitudes.e. Further Discussion The concept of organizational culture has been defined as the system of norms. Thus. the dress code was more formal four days a week with Friday being a casual day. shorts and t-shirts). engineers might wear European style or Indian style corporate casual. At Company F (India).

Company D (USA) was very comfortable using IM. the founder was highly respected. The six firms each had strong cultures (Deal and Kennedy. For example. Organizational heroes are an important part of the culture at many of these firms. however. in each of these companies. Company D (USA) fully supported the use of IM by creating proprietary software that extended the functionality of a traditional IM system. each engineer could recite the history of the firm even if he/she had only been at the firm for only a short time. To begin with. there was a range of technological adoption evident in each culture. For example. engineers have core beliefs and visions about the firm. organizational attitudes towards communication. at Company A (USA) pagers were embraced as an innovative approach to communication and employees were likely to use the devices to send notes to each other. Another example was that Company F (India) engineers took pride in exemplifying the company’s values in their actions both in terms of the content of their work and the way they comported themselves while carrying out their work. most of the other firms were not. innovation and collaboration. There was a wide array of cultural artifacts observed at the various firms. For example. often influenced how engineers used and communicated information. One example is that at Company D (USA) and Company E (India). Company C had extensive displays in the halls and Companies B and F had on-site company museums. it appeared that Company A (USA) was extremely .Organizational Culture in US and India .24 when asked a specific question. heroes. the engineer made it clear that he/she had a strong understanding of the cultural issue. even during meetings. Additionally. and its rites and rituals. The engineers were aware of the company’s values. 1982). at Company E (India). Further. Clearly.

Company B’s (USA) workers collaborated during meetings while at Company D (USA) a series of informal face-to-face events and IM encouraged the workers to share information. Most of the firms encouraged engineers to work together. although the fluidity of this collaboration varied greatly.Organizational Culture in US and India . One surprise was that none of the companies had a culture that promoted free sharing of information. fairness and enthusiasm were much tougher for us to observe. Limitations and Future Research A major limitation of this study is the issue of the generalization of these findings into a non high-tech workplace. naturalistic observation always leads to the possible limitations most often associated with the Hawthorn effect. as one engineer noted. Reliance on an intranet and institutional collection will be embraced by some. Future research in other types of organizations needs to be undertaken to determine if these findings are happening in all organizations or only in technology-based firms. The variety of corporate cultures and expected practices emphasizes the necessity of different approaches to information products and services offered to these types of firms. however some had an infrastructure that made this easier than others.25 comfortable embracing new communication technologies while Company B (USA) preferred a more traditional approach. The concepts of trust. . but not for all. but not by all. All the firms professed wanting employees to share information freely. engineers are not always comfortable with sharing. Additionally. Integration of internal and external information sources is appropriate for many. It may be because.

were the differences in superior – subordinate communication between the US and India. The authors believe that this is a fruitful area for continued inquiry. a study of organizational culture which directly tests Hofstede’s five (5) dimensions of culture would give a more solid understanding of the overlap between national and organizational culture. . this methodology of this study permitted only the observation of culture but no understanding of the employees’ perceptions of the culture or of its positive or negative impact on their work life.26 Since the researchers had no input in the selection of the employees that were shadowed. this research can be used as baseline measure for future inquiry into organizational culture both between and within different nations. Lastly. Also. One difference that was noted. but not reported in this paper. As an exploratory study. an examination of the stakeholder’s perceptions of organizational culture would help to understand how well culture translates from within the shared experience of the organization to the “unshared experience” of the external environment. Organizational communication scholars need to understand this difference in order to begin to assist practitioners in understanding the expectations of workers in a global environment. Also.Organizational Culture in US and India . there is a possibility that the firms selected individuals who were likely to fully demonstrate the core values of the organization.

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