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VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. 2006 m. Nr. 3–4 (12–13)
CROSS-CULTURE MANAGEMENT: WORKER IN A MULTICULTURAL ENVIRONMENT
The contribution is devoted to the issue of cross-culture management. This issue can be considered extremely topical, especially now, in the current period that is typical for a very quickly proceeding process of internationalization and globalization and thus continuous intensification of connections among members of various national cultures. Attention is focused on conditions of successful international cooperation including ways of bringing near of cultures of mutually cooperating companies. Subsequently, factors that influence behaviour of worker in multicultural environment and preparation of its effective operation in conditions of a multi-national company are stated. Recommended processes for overcoming of cultural differences including basic rules and a process of adapting to a different culture are further developed. The article was written within the research project entitled „The Impact of Organizational Culture on Performance of Multicultural Companies in the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary“ which is funded from the Austrian Science and Research Liaison Office Brno on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture. Key words: cross-culture management, internationalization, globalization, national cultures, multicultural environment
A mutually intertwined process of internationalization and globalization has been proceeding very quickly and it has been becoming to a greater extend a characteristic feature of the present. Multinational companies are attracted by non-filled markets, cheap qualified labour force, convenient location or tax relief and nowadays they are able to position and move very quickly any source into any territory that bears, in their opinion, the most suitable conditions for increasing their value. In this context it mainly includes opportunities and challenges of developing global society. However, the cooperation advantageous for the partners involved may change into mutual competition. In the area of management it means that management should not be limited only to performing of economic and technical operations and not to pay attention to the influence of cultural environment companies operate in. It is necessary to focus on the ability of managers to manage a company in multicultural conditions. In this context we can find quite a new term “intercultural management“, defined by Nový and co. as “managing and running organizations in an environment of two or more cultures“ (1996, p. 76). International working teams are quite common these days. Companies more and more get into touch with members of various national cultures. This includes their employees, business partners and customers. The work of managers is more and more influenced by development of “global“ economics and that is why the need to manage problems of controlling and communication in the multicultural environment of multinational companies is of prominent interest now.
2. Ways of managing cultural differences at companies operating in multicultural environment
One of the main tasks of management is solving of problems that are may appear at encountering individual company and national cultures. At the same time it is important which of the partner companies brings know-how, capital, management and suchlike. The partner that provides the future company management usually also influences the newly created organizational culture. When trying to overcome possible misunderstandings and to create of an environment favourable for all participating partners, it is possible to use several ways of converging of partner companies (Nový et al., 1996): 2.1. Cultural dominance In case of the so-called cultural dominance it is the main goal to create a single strong company culture within the framework of all business subjects, which can be for example daughter companies or divisions. In this context we can encounter the term “global organization culture“, where in the process of creating of a new organization culture an emphasis is put on enforcing of universal values, norms and patterns of behaviour. Daughter companies are perceived as inseparable parts of integrated organization culture of the mother company. This approach is accepted especially in those cases where it is necessary for the company to act in the same way in all means so that to use organization and economic advantages of integrated actions. Besides the facts stated the choice of way of cultural convergence can also be influenced by the beliefs of the managers of the mother company concerning universality of values and norms of the culture being.
The consequences of ignoring of cultural differences can be devastating for the results of fusions and acquisitions. is perceived as a feeling of disorientation connected with the fact that people are exposed to the necessity to communicate and cooperate with someone who perceives the situation differently and does things in a different way. 2. A protection of one’s identity. conflict situations and in extreme situations even decline or vanishing of the common business may occur. Based on their fifteen-year experience in advisory practice Gancel. In such situations the customer is rarely in the centre of interest. Plurality of cultures Plurality of cultures or. A company is internally integrated despite differences in national cultures. misunderstandings. why suddenly upon the realization of these synergies problems and misunderstandings occur? According to research workers and consultants the main. norms and patterns of behaviour.. change resistance and protection of own identity (Larsson. It thus happens that as a result of fusions and acquisitions that the members of the companies which were bought and are smaller than those that bought them feel frustrated. The reason for choosing a polycentric culture can be for example the fact that the company operates in very different conditions.3 Synergic model Application of synergic model also referred to as geocentric culture involves mainly use of specific features of individual national cultures in the interest of a single common culture which represents a purposeful interconnection of all regional parts of an international company. The basis is creating a suitable space for individually different approach to creation of organization culture of each daughter company. suffer from the loss of position (“from the market leader in our segment we have become just a small component in a new company“) and disillusion leading to resistance and unwillingness to create synergies.2. in other words. Nr. The final result is decrease of efficiency. This can arise from cultural traditions of the local environment and is obliged to respect universal goals. polycentric culture bears the feature of cultural compromise. Raynaud. A very important criterion of choice of suitable employees is the so called intercultural competence which means the actual ability of an employee to manage the demands of work in an international team and in a different cultural environment. in Lukášová. Risberg. disillusion. increase of fluctuation and leaving of key workers (and thus loss of know-how). Risberg. 3–4 (12–13) 59 Introducing of integrated organization culture happens without problems. In other cases problems may occur. the situation results in mutual disbelief. Insufficient awareness of existence of differences – managers who are not aware of the very existence of the cultural dimension of management. Culture in which man lives and the basic presumptions. shared values. even organizations have their own identity connected to their history and being proud about their mark and tradition. according to Larsson. which means that it is an internal and emotional part of every individual. which appears as a result of feeling of threat and is one of the causes of cultural stress that people experience after fusion of companies. shares and tends to protect. The rate of efficiency loss can represent up to 25 . Gancel. 2004). 2004). approaches and methods only to a limited extend.30% according to Walter’s research (1985. However. happens on the level of an individual as well as organization. . decrease of morals and productivity. At the same time each participating party is convinced that the way they do things is the only correct one. 1998. in case of organization culture the extend of emotional wellness and identification with a certain culture depends on how much the organization culture corresponds with personal values and internal norms of an individual. which the staff identifies with. Cultural shock. mutually interconnected. 2002. If managers did not cooperate and were not interested in convergence of cultures of cooperating organizations and pursued simple implementation of conditions. 2. Nový et al..VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. 1998. if the daughter companies are newly built. values and norms that he shares with the others provide the feeling of unity. If companies that are fusing are entering this partnership with the aim of gaining strategic advantages and synergic effects. causes are cultural shock. patterns of behaviour. Nový et al. Rodgers a Raynaud (2002) defined the following categories of causes: 1. Rodgers. While national culture is in people’s “blood“. 2006 m. in Lukášová. misunderstanding. stable and predictable environment and thus emotional wellness. which occurs in case that the culture of to fusing companies is different. If the cultural differences are then not managed.
despite the fact that the same language of communicating and corresponding techniques is used. management style. . emotions. 2006 m. etc. especially if we realize deeply emotional substance of national culture). lack of appropriate skills. its contribution cannot be expressed in money and thus it is not possible to prove success – “Opening a new factory improves image. determined by specific patterns of a given culture that direct the ways of acting and thus “prescribe“ to the individuals how to behave in specific situation. which usually represent serious obstructions of successful cooperation. but they do not understand this issue and thus underestimate the culture impact and do not have any need to deal with it. One of the most important factors is information about culture of partners of colleagues known to workers. decision making. These workers should meet certain conditions of successful fulfilling of everyday tasks in a multinational company. (“Our managers are intelligent. Nr. On the other hand. the most contra productive and very naive. Understanding and correct interpretation of different behaviour of a partner can contribute to mutual understanding and good cooperation. (1996). suitable conditions and perfect work of individuals. behaviour.“). intercultural sensitiveness. as stated by Nový et al. educating or involvement of employees are closely connected and. Factors influencing behaviour of workers in multicultural environment Acting and ways of behaviour or workers in multicultural environment is influenced by many factors. Such decision of theirs is usually connected with one or more of the following reasons: . which causes discomfort. because it enables falling back on numbers and facts – to manage “soft“ problems means to deal with people. make decisions in a different way.). It is useful to realize that finances. Insufficient willingness – managers knowingly decided not to deal with culture. according to the authors. Worker in a multicultural environment Success of cooperation depends to a great extend on abilities of workers who operate in multicultural conditions. 3. they understand that cooperation is necessary“ – this approach is.managers really believe that it is not necessary to do anything. 3–4 (12–13) 2. but they are not as urgent for them as pressure to reach results – thus they focus their energy on economic issues or technical problems and they do not have enough time to manage cultural differences).they experience fear of the unknown (dealing with financial problems is safer and more comfortable. . Habits based on long-term traditions may be different in different countries and the efficiency of mutual cooperation depends to a great extend on how much effort the workers from different cultural environments exercise to come into agreement. It is not always possible to reach mutual understanding. 3.1. 4. . but they fail due to lack of intercultural competences (which is due to lack of knowledge. . Misunderstandings or conflicts.care of cultural integration is not “attractive“ enough for them (cultural integration is not easy to measure. cooperation in international conditions is often not as successful as managers originally expected. One of the most frequent reasons can be seen in not understanding cultural differences in the environment of the partner companies. In this way cultural differences may easily cause different perception.60 VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. technologies or transmission of information are to a great extend independent on the place of origin and are very easily transferable into a different environment. 3. It is very often possible to meet international teams consisting of great specialist in their field. the output of the team as a whole does not correspond to the expected results. In the process of meeting and cooperation spontaneous reactions occur and thus it can happen that the way the partner acts is seen as something imperfect or even funny.managing of cultural dimensions is not a sufficient priority for them (they understand that its cultural aspects are important. but despite all effort. Insufficient understanding – managers know about the existence of culture. Unfortunately. fear and uncertainty). appear especially due to the fact that ideas about certain cultures are deeply rooted and as such they are considered to be generally true. But dealing with culture? What about it?. Insufficient level of abilities and skills – managers may be aware of the need “to do something about it“ and they may even try to do it. misunderstanding and missing each other.
patterns and standards influences perception and evaluation of gained information. Rodgers. 1995. The authors agree that the differences in thinking. Nový et al. The results of fusions and acquisitions may not necessarily become worse with the growing extend of cultural difference. Risberg. Preparation of workers for their operation in multicultural conditions Preparation as well as selection of workers whose role it is to fulfil work tasks in international environment depends to a great extend on the form of cooperation between the partner companies which are represented by the individual workers. If fusions or acquisitions are created within one country. the employees are exposed to a double conflict: a conflict on the level of organization cultures and a conflict on the level of national cultures. When overcoming cultural differences. ways of thinking and behaviour of members of different cultures may exist on more levels (Lukášová. because the extend of impact is influenced by other factors that play a certain role here (Larsson. 1990.3.. Less visible (or hidden) is the conflict on the level of organization values and especially the main conditions through which the external manifestations are determined. Risberg 1998) and to nationally specific management style (Olie. 1998). 1998. the selection and preparation of workers takes place rather on informative and individual level.on the level of organization as well as national cultures within the framework of international fusions. 2002. the depth of cultural roots. The starting point for managing intercultural standards is realization of validity of the patterns of the own culture and recognition of cultural groundwork of the partner. should know several basic rules that can make the orientation in a strange environment easier. Nový et al. (2001) recommend quite a simple procedure consisting of three consequent steps leading to a successful cooperation in international environment: .). company takeover of direct foreign activities. the selection as well as preparation of workers should be more complex and very intensive and it should concern workers of the whole company. Singh. according to Larsson. which is neither obvious nor simple. it is necessary to know oneself perfectly. such as fusion. but also organization characteristics of these companies.VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. This fact influences the behaviour of the company. 2006 m. Raynaud. Schroll-Machl. practices and behaviour of employees that takes place here is relatively visible for the employees of the fusing companies. especially when the workers or the fusing companies are well prepared to this fact. 3. 1988. Risberg. 1998). acquisitions and other forms of international cooperation. Lubatkin. because despite the globalisation tendencies. Problems caused by different perception. no matter if he or she is a company representative for a prearranged period or as an employee. the cause of conflict is difference of the content of organization cultures. Confrontation on the level of organization processes.2. 3–4 (12–13) 61 Companies enter cooperation relationships with other companies and they can operate within more organization or national cultures. In case of a looser cooperation between companies. An enormous pitfall is the fact that within one’s own culture the approach to the others as well as interpretation of their behaviour is verified and does not cause big problems. which means among local companies. Risberg.on the level of organization cultures within the framework of national fusions.). Researches carried out so far show that if the cultures of the fusing companies are alike. for example based on business contracts. Nr. . acquisitions and other forms of cooperation of companies.1. etc. Calori. etc. Gancel. 1998) and cultural difference also does not have to automatically mean a devastating collision (Very. If fusions and acquisitions are created among companies from different countries. because differences in national cultures lead to different organization practices and different employees´ expectations (Kogut. The more distant are the countries of origin of the fusing companies the more different are not only the main conditions and preferences of values. 1998. The awareness of the fact that for example the Czech culture is optimal for solving of life situations just in the Czech society is a very important point in the effort to manage smooth operation in multicultural conditions. In cases of closer cooperation. feeling and behaviour resulting from differences of national cultures are deeper than the differences resulting from various organization cultures (Hall. 2004): . systems. Forstmann. according to Larsson. the results of fusions and acquisitions are more favourable than in case of different cultures (Larsson. which means to know one’s culture. 3. Processes of overcoming cultural differences Every worker who fulfils his/her tasks in multicultural environment.
It is not possible to claim that a certain culture is more perfect. Helpful steps in the relationship to a foreign culture The last stem of the recommended process should be the effort to find common solution. which can be quite easy after all. It is more difficult to make new contacts with people. interpretations and evaluations of social situations and people who create them and act within them. Cultures are different and for their members they represent optimum to manage life situations in conditions they have been living in for a long time. 3–4 (12–13) 1. This mainly includes differences in perceptions. Nr. mutual understanding and simplification of the complicated and demanding process of behaving in different cultural conditions. The main condition of a successful international cooperation is then understanding. Respect of a foreign culture Respect of a foreign culture means most of all accepting their differences without any judgement. The worker continuously develops a critical attitude towards the foreign environment. He or she may experience the so called cultural shock that is usually defined as an emotional reaction of an individual resulting from loss of a culture familiar to him. The worker starts to be uncertain. Process of assimilation with a foreign culture The process of assimilation with a foreign culture should be introduced especially to those workers who operate in a foreign cultural environment on a long-term basis. but it means a lot for another culture. 2. explained and understood. 2. This phase can also be called a critical phase and it usually lasts two to six months. Recognition of the culture of a partner is considered to be the first condition of mutual understanding and good cooperation. though. Very often it is enough to sacrifice something that is not too important for us. . Workers operating in international environment should be introduced to this procedure and through these simple steps they should try to avoid possible misunderstandings and conflicts in their everyday working lives. than it was at the beginning. especially out of work.2. The worker usually gains a very positive impression. respect and getting closer to the culture of foreign partners. but it suggests that they should use their knowledge of own culture to gain knowledge about the partner’s culture. In most cases it happens without serious problems because everything is usually prearranged and a great attention is paid by the accepting organization to the worker. especially if the expectancy and demands on his or her efficiency are simultaneously increasing. which may decrease his or her self-confidence. The new colleagues are not as reliable in some situations as they originally seemed to be. Stressful situations. In this phase the danger of interruption of the stay by the worker is quite likely. These helpful steps in no case mean that the participating partners should give up their cultural background. “better“ than another culture. He creates new contacts with workers from the same country as well as with workers from the hosting organization quite quickly. Collision phase During the so-called collision phase the first problems occur. The mentioned recommendations can be used in contact with members of different cultures operating in international environment in both local and foreign environment. (1998) this process is very similar for many workers operating in multicultural conditions and it can be described by four phases: 1. may occur. These differences than have to be named. 3. Good knowledge of foreign culture The first step means acknowledging and admitting the existence of differences between cultures.2. 3.62 VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. This step is definitely neither common nor easy. described. The main condition is a very good knowledge of partners and their cultural environment. Observation phase Observation phase starts with the arrival of the representative worker into the hosting country. the intensity of which depends on how strongly the worker perceives the cultural departure. 2006 m. According to Weber and co.
the more important is his preparation and consequent ability to adapt to the culture that is strange to him. Wien: Springer-Verlag. Forstmann S. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. 34-44. Conclusion In the period of enlargement of Europe. International dimensions of organizational behavior. 1991. communication and understanding of intercultural differences. 8. Traditional companies operating only inside of the borders of the individual countries are very rare these days. this time at the arrival to his own country. especially from the point of view of preparations for a long-term stay in the environment of a foreign culture. 2.Managing Corporate Culture. This shock is specific by repeated process of adoption. C.VADYBA / MANAGEMENT. orientation in international environment is definitely vital not only for its members but also for other people.C.. Torp. ISBN 3-11015799-3. Managing Culture as a Competitive Resource: An Identity-Based View of Sustainable Competitive Advantage. Rodgers I. 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