In general, a cultural background often represents a magnificent factor which will affect peoples' values, attitudes, and behaviors (Steers et al., 2013). In other words, distinct culture may influence different views of how to accomplish goals properly, and what should be valued as black-or-white (Steers et al., ibid). Therefore, as involving in a generation which is inseparable from internationalization and globalization, people need to cultivate the awareness and knowledge of cultural differences in order to successfully cooperate and get along with the others. Furthermore, cultural diversity and management are undoubtedly to be considered as the vital issues in several aspects for most of the organizations. Hence, three main topics which related in managing across cultures in the workplace would be discussed in the following paragraphs, including the importance of “cultural diversity” in organizations, how culture affects employees behaviors at work, and the challenges and possible solutions for individualism managers will experience while working with collectivism employees.
The importance of cultural diversity in organizations (Question 1)
Cultural diversity happens when people with different race, language, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation gather together as a group (Wilson, 2014). Nowadays, multinational and global organizations are a trend among countries. Thus, cultural diversity may happen all over the workplace. However, why considered cultural diversity as a vital issue?
According to French et al., (2014), several researches demonstrated that the growth of performance and profitability of a company has a positive relationship with greater gender and racial diversity between employees, which can be extended as diversity in the workforce plays an enormous role for employers to achieve a successful business. One of the main reasons for this phenomenon will be having various perspectives and ideas with different cultural background, especially nationality and gender, can possibly drive beneficial innovations. That is, people with distinctive cultural background can experience entirely unique stories, which would give an organization a great opportunity to think through different prospects and solutions. When gaining comprehensive opinions placed explicitly, people are able to analyze and adopt the pros and cons, and come up with the relatively greatest option. As a result, the organization can be benefited and strengthened.
In more details, as Cox & Blake (1991) indicated, having cultural diversity employees can contribute in competitive advantages including cost, resource acquisition, marketing, creativity, problem-solving, and organizational flexibility. In a point of view, among the six areas, marketing can make some great influences. Take nationality factor for example. According to a statement published by Cox & Blake (ibid), Avon Corporation once utilized the cultural diversity advantages to successfully manage their lower profitability markets.
There was a period of time that Avon's inner-city markets did not make profits as expected. Then a decision has been made from the corporation that assigned these areas with fully authority to managers who had backgrounds of Black and Hispanic culture instead of the Americans. Surprisingly, the outcome turned out that these lower profit growth areas had then become the most productive and beneficial markets in the U.S. Yet, the example was not just an independent case. The globalization today causes cultural diversification not only affects the U.S. market, but also markets round the world.
In addition, creativity and problem-solving also act as important roles in the cultural diversity as vital advantages. Due to different gender, nationality, and other cultural diversity factors, people may demonstrate different attitudes and perspectives on one same incident, which can stimulate more creation and innovation as a group and maximum the possible value when solving problems and making decisions (Cox & Blake, ibid). Another benefit associates with the creativity is reducing the threats to group effectiveness by avoiding issues such as the Asch effect, groupthink, risky shift, and social loafing. As a matter of fact, form the 1960s, several researches studied by University of Michigan and other researches later on displayed that better ideas and methods generated more often by heterogeneous groups (65%) instead of homogeneous groups (Cox & Blake, ibid).
On the contrary, cultural diversity is possible to weaken a group as well, which may lead a group experiences some major competitive disadvantages (Cox & Blake, ibid). If the cultural differences are mistreated, being lack of awareness, or misunderstanding by others, conflict and irritation are going to be a disturbing issue to trouble the whole group (Stahl et al., 2010). For instance, some studies show that groups with demographic heterogeneity were discovered having less communication and social interaction, causing organizations having trouble to smoothly integrate every department (Chatman et al., 1998). Even worse, having cultural conflicts may lead to vicious competition and employee resignation, or increase the turnover rate. Either one can cause an organization enormous losses, especially in the aspect of human resource.
In order to place the cultural diversity as a positive and meaningful tool on a right track, having effective communication and well understanding of different cultures is a significant issue for an organization to manage. As Richard Branson- the founder of Virgin Group said, he encourages employees to share values to make teamwork more effectively, and another key emphasis for the organization to succeed would be remaining innovation and differentiation. The related topic as how the culture can specifically react on employees' working behavior and how should managers manage employees with different cultural background will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
Culture impact on employees' working behavior (Question 5)
It is believed that person's cultural background such as nationality, ethnic, religious, gender, and social groups can affect one's belief and value through the whole lifetime, and many studies nowadays demonstrated that different cultural backgrounds have some powerful impacts causing people to think and react differently. In particular, comparing to others, cultural factors often happen to be highly irresistible and unchangeable to individuals. That is, people can hardly alter their country, ethnicity, race, gender, or other culture related factors since these factors were already given as people born. In addition, when applying these studies to workplaces, cultural histories can be strong explanations and effective management methods of employees' performances and economic outcomes. In the following paragraph, among all culture factors, it will focus on the connection between nationality and working performance.
Due to the length of time people living under the family and acquire things from the initial since the birth, the family culture is highly possible to stay and impact a person within a lifetime, whether a positive or negative influence, as well as organizations. And generally, it takes a long while to progress slightly changes of one's behavior based on one's cultural background (Sapienza et al., 2006).
Moving on to the behavior of people within lives can be influenced by their cultural backgrounds, especially in workplaces, is another significant issue. In terms of nationality, differences between countries and cultures can affect people in behaviors of organizing, managing, and working from various aspects during workplaces. Take Asian countries for example. Unlike many other western countries emphasizing on employees' creativity and independent thinking, typical Asians are identified as respecting and following orders form their seniors or the earlier experiences which were made in the organization, as well as stick to similar opinions and decisions with their coworkers to reduce unnecessary conflicts. Clearly, the regular working culture is extended by a country's cultural background.
Another example was given by Adler & Gundersen (2008). According to Adler & Gundersen (ibid), different countries have different understanding with the role of managers. In America, employees believe managers as mentors. In other words, American managers give advices and directions for their subordinates while facing problems rather than directly offering explicit answers, whereas employees in France expecting their managers to be experts and provide qualified solutions related to their works (Adler & Gundersen, ibid). In addition, if a France employee seeks some help from an American manager, a misunderstanding may occur between the two while the American manager kindly provides a direction, but the France employee is looking forward to a specific answer (Adler & Gundersen, ibid). Thus, the Franc employee may sense insincere and unprofessional to the American manager, which can resulting in increasing the possibility of conflict and dissatisfaction at work, and continually affect the total profit of an organization. Therefore, cultural difference can be a major key of determining how and why an organization can survive and succeed.
Moreover, issues like questioning whether having different cultures might affect the real profits to organizations are also worth study, such as Asian countries verse Western countries. Based on different cultural background, employees can react distinctively in four main areas, which are involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission (Denison et al., 2004). However, even though culture can influence human' behavior while working, such as the process to achieve a goal, or the way to social with other colleges, subordinates, and superiors, the ultimate outcomes and profits organizations create may just have some narrow differences. For example, with distinctive cultural environment in workplaces comparing to western countries, several Asian organizations are capable to achieve similar profits and extent company sizes as other powerful western organizations.
According to Denison et al., (ibid), a research was made to indicate whether culture has a strong relationship with the effectiveness in an organization or not. The research subjects contained 230 organizations with a wide range of different industries, as well as all organizational sizes, from North America, Asia, and Europe (Denison et al., ibid). The outcome in the research showed that organizations in Asia, compared to North America and Europe countries, acquired a comparatively higher score in the fields of mission and adaptability, and a slightly lower score in the fields of involvement and consistency (Denison et al., ibid). Overall, the research revealed the differences between countries are pretty small.
Living under the world fulfilled with globalization and internationalization, it is unavoidable for a successfully organization to encounter cultural diversity among workers and companies. Despite the fact that cultural background can somehow affect an employee's working performance, then further influence an organization. As long as organizations and superiors can notice the importance of taking different culture seriously and manage the issue well, each organization is able to accomplish the goal and be profitable as other large successful organizations.
Individualism managers managing collectivism employees (Question 3)
Desiring to become a successful and solid organization, providing good quality products and outstanding business strategies are just not enough. Another vital element will be keeping precise human resources. As Chatman et al., (ibid) expressed, a strong organization can only be operating smoothly under the well-cooperation between group members, which makes trust an important issue. That is, to enhance the possibility of survival for an organization, it is significant for members inside the organization to have a sense of belonging, and believe that they can always rely on each other. By doing so, members can be confidence to concentrate fully energy on their tasks and goals, and giving their best efforts toward the organization without holding back.
Furthermore, as living under a world of globalization and regularly meeting people from different cultures, for the purpose of uniting group members, comprehending background differences and finding a way to cooperate would be a priority mission for employees and managers. Only when people categorizing every member as an in-group of the organization can the organization brings up the greatest outcome (Chatman et al., ibid). Thence, the following paragraph would emphasis on the contradiction between different cultures, which are individualism and collectivism, and how could superiors manage the problem to transform it as an asset.
One of the major discrepancies between individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures is region. Individualisms are usually considered to be found around East Asia, Latin America, and Africa, while collectivism seems to happen more often in the west, such as Northern Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (Triandis, 2015). In addition, according to Frank et al., (2015), individualisms will pay more attention on personal right and achievement, whereas collectivisms care more about overall interests of a group than personal benefits, and take recognitions and interaction from group members seriously.
When collectivism and individualism is referred to work, both cultures have their own strengths and weaknesses. In terms of a collectivism organization, one of its traits is that a manager is likely to encourage employees to highly participate in every decision making within the organization. For its benefit, employees can execute and implement every policy or tactic efficiently and effectively, since employees can be assumed to accurately comprehend and agree with every goal and strategy through collaboratively processing the content. Further, opposite from individualism, gaps among each position of authority is strongly obvious. However, due to the probability of numerous opinions and ideas from employees, the disadvantage will be spending longer time and energy to select some better options and successfully reach a consensus. On the contrary, an individualism manager tends to make decisions alone. The advantage here will be saving extra time and energy on progress a decision. While it usually takes a manager plenty of time and effort to promote a new strategy to employees, and ensure each employee realize the importance and the purpose of a goal. Additionally, lengthen the period to execute and implement every policy or tactic.
In a view of focusing on disadvantages of collectivism, employees with collectivistic background may face problems as social loafing and free-rider. As Earley (1993) argued, once an employee feeling co-workers around him or her are extremely supportive and hard-working, he or she may pay less attention or decrease effort during work, since the employee regards that as long as the group performance achieves the goal, personal attribution will be unimportant detail. Another issue is while considering a better benefit for an organization, employee with collectivistic background may prone to follow the majority opinions, even if the ideas were unsuitable or not best options. As the traditional culture is made, the organization will be facing lack of innovation or failure strategies, which may influence an organization painfully.
As cultural background, which could cause distinctive behavior, is hard to change, it will be a task for managers to well-administrate employees with different cultures. Above all, one of the important issues would be how to manage the conflict. As Mae-li & Tara (2011) pointed out, among five conflict behaviors (integrating, compromising, avoiding, obliging, and dominating), individualism may linked to the ways that are not scared to face conflicts, exchange direct information, and more concern about personal benefits, whereas collectivism is used to more indirect, non-confrontational conflict styles, such as avoiding, compromising and obliging. To extend, if a person takes a challenge to work overseas, it is important for an employee from different culture resolve conflicts with colleagues and managers, and become acculturation to the new environment.
In addition, managers could always support an employee to overcome the cultural differences to some degree. For instance, if an individualism manager is managing a collectivism employee, the first step could be showing respects by attempting to discover and understand some the differences between two cultures. Then, the manager could spend some time to talk the employee through the culture and normal ways of doing things, particularly focusing on things can be entirely distinct from his/hers cognition, such as the significance of independent operation and personal performance, or the general directions to handle conflicts or negotiate with coworkers, clients, and competitors. And following that, the manager should declare rules as rewards and punishments. By doing so, the employee can be more aware of what kind of future is expecting, and avoiding mistakes once there is an opportunity. Last but not least, to be able to get alone with the colleagues and superiors, and fit in the new society.
The vigorous development of international organization and regional economic today, it is vital for organizations and superiors to utilize employees from different culture and background. More importantly, managers should act as good listeners, as well as great motivators. Through comprehensive research and well-application, such as absorb the advantages and innovations, instead of being a burden, managers can transform the employee into a real asset to an organization.
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