C H A P T E R
Intercultural Communication in Organizations
After reading this chapter, you should be able to 1. discuss how dimensions of the cultural context affect organizations across cultures; 2. identify how the environmental context affects doing business in other cultures; 3. identify variables in the perceptual context and how they influence business with other cultures; 4. compare and contrast sociorelational contexts on the job across cultures; 5. discuss some verbal and nonverbal differences across cultures; 6. compare managerial styles of Japanese, Germans, Mexicans, Chinese, and Arabs; and 7. describe differences in manager–subordinate relationships in Japan, Germany, Mexico, China, and Arab countries.
However objective and uniform we try to make organizations, they will not have the same meaning for individuals from different cultures. —Fons Trompenaars1
I magine the following scenario:
You have just graduated from college and accepted a management job with Acme Corporation. Acme has placed you in one of its Mexican offices. During your first week in your new job, you decide to schedule a meeting with your Mexican employees. The meeting is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, you show up a bit early to prepare for your meeting. By 9:00 a.m., not a single employee has arrived for the meeting. By 9:20 a.m., two people finally show up. Not until 9:45 a.m. are all the members of the team in attendance. What has happened? You are confused, frustrated, and feeling a bit angry. Doing business in Mexico (and in many other countries) is different from doing business in the United States. Mexican cultural values, such as collectivism and large power distance; Mexican social expectations; and Mexican workplace practices of workers and managers are different from those of U.S. workers and managers. To be sure, they are so different that U.S. managers working in Mexico often find themselves ineffective. The U.S. manager who does not take the effort to learn about these differences and adjust his or her managerial style accordingly will end up just as you did in the above scenario—frustrated and disillusioned. Wal-Mart has more than 4,000 stores in the United States. Of all Americans, 90% live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart. On average, every American household spends just more than $2,000 each year at Wal-Mart. In the United States, every seven days, 100 million people shop at a Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is also successful internationally. It is the largest retailer in both Canada and Mexico, and the second largest in Britain. Worldwide, more than seven billion people shop at Wal-Mart. That’s more than the world’s population. So, this year, the statistical equivalent of every person on the planet will shop at a Wal-Mart.2 Wal-Mart is clearly a financial success, both nationally and internationally. But as Landler and Barbaro note in 2006 Wal-Mart closed its stores in Germany. The chain has had difficulty breaking into the Korean and Japanese markets as well. Something was not working in Germany, and many believe that some of Wal-Mart’s international problems stem from the company’s arrogance and overestimation of its competence. For a company that boasts seven billion customers a year, a certain degree of confidence is understandable. But in some places, Wal-Mart’s attempts to impose its values on the market just do not work—at least not in places such as Germany, Korea, and Japan. Referring to its failure in Germany, a Wal-Mart international spokesperson commented that it was a good lesson for the company and that they have learned to be more sensitive to cultural differences. For example, many Germans found the idea of a smiling greeter at the
Intercultural Communication in Organizations
door of every Wal-Mart off-putting. In fact, many male shoppers interpreted it as flirting. The company also...
References: 1. Trompenaars, F. (1994). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business. Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin, p. 14. 2. Fishman, C. (2006). The Wal-Mart Effect. New York: Penguin. 3. Landler, M., & Barbaro, M. (2006, August 2). International Business; No, Not Always. New York Times, pp. A1, A3. 4. U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, October). Top 10 Countries With Which the U.S. Trades. http://www .census.gov/foreign-trade/top/dst/2010/10/balance .html; U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, October). Top Trading Partners: Total Trade, Imports, Exports. http://www .census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/top/top 1010yr.html. 5. U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). Survey of Business Owners. Washington, DC: Author. http://www.census.gov/ econ/sbo/. 6. Stroh, L. K., Black, J. S., Mendenhall, M. E., & Gregersen, H. B. (2005). International Assignments: An Integration of Strategy, Research, and Practice. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 7. Wasson, R. (2004). Going International: Getting the People Dimension Right. Engineering Management Journal, 14, 16–17. 8. Rosenzweig, P. M. (1994). National Culture and Management (Teaching Note 9–394–177). Boston: Harvard Business School. 9. Ibid. 10. Elenkov, D. S. (1997). Differences and Similarities in Managerial Values Between U.S. and Russian Managers. International Studies of Management and Organization, 27, 85–107. 11. This scene is adapted from Harris, P. R., & Moran, R. T. (1996). Managing Cultural Differences. Houston: Gulf. 12. Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture. 13. Harris & Moran, Managing Cultural Differences. 14. Pew Global Attitudes Project. (2005, June 23). American Character Gets Mixed Reviews: U.S. Image Up Slightly, but Still Negative: 16-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Available from http://pewglobal.org/files/pdf/247.pdf. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid. 17. Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture. 18. Axtell, R. E. (Ed.). (1993). Do’s and Taboos Around the World: A Guide to International Behavior. New York: Wiley. 19. Ibid. 20. Morris, M. W., Williams, K. Y., Leung, K., Larrick, R., Mendoza, M. T., Bhatnagar, D., et al. (1998). Conflict Management Style: Accounting for Cross-National Dif ferences. Journal of International Business Studies, 29, 729–748. 21. Some of these examples are from Axtell, R. E. (1993). Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World. New York: Wiley. 22. Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture. 23. Adler, N. J. (1993). Competitive Frontiers: Women Managers in the Triad. International Studies of Management and Organization, 23, 3–24. 24. U.S. Department of State. (2007). Background Notes: Japan. Washington, DC: Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. 25. Grainger, R. J., & Miyamoto, T. (2003). Human Values and HRM Practice: The Japanese Shukko System. Journal of Human Values, 9, 105–115. 26. Dore, R. (2004). Japanese Style Management: Has it Survived? Will it Survive? Research Institute of Economy, Trade, and Industry IAA. http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/ bbl/04090801.html.
44. Ibid.; De Forest, M. E. (1998). Hecho en Mexico: Tips for Success. Apparel Industry, 59, 98–104; Schuler et al., Managing Human Resources in Mexico. 45. Ibid.; Crouch, Mexicans and Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code. 46. De Forest, Hecho en Mexico; Schuler et al., Managing Human Resources in Mexico. 47. De Forest, Hecho en Mexico. 48. Hamlin, K., & Yanping, L. (2010, August 16). China Overtakes Japan as World’s Second-Biggest Economy. Bloomberg News. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/ 2010–08–16/china-economy-passes-japan-s-in-secondquarter-capping-three-decade-rise.html. 49. Doing Business 2011: Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs. (2011). The World Bank. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeco nomies/china/. 50. Laroche, L. (2003). Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions. Amsterdam: ButterworthHeinemann. 51. Tang, J., & Ward, A. (2003). The Changing Face of Chinese Management. New York: Routledge. 52. Ibid. 53. Chen, P. P. W. (2004, July 30). China Business Etiquette: Gift Giving. Executive Planet. 54. Jreisat, J. E. (1992). Managing National Development in the Arab States. Arab Studies Quarterly, 14, 1–17. 55. Jreisat, Managing National Development in the Arab States; Wetzel, H. (2004). Egypt Country Commercial Guide FY 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State. 56. Ali, A. J. (1993). Decision-Making Style, Individualism, and Attitudes Toward Risk of Arab Executives. International Studies of Management and Organization, 23, 53–74; Ali, A. J. (1995). Cultural Discontinuity and Arab Management Thought. International Studies of Management and Organization, 25, 7–31. 57. U.S. Census Bureau. (2008, March). Foreign Trade Statistics: Trade in Goods (Imports, Exports, and Trade Balance) With Kuwait; U.S. Census Bureau. (2008, March). Foreign Trade Statistics: Trade in Goods (Imports, Exports, and Trade Balance) With Qatar; U.S. Census Bureau. (2008, March). Foreign Trade Statistics: Trade in Goods (Imports, Exports, and Trade Balance) With Saudi. 58. Arab Names. www.arab.net/arabnames. 59. This dialogue is adapted from a scene in Copeland, L. (Producer). (1983). Managing the Overseas Assignment [Motion picture]. San Francisco: Copeland Griggs. 60. Ali, Cultural Discontinuity and Arab Management Thought; Decision-Making Style, Individualism, and Attitudes Toward Risk of Arab Executives. 61. Ibid. 62. This figure is adapted from Harris & Moran, Managing Cultural Differences, and Lewis, When Cultures Collide.
27. Brown, W. S., Lubove, R. E., & Kwalwasser, J. (1994). Karoshi: Alternative Perspectives of Japanese Management Styles. Business Horizons, 37, 58–61. 28. Bolda, R. A. (1990). Correlates of Personal Productivity of Supervisors: Perceptions of American and Japanese Managers. Current Psychology, 9, 339–346. 29. Abramson, N. R., Lane, H. W., Nagai, H., & Takagi, H. (1993). A Comparison of Canadian and Japanese Cognitive Styles: Implications for Management Interaction. Journal of International Business Studies, 24, 575–588. 30. Brett, J. M., & Okumura, T. (1998). Inter- and Intracultural Negotiation: U.S. and Japanese Negotiators. Academy of Management Journal, 41, 495–510. 31. Rao, A., Hashimoto, K., & Rao, A. (1997). Universal and Culturally Specific Aspects of Influence: A Study of Japanese Managers. The Leadership Quarterly, 8, 295–313. 32. William Drake & Associates. (1997). Japanese and Americans: Sources of Mutual Misunderstandings. Available from www.culturebank.com/jpn027.html; William Drake & Associates. (1997). The Japanese Seniority System. Available from www.culturebank.com/jpn043 .html. 33. Central Intelligence Agency. (2011). The World Factbook: Germany. 34. William Drake & Associates. (1997). Managing Business Relationships in Germany. Available from www .culturebank.com/demo/demogermany/sld001.htm. 35. Glunk, U., Wilderom, C., & Ogilvie, R. (1996). Finding the Key to German-Style Management. International Studies of Management and Organization, 26, 93–108. 36. Hall, E. T., & Hall, M. R. (1990). Understanding Cultural Differences. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. 37. Ibid. 38. German Lessons. (1996). The Economist, 340, 59. 39. Ibid.; Drake & Associates, Managing Business Relationships in Germany. 40. Lewis, R. D. (1997). When Cultures Collide. London: Nicholas Brealey, p. 212. 41. U.S. Census Bureau: Foreign Trade Statistics, 2011; U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (2011). The World Factbook: Mexico. 42. Pelled, L. H., & Xin, K. R. (1997). Work Values and the Human Resource Management Implications: A Theoretical Comparison of China, Mexico, and the United States. Journal of Applied Management Studies, 6, 185–199; Schuler, R. S., Jackson, S. E., Jackofsky, E., & Slocum, J. W. (1996). Managing Human Resources in Mexico: A Cultural Understanding. Business Horizons, 39, 55–62. 43. Crouch, E. C. (2004). Mexicans and Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press; Pelled & Xin, Work Values and the Human Resource Management Implications.
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