Exploring and Successfully Dealing with Cultural Differences
2. Theoretical Frameworks of Culture
3. Insights into Professional Services Firm’s Cultural Awareness Program 4. Good Practice
“As global business continues to expand and bring everyone closer, the critical element of a successful business outcome may be the appreciation and respect for regional, country, and cultural differences - known as cultural diversity and requiring good intercultural communication.” (http://www.cyborlink.com). For managers who work for multinational companies and need to deal with diverse national cultures, the concept of valuing cultural differences is highly important. This paper seeks to explore how to successfully deal with cultural difference. First we will examine the two theoretical frameworks of culture, in the context of three countries – United States, Singapore and Germany. Second we will look at a case study of a cultural awareness program in a professional services company. Lastly, we will provide some examples of good practice and some generic recommendations on successfully dealing with cultural differences. 2. Theoretical Frameworks of Culture
A multinational company working across different countries such as United States, Singapore and Germany will need to be able to identify cultural differences between their culture and that of other countries in order to work successfully across national borders. Below we will examine some of the dimensions of Hofstede’s model and its critiques and what impact this may have on businesses operating in these three countries. We will then take a similar look at the Trompenaars & Hampton-Turner’s Model of Culture, its critiques and some of its dimensions when working across the three countries. 2.1. Hofstede`s model of cultural dimensions
Hofstede`s model of cultural dimensions is probably the most widely used framework to explain differences among cultures. Geert Hofstede analyzed responses to questions about their work settings from over 160.000 IBM employees in more than 50 cultures and as a result proposed five dimensions that explain differences between these cultures. Power Distance (PD) is the dimension that deals with the attitude of the culture towards equality or inequality between individuals in a society (http://www.cyborlink.com). Comparing to the world average of 55, Germany and the U.S. score quite low on this dimension (35) and (40) respectively, and Singapore, like most Asian cultures very high (74). Knowing that a culture scoring high on power distance has a higher emphasis on hierarchy would mean that a U.S. or German manager implementing change management in Singapore would need to use authority and tell people what do, whereas, according to Ghemawat & Reiche (2011, p.10) while in lower power distance cultures like United States and Germany, “…it is more important to explain the reasons for change, allow for questions and challenges and involve employees in figuring out how to implement the desired change”. The dimension of Individualism – Collectivism (I/C) is about relationship and describes that in highly individualistic cultures, such as the United States (91) and also Germany (67), individuals look after themselves whereas in a collectivistic culture, like Singapore (20) individuals belong to groups and the benefit of the group is more important than the personal interest. A U.S. or Germany company therefore may need to be mindful of the types of questions that are asked when hiring in Singapore, as interview candidates would be more focused on group achievements (“we”) in contrast to applicants from their home country who would be able to articulate what they personally achieved (“I”). Masculinity / Feminity (M/F) is about what motivates people, either wanting to be the best (masculine)...
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