NOME UJEBE M.A.
Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki
A survey is presented of the degree to which organizational behaviour is found to vary between national cultures. The conceptual framework provided by Hofstede (1980) is used to interpret many of the differences reported. Aspects of organizational behaviour which are examined include classifications of managerial values by national culture, organizational structure, leadership behaviour, negotiation processes and humane source management policies. Some of the implications of the differences found for multicultural management, for career development and for training programmes are then explored. It is concluded that there is an increasing need to prepare managers for multicultural experience and to ensure that evaluations of selection, training and career planning are more firmly grounded than is apparent from the present literature. The difficulties of studying management across cultures have been frequently noted (Adler, 1983; Penge, Peterson and Shyi, 1991). They are matched by the growing urgency of the need to find ways of carrying through such studies effectively. The increasing dominance of multinationals and the globalization of world markets ensure that those who do address the question of culture will gain substantial advantages. This review will focus mostly upon studies which make cross-national comparisons rather than those which cover only a single country, since these provide a firmer basis upon which to rest conclusions as to whether there are substantial.
Roberts and Boyacigiller (1984) suggest that the most fundamental problem in this area has been the lack of any agreement as to how to define culture, and the consequent lack of a currency within which to conduct studies. They propose that we need to move away from the meanings given to the concept by anthropologists, whom they see as laying too much stress on the physical artifacts which characterize different cultures. Some organizational researches have also emphasized the physical artifacts, that is to say the technological determinants of organizational behavior, but it is likely that these are the aspects of organization which vary least around the world. In arriving at a definition useful to both organizational researchers and practitioners, Roberts and boyacigiller suggest we should do better to start by looking open—mindedly at what it is that may cause organizations to function differently in different part s of the world.
The concept of culture has recently proved attractive not only to those who seek to understand world-wide variations in organizational behaviour (e.g. Ronen 1986; Adler, 1990), but also to those who attempt to delineate contrasts between different organizations in the same parts of the world,(Schein, 1985). Smircich (1985) goes further than most in asserting that organizations are cultures. While this may indeed prove a fruitful line of thinking, hofstede’s (1980) pioneering study, which will be discussed shortly, found large variations around the world within the culture of a single organization. All of the world’s largest multinationals are now said to have more employees outside of their home-base country than within it, so that this dispersion is at least in competition with company culture, even if it does not entirely over-ride it. Furthermore, Laurent (1983) has found that contrasts between the attitudes of employees who were from different nations but working within the same multinational were stronger than were overall contrasts between national samples on the same measures. Contemporary organizations differ from the types of society to whom the concept of culture was originally applied by virtue of the massive amounts of information available to them. This information is quite often equally and contemporaneously available in all parts of the world. A definition of culture valid for our purposes is thus more likely to be based on how organizations receive, interpret and act on information than on their physical location or specific hardware. Within this framework, the most crucial aspect of a particular contemporary culture is the manner in which it encourages culture members to assign shared meanings to events.
If one were to work from such a definition, it would be possible to develop a classification of national or organizational cultures, depending upon what proportion of specific organizational events were assigned shared meanings within each grouping of respondents. This would no doubt be a task of some magnitude, and it remains to be done. In the meantime, within the existing literature the dominant approach has been to equate nations with cultures, and thus to study culture and management by comparing samples of managers from different countries. Such an approach is not entirely indefensible. Managers within a single national culture work under a unified legislative system, with substantial impact upon their manpower planning and industrial relations, as well as a shared context of infrastructure and climate. Shared history does thus predispose members of nations to assign shared meanings to at least some events, though they may well differ about others. If nations are to provide our unit of analysis, then a priority for researchers must be whether some justifiable way can be found of classifying the 150 or so countries in the world along dimensions which can guide more detailed study.
Classifications of National Cultures
Most classifications of national cultures have been based upon surveys of work attitudes conducted in a variety of countries. The first substantial study of this kind was that by Haire et al. (1966), who surveyed the work goals of 3641 managers in 14 countries, using semantic differential rating scales. Comparison of the responses yielded five clusters: an Anglo group (USA and Britain): a North European group (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany): a ‘Latin European group (Spain, Italy, France and Belgium) a Developing Countries group (India. Argentina and Chile); and a group containing only Japan. The nature of the groupings likely to emerge from such procedures is obviously heavily dependent upon which countries are included. Haire ct al. included mostly European countries, and consequently finishes up with improbable combinations such as putting India with Agrentina and Chile.
Ronen (1986) provides a synthesis of nine studies, starting with Haire et al. and adding others which have compared work attitudes in a similar way, but which have used different samples, a varying range of countries and different measures of attitude. Ronen and several of the other investigators used the statistical procedure of smallest space analysis to find the most parsimonious clustering of countries. Ronen (1986) finds eight clusters and four countries which will not fit into those clusters, namely Brazil, Japan, Israel and India. The clusters accord well with common-sense expectation, yielding Anglo, Nordic, Germanic, and Latin European. Near Eastern Arab, Far Eastern and Latin American clusters, including a total of 42 countries. Ronen concedes that inclusion of more Far Eastern countries, as well as those from Africa and the former Communist bloc would most probably extend the number of clusters.
The difficulty with this type of study is that it yields no information as to what precisely it is that causes the data to cluster in the way that it docs. Historical, religious and political factors are no doubt among the more important causes, but the analysis treats the clustering of countries as an end on itself, rather than using it to provide information which may be managerially useful. Furthermore, Griffeth and Hom (1987) show that different clustering methods tend to yield somewhat different groupings of countries.
An alternative method of data analysis was that employed in Hofstede’s (1980) well-known study, which was also among those incorporated into Ronen’s synthesis. Hofstede analyzed 88,000 responses to a questionnaire survey conducted among employees of single US multinational working ir 66 countries. The size of his sample enabled him to average the scores for each questionnaire item for each country. Factor analysis of these means yielded four dimensions along which variation between countries was found to occur. II was then possible to plot the position of each country’s data up on each of these dimensions. The initial sample was large enough for this to be done for 40 countries, but Hofstede (1983) extended this to 53.
Hofstcde’s four dimensions were named as Individualism. Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance and Masculinity. The first of these, Individualism, distinguishes counties in which employees see their individual identity as determined by their own continuing individual choices as to how to act. This is contrasted with the situation in countries where identity is collectively defined, that is to say, defined by one’s obligations to the groups to which one belongs. Group membership in a collectivist culture is much less a matter of choice than in an individualist’s culture, whether that choice be determined by one’s family of origin or by the organization for which one works. Of all the 53 countries in the survey, the US ranked highest on individualism, with Australia second and Britain third. The representation of these three countries as thus atypical should give us cause to reflect on how applicable may be ideas emanating from these countries to others who are more collectivist. Among other major industrial nations, France ranked tenth, Germany fourteenth; Japan twenty-second and Hong Kong thirty-fourth.
Hofstede’s second dimension, Power Distance, distinguishes countries where relations between superior and subordinate are relatively close and informal or more distant and formal. The countries with the most informal, low power distance relations were Austria, Jamaica and Denmark, while those with the highest power distance were Malaysia, Panama and the Philippines. Although Hofstede found the dimensions of individualism and power Distance to be separate, comparisons of the country means on these two scales shows them to be strongly and negatively correlated (-0.75). if the data for two countries (France and Costa Rica) is discarded, then the correlation becomes even more strongly negative. In other words, Hofstede’s results suggest that it may be fruitful to distinguish countries which are individualist and low on power distance from those which are collectivist and high on power distance from those which are collectivist and high on power distance. According to his data, this separates the European and Anglo countries from the rest of the world. However, groupings of countries are less important within his approach. Its value is more that it provides a specific data point for each country upon a range of theoretically interesting dimensions.
Possibly because the collectivism and power distance dimensions are linked to one another, they have provoked rather more interest among researchers than Hofstedes’s remaining two dimensions, Uncertainty Avoidance and Masculinity/Femininity. This is unfortunate, since it is most unlikely that a single dimension, or pair of linked dimensions, will account for a substantial amount of all the ways in which organizational behaviour may vary across cultures. The dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance, according to Hofstede, distinguishes national cultures who emphasize meticulous forward planning from those in which risk-taking and leaving things to chance are more positively valued. Organizations in high uncertainty avoidance cultures, of which Japan proved to be one, are therefore likely to have longer time perspectives and more structured decision-making procedures. Hofstede’s final dimension distinguished ‘masculine’ cultures, in which values such as assertiveness, challenge and ambition are strongly endorsed, from ‘feminine cultures’, in which cooperation and security are more highly valued.
Hofstede’s findings have been criticized on a variety of grounds. The most important of these are that the data are all derived from the employees of a single corporation that it was collected more than 20 years ago, and that mean scores for whole counties necessarily obscure substantial within-country variations. Furthermore, it is very likely that there are additional dimensions of cross-national variation which did not emerge because they were not represented in Hofstede’s questionnaire. Despite this, Hofstede’s concepts continue to provide the best available basis for thinking about cross national different in many aspects of organizational performance. In particular, the distinction between individualist and collectivist cultures will recur at a number of points in the sections which follow. We must consider first how substantial and how robust over time might be the size of the differences found.
Are there organizational universals?
Hickson et al (1974) propose that there are certain organizational imperatives which require organizations to take on particular configurations if they are to survive. For example, as they grow in size, they will need to specialize activities, formalize procedures and decentralize control. The resulting series of ‘Aston’ studies has included not only Western countries, but also Japan India, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and Iran. Donaldson (1986) reviews the studies and reports that the Aston hypotheses are supported, albeit not so strongly in the non-Western data. However, none of the non-Western countries included in Donaldson’s analysis s much above the midpoint for collectivism in Hofstede’s survey. Possible that, as organizations become more and more collect Hickson’s imperatives become attenuated as alternative solution: employed. Redding and Pugh (1986) found substantial differences in the structure of Hong Kong, Japanese and British firms of similar size. Furthermore, 90 per cent of Hong Kong firms have less than 50 employees, so that one could argue that the problem of growth is solved in Hong Kong and probably in other highly collectivist cultures, by schism rather than by formalization, decentralization and specialization. Formalization in Japanese firms was much greater than in Britain, whereas in Hong Kong was much less than in Britain. In a study comparing Aston measures in Japanese and American firms. Lincoln and Kalleberg (1990) found a strong correlation between decentralization and use of the ringi systemof group decision-making in Japan. In the USA, there was no relation bet\ decentralization and the use of group decision-making. Thus availability of alternative decision processes attenuates the potency o link between size and decentralization.
There is further reason to be skeptical about the universality of relationships between organizational structures such as formalization and centralization. The Aston studies focus upon the existence of particular structures. Structure may be in place, not least because of the world-wide diffusion of the ideas of Western management theorists, but they will only be put to use in ways which are culturally compatible. Tayeb (1988) compared a matched set of British and Indian firms. She found some support for the Aston hypotheses, but reported that decision-making in the two cultures was nonetheless carried through in quite different ways. For example, the Aston measure of centralization indicates who shall makecertain decisions. However, Tayeb found that British manager tended consult their subordinates before reaching decisions, while In managers did not.
It is very probable that there will prove to be numerous other instances whereby the existences of organizational structures are rather more generally dispersed around the world than are the organizational processes by which these structures are implemented. A related issue of considerable importance concerns whether or not current global industrialization can be expected to push all countries toward the more individualist, low power distance structures which characterize the countries which industrialize the countries which industrialized longer ago. While such a large question cannot be fully discussed here, the best current tests of such questions are provided by the rapid growth of countries such as Japan and Korea.
Dunphy (1987) surveys the considerable changes in Japanese managerial practice over the past few decades. He concludes that while there have been enormous changes, these are not simply changes toward western practice, but rather a series of pragmatic changes within a context which continues to be much more collectivist in orientation. Equally, there is no sign of adiminution in Japanese emphasis upon uncertainty avoidance through long-term strategic planning (Kagono et al.., 1985). Lincoln and Kallerberg’s (1990) comparative survey of Japanese and US workers found that there are still substantial differences, both in work motivations and in the relationship between motivations and organizational structures in USA and Japan. Korea, whom Hofstede ranks much higher on collectivism than Japan, also continues to reinterpret Western ideas into a more collectivist format (Kim etal., 1985).
Effective Leaders Styles
Substantial research has been undertaken’ into the effectiveness of managerial leadership styles in different parts of the world. There is a considerable irony about the findings. The best known models of managerial styles have been developed in the USA, where the notion of one ‘best way’ of leading has received little empirical support. US theorists have consequently devised a series of increasingly complex contingency theories to account for the way in which different styles are appropriate to different settings (Smith and Peterson, 1988). However, in a range of more collectivistic countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Iran, India and Brazil, the notion of a single effective leader style has received much stronger support (Smith and Taycb, 1988). In all these countries, studies have shown that the most effective managers are those who attend well to both task concerns and the needs of their work team. Results from more individualist European countries and from the Soviet Union (Zhurvalev and Shorokhova. 1994), which was not included in Hofstede’s survey, show that effective leader style varies with the situation, as in the USA. ‘
There are several possible explanations for this interesting contrast in findings. Firstly, it can be expected that superior-subordinate relations will be different in individualist and collectivist cultures. The collectivist workgroup is more strongly committed to the preservation of overt harmony, and the perspectives of superior and subordinate are less likely to be in conflict. Hence the appropriate balance of task and relationship behaviours may be self-evident to all parties-. A second possibility stems from the fact, already noted, that countries high on collectivism are frequently also high on power distance. In a high power distance country, members of successful work-groups may be inclined deferentially to attribute their success to their superior. ‘Conversely, in a low power distance country, a team member is much more likely to attribute credit to him or herself and to fell aggrieved if the superior does not do likewise.’ possibility, that the result is based is discounted in a recent study by Smith et al (1992, in press). This compared leadership of work teams in sample of electronics assembly plants in USA, Britain, Japan a Kong, and did, as expected, find differences- in effective lead between Japan and the Western-countries, although some common effects were also found.
A number of other researchers have used US-derived leadership measures in various countries around the world. For example, Bryman et al. (1987) found that construction site managers in Britain were highly task-oriented on Fiedler’s., (1967) least preferred Coworker scale (LPC). However the most effective managers were those who were relative less task-oriented. Bennett (1977) found that bank managers who were effective in the Philippines were those who were more task-oriented on the LPC scale. In contrast, he found that relationship-oriented bank managers in Hong Kong were the more effective. There has been some debate as to the meaning of high and low LPC scores on Fiedler’s measure even in Western countries. It is still more difficult to interpret the meaning of such studies where they are undertaken in more collectivist cultures, because Fiedler’s measures, and those US theorists such as Vroom and Yetton (1973), offer a dichotomy between more autocratic and more participative leader styles As has been argued earlier, in collectivist cultures effective leadership frequently both autocratic and participative at the same time.
Earlier comparisons of leader styles in different countries, those summarized by Bass and Burger (1969), pose the same p Greater reliance can be placed on those leadership studies which loc correlates of measures within countries, not treating autocratic participative styles as mutually exclusive, and then compare result countries. The detailed study by Heller et al (1988) of decision-m; Holland, Britain and Yugoslavia provides a valuable example. The differences within countries to be as great as those between countries.
Human Resource Management Policies
Differences in human resources management policies between cc are little easier to establish, since it is often possible to assess the ex of policies on the basis of expenditure, rather than the more criteria involved in characterizing the meanings placed on mar behaviours. The problem here is one of sampling, since there is sub variance in policies within countries also. Studies using large sample tended to find rather fewer differences than were expected.
Several studies, for instance, have shown that the policy time employment, thought to be so central to Japanese management practice is in fact only characteristic of front-rank Japanese companies (Smith and Misumi, 1989). Among the overall Japanese workforce, a slightly lower percentage of employees experience life-time employment than occurs in Western countries. Nonetheless, Pascal and Maguire’s (1980) comparison of a sample of matched pairs of US and Japanese firms did detect a range of differences, e.g twice as much expenditure on social and recreational facilities in Japanese in Japan. Even these differences must be qualified by Pascal’s (1978) findings that plant location was more important than ownership. There were, in fact, rather more differences between Japanese firms in the US and Japanese firms in Japan than between Japanese and US-owned firms. In a similar way, white and Trevor (1983) concluded that the personnel policies of Japanese firms in Britain were surprisingly similar to those of other firms nearby. Although relations with the unions were often on a different basis, white and Trevor saw the main reason for the Japanese firm success as being meticulous attention to production management.
A broader survey of US. A Japanese and European firm was conducted by Kagono et al (1985). Data were obtained from 277 US firms and 291 Japanese firms, but the response rate from European firms was much lower, with only 50 European responses obtained. The Japanese firms reported flatter hierarchies, less precise job descriptions, longer-term performance evaluation, control systems based upon self-discipline, and more promotion from within.
Child (1981) summarizes a detailed study of decision-making in the German firms was centralized at more senior levels. Senior managers were also more likely to be recruited from outside the organization. In contrast, in the British firms there was more internal promotion, more concern for employees’ rewards and benefits, and for the development of young executives. Thus, even within two European countries with relatively similar national cultures, consistent differences were found in certain aspects of human resource development.
Jaeger and Kanungo (1990) provide a ‘variety of perspectives upon the applicability of human resource development strategies in the context of the developing countries. They argue that, while frequent attempts are made to replicate western policies and procedures in non-western settings, these practices will only be effective where they fit in with the assumptions of the local cultural context. They single out such concepts as planning, organizational structure and management by objectives for specific critique. Planning is likely to be difficult in low uncertainty avoidance cultures the construction of organizational structures also requires a conception of individualist roles separable from existing social relationships. Management by objectives ‘requires, among other things, the notion that it is acceptable for superior and subordinate to bargain v another. Many other examples are given, with particular attention and Africa. These cautions must be tempered by the findings off (1979). Negandhi and his colleagues undertook a series of studies owned and locally-owned firms in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Argendina India. Taiwan and the Philippines, all of which are countries rates relatively high on collectivism by Hosfstede. The US firms consistently used more Western human resource management policies and were also more effective, by a variety of criteria. However, Negandhi’s broad brush studies do not provide detail of the extent to which particular US-owned firms adapted their policies to specific settings, so that Jaeger and Kanungo’s point of view may well retain considerable validity.
Negotiating Across Cultures
The matter of cross-cultural negotiation provides one of the most acute problems in whole field of culture and organizational behavior. Negotiations quite often bring together, for relatively short period’s o time, those who are not necessarily familiar with the cultural background of those with whom they are dealing. While it may frequently be in the interest of both parties to reach agreement with one another, the process of arriving at the point requires that there is a shared view of how it is to be accomplished and of what is the meaning or implication of any agreement which is reached. Under what conditions may a contract be negotiable, for instance? A difficulty in this field is that many of more detailed studies concern simulated negotiations, whereas accounts of real world negotiations are covered more sketchily. The major distinction between styles of negotiation turns upon the level or directness employed by negotiators. Graham (1985) portrayed the contrast particularly clearly observing pairs of US, Japanese and Brazilians businessmen acting as negotiators in a buying and selling game. The Brazilians took much longer, both spoke at once more frequently. Said ‘No’ nearly 10 times as often and touched one another from time to time. The Japanese made more modest initial bids, looked at each other less, Said ‘No’ less often, and had more frequent periods of silence, The Americans were intermediate on most of these criteria. But they expressed their more forceful demands earlier in the negotiations than did the Japanese.
Most commentators characterize the behavior of more individualist western negotiators as ‘rational and task-centred1. In contrast to those from organizational behaviour and national cultures, where the state of relationship between the negotiating parties becomes an increasingly important factor (Glennet al., 1977; leung and wu, 1990; mead, 1990) Perhaps for this reason. Harnen and Cummings (1980) found that bargainers from USA and from four European countries drove harder bargains than did those from Japan and Thailand. Negotiators from non-Western countries might well argue however that the maximization of short-term benefit is not always the most rational strategy.
Where the avoidance of long-term conflict is a major priority, indirect communication may be consequently preferred. The Japanese avoidance of saying ‘No’, and the use of extended periods of silence to communicate failure to agree, provides examples. In a similar way, explicit contracts will be thought undesirable as they may imply the absence of trust in the other party (Sullivan et al., 1981). Indirect negotiations are also likely to take longer and to involve more extended preliminaries during which the parties establish how trustworthy each may be through conversation on more neutral topics.
Differences in the pace at which negotiations are carried through reflect variations in preferences as to how to handle the process of uncertainty avoidance. Negotiators from a high uncertainty avoidance culture, such as Japan, arc likely to see the major priority as establishing whether or not the other party is trustworthy on a long-term basis. If they do prove to be so, then the assumption is that any differences of opinion which arise during the implementation of a contract can be ironed out on the basis of goodwill. Negotiators from low uncertainty avoidance cultures, such as Britain or America, will more usually focus on quickly gaining agreement for a set of specific actions during a finite period of time. They anticipate that the other party can then be held to the contract which has been agreed.
The difficulties of bridging such differences in negotiating goals and style are not necessarily insuperable and a number of case studies are available. For example, of successful US-Japanese and US-Chinese negotiations (Tung, 1984; March, 1988). The cases illustrate the way in which successful cross-cultural negotiations include an understanding by either party as to how the other party prefers to negotiate and what meanings they put on key words such as ‘agreement’ and contract’.
Shenkar and Zeira (1987) report that joint ventures arc increasingly displacing wholly-owned subsidiaries as the most widespread form of overseas investment. Both subsidiaries and joint ventures may be expected to experience distinctive problems, as well as some that are shared. The most general issue in either case is likely to be relations between the parent, company and the local company.
Child’s (1990) review of 30 joint ventures within the People’s Republic of china reveals distinctive differences in the approach of parent companies from each country. US-owned ventures were found to attempt most strongly to introduce the procedures and policies obtaining within the parent company. This accords with Negandhi findings concerning US companies in other countries, discussed earlier. Child reports that within china this raised substantial difficulties within a number of venture, particularly in the fields of informal communication, training and decision making. Japanese companies were found to discard many practices characteristic of home-based Japanese organizations, and to adopt a much more centralized and autocratic system of decision making. Japanese willingness to adapt to whatever they judge to work best in local circumstances has been noted in many other studies, including fruin (1983) for the USA, white and Trevor (1983) in Britain, and yoshino (1976) in south-Bast Asia. This flexibility has led to much more autocratic practices in Japanese plants in south-East Asia than in Japanese plants in European plants in Europe or North America. The same contrast between American and Japanese policies abroad is noted by Putti and Chong (1985), who compared 12 subsidiaries in Singapore. In this setting, US personnel management practices were reported to work well.
The joint ventures in Child’s study in China which were I Kong-owned experienced the fewest difficulties, partly at least bee language problems and differences in cultural expectations would be minimum. The European-owned joint ventures were reported to be intermediate between the Japanese and American-owned ventures, insofar as they frequently attempted to introduce Western procedures, but were more likely to compromise with Chinese expectations in situations where their attempts in situations where their attempts went astray.
Shenkar and Zeira’s (1987) review concludes that the r widespread problems of joint ventures include communication decision-making failures between parent company and local organization Unequal participation where there is more than one parent company difficulties contingent upon time-limited joint ventures, and a variety of issues which also characterize other types of multinational venture.
Earlier studies by Zeira (1975) and Zeira and Banai (IS examined the personnel problems faced by leading multinationals, principal problem identified was that of conflict over appointment! senior positions within overseas subsidiaries. Where parent com nationals were appointed, their leadership was frequently resisted by k staffs, who saw then as advancing their own careers at the expense of and frequently failing to understand the nuances of local cultural non The expatriate managers, for their part, most frequently saw themselves as trying to sustain comparability with practices in other parts of the multinational.
Such problems may be handled either through a policy of maximizing the appointment of local managers, or through stringent attention to selection and training of parent country managers. Either policy has contingent problems, but the choice between them may also be influenced by cultural factors. Tung’s (1982) survey showed that Japanese multinationals retained a substantial presence of Japanese as senior managers in all parts of the world. US and European multinationals tended toward the use of local managers at all levels in industrialized countries, but relief on parent country senior managers in developing countries. In an earlier study, Tung (1981) examined the selection criteria said to be important by multinationals for making appointments at various different levels. Maturity, emotional talents were the qualities cited most frequently for senior appointments.
The difficulties faced by parent country senior managers indicate that their selection and training for assignments are crucial to success. Ronen (1986) proposes that there is (or at least has been in the past) a substantial gap between the selection criteria often employed and those which the researches of Zeira and of Tung have suggested are most strongly required. While technical and managerial expertise are clearly important, other attributes, such as emotional maturity, willingness to learn about new environments and respect for other’s views also have great importance.
An alternative way of clarifying the attributes most required has been developed by Ratiu (1983), who examined the characteristics of managers rated as internationally effective by their colleagues while attending business schools in France and Britain. Effective international managers were said to be those of many nationalities. Further group interviews suggested that the effective international managers were more intuitive, more provisional in their judgments, more open in discussing their colleagues while attending business schools in France and Britain. Effective international managers were said to be those who were adaptable, flexible, open-minded, speaking in foreign languages, and making friends with those of many friends with those of many nationalities. Further group interviews suggested that the effective international managers were more intuitive, more provisional in their judgments, more open in discussing their experience of culture shock and how they handle it, and more concerned to understand specific experiences rather than make global generalizations. The propositions advanced are plausible, but need testing against more valid criteria of international effectiveness.
Adler (1990) points out that organization selecting managers for overseas assignments neglect the views of the selected manager’s spouse at their peril. Failure to adapt to the new environment by the spouse is a not infrequent contributor to failed assignments, and the costs of such failure can be very substantial. Tung (1982) reports that in her survey of U; multinationals, three quarters of the companies had failure rates of 10-20% or higher. Failure was defined as the premature termination of an assignment by either party. The reason most frequently cited for failure within both US and European firms was failure of the spouse to adapt. I Japan the most frequent reason given was inability of the manager to cope with the more complex work. This difference probably tells us as much about the types of excuses for failure apparently thought to be most acceptable in different parts of the world as it does about real decision processes. Gregerson and Black (1990) found that the intention of US expatriates to leave their assignments early was not related to the work itself, but was related to their own and their spouses interactions with host country nationals and the host country culture. In considering these problems it is important to note that European and Japanese firms have substantially lower reported failure rates than US firms, and we shall consider why this might be so in the next section.
Training and Career Development
The studies reviewed in the preceding section highlight a number of issue which face joint ventures and multinational firms in particular. The fallibility of existing selection procedures for international assignment means that a particular burden rests upon multinationals to manage effectively the career transitions within which such assignments figure, am the training processes designed to optimize the chances of their success.
Tung (1982, 1987) and Miller et al. (1990) have reported a series of comparative surveys of the policies of multinationals in this field. Tung notes a particularly strong contrast between US and Japanese policies which reflect the more general pre-occupation of the Japanese wit] uncertainty avoidance through long-term planning. Japanese placement abroad quite often last 5 or more years and are rather frequently proceeded by substantial training input, often with more extensive emphasis 01 language training. US placements are more typically for 1 -2 years, and 68 of those placed received no raining. US firms quite often also expressed tin view that training could not be justified, because the employee might not stay with the firm. Peterson and Mueller (1989) surveyed US multinational based in Florida and also found that very few referred to the need for an; kind of country-specific training. Tung found that, in her sample, lack o training was significantly related to failure rates. European firms had failure rates below 5 per cent and also used more training than US firms. This was most frequently focused upon relatively short briefings about a country or region and its cultural patterns.
Tung attributes the relatively low failure rates of European and Japanese firms to their more substantial reliance upon internal promotion and career planning. Many European firms also have a rather longer history of overseas operation and, as Child’s (1990) study in Beijing illustrated, are more open to adapting their procedures to local practice. We have seen already that Japanese organizations have also been found to be flexible in their personnel practices, depending upon local circumstance.
The US executive abroad is seen as necessarily preoccupied with future career prospects at home and not likely to wish to step out of line with head-quarters policies. Adler’s (1981) study indicates that this concern is well-founded. Few organizations in her North American sample made any explicit provision for the management of the expatriate’s return. While departure was clearly seen as requiring some preparation, return was often treated as a return to ‘normality;. Returnees reported finding their employers not interested in making use of the experience which had been gained abroad. Many of the differences reported between US, European and Japanese experiences abroad thus appear to derive rather directly from differences in time perspective.
The varieties of training which are used rarely been subjected to systematic evaluation (Black and Mendenhall, 1990), and most of the studies published use students rather than managers as subjects. However. Earlcy (1987) compared documentary briefings and experiential exercise for 80 US managers preparing to spend 3 months in Korea. Ratings of overall performance while in Korea showed that both forms of training had a significant effect, and that the managers who did best of all were those who received both forms of training. Control subjects who received neither form of training performed worst.
The effectiveness of different forms of training will depend upon how well they are matched to the specific locations to which assignments are made and how long are to be spent there. The range of options is fully explored by Ronen (1989). Generalized programmes such as the ‘culture assign-milator’ (Brislin et al., 1986) seek to induce awareness of cultural difference and of the importance of trying to understand their meaning. This is done by presenting 100 vignettes of cross-cultural interactions, each one accompanied with four possible explanations. Trainees work through these at their own pace, together with details presented subsequently as to why each explanation is more or less plausible. There is good evidence of the positive’ effects of this approach (Cushner, 1989), although it has rarely been employed with managers. A variety of country-specific culture assimilators have also been developed (Bhawuk, 1990).
The value of language training is widely agreed, but not always implemented. The journal issue edited by Lambert and Moore (1990 underlines substantial progress in this field in Europe and Japan, but opportunities lost by British and American firms who give language training lower priority. The increasing integration of language and business training in continental European countries is a notable advance. There is also scope for attention to the inevitability of a period of culture shock following arrival at a new location (Furnham and Bochner 1986) Prior discussion of the issues and of the variety of coping mechanism! Available (Mendenhall and Oddou, 1985, 1986) are likely to be invaluable where a visit is to be short, didactic form of ‘briefing’ may be adequate. For longer stays, it becomes increasingly crucial that trainees are aided in developing ways of learning from their ongoing cross-cultural experiences What is required is the development of an ability to see what meaning! Locals are putting upon particular events, and to relate these meanings tt one’s own reactions to those same events. A variety of more derivable from Kolb and Fry’s (1975) model of learning how to learn, are favoured for this purpose (Lendis and Brislin, 1983).
This review indicates that, while there may be same universality (the organizational structures required around the world, the differing national cultures within which organizations are located frequently give those structures substantially different meanings. Working effectively across cultures is therefore not simply a matter of applying the skills function to be most effective within the culture of one’s country or organization. I require also that one can understand and cope with the processes o communication and decision-making in settings where these are achieve in a different manner.
The studies referred to in this review mostly focus upon the same small groupings of countries, particularly USA, Japan and a conglomerate of European countries. There is a clear need to extend the range of countries included in research designs. However, the value of conceptual framework; such as that provided by the work of Hofstede (1980) is that they do now provide a better basis for choice as to which countries to include. Concepts such as collectivism, power distance and uncertainly avoidance may b used not simply to classify countries, but also to organize data concerning human resource management from single-country studies and to guide this design of selection procedures and training programmes.
Overall measures of cross-cultural effectiveness such as ‘failure rates’ are exceedingly blunt instruments. The knowledge that by such measures Japanese organizations appear to handle the problem of working across cultures rather more effectively is of little help to Western organizations.
Japanese organizations start from a different and culturally-rooted point. Furthermore, while Japanese organizations do well at preparing staff for overseas assignments, there is evidence that Japanese returnees do have substantial difficulty when returning to tightly-knit Japanese society.
We have at present only a very partial understanding of how cross-cultural problems are best addressed. Within the industrialized nations of Europe and North America, which were all classified by Hofstede as relatively individualist and low on power distance, it may be that language proficiency is the principal (though by no means the only) barrier to cross-cultural effectiveness. When we consider links between individualist and more collectivist cultures, a much broader range of issues become salient, and it is here that the potential gains and losses are greatest.
The validity of many of the selection and training methods currently in use remains to be established. The importance of remedying this situation is illustrated by the fact that, in the surveys conducted by Tung and others, a frequent reason given by organizations for not providing more training was that they did not expect that it would be effective. As in other fields, a precondition for validation studies will need to be the provision of more adequate data as to what are the requirements for effective work in each specific cross-cultural setting, whether that work is short-term negotiation or longer-term managerial responsibilities. To inspire confidence, the validity criteria would need to reflect rather more of the subtleties which make for managerial success or failure in cross-cultural settings. This could most probably only be achieved by closer attention to the meaning of success in particular organizations and locations, rather than by use of global measures such as failure rates.
The difficulties experienced by those returning from foreign assignments also points to the need for many organizations to give more systematic attention to this aspect of career’ planning. Those who have acquired cross-cultural experience frequently have an asset of value to the organization, and to fail to use it, incurs a further avoidable cost.
Provision of firmer information on the difficulties currently encountered by expatriates and on effective ways of handling those difficulties should provide the basis upon which future policies can rest. Where this is accomplished, organizations may have greater confidence that the planning and execution of their operations in multicultural contexts benefits their overall effectiveness
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