Essays on Challenges faced by managers of multicultural workforces and recommendations for management training

According to Trompenaars (1997), 75% of all communication is non-verbal, and non-verbal signs are different in different cultures. Thus, the English attach great importance to smile, while the French to a serious facial expression. National culture has a strong influence on the distance of interpersonal communication, the abundance of gestures, eye contact, touch, intonations, etc. In England, business partners do not kiss when they meet, which is common among Latin Americans (Moore, 2005). In many Asian cultures, at meeting and acquaintance people avoid touching each other, including handshakes. Japanese women raise the tone of voice when dealing with a reputable person, such as client, which is associated with the perception of high voice as more polite one (Huang & Vliert, 2003).

Culture and structure. Starting from Lincoln (1989), the researchers were interested in studying the influence of culture on the choice of organizational structure. Thus, the comparative studies of Japanese and American managers showed that both groups prefer to work in a less hierarchical, more “horizontal” firms, getting more satisfaction from working in such organizations (Jackson, 2001). Japanese companies are generally more hierarchical, but the difference in the number of hierarchical levels between Japanese and American firms is relatively insignificant, still, significant differences are observed in the relations of colleagues of different hierarchical levels (Yoshimura & Anderson, 1997).

Matrix structure, chosen by many project-oriented businesses, which requires strong cooperation and continuous information exchange between employees, is successfully developed in cultures with low power-distance and low uncertainty avoidance level, such as in Scandinavia (Peterson, 2007). In cultures with high uncertainty avoidance, people included in the matrix structure feel uncomfortable in the conditions of double subordination. In cultures with high power-distance, employees prefer direct control from the top (Hofstede, 2001; Mullins, 2011).

Cultural factors of motivation. According to the model proposed by Hofstede (2001), individualist cultures highly estimate the opportunities for career growth, while collectivist cultures appreciate the opportunity of belonging to an influential group. Feminine cultures positively perceive short and clearly defined working hours. In masculine cultures, the ability to compete for success is valuable. Cultures with high levels of uncertainty avoidance are focused on safety and reliability, and cultures with low uncertainty avoidance level value diversity in the work. In cultures with high power-distance index, it is important to have an opportunity to work with the leader, who is loyal to subordinates and is giving precise instructions. Cultures with low power-distance index value the opportunity to work with the leader, supporting consultative relations with subordinates.

In addition, an interesting cultural-specific interpretation of the famous Maslow’s model of the hierarchy of needs was suggested that Nevis (1983), who studied the People’s Republic of China, which had to overcome a series of revolutions and social upheavals in a relatively short time period. The studies were conducted when the country was overcoming the impact of the Maoist totalitarianism and Cultural Revolution, as well as during post-Maoist market reforms. Nevis (1983) described the 4 levels of needs’ hierarchy:
• Level 4 – the needs for self-actualization and public service;
• Level 3 – the need for safety and reliability;
• Level 2 – physiological needs;
• Level 1 – the need for belonging to the community.

Thus, this model takes into account the unusually high level of collectivism, in which the physiological needs are subordinated to the social ones (Pearson & Entrekin, 2001).

Cross-cultural aspects of organizational conflict. English-speaking cultures perceive a certain degree of proneness to conflict as a necessary condition for creativity and initiative. Tension within the organization is seen as normal and is considered to be a sign of health within the organization (Evans, 1992). Well-managed debates and discussions are leading to “energy recharging” of the participants and generation of new ideas (Rollinson, 2008). Eisenhardt et al. (1997) emphasize that the conflict is very valuable in the top-management teams. For instance, Mead (2004) cites the example of an American company Motorolla, in which a sharp confrontation of top managers at the meetings of the Board of Directors is a tradition allowing managers to remain friends after such clashes.

Cultures with the value for “actions”, as opposed to cultures with the value of “being”, are more focused on the conflict as a factor contributing to the creation of something new, whereas the cultures of the second type avoid conflict as a factor destroying the harmony of the group. In collectivist cultures, direct confrontation is avoided, whereas in individualistic cultures, the expression of one’s own opinion is a feature of an honest man. Hofstede (1991) cites the example of Japan, where direct confrontation between people is seen as rough and undesirable. The word “no” is pronounced extremely rarely, because it actually means certain confrontation. At the same time, the word “yes” does not exactly mean agreement, but, above all, it is a statement addressed to the other party which says “Yes, I hear you”.

In cultures with high power-distance index, the conflict between hierarchical levels is normal and expected. In cultures with low power-distance index, the harmony between the “powerful and powerless” is appreciated, so the colleagues tend to cooperation. Hofstede (2001) showed that managers from cultures with the low degree of uncertainty avoidance easier tolerate the stress caused, in particular, by conflicts and new managerial technologies, which include an abundance of group meetings and discussions (e.g., re-engineering).

It is clear that the culture affects the choice of strategy and tactics of organizational conflict resolution. In masculine cultures, the conflict is solved in a fight; in feminine cultures – through negotiation and compromise. In English-speaking cultures, the desire for confrontation is appreciated, while the strategies of exit from the conflict and adaptation are seen as defeatist (Cateora et al., 2010; Hill, 1997). The Japanese tend to resolve conflicts through cooperation, compromise and consensus. Their commercial contracts tend to avoid rigid formulations and contain the remarks like: “All the situations not included in this contract, are considered and resolved in a spirit of honesty and faith”(Pearson & Entrekin, 2001; Moran et al., 2007). The Chinese also seek for consensus on the differences: the Confucian values of collectivism and conformism are responsible for the lower level of aggressiveness and confrontationality of the Chinese in comparison to Western people (Chew & Horwitz, 2004).

Cultural factors also influence the choice of the leader’s mode of action in a conflict situation. In cultures where open conflict is not accepted, the manager can suspend the dialogue with the parties and involve the reputable third party (Eisenhardt et al., 1997). In cultures, where the power distance is larger, the leader chooses not to intervene in a conflict between the subordinates, because, being involved in it, the leader is “losing face” (Thomas, 2008). Arbitration is especially appreciated in collectivist cultures, where the conflict is perceived as a threat to the integrity of the group, for instance, in Southeast Asia (Pearson & Entrekin, 2001).

Many of these tendencies are also related to cross-cultural aspects of decision-making. In addition, it should be marked that group decisions in collectivist cultures tend to require considerably more time than in individualistic cultures. It takes more time to come to a consensus, to take into considerations the interests of all participants. Then, the solution accepted by everyone is almost
impossible to change (Mead, 2004).

Cross-cultural aspects of recruitment, selection and adaptation of staff. Welch (1994) identifies the following types of international policies of recruitment and selection of staff in multinational companies:
• ethnocentric policy: filling key positions in offices around the world only by personnel from the country of the parent company;
• polycentric, or region-centric policy: using locals to manage the foreign representatives, and managers from the country of the parent company as the top managers of the company’s headquarters;
• geocentric policy: recruiting the best and developing the staff for key positions in any multinational system regardless of nationality.

In different countries, the preferences in recruitment vary. American and European multinational companies (MNCs) usually use more local managers and fewer expatriates in their foreign affiliates than Japanese MNCs (Chew & Horwitz, 2004). Investigating recruitment in a number of countries (Africa, Canada, Eastern Europe, the USA, Western Europe), Tung (1987) found that Japanese MNCs basically fill top management positions by the Japanese. This can be explained by cultural factors. As a rule, a Japanese manager tries to avoid uncertainty more often than an American or Western European, and by assigning to a responsible position the Japanese employee who he trusts more and has a common native language with, he reduces the possible risks (Tung, 1987; Moran et al., 2007).

In general, the problem of choosing a local manager or an expatriate to lead the branch should be solved depending on several factors – the requirements to a uniform standardization of products, local market knowledge, etc.

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