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Africa on Hofstede’s value dimensions. Note that the profiles for Canada and the
United States are very similar, but they differ considerably from that of Mexico.
Hofstede has produced a number of interesting “cultural maps” that show how
countries and regions cluster together on pairs of cultural dimensions. The map in Exhibit 4.2
comparisons. High Mexico Japan USA
West Africa Low
Distance Individualism Masculinity Uncertainty
Orientation Source: Graph by authors. Data from
Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and
organizations: Software of the mind.
London: McGraw-Hill. (Time orientation data for Mexico unavailable.) 106 Individual Behaviour Exhibit 4.3
Power distance and
individualism values for
various countries and
regions. Part Two Power Distance
Costa Rica Source: Adapted from Hofstede, G.
(1984). The cultural relativity of the
quality of life concept. Academy of
Management Review, 9, p. 391.
Reprinted with permission. Taiwan Venezuala Singapore South Korea West Africa Chile
Large Power Distance
Yugoslavia Small Power Distance
Low Individualism East Africa Mexico Greece Philippines Turkey Individualism Jamaica Brazil Arab Countries Japan
New Zealand Belgium
Italy Small Power Distance
High Individualism Large Power Distance
High Individualism Great Britain
Australia Exhibit 4.3 shows the relationship between power distance and degree of individualism. As you can see, these two values tend to be related. Cultures that are more
individualistic tend to downplay power differences, while those that are more collectivistic tend to accentuate power differences. Implications of Cultural Variation
Exporting OB Theories. An important message from the cross-cultural study of
values is that organizational behaviour theories, research, and practices from North
America might not translate well to other societies, even the one located just south
of Texas.12 The basic questions (How should I lead? How should we make this decision?) remain the same. It is just the answers that differ. For example, North
American managers tend to encourage participation in work decisions by
employees. This corresponds to the fairly low degree of power distance valued here.
Trying to translate this leadership style to cultures that value high power distance
might prove unwise. In these cultures, people might be more comfortable deferring
to the boss’s decision. Thus, it is unlikely that Husky could translate their low power
distance and egalitarian style to all overseas locations. Similarly, in individualistic
North America, calling attention to one’s accomplishments is expected and often
rewarded in organizations. In more collective Asian or South American cultures,
individual success might be devalued, and it might make sense to reward groups
rather than individuals. Finally, in extremely masculine cultures, integrating women
into management positions might require special sensitivity. Chapter 4 107 Values, Attitudes, and Work Behaviour Successful firms have learned to blend the values of their headquarters’ corporate culture with those of the host nation in overseas operations. In other words,
they export an overall philosophy, while tailoring it to local customs and values. For
example, U.S.-based National Semiconductor tends to stress very systematic technical decision making. The Israeli culture tends to be very informal and more collective than that in the United States. In its Israeli operations, the firm has developed
a decision-making process that is systematic but team oriented and participative,
meeting corporate needs but respecting local values.13
Importing OB Theories. Not all theories and practices that concern organizational behaviour are perfected in North America or even in the West. The most
obvious examples are “Japanese management” techniques, such as quality circles,
total quality management, and just-in-time production. Although there are success
stories of importing these techniques from Japan to North America, there are also
numerous examples of difficulties and failure. Many of the problems stem from
basic value differences between Japan and North America.
Although they are generally successful operations, the pace of work required has
led to employee complaints in North American Nissan and Honda plants. Similarly,
the quest for continuous improvement and the heavy reliance on employee suggestions for improvement has had a mixed reaction.14 In Japan, cultural values have
traditionally dictated a fairly high degree of employment security. Thus, working at
a fast pace and providing suggestions for improvement will not put one out of a job.
North American workers are uncertain about this.
Many of the Japanese-inspired means of organizing work are team oriented.
Since Japan has fairly collective cultural values, submerging one’s own interests in
those of the team is natural. Although employer...
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- Spring '10