Islamic revival in Asia and
human resource management
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK
The last three decades or so have seen a lively debate among both academics
and practitioners on the role of national culture in the shape and operation of
business organizations. Some authors have emphasized the universality and
similarities between organizations (e.g. Cole, 1973; Form, 1979; Hickson
., 1952; Negandhi, 1979; 1985), and some others the uniqueness of
organizations given their cultural contexts (e.g. Hofstede, 1980; Laurent, 1983;
., 1981; Meyer and Rowan, 1977). However, as Tayeb (1988) argues,
the two sides of the debate are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they complement
one another. That is, certain aspects of organizations are more likely to be
universal, such as shopfloor layout, hierarchical structure, division of functions;
and some areas are more culture-specific, such as human resource management
Notwithstanding this debate, what is certain is that organizations and their
employees do not live in a vacuum, separated from their societal surroundings.
To start with, national culture, as a set of values, attitudes, and behaviours,
includes also those which are relevant to work and organization. These are
carried into the workplace, as part of the employees’ cultural baggage. Work-
related values and attitudes, such as power distance, tolerance for ambiguity,
honesty, pursuance of group or individual goals, work ethic, and
entrepreneurial spirit, have been argued to be part of the cultural identity of a
nation (Hofstede, 1980; Tayeb, 1988; Wiener, 1981).
Moreover, the society at large has certain expectations from its organizations
and exerts influences on them, through various formal and informal means.
Political, social and economic institutions, such as the economic structure, trade
unions, social groups, the educational system, and pressure groups, can all
exert their own influences in turn on organizations (Hofstede, 1980; Tayeb,
The societal context can also influence the means by which managers
perform their tasks and implement organizational strategies (Smith
1989a; 1989b; Tayeb, 1995). The question of culture and organization is also
relevant within the context of transferring management policies and practices
across nations (Beechler and Yang, 1994; Tayeb, 1994; Welch, 1994). There are
many factors which contribute to the formation and perpetuation of national
culture, of which religion, as we shall see below, is a major one, but by no means
the only one (Hofstede, 1980; Weber, 1930).
Vol. 19 No. 4, 1997, pp. 352-364.
© MCB University Press, 0142-5455