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Chapter 4

MGCR382 Chapter 4 Notes - The Role of Culture.docx

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Management Core
MGCR 382
Nicholas Matziorinis

MGCR382 Chapter 4 Notes: The Role of Culture Culture – collection of values, beliefs, behaviours, customs, and attitudes that distinguish one society from another. A society’s culture determines the rules that govern how firms operate in the society Characteristics of Culture  Culture reflects learned behaviour that is transmitted from one member of a society to another. Some elements of culture are transmitted intergenerationally, as when parents teach their children table manners. Other elements are transmitted intragenerationally, as when seniors educate incoming freshmen about a school’s traditions  The elements of culture are interrelated  Because culture is learned behaviour, it is adaptive; that is, the culture changes in response to external forces that affect the society  Culture is shared by members of the society and indeed defines the membership of the society. Individuals who share a culture are members of a society; those who do not are outside the boundaries of the society Elements of Culture – a society’s culture determines how its members communicate and interact with each other. The basic elements of culture are social structure, language, communication, religion, and values and attitudes Social Structure – the overall framework that determines the roles of individuals within the society, the stratification of the society, and individuals’ mobility within the society  Individuals, families, and groups – all human societies involve individuals living in family units and working with each other in groups. Societies differ in the way they define family and in the relative importance they place on the individual’s role within groups. The U.S. view of family ties and responsibilities focuses on the nuclear family (father, mother, offspring). In other cultures, the extended family is far more important. Other societies utilize an even broader definition of family  Differing social attitudes are reflected in the importance of the family to business. In the U.S., firms discourage nepotism. In Arab-owned firms, family ties are crucial, and hiring relatives is a common practice. Similarly, in Chinese firms, family members fill critical management positions and supply capital from personal savings to ensure the firms’ growth  Cultures also differ in the importance of the individual relative to the group. U.S. culture promoted individualism. Children are trained to believe that their destinies lie in their own hands. Conversely, in group-focused societies such as Japan, children are taught that their role is to serve the group. Virtues such as unity, loyalty, and harmony are highly valued. These characteristics are often more important in hiring decisions than are personal accomplishments or abilities Social stratification – all societies categorize people to some extent on the basis of their birth, occupation, educational achievement, or other attributes. However, the importance of these categories in defining how individuals interact with each other within and between these groups varies by society.  MNCs operating in highly stratified societies often must adjust their hiring and promotion procedures to take into account class or clan differences among supervisors and workers. Hiring members of one group to do jobs traditionally performed by members of another group may lower workplace morale and productivity. In less stratified societies, firms are freer to seek out the most qualified employee. In highly stratified societies, advertisers must tailor their messages more carefully to ensure that they reach only the targeted audience and do not spill over to another audience that may be offended by receiving a message intended for the first group  Social mobility (ability of individuals to move from one stratum of society to another). Tends to be higher is less stratified societies. Social mobility often affects individuals’ attitudes and behaviours towards such factors such as labour relations, human capital formation, risk taking, and entrepreneurship. In more socially mobile societies, individuals are more willing to seek higher education or to engage in entrepreneurial activities Language  Primary delineator of cultural groups because it is an important means by which a society’s members communicate with each other  Language organizes the way members of a society think about the world. It filters observations and perceptions and thus affects unpredictability the messages that are sent when two individuals try to communicate  language itself alters the nature of the information being conveyed  In additions to shaping one’s perceptions of the world, language provides important clues about the cultural values of the society and aids acculturation  existence of different language forms provides a strong hint that one should take care in maintaining an appropriate level of formality when dealing with business people from countries in which those languages predominate  The presence of more than one language group is an important signal about the diversity of a country’s population and suggests that there may also be differences in income, cultural values, and educational achievement  generally, countries dominated by one language group tend to have a homogeneous society, in which nationhood defines the society. Countries with multiple language groups tend to be heterogeneous, with language providing an important means of identifying cultural differences within the country  Savvy businesspeople operating in heterogeneous societies adapt their marketing and business practices along linguistic lines to account for cultural differences among their prospective customers. Generally, advertisers should seek out the media that allow them to customize their marketing messages to individual linguistic groups Language as a Competitive Weapon  Linguistic ties often create important competitive advantages because the ability to communicate is so important in conducting business transactions  Commerce among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. is facilitated by their common use of English Lingua franca – predominant common language  English has emerged as the lingua franca of international business.  Some countries that have multiple linguistic groups have adopted English as an official language to facilitate communication among the diverse groups  The use of English as a lingua franca does not eliminate all cross-cultural misunderstandings. In some cultures, self-deprecating humour is often used to show the speaker is neither pompous nor arrogant, while in others, it may convey a lack of seriousness. Cultural differences can affect the interpretation of the meaning of common words  The dominance of English seemingly gives an advantage in international commerce to people whose native language is English, particularly when transactions are done in English-speaking countries. However, failure by native English speakers to learn a second language puts them and their firms at a decided disadvantage when negotiating or operating on foreign turf  Because language serves as a window on the culture of a society, many international business experts argue that students should be exposed to foreign languages, even if they are unable to master them Translation  Some linguistic differences may be overcome through translation. The process requires more than merely substituting words of one language for those of another. Translators must be sensitive to subtleties in the connotations of words and focus on translating ideas, not the words themselves  Firms can reduce the chances that they are sending the wrong message to their customers by using a technique known as backtranslation (one person translates a document, then a second person translates the translated version back into the original language)  provides a check that the intended message is actually being sent  When communications to nonnative speakers must be made, speakers and writers should use common words, use the most common meanings, and try to avoid idiomatic phrases Saying No  Words may have different meanings to persons with diverse cultural backgrounds  Misunderstandings can be compounded because directly uttering “no” is considered very impolite or inhospitable in Japan and other Asian countries. In such cultures, negotiators who find a proposal unacceptable will, in order to be polite, suggest that it “presents many difficulties” or requires “further study” Communication – communicating across cultural boundaries is an important skill for international managers. Although communication can often go awry between people who share a culture, the chances of miscommunication increase substantially when the people are from different cultures Nonverbal Communication  Members of a society communicate with each other using more than words. Some researchers believe that 80-90% of all information is transmitted among members of a culture by means other than language. This nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, hand gestures, intonation, eye contact, body position, and body posture  Nonverbal communication often can lead to misunderstandings  Differences in the meanings of hand gestures and facial expressions also exist among cultures  Even silence has meaning. People in the U.S. tend to abhor silence at meetings or in private conversation, believing that silence reflects an inability to communicate or to empathize. In Japan, silence may indicate nothing more than that the individual is thinking or that additional conversation would be disharmonious Gift-giving and Hospitality  Important means of communication in many business cultures. Japanese business etiquette requires solicitous hospitality  Arab businesspeople are very concerned about their ability to work with their proposed business partners; the quality of the people one deals with is just as important as the quality of the project  Norms of hospitality even affect the way bad news is delivered in various cultures. In the U.S., bad news is typically delivered immediately. In Korea it is delivered at day’s end so it will not ruin the recipient’s whole day Religion  Affects the ways in which members of a society relate to each other and to outsiders  74% of the world’s population adheres to one of four religions: Christianity (17%), Protestant (12%), Eastern Orthodox (4%), Islam (22%), Hinduism (13%), and Buddhism (6%)  Shapes the attitudes its adherents have toward work, consumption, individual responsibility, and planning for the future  Sociologist Max Weber has associated the rise capitalism in Western Europe with the Protestant ethic, which stresses individual hard work, frugality, and achievement as means of glorifying God  makes a virtue of high savings rates, constant striving for efficiency, and reinvestment of profits to improve future productivity  In contrast, Hinduism emphasizes spiritual accomplishment rather than economic success  Islam, while supportive of capitalism, places more emphasis on the individual’s obligation to society. According to Islam, profits earned in fair business dealings are justified, but a firm’s profits may not result from exploitation or deceit  Often religions impose constraints on the roles of individuals in society. For example, the caste system of Hinduism traditionally has restricted the jobs individuals may perform, thereby affecting the labour market and foreclosing business opportunities. Countries dominated by strict adherents to Islam limit job opportunities for women, in the belief that their contact with adult males should be restricted to relatives  Also affects the types of products consumers may purchase as well as seasonal patterns of consumption  The impact of religion
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