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Cultural differences

The only thing permanent in nature is ‘change’. As the time passes, the world evolves. One of those recent waves of change is that of globalization. The impact of globalization is more far reaching and lasting than any other trend. On one hand globalization provides an opportunity to business world, at the same time, it poses a great threat to people interacting with each other. The trend of globalization is therefore of particular significance to the business community. Since it expands the market, business try to go global.

However, this results into an interaction with a culture that may be quite different from the previous one. This issue is particularly for multinational companies as they send their managers on international assignments. This report is going to inquire and explore the challenges being faced by the expatriates in those assignments and how to deal with them. In the given case, there is the international assignment of a US manager in China. This assignment would definitely be full of challenges with respect to the cultural differences, as mentioned above.

To identify and analyze those challenges, it is important to overview the cultural differences that exist between the two. One of the most popular tools for analyzing the cultural differences is the set of 9 dimensions of cultural differences identified in the findings of project globe. These are performance orientation, uncertainty avoidance, humane orientation, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, assertiveness, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, and power distance. First of all, let us look at the dimension of performance orientation.

In US, the core focus is on individual performance and is therefore highly rewarded. As an implication, people try to give best of their performance, with giving much regards to what the group achieves as a whole. However, this is not the case with China. It is a collectivist society, where the efforts of group are more recognized, as compared to the individual ones. Therefore, if the manager is assigned to China, after reaching there, first of all, he should try to get adjusted and get in sync with his colleagues. Moreover, while motivating his staff, even then, he would need to keep this factor in mind.

In term of uncertainty avoidance, China lies at moderate level, but slightly more inclined towards uncertainty acceptance, to an extent. This factor is quite similar in the two countries. Humane orientation is the extent to which the organization rewards and recognizes a person who values fair treatment with fellow workers, altruism and other such values. The humane factor seems more working in Chinese society as compared to the American society, thus, the expatriate will need to inculcate these features while interacting with the local people.

There is a sharp contrast in the two cultures in terms of individualism. American culture ranks quite high on individual values, while Chinese values are very much inclined towards collectivism. This is true for both, in-group collectivism as well as institutional one. On the measures of assertiveness too, we can see the Chinese are comparatively less assertive than do American. This feature will particularly. Gender egalitarianism is a bit higher in US than in China, thus, the manager on international assignments needs to take care of this since his subordinates would have both, males and females.

In terms of future orientations, there is a remarkable difference in the Chinese as well as the Americans. There is quite high long term orientation among Chinese than do Americans. The Chinese are more long term planner. Thus, while making the strategies and tactics, the long term orientation of the Chinese should also be kept in mind. In terms of power distances too, there is a sharp contrast, there is a high power distance in China, but this is not the case in United States. The power distance therefore calls for more respect and formal interaction with the bosses, quite contradictory to the informal business environment in America.

From the above discussion of the cultural differences at China, one can deduce the major challenges that the manager in the given case might encounter. First of all, while working in groups, he would need to focus on group achievements and should therefore move forward with his whole group, as this will matter the most in that culture. Secondly, the long term orientation of the Chinese culture would pose another challenge. While making future plans, strategies and tactics with his colleagues, he would need to reconcile his short term orientation with the long term ones with his Chinese colleagues and counterparts.

Moreover, this would be the behavior of general public as well, so if he belongs to some discipline that requires interaction with general public, in such case, this difference would become a huge challenge. Another important feature is power distance. In Chinese set up, the power is considered to be the decisive factor for level of formality. One cannot expect the Chinese youth to be very informal with their parents, which is often the case in America. Thus, the manager needs to be conscious about it in his workplace, especially while dealing with seniors. Thus, these are the major challenges that need to be taken care of by the manager.

There are few biggest cultural shocks that would be faced by the expatriates in the given case. Furthermore, the Chinese colleagues may also be realizing the cultural differences in terms of power distance, collectivism, and planning orientations. In order to avoid the situation of conflict due to cultural differences, several actions need to be taken. Top most priority for the actions to be taken depends on the profession and the industry of the expatriate. For this report, it is assumed that the expatriate will be relocated as the marketing manager for a FMCG.

Since marketing manager needs to decide for the product’s marketing mix which includes product, price, place and promotion, he would need to be extremely careful, especially in terms of whatever his brand communicates. This as well as other needs would require a number of proactive initiatives to be taken. Few of them will be discussed in this paper. First step that should be taken is to make expatriate selection process more thorough. Second being train the expatriate and the third is to keep a constant contact with the expatriate after he has been relocated.

It is estimated that the expatriate failure rates range between 16% and 40%. Such a high rate is on account of a number of reasons. So, first important thing is to ensure selection criteria that give weight to the cultural values of the host country. For example, in the given case, the human resource department should choose such an individual who, besides the required technical skills, do posses greater level of collectivism and other such traits which are prevalent in the Chinese culture. The second action that can be taken is to provide the pre-departure training about the cultural norms in China.

It should also include the teaching of Chinese language. The third aspect can be to keep constant contact and support mechanism, possibly a post-arrival session as well, after he has reached China. These steps may help in removing the cultural differences. Moreover, he should consult his Chinese fellows as well before making any crucial organizational communication. To sum up, the course of action required to minimize cultural shocks are careful selection procedure, pre-departure and post-arrival trainings and constant support through local people of targeted countries.

References

Sichelschmidt, H. , & Selmer, J. (1999). Culture shock in China? – Adjustment pattern of western expatriate business managers. International Business Review. 8, 515-534. Castro, S. , & Peterson, M. (2006). Measurement metrics at aggregate levels of analysis: Implications for organization culture research and the GLOBE project [An article from: The Leadership Quarterly]. St. Louis : Elsevier. Etheredge, J. (1989). The expatriate experience: Toward a model of cultural adjustment (BRC working paper series). Shatin Hong Kong: Business Research Centre, Hong Kong Baptist College. Hofstede, G. (2003).

Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc. Mcginley, J. (2008). Expatriate Adjustment: Resources, Responses, and Outcomes. NYC: Vdm Verlag. Selmer, J. (2006). Language ability and adjustment: Western expatriates in China. Thunderbird International Business Review, 48(3), 347-368. The little firm that made it in China.. (2007, July 16). Australasian Business Intelligence, 3. To succeed in China, think Chinese; It’s a different culture; Western ways won’t cut it. (Viewpoint essay). (2007, September 3). Automotive News, 4.

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