As we all know, different countries have different cultures. 'Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.' (Hofstede, 1991)
It is inevitable that the cultural difference has impact on business. For example, when a company having meeting, the word "table" in American English that means to put something on the agenda. But in British English it means to put something off the agenda. This example indicated how the culture affects the business.
There are four cultural dimensions that were defined in Hofstede's research: Power distance, Uncertainty avoidance, Individualism, Masculinity, and recently Hofstede add one more: long-term-short-term orientation.
What I think the most significant influence in cultural difference is the power distance. (Hoecklin,1995:28)"It would condition the extent to which employees accept that their boss has more power than they have and the extent to which they accept that their boss's opinions and decisions are right because he or she is the boss." I considered it as how much subordinates can consent or dissent with bosses or managers. It is the distance between a manager and subordinate. Among most oriental corporate cultures, there is hierarchism, greater centralization, sometimes called 'power-oriented culture', due to the historical reasons. That is a high power distance culture that mangers make the decision and superiors appeal to be entitled more privileges. Their decision always close supervision positively evaluated by subordinates. In this situation, it is not be regarded if a subordinates have a disagreement with their managers, especially in Malaysia, Japan, China, India.
In the oriental, power distance is also associated with 'the family culture' (Trompernaars, 1993:139). In this kind of corporate culture the manager is like the "caring father" who knows better than his subordinates what should be done and what is suitable for them. The subordinates always esteem the managers. Because of the managers age and experience. That is usually how employees get their promotion. There are both positive and negative parts in the family cultures. I feel it is an easy managing system. But sometime it is hard to get young creative employees work well cause of the hierarchy. As Tropmenaars (1993: 142) told us "family culture at their least effective drain the energies and loyalties of subordinates to buoy up the leader." So in family culture, the power distance can be viewed as the subordinates respect the superiors.
That is the corporate culture in orient. Let us take a look at the western way. It is not a whole converse phenomenon. There is 'the Eiffel Tower culture' (Trompernaars, 1997:166) in the international management. About the Eiffel tower Trompenaars (1993: 148) told us " Its hierarchy is very different from that of the family. Each higher level has a clear and demonstrable function of holding together the level beneath it." German, Austrian have the characteristic of the Eiffel Tower Culture, which is a low power distance. In the lower power dis tance, (Hoecklin, 1995:31) 'higher-educated employees hold much less authoritarian values than lower-educated ones.' The obedience showed from the subordinates to the superiors is not as much as the oriental way. The leadership can be called as hierarchy and consensus. Employee can have different opinion with his/her boss. And when he/she got different ideas, he/she can go all the way up to the boss and discuss the problem. This is a good thing usually company may explore all the potentials of its employees, because sometime the subordinates may have the better&nb sp;idea of the business.
I think because of the different realization of power distance, people behave completely different in business. So conflict and misunderstanding must be emerged when two or more intercultures meet up. Under this situation, the international managers must pay attention to the clashes and be aware of. How to work the subordinates together efficiently and more cooperatively is important too.
And then there is also a large discrepancy on the uncertainty avoidance. (Hoecklin, 1995:31) defined 'Uncertainty avoidance is the lack of tolerance for ambiguity and the need for formal rules.' That means people trying to setup rules to face to the uncertainty. There is high uncertainty avoidance in most oriental countries such as Japan, China. In these countries, people prefer a stable job. They feel safe and prideful when they keep working hard at the one place. Under this circumstance, an excellent manager should keep his employee away from unpredictable ;risk. And the employee would like to be worked within groups rather than independently cause of the less risk-taking. But in most western countries, there is low uncertainty avoidance showed, whereas high job mobility occurs in those countries such as USA, Denmark, Singapore. The western people think that when they change their jobs, they can get more experience cause they like challenge. I believe that the divergence of the uncertainty avoidance is from different basic social ideology. A competent manager should pay attention on the rules setting between different uncer tainty avoidance. The misreading of that may affect the initiative and the aspiration of the subordinates.
The third dimension Hofstede indicated is the individualism. It is a concern for yourself as an individual as opposed to concern for the group. The priority of self-concern or group-concern varies from different cultures. For example, most western employees like to work with their own plan for defending their interest. That is a high individualism. Because of the different attitude to work, 'the incubator culture' (Trompernaars, 1997:175) arises when cross-cultural individuals work together as a group. Trompenaars (1993: 158) told us "the incubator is both personal and&nbs p;egalitarian." People do not cooperate at all. They just simply work in their own ways, follow their own rules, and achieve their own objective. They do not like to be interfered by others. It is good for a company to gather as much ideas as they can when starting a new program. But how to manage these individuals to reach the group goal should be the awareness for managers. I think who is good at this should be good at grouping, troubleshooting, and coordinating skills.
Finally Hofsted pointed out the masculinity. That is about the sexual inequality. According to Hofstede's definitions, masculine societies define gender roles more rigidly than feminine societies. In business, managers should take a big concern of the treatment to different sex under different cultural influence. In today's world, because of the masculine value and point of view, males take most senior managing positions. But a experienced manager suppose knew that it is harmonious that men work with women since women sometimes are more sensitive. Therefore, how to balance ;the masculinity/femininity from different culture and background in order to maximize the team power is worth considering by managers.
The above four dimensions illuminated the most important cultural differences that affect on business. International managers should be able to aware not only the cultural difference but also the intercultural communication.
Gudykunst and Kim (1992:13-14) classify intercultural communication as 'a transactional, symbolic process involving the attribution of meaning between people from different cultures'. Different nations use different languages, so there will be loss or misunderstanding during interpreting. And in some culture, people use implicit words more than others, like China. Thus, the non-verbal communication is important, especially the scenic communication. It includes gestures, body language, eye contacting. The more scenic part in communication, the harder for people to transmit and receive information. Anoth er part is the concept of time. From that, punctuality is the same but reflects different reality. We all know time is money. But when there is a conference, the German usually presents 5 minutes before the start. Spanish will be late for 15 minutes. But in their mind they are both on time. That is something that managers should understand. In my mind, there is another aspect of time, called 'the use of time'. The American and Northern European have a linear time concept. These societies are referred to as Time-Bound societies. Southern Eu ropeans and Arabs regard time in a linear way but more things they can do or handle at the same time. That can be called 'multi-active time'. And then there is the Asian view of time, cyclical time. Asian thinks time will come around again when it pass away, also the opportunities and risks. Besides the above three aspects of communications, there left the space. It is a big concern of in intercultural communications. When you have a conversation with a foreign business partner, the space between you and him are referred to the personal&nb sp;boundary of every culture. Ignorance of space can be lead to real bad impression from other side.
The last but not the least, I would like to talk something about the cross-culture negotiation I researched. Negotiation is a course that at least two groups of people trying to reach an agreement with the others for their own benefit. There are two things in negotiation: the topic and the course. During cross-culture negotiation, the course is the crucial obstruction. Different negotiation ways are produced by different cultures. Under this circumstance, there is a classic standpoint of procedures: exploring with no objective, task oriented, persuading period, and sign contract. International managers should be aware of every procedure. And during each procedure, the strategy, technique, substance, time, sequence and the focal point are different.
In this essay, I wrote about the cultural differences. There are four dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity. After that, I talked about the intercultural communication, which contains language, non-verbal communication, time and space concept. The conclusion is different cultures do cause problems in business. We cannot change or solve the cultural difference. To avoid misunderstanding, clashes, and bias, the international managers should realize and understand the different cultures, adapt themselves to fit into the business environment in order to get the& nbsp;best achievement in business.
Gudykunst, W. B. & Kim Y. Y. (1992). Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc.
Hoecklin L. (1995). Managing Cultural Differences: Strategies for Competitive Advantage. Essex: Addison-Wesley
Hofstede G. (2001). Culture's Consequence. London: Sage Publications.
Trompenaars F. (1993). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. London: The Economist Books.
Trompenaars F. and Hampden-Turner C. (1997). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. London: Nicholas Brealey