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Cultural Dimensions in People Management

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Essay title: Cultural Dimensions in People Management

April 30th, 2008

Yongbei Liu

Jingbin Xu

Jingling Zhang

Xianjing Zhou


Cultural Dimensions in People Management

For any international organization, it is of extremely significance to understand cultural differences and make good use of them in the global context. Through insight into a culture perspective, the article analyzes the role and impact of culture.

It starts by introducing prerequisite concept of socialization and then deals with four cultural dimensions on the national level. Finally, it copes with corporate culture.

пЃЎпЂ  Socialization

Socialization, referred here, is the way in which a person is conditioned by environment(s). It is the process in which individuals get involved in the society, communicate and learn with each other. Before being socialized in a corporation, people are influenced by family and school. This process, so called pre-socialization, has more impact on personal behavior than socialization does.

The four elements in socialization are symbols, heroes, rituals and value.

1) Symbols, serving as bridges among feeling, thoughts and action, help people communicate and share their frames of thoughts.

It may be exemplified in a case study of nurses on a hospital rehabilitation unit who had requested a change in dress code. Pratt and Rafaeli (1997) discovered that the nurses’ social identity was at the heart of the discussion. When nurses were talking about street clothes vs. medical scrubs, they were actually talking about underlying philosophies related to their patients, their work, and their professional identities. The nurses used the symbol of organizational dress to represent and talk about the conflicting identities.

2) Heroes, on the organizational level, it can be the ideal manager or the founder. These people always have the deepest influence on the company. The selection of ideal managers depends on the organizational culture. If the company is conservative, there is no need to find a manager to be ambitious; it will find a cautious person instead.

3) Rituals are always set for a long time, and seem to vary widely by culture. For example, in the non-task stage in a negotiation, Americans generally spend less time than Mexican and Japanese do. In those countries, cultural norm that forming a good interpersonal relationship with business partners is likely to determine seal of a deal lead to the non-task stage playing a critical role. When it comes to contract, Americans tend to prepare long and detailed one while in Japan, it would be short and rough. In addition, contracts are always signed in a formal setting such as an office or conference room in America while in Japan, it is possible that a deal would be made during dinner or golf game.

4) Value is the deepest in the process of socialization. Values are considered subjective and vary across people and cultures. Types of values include ethical/moral values, doctrinal/ideological (political, religious) values, social values, and aesthetic values. It is debated whether some values are innate.

пЃЎпЂ Four Cultural dimensions

As value is the root of socialization, the research projects were designed on the value level which reflects national cultural differences.

1. Individualism versus Collectivism

This dimension focuses on the degree the society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships. Different socializations flow between the two extremes. A high individualism ranking indicates that individual rights are paramount within the society. Individuals in these societies tend to form a larger number of looser relationships. On the contrast, a low individualism ranking typifies societies of a more collectivist nature with close ties between individuals.

The degree of individualism in different countries can be seen in the operation of a multinational enterprise in today’s world. To put this into a simple way, Chinese employers regard their enterprises as home, paying very attention to organizational loyalty and obedience while western staff attach great importance to their individual rights and interests, best exemplified by contracts noting the exact working time and content. Therefore, if Chinese enterprise doesn’t know this difference, conflicts are often caused by this culture contradiction.

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