Business Cross Culture – Inter-cultural Issues
Professor Fons Trompenaars has done quite a number of studies on how people resolve dilemmas in different countries. He has analyzed problem resolution behaviors and has identified seven basic dimensions for culture. These dimensions have been used by trade consultants and lawyers worldwide to design sales strategies to cater for traders that come from diverse cultures. This is very evident for emerging markets that are not used to dealings with business persons that come from first world countries (Trompenaars & Wooliams, 2003). Thus there is need to learn to embrace the different ways of doing things for the business people to survive in this global village.
This study seeks to establish how Fons Trompenaars ideas can be applied in real life.
Fons Trompenaars Ideas
One of the ideas is one that looks at the internal and external cultural outlook. The internal outlook purports that people believe that what happens to them is their own doing whereas the external one suggests a culture where the environment shapes people’s destinies and therefore people adapt to external circumstances. In India for example, there is the Caste system and when one is born into a certain Caste they remain in the same class and their professional life and way of living is more or less determined by the class they belong to.
This is similar to Guyana where there is some class distinction based on wealth rather than caste or color and people from different classes behave differently and their attitude towards foreigners is different. Norwegians on the other hand are a class free society and most people are regarded as middle class with very few poor people or rich people. In Kenya there also exists the same scenario where the political leaders and wealthy people are deferred but there are no castes.
A second idea is one that looks at the specific and diffuse outlook. In a specific way of doing things, ‘individuals are open to sharing a large public space with others and a small private space they guard closely and share with only friends and associates. They show a strong separation between work and private life’. A diffuse way of doing things ‘features sized public and private spaces but they are guarded closely and work and private life are closely linked but are much protected’. Norwegians exhibit a specific outlook and would generally separate work and family issues.
Guyanese also prefer their space and would generally be very blunt in their speech. However the separation between work and private life is not as strong as in Norway. Kenyans and Indians exhibit a more diffuse outlook and their work and private life are closely linked. In Kenya private life is considered more important than work and Kenyans will normally miss work to attend to family matters and get back to work after their private life is in order.
Indians are also family oriented and also consider their private lives with utmost importance though those that work in the private sector have a lot of respect for work and would rarely miss work for personal reasons. This is because of the competition that is in the private sector and more so the high levels of unemployment in India.
Fons’s other idea is one that looks at achievement and on the other side of the coin looks at ascription. In an achievement outlook people gain their status by how well they work and go about their functions (CIL, 2009, p.1).High achievers gain a higher status and they need to continue to prove their worth as status is based on their actions. An ascription outlook is based ‘on who or what a person is. Norway portrays an achievement outlook and ‘is one of the most gender balanced and progressive countries in the world. Men and women are very equal and there are quite a number of women in management positions’.
High achievers are recognized and compensated accordingly and theirs is a class free society where most people are regarded as middle class, with very few rich and poor people. Guyana also has very little bias of gender especially in public life. It has a female head of state, cabinet ministers and heads of service in its history. Women participate in all walks of life (CIL, 2009, p.1). In Kenya however, there is more of ascription and especially in rural Kenya. Women are regarded as being designed for menial tasks and labor, not for political and religious work. In the workplace, women tend to require higher qualifications and experience than men before they are hired for the same job and their upward mobility is slower.
Class divisions in the workplace are also very common and persons will normally associate with their peers. India also exhibits such a culture and there are significant gender inequities in India resulting in major differences in the treatment of men and women at the workplace. Women in many areas of India, particularly in the rural areas, do not work outside the home. Women are rarely managers. Their Caste system also makes it worse with some professions being left for a particular caste.
It is important for every organization to embrace cultural differences in their employees in order for them to survive in such a diverse world, which is increasingly becoming a global village.
Center for International Learning (CIL). (2009). Cultural Information-India: Country Facts. Canada: Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Available from http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=in
Trompenaars, F. & Wooliams, P., (2003). A new framework for managing change across cultures. Journal of Change Management, 2003 3(4) 361 – 375
Workman, D., (2008). Trade Culture Dimensions: Distinct Cultural Values, Attitudes and Trade Behavior
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