Cross-national comparison (CNC). The main idea of this concept is nation as culture. It initially served political aims after WWII, when the United States became strong and expected to spread its ideologies into other countries. They obtained profits in helping Europe’s reconstruction. Therefore, at an organization level, the manager’s main task is to define and identify the different cultures which are stable variables. There are national and regional clusters affecting the culture, which can be researchable and categorized.
Intercultural interaction perspective (IIP). The main driving force here is the globalization, e.g. the establishment and expansion of multinational companies. The definition of culture is at the “organizational-level” and still based on national cultures. There are many nationalities in a company and the intercultural interaction emerges, emphasizing the intercultural communication. The individuals with different cultural background socially construct a new organizational-level culture. Hence, the approach focuses on how intercultural interaction affects organizational operations and describes emergent and negotiated factor in contextual analysis.
Multiple cultures perspective (MCP). This approach is adopted as a paradigmatic change for future research and cultural issues owing to the changes in new workplace realities. The internet, IT and computer technology accelerate globalization, creation of multinational teams and working 24 hours around the globe. The politics effect is represented by the fact that regional or personal identity grows stronger, thus intercultural communication is a must. The establishment of economic unions such as the EU, NAFTA, etc., demands the unification of policies and decisions in a wide range of fields regionally, continentally and globally. Last but not least, social values nowadays have changed into individualism, uncertainty and diversity, which mean that individuals are less influenced by their own national cultural background; they are open to the opportunity of working together in order to create a new culture. This approach allows the development of research into non-national cultural groupings emergence at the functional, the business, the organizational, the regional level, etc. There are multiple cultures in different levels and an individual has many partial identities. One has to deal with the conflicts, contradictions and paradoxes among them.
The changing realities mentioned above provide challenges and opportunities for future cultural research. Firstly, a cross-cultural knowledge is necessary. For research purposes, it is important to consider effectiveness, performance and practice at organizations, groups and individual levels. Furthermore, the fact of how to appreciate and capitalize cultural differences and how to deal with synergies between cultural groups deserve attention.
In conclusion, due to the radical changes in society caused by the globalization and the constant advances in technology, amongst others, indicate that the CNC assumptions are no longer valid for the current and future workplace. The multiple culture approach valid assumptions for a diverse, heterogeneous, paradoxical and conflictive working reality for future researches.
The next section of this document reflects the working experiences of the group members and the challenges that multinational and multicultural environments offer, how intercultural interaction is shaped and how members of different groups react under certain situations. These views are based on the theoretical framework previously exposed.
Macro factors--Daimler AG, is one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. With headquarters in Germany, it is a multicultural company with bicultural interaction among employees in Russia. There are several factors influencing its corporate culture. The first factor is the economic force. Germany has much stronger economy than Russia (GDP nominal per capita in Germany is US$ 40,832, in Russia is US$ 8,681 in 2009). The second factor is the political force. Despite relationships between these countries in this sphere are warm, Daimler-Benz AG produced military equipments used against Soviet Union during the WWII. The third factor is social force. Germans are known as pedantic, self-discipline and punctual. Russian, on the other hand, is open-minded, flexible people with mother-wit sharpness. Generally, the working environment has been friendly and comfortable. However, the factors mentioned above influence the corporate culture and sometimes lead to cultural misunderstandings. For example, German top managers demanded absolute order at the working places, although sometimes they faced with misunderstandings from employees, since Russian people need their own private spaces and specific working atmosphere.
Organizational level culture-Tesco, the third-largest grocery and merchandising retailer in the world, is the one which expands its business by acquiring and joint venturing with local companies in 13 countries (Wikipedia 2010a). Therefore, Tesco can be a good sample to illustrate the corporate culture in a multinational organization. Corporate culture can be defined as a sharing of attitudes, believes and values among people and groups in an organization and these aspects control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization (Wikipedia 2010b). With more than 1,200 stores worldwide, it can be assumed that Tesco should have experience to deal with a regional culture. In contrast, Tesco Thailand has failed to deal with stakeholders. According to internal stakeholders, the top management decided to cut employees’ bonus because the company’s performance was not as good as expected. With respect to the Thai culture, Tesco Thailand underestimated Thai employees because they believed that nothing would happen if half month of employees’ bonus were cut. Thai people are regarded as peace-loving, quiet and modest. Even though they disagree, they will not tell anything but smile. Hence, a significant impact to the company, in terms of its reputation and revenue, occurred. They were forced to close stores all over Thailand during Christmas period. As a result of this, Tesco Thailand issued a letter indicating that employees would still receive the same bonus as the previous year. According to the external stakeholders, Tesco Thailand has been criticized of threatening the survival of traditional wet market, which represents grassroots culture, by rapidly expanding its stores into remote areas (Asia Times Online 2010). Tesco Thailand has a high bargaining power over suppliers, which is why its prices are cheaper than prices at the wet market. As a result of this, customers choose to go to Tesco stores because of the price difference. However, some Thai people stop buying at Tesco stores because they refuse to destroy the grassroots culture. They in turn supported the wet market even though the prices have been higher than Tesco stores. Tesco Thailand, in order to deal with this issue, launched a campaign ‘Put the community at the heart’ (Asia Times Online 2010) in order to support community activities and to change the image perception from the market.
Communication – Language barrier and different working styles
Language is the most important factor in organizations since it shapes the contexts of intercultural interaction. The following section makes a description of the language barriers that need to be faced and assumed on a daily basis in multinational organizations.
With the current organization changes, more global teams are created in dealing with multicultural environment. Therefore, the communication tool-language is the foundation of an effective intercultural communication. A survey by Dr. Harzing in 2002 suggests that the interpretation of a question leads to different answers due to language barriers. According to the working experiences of our teammates, there are three different samples to support this viewpoint. One of them is from a global team. In order to convey the accuracy message, they use online chat and e-mail to ensure the same understanding. According to Tesco Plc, a UK based multinational company, all employees in different countries have to be offered English courses to strengthen their language competence. In contrast, Denso, Japanese company in Thailand, uses a translator to communicate policies and instructions to its employees since Japanese people are proud of their own language. A good sample to illustrate this fact is the Japanese company NEC Logistics. Iwane Takahara, Counselor Member of the Board, explains that when the company acquires or establishes joint ventures aboard, they send some Japanese staff to manage the local personnel. Of course, the first handicap the Japanese face abroad is the language. These facts advocate Whorf hypothesis—language and culture are interconnected and translation problem of losing meaning or misunderstanding is inevitable.
When it comes to the working style, in the Norwegian company with the development center in Bangkok, the employees of the company are faced with cultural differences in working style. The western part tends to be highly rational, individual and prepare everything well before starting. In contrast, Thai counterpart might value patience, a sense of community and getting along with others, and direct authority and privacy. To solve these problems, some communicative strategies are adopted as follows:
Strategies. The Japanese style of management has a way to reach employees’ opinion by arranging birthday parties monthly. The aim of this party is to obtain feedback from employees. Hence, workers could expose aspects that may be causing discomfort and give suggestions during their special day, in a relaxing environment. Another strategy applied is from the Thai-Norwegian company. The top management uses 360 degree feedback to evaluate employees’ attitude in every plant of each country. Employees have the chance to write down any complaint or suggestion for better work process, working style, and individual culture. Lastly, Tesco Plc in Thailand arranges interviews between HR manager and employees quarterly since it is an opportunity to regard on their working life and relationships with their supervisors.
It can be concluded that the parallel trends of globalization and multiculturalism make it increasingly important to develop a deeper understanding of culture. Cultural influences are changing rapidly, as the scope of culture beyond nation. New hybrid cultures at different levels are emerging through integrating different origins. Thus, the communication is the vital element to facilitate an effective and comfortable working environment.