This paper offers a cross-cultural briefing report to a new female Muslim manager who was transferred from Lebanon by Clever Clogs International in her mid-thirties to work in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The company, which operates in the finance industry, intends to change its banking system in the Netherlands through the new manager to mitigate any likelihood of an economic crash. Although she has proved valuable to the success of Clever Clogs International over four years, from Hofstede’s dimensional approach to cross-cultural comparison, the company needs to know that the performance of her new international assignment requires her to have the capacity to deal with cross-cultural issues in the Netherlands. The nation has different cultures from Lebanon. Therefore, adapting to the new culture is necessary to eliminate cultural conflicts with the employees.
Norms, values, and ways of thinking define culture. Hofstede (1993, p. 93) defines it as a ‘collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes one group or category of people to another’. Cross-cultural management provides an explanation of the behaviour of people who work in organisations from different regions of the world. Such people are recruited from diverse cultures. Globalisation influences any organisation that engages in international business such as Clever Clogs International.
Through globalisation, it becomes inevitable to embrace multiculturalism in running organisations. In this process, the cross-cultural management theory remains indispensable. From Hofstede’s (1993) definition of culture, the new manager needs to have the capacity to de-programme or deconstruct cultural mindsets of Clever Clog International’s workers and build or re-programme a new culture. Such culture should not be influenced by the individual background differences, but rather the organisational values, norms, and beliefs that enable it to work in a multi-cultural environment.
Analysis of Cultures
Culture implies people’s beliefs, behaviours, social norms, ideas, and traditions that influence their decision-making process or shape their socialisation. It is transmitted from one person to another through language and performance in terms of behaviour modelling. Therefore, it can proclaim or discourage certain behaviours within a society and in workplaces such as Clever Clogs International. In this process, it leads to the determination of the undesirable and enviable behaviours among different people within a society. The new manager at Clever Clogs International needs to understand and develop strategies for dealing with challenges such as value differences, person-organisation fit, decision-making, leadership, and negotiation and communication in an environment of mixed culture. Considering her background information, she should also have the ability to address social challenges such as religious differences and stereotypical perceptions of her way of leading the financial organisation successfully.
Different societies have different value differences. The female Muslim manager will lead an organisation that has people from diverse religious backgrounds. Thus, she needs to understand that religion comprises one of the value systems that may influence her success. Religion defines a set of beliefs, perceptions, and cultural systems concerning the understanding of society’s existence. It is characterised by various symbols, sacred histories, and stories about the purpose of life, its foundation, and the origin of the universe. Religious beliefs shape morality and ethics. They also prescribe a certain lifestyle through a set of codes of acceptable behaviours within the doctrines of a given religion (Strayer 2011).
The new manager needs to study aspects of the value systems of the Dutch people before changing any value systems that Clever Clog International follows. A possible way to proceed is by studying value systems of colonial rules in the new work environment because value systems adopted by a given nation have a colonial link. Value differences may also emanate from different traditions, perceptions of gender roles, and other ways of doing things in society. Therefore, the secret of success while working in the Netherlands rests on integrating her value differences and systems into those that have been adopted by the Dutch people to eliminate any likely conflict.
Person–organisation fit is critical to ensuring the retention of productive employees. The new leader has received the tremendous success that has earned her two promotions in a time span of four years. Thus, it is desirable that despite exposing her to an international work environment with diverse cultural differences, Clever Clog International retains her. Retention refers to the maintenance of a work environment that supports the current employees to continue working for an organisation. Any organisation that operates in a multicultural and globalised business environment while retaining its employees observes good person-organization-fit policies. One of such policies is Work-Life Balance (WLB).
In empirical research that sought to relate WLB and variables of job characteristics, Hayman (2009) found out that flexible work schedules had a direct relationship with individual life balance. The study deduced that providing flexible work schedules played a central role in integrating individual life with work and family life. The applicability of Hayman’s (2009) findings to all organisations in the western nations has limitations. The study only drew 56 percent of its participants from the administrative staff in a single university. The variables used in the study were also not exhaustive. Hence, some essential variables that may contribute to the found relationships may have not been reflected in the results of the empirical study. However, despite these drawbacks, Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) build a strong case for the merit of ensuring a good person-organisation fit through WLB strategies.
Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) assert that employees are discontented with an organisation when their work-life is not balanced. The researchers further emphasise the importance of ensuring that employees are happy since WLB can be an instrumental tool for enhancing employee satisfaction (Hausknecht, Hiller, & Vance 2008). Hence, unsatisfied employees are incapable of delivering their task within an organisation effectively and efficiently. This situation makes the organisation experience performance crises. Confirming this position, Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) suggest that an organisation that encounters problems in the implementation of WLB experiences a vicious cycle of organisational crises, including unbalanced employee work-life fit. Discontentment leads to poor employee performance, which results in organisational crisis in terms of productivity. Contentment in one’s work is an important aspect for enhancing job satisfaction. Such gratification can only occur if the work does not conflict with the new manager’s personal life.
Various factors influence employees’ decision to remain in an organisation. However, different factors may have diverse effects depending on the industry in which an organisation operates. For example, in the healthcare industry, Jones (2009) claims that recruitment and subsequent retention of nurses is influenced by factors such as salary, reputation of the health facility, the nature and status of unions, and job sovereignty (Earley 2006). From the paradigms of the factors that may influence the decisions of a given nurse to stay within a given facility, several factors may influence nurse retention. Such factors include recognition and inclusion of an individual nurse in the decision-making process of a health facility, the nature of workload, and the interrelations of a nurse with fellow workers within the department and even the entire of organisation (Jones 2009). This position suggests that in the healthcare setting, participation of employees in the decision-making process is critical for ensuring the success of an organisation that deploys people as the source of its competitive advantage.
Besides presenting the importance of employee engagement in decision-making from the context of healthcare settings, even in the finance industry, employees are in close contact with customers. This claim means that clients deliver services. Hence, customer satisfaction is also enhanced through the quality of service delivery via the employees. Therefore, the new manager who is expected to lead and manage people from different cultures has to observe any strategy that ensures their full engagement in an organisation, including their participation in decision-making processes. However, although engaging people in decision-making may be instrumental in enhancing policy implementation, such involvement should be limited to certain people, depending on the evaluation of their motivating factors. In this context, Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) assert that highly skilled and knowledgeable people are motivated by their engagement in the decision-making processes, which helps them to induce organisational commitment. However, for this involvement to occur, cultural harmonisation is critical to eliminating cultural difference conflicts at Clever Clog International.
Negotiation and Communication
Culture is learned. The process of learning involves communication. Similarly, leading the business of any organisation, including Clever Clogs International, requires negotiations with various stakeholders such as the employees. Communication is also inevitable in this process. The primary language in Netherlands is Dutch while that of Lebanon is Arabic. Therefore, the new manager should breach any gaps in negotiations and in the day-to-day organisational communication. Such gaps are attributed to language differences. She may be the only one or among few Arabic native speakers who work for Clever Clog International in the Netherlands. Language competence as an important aspect of cross-cultural management implies the understanding of processes such as decoding and encoding of different symbols that are deployed in a given language (Kawar 2012). She needs to understand the new cultural language communication through symbols such as gestures, postures, and facial expressions among others. This strategy may help the manager to know when to change negotiation approaches.
Different nations have different approaches to negotiation. However, seeking to do business with business partners in the Netherlands or striking an agreement for mutual benefit such as successful contractual relationships in the financial industry requires engagement in negotiations with various parties. Such parties have different cultural and ethical approaches to negotiation compared to those that are prevalent in a company’s nation of origin. Nevertheless, irrespective of the norms and cultural differences between people who engage in the negotiation, adopting a five-stage negotiation model can help the manager to arrive at good decisions. The five stages include the examination phase, BATNA best practices stage, presentation period, bargaining stage, and conclusion (Ghauri & Fang 2008). Through the five stages, intercultural business communication competence is upheld. Such communication is important in business organisations such as Clever Clogs International, which have employees drawn from different cultures.
Leadership functions to inspire followers to work collectively to achieve specific goals within an organisation. Leadership is an organisational practice that not only influences the followers (employees) but also the leaders in a manner that ensures that organisational objectives are achieved through change. It integrates and intertwines followers and leaders while influencing organisational objectives, missions, and other organisational stakeholders (Sakiru & D’silva 2013). Therefore, in an international business arena such as the case of Clever Clogs International, managers and leaders should adopt appropriate leadership styles and approaches to ensuring that employees remain committed to the organisation’s goals and objectives.
Different cultures have different bearings towards the concept of egalitarianism. Siegel, Licht, and Schwartz (2011, p. 622) define egalitarianism as ‘the belief that all people are equal worth and should be treated equally in society’. In a globalised world, cultural differences may provide potential ways of social stratification of people. For example, people in an organisation may be subdivided into religious fragments. In such work environment, leaders have the primary role of deconstructing any value system that hinders cultural value system integration. Therefore, while working for Clever Clog International in Amsterdam, the primary role of the new manager over the two years should encompass addressing the employee needs to preserve their social cultural fabrics to ensure they are induced to manage effectively unavoidable interdependences (Siegel, Licht, & Schwartz 2011).
The reason why Clever Clog International wants to transfer the female Muslim manager is to ensure that she leads its Netherlands operations in manner that guarantees collective success through people to avoid a financial crisis. To accomplish this goal, issues such as cultural intelligence training and having an organisation that fits the employee are necessary. Such training needs to focus on areas that may hinder her success in an international assignment due to cultural difference effects of the international community. Such areas include procedures for negotiation and communication, leadership styles, and decision-making. Most importantly, training is necessary to prepare the manager to fit well in the financial industry of the Netherlands through developing the appropriate WLB practices. Without a good person-organisation fit, she may fail to achieve her mandates in Netherlands cross-cultural work environment, despite having good track of performance.
Earley, C 2006, ‘Leading Cultural Research in the Future, a Matter of Paradigms and Taste’, Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 922-931.
Ghauri, P & Fang, T 2008, ‘Negotiating with Chinese: A Social-Cultural Analysis’, Journal of World Business, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 303-325.
Hausknecht, P, Hiller, J & Vance, J 2008, ‘Work-Unit Absenteeism: Effects of Satisfaction, Commitment, Labour Market Conditions, and Time’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 51, no. 6, pp. 1223–1245.
Hayman, J 2009, ‘Flexible work arrangements: exploring the linkages between perceived usability of flexible work schedules and work/life balance’, Community, Work & Family, vol.12, no. 3, pp. 327-338.
Hofstede, G 1993, ‘Cultural Constraints Management Theories’, Academy of Management Executive, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 81-94.
Jones, B 2009, ‘The Cost of Nurse Turnover’, Journal of Nursing Administration, vol.35 no.1, pp. 41-49.
Kawar, T 2012, ‘Cross-Cultural Difference in Management’, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp. 105-111.
Sakiru, K & D’silva, L 2013, ‘Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction among Employees in Small and Medium Enterprises’, International Journal of Business and Management, vol.8, no.13, pp. 34-41.
Siegel, J, Licht, A & Schwartz, S 2011, ‘Egalitarianism and International Investment’, Journal of Financial Economics, vol. 102, no.1, pp. 621-642.
Strayer, R 2011, Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources, Bedford/St. Martins, Boston, MA.