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Three Major Intercultural Business and Research Cases Drei maßgebliche interkulturelle Fallstudien und Forschungsprojekte
A selection of Intercultural Experiential Learning Sets Interkulturelles Erfahrungslernen
Intercultural strategies Interkulturelle Strategien
Intercultural Terminologies in English and German Interkulturelle Terminologien: Englisch - Deutsch
Part 1 contains three intercultural research cases, where some of the cultural concepts dealt with in the subsequent parts are applied.
1 'Anglo-German Business Communication' is a research report in 5000 words on the challenges and potentialities inherent in Anglo-German Business Communication. I have conducted this research in 2004. A dozen German and British managers have been interviewed by me on this occasion. The report is essentially a succinct summary of the findings from the analysis of this sample.
2 'Chinefarge': Investigates the intercultural management challenges posed by the Sino-French JV Chinefarge in 1500 words. It is based on a case posed by the University of Cambridge. The theme is the attempt by the Paris-based Corporation Lafarge to gain a foothold in Asia; the set-up and running of the JV 'Chinefarge' with Huaibai Mining Company (HMC), near Beijing.
3 'The Amber Team': Is the investigation of the cultural dynamics of a global business team as an instrument of globalization by a dispersed multicultural research team (DICM, Programme for Industry, Univ. of Cambridge/UK) I was part of in 2004, based on a narrative by Nigel Ewington from WorldWork Limited London and the University of Cambridge.
1 Anglo-German Business Communication Research
Interacting Anglo-German managerial mindsets
In order to understand Anglo-German business communication problems it is necessary to explore their origin and communication dynamics. The collective mental programming of interacting Anglo-German managerial mindsets comprises cultural, structural, corporate culture and subculture as well as professional socialization components.
This study focuses on societal and corporate culture and subcultures as determinants of Anglo-German business communication. Other components are accounted for in as much as they impact inter-cultural corporate interaction.
THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF THIS RESEARCH REPORT
The purpose of this research report is to find out, whether there are any Anglo-German business communication problems or critical areas of interaction, to identify them in business communication transactions and to explore to what extent they can be explained in classical, mostly Hofstedian intercultural dimensional terms.
This study relies mainly on qualitative information, obtained during guided interviews with four British and four German managers, drawing on practical management experience at the Anglo-German intercultural management interface. Most of the interviewees were managing directors of German subsidiaries of British parent companies operating in the areas of high-tech sales and design.
In the lead-up to my research I could identify
- a research gap
- a knowledge gap
- a training gap
REVIEW OF ANGLO-GERMAN INTERCULTURAL RESEARCH
A number of authors refer to a research and knowledge gap. There is cross-national management research on top and middle management in both countries, focusing on structural issues and managerial socialization. They remain descriptive of two systems. They do not explore the potentials and pitfalls of critical and creative interaction. Ghoshal, Bartlett and Birkinshaw (2003, p161) have summarized the state of the art by synoptically presenting elements of the following superimposed layers in a single matrix:
- Hofstede’s UAI X PDI matrix
- Stevens’s implicit organizational models
- Mintzberg’s configurations of organizations (Hofstede, 2003, p.152)
- Stuart et al.’s managerial behaviour observation (Stuart, 1994, p.87)
Bundling available information doesn’t provide information about managerial interaction between the two cultures. It is comparative rather than interactive. The GLOBE study findings – generally not validated by my eight British/German interviewees - are no exception here. To complete this, research areas of difference and critical issues of interaction need to be
- understood in terms of culture, in order to
- reconcile and synergize the value preferences in follow-up research
Intercultural training providers and the director of a specialized library stated that there is neither professional literature, nor demand for UK culture trainings. My preliminary research provided the following explanations for the three types of gaps: research, knowledge and training gaps.
MUTUAL CULTURAL AWARENESS
German perception of UK
- Assumption of similarity and knowledge of British culture on the German side results in a near zero demand for inter-cultural training. Even the managerial class seems to equate holiday experience with cultural competence.
- In the German educational system Britain enjoys a privileged position. But with the focus on ‘culture one’, ‘culture two’ issues are ignored. This reception of the other culture reinforces the assumption of knowing, acting as a barrier to the acquisition of intercultural competence.
- As nobody would learn the language of a negatively connotated culture, educational policy, the media and politics jointly promote a positive image of the UK. But apart from a vocational training project there are no intercultural training and management initiatives.
UK perception of Germany
- In the UK a negative image is promoted by the media and politics, connecting the present to the memory of the past, which conditions an analogous perception and anticipation. This vicious circle might explain the distrust of Germany expressed in the ‘Thatcher memo’ of 1990 (Price, 2000, p.160).
- Research on stereotypes confirms a more negative perception of Germany – even in management literature - vs. positive German stereotypes of the UK
- J. Nash (Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, in my personal interview in 1995) emphasized a British split between European and overseas orientation. Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (2000, p97) explain Britain’s ‘reluctant Europeanism’ by strong British individualism vs. continental communitarianism.
Bridging the gap? Mutual perceptual imbalances since the latter half of the 20th century are put in a wider historical frame by former BBC expert Weidenfeld (1999, p55) who summarizes Britain’s relationship with Germany as ‘fruitful cultural and economic partnership and competition’ since the 19th century and earlier. A British manager referred to King James II, to bridge the perceptual gap since WWI, reconciling medium-term past by long-term past orientation.
Classification of culturally significant managerial responses to interview requests
- Ethnocentric: two thirds
50% assumption of similarity, denial of difference (‘we are not aware of differences ’)
50% minimalisation (‘professional culture is more important’)
Ethnorelative: one third
Flexible, negotiated British response translating as IDV concern
Assurance seeking German response translates a UAI concern
A striking feature was the outright denial of difference and any problems by global firms, interpretable as a high-level of self-protection, an unwillingness to assume the behavioural consequences of diversity, connected to an unawareness of the diversity - creativity – innovation cycle.
One third of the managers, mainly German, voiced reserves about disclosing information without parent company approval, interpretable as hierarchical obedience (PDI) or internalised consensus-oriented feature of British individualism.
COMPARISON OF MUTUAL COUNTRY CULTURE AND ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE IMAGES
Time orientation seems to be a key to mutual perception: English national culture is more past-oriented (up to WW1), resulting in a more negative perception of Germany. German national culture is less past-oriented, positively reinforced by all social subsystems, resulting in a positive perception of UK.
Corporate culture, particularly knowledge-intensive firms are more present and future-oriented. However, the majority are still at varying ethnocentric stages of Bennett's IDM model or at the beginning of the inter-cultural awareness – knowledge - skills development cycle.
INTERVIEW-BASED RESEARCH RESULTS
ANGLO-GERMAN ORGANIZATIONAL MODELS
Implicit organizational models compared
Do implicit organisational models of ‘village market’ vs. ‘well-oiled machine’ require correction? The assumption that the British organizational model is neither centralized nor formalized may need some rectification, because firms invest millions in software for control and formalization of procedures such as Customer Relations Management. A computer-controlled environment with a simultaneous presumed absence of rules and procedures is a contradiction, as formalization of procedures is one of the objectives pursued thereby. Stevens’s and Hofstede’s research need nuancing in the light of automation. With regard to formalization, the gap between the two implicit organisational models seems to be narrowing. This reduces critical areas of interaction, particularly in the light of numerous mergers, which promote similarity through transfers of organizational features. Numerous firms addressed by me had changed ownership recently.
Anglo-German implicit organizational models and organizational design
HQ design communicates assumptions about management and leadership of the past, present and future. The fact that German HQ design reflects territorially defined hierarchy in the design of the managerial environment by reserving a special floor for Senior Management suggests a stronger notion of hierarchy and power distance than Hofstede’s and Stevens’s research indicate. It points to a more centralized, hierarchical, authoritarian and territorially defined notion of power - a more conservative organisational culture - than the more innovative British design, which does not allocate space in terms of hierarchy but rather in terms of functional relevance, more pragmatically. The spatial language of hierarchy is a nuancing corrective to supposedly identical Anglo-German PDI scores. The language of space can, additionally, be translated into a corporate culture’s management of time and communication flows. The spatial data of hierarchical compartmentalization also explain a compartmentalization of time (LC), more rigid and slower communication lines in the German model and more functional and flexible ones in the British.
There is also a distinct language of colour in both corporate designs, reflecting a British sense of uniqueness of its IDV orientation referred to as horizontal individualism by Triandis (2002, p25) vs. a more functional German task-orientation.
ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND NATIONAL CULTURE
Is there a connection between national and corporate cultures?
The British legal and political system is based on precedent, compromise and negotiation (Mole, 1993, p.98) reflecting low UAV/PDI and high IDV scores: There is no written constitution or legal code of law, corresponding to the weak centralization and formalization of the ‘village market’. Conversely, Germany’s written constitution and law reflect a higher UAI and LTO, mirrored in the decentralized/formalized implicit organizational model.
Some authors (Stuart, 1994, p.67) argue, however, that the British corporate structure is ‘more formalized than the German, but more malleable, whereas the German would be less regulated, as German employees would have internalised the rules and purposes. The latter – internalisation of rules, control and purpose, referred to by Hofstede as internalised superego - results in a lower need of person- and rules-vested authority.
In both countries, national and corporate cultures are a continuum reinforcing each other and boosting the overall importance of culture. Successfully interfacing managers therefore have to satisfy both standards, societal and corporate, simultaneously.
CONVERGENCE OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURES
According to Child (Adler, 2000, p.66) similarity increases at the ‘macro level of organizational structures and technology’, while dissimilarity persists at ‘micro level issues, like the behaviour of people within organizations’. The information gathered in the Anglo-German knowledge-intensive and sales environment seems to suggest that similarity at micro level also is on the increase due to the following factors:
- Emerging professional cultures
- Inter-cultural interdependence with regard to knowledge
- Similarity of pressures in the global market environment
- Transfer of corporate cultural features worldwide
- Standardization through IT.
These factors may reduce or cover up the impact of culture on Anglo-German interaction, but they inhibit the synergy potentials in some areas. However, leadership and vision remain highly culture-contingent.
Should the micro level convergence assumption be confirmed, the following Anglo-German diversity management issues would require a new type of strategies, to prevent the loss of synergies:
- Management of subcultures aligning attitudes, behaviours and business practices
- Safeguarding linear and systemic thinking style preferences
- Combining empirical and theoretical cultural preferences
- Combining people-management and technical expertise-based management
- Unique Anglo-German fusion brand management.
INTERVIEWING AND ANALYSIS
Observations based on empirical interview information gathering
Consistent with the information gathered in the lead-up to the interviews, mainly characterized by various stages of ethnocentrism, the interviewees also displayed a low degree of conscious awareness of culture. The challenge of the interviewer was to raise it from the out-of-awareness zone into the light of conscious awareness. The lack of vocabulary, skills and tools to manage intercultural interaction is, by far, a greater challenge than diversity itself.
Reconciling culture-boundedness in research
Looking at dimensions sequentially is by itself a culture-bound approach of linear thinking style that breaks down communication interaction, (which involves a number of dimensions simultaneously,) into its dimensional components, to study them one at a time. In Anglo-German interaction uncertainty avoidance, consistent with Hofstede’s IBM-based research, can be considered a pivotal dimension around which other dimensions are organised so as to reinforce the former. IDV would be a British pivotal dimension. This doesn’t exclude other construals. Thinking style or time conception can also be argued for as a pivotal dimension, around which the culture profile can be organised. The configuration of dimensions depends on the specific context: The search for the unique right approach is a perfectionist quest of high uncertainty avoidance; thinking in alternative models is a lower certainty-oriented quest. The dilemma is that any approach, whether linear, alternatives, holistic or the search for the perfect answer, they all translate culture-boundedness of the researcher, the former two Anglo culture-boundedness, the latter two German culture-boundedness. Thinking in terms of interconnectedness, of dimensional networking, is my reconciliation of the diverse Anglo-German approaches.
CULTURAL DIMENSIONS AND EMPIRICAL INTERVIEW DATA
Collected information can be correlated to the following cultural dimensions and ranked in three clusters:
Relevance ranking of cultural dimensions clusters
a) Highest ranking cluster
Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)
b) Fairly high ranking cluster
Time orientation: long-term (LTO), past-present-future
Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
Power distance (PDI)
High-context vs. low-context (HC/LC) communication style
c) Insignificant cluster
Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS/FEM)
In Hofstede’s research UAI and IDV scores differ between Britain and Germany, whereas PDI and MAS/FEM scores are identical. Managerial information confirms Hofstede’s general UAI ranking. The ranking of dimensions in the second cluster varies with the management context of different managers. Particularly due to British short-termism, time orientation ranks second. MAS/FEM is perceived as uncritical.
UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE (Index: UK 35, GER 65)
In project management
German higher UAI, LTO scores and holistic thinking style are mutually reinforcing, needing all details of an entire project in advance. Although German culture members need less time for relationship-building, due to their LC communication style and task-orientation, compared to the British HC, relationship-orientation, preliminary thinking and clarification of rules and roles require more time, whereas the English need less preliminary clarification, move faster to implementation after clarifying the high-risk factors and clarify the details as they go along.
Thus, a British team manager has to think more in detail, and provide more detailed information. And, as the Germans are not going to begin a project until they know how it’s all going to work in detail, the English perceive the Germans as negative and unenthusiastic. An English manager might have to protect his German team members in their communication with other English managers not familiar with this trait by pointing out this cultural preference in order to preclude misperception.
In engineering and science
Similar to project management, a strong need to be on the safe side is evidenced by the request for and reliance on comprehensive specifications at the outset of a project, whereas the English want to be certain of the high-risk specifications, and beyond that, to rely on trial and error. According to Hofstede (1980, p183) the ‘high UAI theoretical German approach and low UAI empirical British approach are extremely promising’. Non-awareness of these synergy potentials may be the greatest problem here.
In personnel environments
Germans seem to demand more detailed roadmaps and career paths than their British counterparts. German HRM relies strongly on the legal profession. Legalism can be connected to certainty. German companies statistically employ two and a half times as many lawyers as British companies, with many of them in HR. British management careers are more determined by ‘what you make of it’ than by pre-determined career paths. Due to different needs of predictability and planning, different information policies are required, when managing the two cultures.
In sales contexts
Germans seem to be longer-term and product reliability-determined, whereas the British seem to be shorter-term, price- and profitability-determined. This difference in outlook may induce British parent company management to stop the production of a critical product, in order to launch a more profitable follow-up product. German clients fear, due to a perceived cultural and geographic distance, that they may no longer obtain parts or support, although systems may be functional. Due to this uncertainty and lack of long-term reliability, Germans may tend to respond ethnocentrically and purchase from a local competitor, particularly if there has been a negative precedent.
While the former three critical scenarios can be addressed by enhanced information following awareness of this culture trait, the latter may have irreversible consequences of loss of customers and revenues.
Legalistic orientation as well as technical expertise may be considered risk-reducing and certainty fostering and thus confer authority to managers in Germany, not so in Great Britain, which is a higher risk, man-management culture. With both cultures on the same board, decisions may require more negotiation.
RELATIVIZATION OF ANGLO-GERMAN UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE SCORES
Uncertainty avoidance, HC/LC and thinking style
The general assumption of German corporate and societal culture as low-risk and certainty seeking and British as higher-risk and far less certainty-oriented cannot be validated in a simplistically polarized way by empirical interview data. The general country score needs further refinement by interconnected dimensions, organizational context and level considered. At a more fundamental level of principles and strategies, particularly in connection with thinking style, a reversal of cultural orientations as to UAI and HC/LC seems to take place:
Due to the British linear, compared to the German systemic, holistic thinking style, German comprehensive specifications can – contrary to assumptions based on national culture scores – be considered as too inexplicit, requiring still more explicitly formulated details for British engineers/designers for instance to be able to process information effectively. This can be explained as follows: British linear thinking style, splitting the whole problem into chunks, processing each one on an input-output basis, needs precise input data at each step to be able to process engineering design issues for instance. When UAI is connected to thinking style, due the sequential processing of information as input output modules, the British have a higher need of specific and explicit information, resulting in a reversal of general assumptions based on Anglo-German UAI and HC/LC scores. Expanding the cluster of dimensions involved by Hampden-Turner’s and Trompenaars’s (2000, p123) specificity-diffuseness dimension underscores the informational needs analysis, as Britain is specific, Germany more diffuse.
In this critical scenario the dimension has to be contextualized to be become an effective intercultural management tool. Context-unspecific application of dimensions of cultural difference values may actually create inter-cultural problems, because they do not correspond to the context-specific cultural need: The combination and contextualization of dimensions illustrates how a culture integrates a dimension. It highlights the need and the modalities thereof. Without this awareness Anglo-German mutual information exchange cannot meet the culture- and context-specific needs and requires multiple iteration of the communication process.
TIME ORIENTATION (LTO index: UK 25, GER 31)
Short-term vs. long-term
As the second most referred-to dimension, the importance of time doesn’t seem to be fully accounted for by comparative LTO scores, which do not differ markedly. British ‘short-termism’ aiming at short-term profit maximization versus German longer-termism is referred to by all informants. British parent companies do not only expect short-term profitability, but also tend to not reinvest profits locally, where they are made and needed. Consistent with their short-term profitability orientation they invest where they expect the highest short-term return. This conflicts particularly with German subsidiary managers, who want to develop long-term strategies, increase corporate value and expand their market share. But British subsidiary managers feel also constrained by this parent company corporate management culture - because it impacts their entrepreneurship - atypical of otherwise British higher-risk corporate management style. Low-risk short-term profits, multiplied by similarly positioned twenty, or thirty subsidiaries was referred to as a profitability formula. ‘Are we making profit on that?’ was cited as a key question. Should that not apply, in addition to short-termism, fast decision making as to the continuity of operations may take place, where Germans would perceive a need of and actually allow far more time. Long-term observers of British business activities in Germany testify that the British give up too soon in the competitive German market. Market penetration being difficult, longer-termism, reconciling local corporate culture values would boost British success in Germany. According to those observers the structural reality of a highly competitive market would require an adequate cultural response of longer time-frame profitability thinking. However, there are some structural constraints promoting a short-term managerial ethos functioning a as a barrier to German market penetration:
- British companies growth is driven by mergers
- Vulnerability to hostile takeovers
- Prioritisation of shareholder value
- ‘Short-termism favoured by the financial system’ (Hickson and Pugh, 2002, p.103)
German companies’ expansion, driven by organic expansion of activities is necessarily longer-term.
Does British managerial culture only operate on the short-term pole of time orientation? From an inter-cultural standpoint we may assume that British corporate culture has to reconcile this dimension. Horovitz (Stuart 1994, p.134) differentiates the Anglo-German scores on time orientation, stating that British strategic, particularly financial planning is not only long-term, but even ‘longer-term than German strategic planning’.
Time orientation and pragmatism/empiricism
Pragmatism, empiricism and stronger past orientation on the British side are perceived as constraints to innovation, market penetration and product launches by German business partners. British business being very much faster in decision-making is perceived here as very hesitant – which again contradicts fast decision-making in other strategic areas. Again, it confirms a context-related pattern of reversal of cultural value preferences I could identify.
Time management and methodology
Literature as well as managers tend to assume that Germans think long and implement fast, whereas the British invest little time in preliminaries and move fast to implementation, where they necessarily take longer as they have to clarify issues that have been clarified in the preliminary phase by the other culture. This stereotypical formula needs nuancing and understanding to prevent misunderstanding in issues related to the distribution of activities in time. Connected to thinking style and pragmatism, the starting point of the British approach would set in faster with a 1st draft, which would evolve gradually, based on trial and error and feed-back, whereas the German design-approach would clarify more context and process details in advance. The advantage of the British approach is that, due to its evolutionary gradualism, it can consider many alternatives, which can be interactively enhanced with the client. The German preference for preliminary clarification of all relevant details and the subsequent production of a supposedly optimum solution leaves less space for feedback and negotiated input by customer requirements. Thus we have a more probabilistic vs. a more deterministic, a fluid vs. fix approach, a different management of activities in time.
INDIVIDUALISM (Index: UK 89, GER 67)
Critical incidents connected to Anglo-German IDV scores were cited infrequently although the former is among the three highest and the latter among the lowest among the wealthiest Western economies.
Whereas in the relationship-driven British corporate culture people- and task orientation are reconciled by interpersonal persuasion and negotiation, in the German corporate culture the common language of the task itself reconciles people and tasks. The British model highlights the role of managers and leaders: the individual is the focal point. The German model reduces the role of the manager and leader: cooperation, team and the task are its hallmarks.
- The infrequent perception of critical areas of interaction associated with individualism-collectivism may be attributed to two factors:
- It seemingly plays a greater role in internal corporate management than at the Anglo-German interface.
- The interfacing of British individualist people or relationship orientation with a more collectivistic German task orientation may not only reconcile but also synergise the dimension creatively.
A German subsidiary manager reported a greater social concern in his handling of personnel and layoff issues for instance than the parent company management, contrasting also with a British subsidiary manager’s functional, individualist handling of this corporate issue. The German manager was aware of his own perception of what he termed a medium-size catastrophe (due to his more socially-oriented individualism) where the British parent company perceived only opportunities. Whereas the German attitude points to a greater collectivist interconnection of the corporate with the macro-system, the British individualist corporate attitude clearly dissociates itself, considering layoffs not only as a chance for the parties involved, but also as Government and the individuals’ business. Decision-making, according to Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (2000, p96) is ‘fast and incisive in individualist countries’. Different bases for personnel decision-making may be a challenge, due to a possible corporate management culture - macro-culture clash, when a British manager manages a German subsidiary or vice versa. How far does the foreign manager have to adapt? To what extent is he bound by parent company rules? As pointed out in the preliminary findings, presumed conflicts of interest tend to be solved in terms of power, the subsidiary manager displaying unconditional obedience to the British parent company. But the search for consensus with the parent company management can also be interpreted as a feature of British individualism.
In the area of design, subsidiary management has reported important synergies due to the fusion of individualistic British uniqueness with the German approaches of task-related expertise, resulting in a very sought after fusion design. Seemingly the synergy potential outweighs the critical potential of this dimension.
POWER DISTANCE (Index: UK 35, GER 35)
Stuart (1994, p185) explains the stereotype of British management appearing more autocratic than German, in spite of identical scores, by a misattribution of German more ‘conservative work relations’ as autocratic and British ‘informal interpersonal style’ as less autocratic. Yet, one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. On the contrary, one may argue that if task-orientation is the common language and implicitly agreed standard of behaviour, supported by internalised purpose, rules and control, as suggested by the Hofstedian UAI X PDI matrix - associated with an internalised superego - there is hardly any need of an authoritarian enforcement. Consequently Hofstede’s findings invalidate this stereotype.
The interview data largely validate Hofstede’s scores, which, however, need differentiation: Assuming similarity in power distance, the modalities of its exertion and perception differ, due to its interconnectedness with different UAI and IDV scores as well as time orientation in both cultures. Interviewees referred to differences in decision-making and communication: Indeed, due to their interconnection with higher individualism and shorter-term orientation in a more liberal legal system, British decisions may be perceived by German managers as harder and faster. German longer-term and more collectivist orientation take in account longer-term social consequences of decisions. Layoffs may be decided fast and even looked upon as a chance, whereas in Germany they are pondered very long and considered as a drama, due to the stronger social orientation of its individualism. The management practice of speedy, self-oriented, profitability-oriented exertion of power increases the British PDI score as perceived through the German cultural lens.
Interviewees experience German communication lines as stiffer than British ones. A British manager would mind less being bypassed by subordinates. This would confirm the general view of the British organizational structure as more flexible and fluid and the German as more structured. This is supported by traditional duty-fulfilling and obedience-seeking management contrasting with the more US-aligned, less conservative management, which seems to actually increase the German PDI score as perceived by UK culture. Hofstede’s PDI scores have to be nuanced. Mutual cultural perception provides not identical but differentiated PDI profiles. So, practices associated with power distance seem to differ from attitudes measured by Hofstede’s scores. Structural differences may be accounted for in Hofstedian scores, not so much the dynamics of flows and speed within the structures. Connected to different dimensions, PDI-related behaviours and perceptions differ and must be taken in account at the inter-cultural interface.
COMMUNICATION STYLE (UK: HC, GER: LC)
Intercultural communication and the unconscious
According to Knapp (2002, p.127) ‘a consequence of the unconscious cognitive processing of communication behaviour is that it blocks changes of perception and interpretation’. According to his research a group of British long-term residents in Germany misattributed German direct style to impoliteness. They could not accept that the ‘relative impression of impoliteness of the Germans is an effect of a different communication style, compared to the British’. Due to the unconscious processing, information on the host culture does not change an assumption or misattribution. Cultural self-awareness and cross-cultural awareness training and empathy do.
Dimensions of difference
According to House’s research (Woodman, 2002, p.72), German subjects’ interaction is more ‘direct, explicit and verbose, more self-referenced and more content-oriented…using less verbal routines’ than the English. There are ‘five dimensions of difference’ (Woodman, 2002, p.72):
- Directness Indirectness
- Orientation towards self Orientation towards others
- Orientation towards content Orientation towards addressees
- Explicitness Implicitness
- Ad-hoc formulations Verbal routines
British HC, higher IDV/lower UAI and German LC, lower IDV/higher UAI communication preference can explain these five dimensions of difference. Communication style focalises the combined cultural programming to such a degree, that Hall equates culture and communication.
There is disagreement by linguists as to which communication style is more self- or others-oriented (1). And, whereas verbal routines (5) signal a stronger British need of certainty in communication, dimensions 2, 3 and 4 can be explained in terms of higher German need of certainty.
The common mutual misperception of German communication style as impolite and British as lacking honesty can be explained as Germans prioritising unambiguous content of message, requiring explicit transfer of messages (higher UAI, LC communication pattern) and the British prioritising addressee orientation, requiring implicit transfer of messages (higher IDV, HC pattern). Their communication styles are different. Communication disfunctionalities only arise due to a mismatch of perceiving messages of culture A with the culture B’s perceptual filter, instead of perceiving the other culture’s message with the other culture’s perceptual filter: a message-context mismatch explains communication misperception. Intracultural differences, such as North-South cleavages in both countries with regard to directness-indirectness must also be taken in account. To prevent communication problems a manager must learn to culturally contextualize the coding and decoding of communication behaviours. Germans tend to take messages at face value (LC) or alternatively, indirect orders (HC) seem too soft to them to be carried out. Similarly, English culture members will feel ordered about by German directness if taken out of cultural context. If the sender cannot contextualize a message the critical interaction is defused if the receiver can.
The cradle of German corporations and organisational culture is Prussia, with its ‘duty fulfilment and obedience seeking’ (Holden, 2004, p.3) philosophy which still permeates organisational behaviour. If the associated command language style is transferred to English, the latter is being used ‘atypically assertively’, which boosts directness. While the mismanagement of misattributions remains a sensitive area, some informants have learnt to synergize the two styles, drawing on the best of both according to need.
INSIGHTS IN DIMENSIONS OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCE MANAGEMENT
A key insight is that country scores must be considered as context-relative and may be misleading, unless they are interconnected and contextualized. One can observe a pattern of context-specific modification and reversal of preferences and dimensional scores. National dimensional scores are not applicable across the corporate environment.
No societal or corporate culture can exist at one pole of a dimension only. The equilibrium is achieved by integrating poles of dimensions intra- as well as inter-culturally. Three conditions must be met to operationalise critical Anglo-German cultural dimensions:
1. Knowledge of the general cultural dimension score
2. Awareness of the areas, where the two cultures operationalise the value preference and where not
3. The combination with other dimensions
Whereas the British may obtain certainty from the use of verbal routines and linear thinking style, a reassuringly signposted roadmap to go by in communication and thinking, the Germans may not feel secure until they perceive the system as a whole and predictable processes and procedures. The two cultures derive their need of certainty from different areas. Unless one is aware of the selective fulfilment of the need of certainty, the cultural preference, due to the generalization as applicable to society in general, may be indiscriminately applied in the wrong areas, where a culture cannot derive its certainty. In some areas the British need of certainty is higher than the Germans’. To be effectively operationalized in corporate interactions and not become counterproductive through application in the wrong areas, one must be aware in which area the value preference comes into play to satisfy the cultural preference.
Anglo-German PDI scores are identical. They are a working hypothesis. Both need to manage their hierarchy-equality dimension. In addition to leading to an assumption and projection of similarity, the PDI values cannot be operationalized in managerial interaction, unless managers are aware of the different sources of power in both organisational cultures. Whereas the British manager derives his authority form his charismatic professional man-management style, the German manager derives his authority form his management by technical expertise. They derive credible power, authority and leadership from two non-interchangeable contexts. When an Anglo-manager manages in Germany and vice versa, they must be aware of the context-contingent fulfilment of the cultural value preference. A British employee would derive neither incentive nor motivation from a purely task and technical expertise-oriented management style. Conversely, German employees would not endorse a management style devoid of technical expertise.
Similarly we may ask where the two cultures considered derive the fulfilment of their need of individuality. Whereas the British tend to derive it from notions like privacy, eccentricity, uniqueness and personal initiative, Germans will derive it form a stronger space and time compartmentalization, personal territoriality and formalism in communication style. If these areas are not identified the knowledge of the dimension scores cannot be operationalised. Apart from leading to sensitive areas of interaction, managers cannot derive the full benefit of their interactions.
Cultural dimensions scores, combinations and contextualization. The general validity of Anglo-German cultural dimensions scores is confirmed. To be managerial tools, however, they must additionally be connected to other dimensions and seen in a specific management context. Specification of the three parameters – in addition to personal and structural ones - is required, in order to evaluate and interact satisfactorily from an inter-cultural standpoint.
British and German cultures are highly diverse and complementary across dimensions, providing the complementary poles for their integration. An intercultural communication problem exists only to the extent that managers are unaware of these Anglo-German synergy potentials.
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Magisterarbeit, 115 Seiten
Magisterarbeit, 89 Seiten
Examensarbeit, 78 Seiten
Magisterarbeit, 179 Seiten
Magisterarbeit, 112 Seiten
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