Friday, October 30, 2009

A Resolution for a Cross Cultural Concern

Good morning Cyberweek 2009 Participants,

As the title for today says, I am today offering you how the scenario was worked out for all those concerned. This scenario is based upon a real expereince, yet I have changed the names and a few recognizable details.

I had shared with you earlier this week the fact that the core of each culture is its values, seen on a daily basis through the practices of each member of that culture. Values have been described by Geert and Geert Jan Hofstede through the dimensions of culture, as I shared with you also this week. In brief the four initial dimensions that Hofstede used to measurably describe a culture are: 1. Power Distance (an individual's relationship to power and its source); 2. The value of the individual in a society and the value of the society (the individual vs collectivism); 3. Masculinity vs Femininity (assertiveness versus "modesty"); 4. Uncertainty avoidance and how ambiguity is handled.

In applying this information to our scenario, Henrik was surrised that the people who worked with him did not accept his and marta's invitation. Note that his thought was that he "worked with" these people. Even though he was their leader, their boss, in his mind they all worked together. He made time to talk with each Indinesian employee personally, on a face to face basis. With this private time, each employee revealed their own reasons for not accepting. The employees all expressed one common thought and that was that he is their leader, their manager. He is the expert in all things and they are all very loyal to him. They all had a low comfort level though in being close physically and socially to Henrik and to his family in the Johnson home. They were not comfortable with being close to what they saw as their "source of power".

As Henrik continued his face to face talks, during the course of work, with each person who had been invited to the dinner in the Johnson, Henrik learned the differing perspectives of the Indonesian individuals. Henrik valued the individual and was from one of the most individualist cultures in the world.

He also took the time to notice the differing approach to life in Jakarta. Henrik also learnead that huis own approach to "power" was with ease and tht he was very confortable with the sources of power in his work, community and personal life. He was very comfortable in having power close to him. He noticed too from his conversations with the Indonesian employees that they did not have the same approach to power. They were more used to having power at a distance and to a long distance relationship with the sources of power in their lives.

Another observation that Henrik made was that in his work while living in Sweden he was accumstomoed to having a working relationship with his superiors, meaning that his immediate superior in his company was a facilitator for Henrik and for all those who reported to her. She was not a source of all of the answers byt she worked hard to guide Henrik in his career where to get the answers he needed and to be self motivated. In comparing his work experiencde with that of the Indonesians with whom he now worked he noted many differences. First of all, there were no women managers in the Jakarta branch of the organization for which all of them worked. Secondly he noticed that the managers with whom he worked in Indonesia were more like experts for each of their employees who worked for them. This observation gave Henrik the understandings that an invitation to his and Marta's home was not in keeping with the more what expert type of relationship that existed among the Indonesian individuals, superior and employee.

These observations that Henrik made, both about himself and his working style and values and that of the people with whom he was now working in Indonesia allowed him to adjust how he worked with each of the area managers in Indonesia. Eventually Henrik had been a teaching superior for all of the Indonesian employees of the tea growing, processing, manufacturing and shipping organization for which all of them worked. The Indonesians had taught Henrik and his family how to live in a way that demonstrated honor and respect for the Indonesian individuals. Henrik had set an example of allowing the Indonesians to respect and honor him and his differing background. Henrik and his family lived and worked in jakarta for four years, before moving to trheir next assignment within the same multinational corporation.

Can you see how Hofstede's dimensions that desdribe how to understand a culture were discoverd by Henrik? Application of the dimensions along with work on learning self assessment allows for a potentially successful cross cultural global work experience.

It was a joy to write this blog this week as part of Cyberweek 2009 in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please contact me as I would enjoy blogging with you at any time. Also if you have not done so please experience the simulation and send the scores to me. I look forward to writing a personal note inreturn, giving some insights into your score set.

Warm regards,


Jane E. Smith, Esq.
LiSimba Consulting Services, Inc.
Building Relationships for International Business Success

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