I have been thinking about this for a while, and with each new news story, in all walks of our lives, it appears to me that everywhere I turn I ask myself, what has become of civility. It is masked with the
words, culture, and culture of sports, politics, sales, guns, and on and on! Now we have “the locker room culture"??? Nonsense!
This past week when Richie Incognito was suspended from the Miami Dolphins for physically and mentally harassing fellow team member Jonathon Martin. He was, sending hate and racist voicemails, vile messages about his sister, and much more, to Jonathon
Martin. Some of his teammates, for the most part, dismissed his behavior as nothing more than the "culture of the locker room"!! What the heck does that mean? That this is okay and normal behavior? Oh, some say it was just hazing, to toughen Jonathon
up! Hazing? Bullying? The "culture of the locker room", needs to be exposed for what it is, cruel, and another type of hate and violence.
Hazing kills! Bullying kills! It has caused the death, and humiliation of our children, in all sports, schools, marching bands, fraternities, sororities, and God knows what other organized activities. Why? To toughen up......nonsense!
What about making your team or club by being the best you can be! Why can't teams or anyone for that matter taught to respect and work together, rather than, physically and mentally breaking down someone's spirit? It's okay, because it is "our culture"? I
Politics, presently, is not an intelligent discourse in ideas and coming together for the common good.
Our current politicians are so mean spirited, spiteful, and so intent on trying to tear "the other guy" down, that our country is being irreparably damaged. I was thinking about it recently because as a Realtor for over 40 years, my attitude has always
been that as agents, our job is to get the sale closed, with it being a "win-win" for all parties involved! I just closed several escrows, and they were perfect. We all worked together, agents, buyers, sellers, title companies, etc., with respect and consideration
for each other. That is “the culture" of my successful real estate business. Why can't our politicians do the same?? Shutting down the government is NOT, working together to make our wonderful country, strong! So much for "the culture of politics"!
Guns kill! It is said that we currently live in a "culture of violence"!! Horrible school shootings, mall shootings, church shootings, neighbor shooting
neighbor and more! Why in the world can't we as a country come to some resolution on gun control? What's wrong with background checks at gun shows, banning personal use of those vicious assault rifles, etc? Hey, I totally support my sport shooting relatives;
I'm not talking about them. Why can't the NRA possibly set a fund or special tax that would support mental health programs? That would possibly help their cause and do some good also. Work together people!!
I am a "news freak" but, I have to admit, lately I hate to turn the news on. No one appears to want to ever try to get along, or work out problems, be it world, politics, neighbor
disputes, etc. People, scream, argue, fight, say no to every type of mediation, have the attitude, "it's my way or the highway"! What is wrong with everyone? Where is the civility? Is this "Our New American Culture"? I certainly hope not!
- Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion,
notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
- Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
- Culture is communication, communication
- Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted,
or more briefly, behavior through social learning.
- A culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept,
generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
- Culture is symbolic communication.
Some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
- Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential
core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
- Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
- Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.
THEORY OF CULTURAL DETERMINISM
- The position
that the ideas, meanings, beliefs and values people learn as members of society determines human nature. People are what they learn. Optimistic version of cultural determinism place no limits on the abilities of human beings to do or to be whatever they want.
Some anthropologists suggest that there is no universal "right way" of being human. "Right way" is almost always "our way"; that "our way" in one society almost never corresponds to "our way" in any other society. Proper attitude of an informed human being
could only be that of tolerance.
- The optimistic version of this theory postulates that human nature being infinitely malleable, human being can choose the ways
of life they prefer.
- The pessimistic version maintains that people are what they are conditioned to be; this is something over which they have no control. Human
beings are passive creatures and do whatever their culture tells them to do. This explanation leads to behaviorism that locates the causes of human behavior in a realm that is totally beyond human control.
- Different cultural groups think, feel,
and act differently. There is no scientific standards for considering one group as intrinsically superior or inferior to another. Studying differences in culture among groups and societies presupposes a position of cultural relativism. It does not imply normalcy
for oneself, nor for one's society. It, however, calls for judgment when dealing with groups or societies different from one's own. Information about the nature of cultural differences between societies, their roots, and their consequences should precede judgment
and action. Negotiation is more likely to succeed when the parties concerned understand the reasons for the differences in viewpoints.
- Ethnocentrism is the belief that one's own culture is superior to that of other cultures. It is a form of reductionism
that reduces the "other way" of life to a distorted version of one's own. This is particularly important in case of global dealings when a company or an individual is imbued with the idea that methods, materials, or ideas that worked in the home country will
also work abroad. Environmental differences are, therefore, ignored. Ethnocentrism, in relation to global dealings, can be categorized as follows:
- Important factors in business are overlooked because of the obsession with certain cause-effect relationships in one's own country. It
is always a good idea to refer to checklists of human variables in order to be assured that all major factors have been at least considered while working abroad.
though one may recognize the environmental differences and problems associated with change, but may focus only on achieving objectives related to the home-country. This may result in the loss of effectiveness of a company or an individual in terms of international
competitiveness. The objectives set for global operations should also be global.
- The differences are recognized, but it is assumed that associated changes are
so basic that they can be achieved effortlessly. It is always a good idea to perform a cost-benefit analysis of the changes proposed. Sometimes a change may upset important values and thereby may face resistance from being implemented. The cost of some
changes may exceed the benefits derived from the implementation of such changes.
MANIFESTATIONS OF CULTURE
Cultural differences manifest themselves in different ways and differing levels of depth. Symbols represent the most superficial and values the deepest manifestations
of culture, with heroes and rituals in between.
- Symbols are words, gestures, pictures, or objects that carry a particular meaning which is only
recognized by those who share a particular culture. New symbols easily develop, old ones disappear. Symbols from one particular group are regularly copied by others. This is why symbols represent the outermost layer of a culture.
- Heroes are persons, past or present, real or fictitious, who possess characteristics that are highly prized in a culture. They also serve as models for behavior.
- Rituals are collective activities, sometimes superfluous in reaching desired objectives, but are considered as socially essential. They are therefore carried out most of the times for their own sake
(ways of greetings, paying respect to others, religious and social ceremonies, etc.).
- The core of a culture is formed by values. They are broad tendencies for
preferences of certain state of affairs to others (good-evil, right-wrong, natural-unnatural). Many values remain unconscious to those who hold them. Therefore they often cannot be discussed, nor they can be directly observed by others. Values can only be
inferred from the way people act under different circumstances.
- Symbols, heroes, and rituals are the tangible or visual aspects of the practices of a culture.
The true cultural meaning of the practices is intangible; this is revealed only when the practices are interpreted by the insiders.
People even within the same culture carry several layers of mental programming within themselves. Different layers of culture
exist at the following levels:
- The national level: Associated with the nation as a whole.
- The regional level: Associated with ethnic, linguistic, or religious differences that exist within a nation.
- The gender
level: Associated with gender differences (female vs. male)
- The generation level: Associated with the differences between grandparents and parents, parents and
- The social class level: Associated with educational opportunities and differences in occupation.
- The corporate level: Associated with the particular culture of an organization. Applicable to those who are employed.
MEASURING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
A variable can be operationalized
either by single- or composite-measure techniques. A single-measure technique means the use of one indicator to measure the domain of a concept; the composite-measure technique means the use of several indicators to construct an index for the concept after
the domain of the concept has been empirically sampled. Hofstede (1997) has devised a composite-measure technique to measure cultural differences among different societies:
- Power distance index: The index measures the degree of inequality that exists in a society.
- Uncertainty avoidance index: The index
measures the extent to which a society feels threatened by uncertain or ambiguous situations.
- Individualism index: The index measure the extent to which a society
is individualistic. Individualism refers to a loosely knit social framework in a society in which people are supposed to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. The other end of the spectrum would be collectivism that occurs when there is
a tight social framework in which people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups; they expect their in-groups (relatives, clans, organizations) to look after them in exchange for absolute loyalty.
- Masculinity index (Achievement vs. Relationship): The index measures the extent to which the dominant values are assertiveness, money and things (achievement), not caring for others or for quality of life. The other
end of the spectrum would be femininity (relationship).
RECONCILIATION OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
- Before venturing on a global assignment,
it is probably necessary to identify the cultural differences that may exist between one's home country and the country of business operation. Where the differences exist, one must decide whether and to what extent the home-country practices may be adapted
to the foreign environment. Most of the times the differences are not very apparent or tangible. Certain aspects of a culture may be learned consciously (e.g. methods of greeting people), some other differences are learned subconsciously (e.g. methods of problem
solving). The building of cultural awareness may not be an easy task, but once accomplished, it definitely helps a job done efficiently in a foreign environment.
and reading about other cultures definitely helps build cultural awareness, but opinions presented must be carefully measured. Sometimes they may represent unwarranted stereotypes, an assessment of only a subgroup of a particular group of people, or a situation
that has since undergone drastic changes. It is always a good idea to get varied viewpoints about the same culture.
- Some countries may share many attributes that help mold their cultures (the modifiers may be language, religion, geographical location, etc.). Based on this data
obtained from past cross-cultural studies, countries may be grouped by similarities in values and attitudes. Fewer differences may be expected when moving within a cluster than when moving from one cluster to another.
Determining the extent of global involvement:
- All enterprises operating
globally need not have the same degree of cultural awareness. Figure 2 illustrates extent to which a company needs to understand global cultures at different levels of involvement. The further a company moves out from the sole role of doing domestic business,
the more it needs to understand cultural differences. Moving outward on more than one axis simultaneously makes the need for building cultural awareness even more essential.
Hofstede, G. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw Hill.
Some recent publications
Culture Shock Challenges Firms Looking Abroad
The U.S. construction industry has always
been adept at winning work overseas, but the lure of reconstruction contracts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq could draw some firms in over their heads. Large international firms have many resources to deal with the enormous challenges of working
in the global marketplace. But the massive reconstruction of countries devastated by war could trip up the best of them.
Political and physical risks
are the most treacherous and must be reckoned with. Language and cultural differences can't be ignored either. Addressing them sensibly can unlock many opportunities for success.
The U.S. government's conference on rebuilding Afghanistan, held in Chicago last week, went a long way to outline opportunities there. These outreach programs are a good start because many firms need an education on how to work abroad.
The first lesson is to drop ethnocentric views that the world should accommodate our method of contracting rather than the other way around.
separate meeting, also held in Chicago last week, ENR brought together construction executives at its annual leadership conference. U.S. firms interested in China's Olympic building plans and other work, particularly those willing to listen patiently
through translation, heard rich detail from Chinese representatives.
Patience, attentiveness and sensitivity are not common construction
traits, but they can help in cultures different from our own.
Language and cultural differences can be treacherous to negotiate.
[ ENR (2003). Culture shock challenges firms looking abroad. Vol. 250, No. 23. New York: McGraw Hill.]
Do We See Eye-to-Eye? Implications of Cultural Differences for Cross-Cultural Management Research and Practice
Although observation is a common research technique, little attention has been given to the
effects of culture on observer judgment making. These researches argue that consideration of cultural differences is critical when applying observation techniques in cross-cultural research as well as in the applied contexts of performance appraisal and international
management. A laboratory study was conducted to examine the potential for discrepancies in observer judgment making among Asian American and Caucasian American subjects. The results of the study affirm the importance of cultural influences in research and