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The word culture has many ramifications connotations and meanings. Culture encompasses
every facet of our life, and in its process of evolution, biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, has
contributed their ideas. So we find the influence of culture in literature, music, art, food, human
behaviour, and even in organization practices. Irrespective of its area of application, for our purpose,
here culture is the learned human behaviour. The anthropologist, Tyler (1871) perhaps gave the oldest
definition of culture, stating that culture is the complex whole reinforced by knowledge, belief, art,
law, morals, custom and other capabilities and habits of man as a member of society. Culture has been
adjudged as the powerful tool for our survival, but is not stable; rather it is ever changing. Perhaps ,
for this reason alone we focus on developing organization or corporate culture, to forge some
common understanding , beliefs and values, so that all these who work in an organization can get a
sense of direction and strive to achieve the common goals set by the organization.
Although it is important for us to understand that culture unifies the whole, culture
also differentiates people. This is so because culture has three different layers. The first layer of
culture distinguishes people from one another. The second layer obviously is the subculture, which
also sets us apart from others. The third layer of culture is cultural universals, or the learned and
shared culture, that binds us together. Obviously, for the third layer, we find a lot of commonality in
cultures of people from different races, religions, countries, etc (Bhattacharya, 2010).
In this increasingly global world, it is extremely important to understand the differences
among cultures and how these differences can potentially affect communication between members of
diverse cultures. Many communication barriers exist even when we speak the same language. Adding
cultural and language differences to the mix can compound the potential for miscommunication. By
understanding and acknowledging how the following elements vary across cultures, you can improve
your ability to understand, and be understood by, others ( Janasz, Dowd & Schneider , 2008).

Managers in todays multicultural global business community frequently encounter cultural
differences, which can interfere with the successful completion of projects. This paper describes the
common cultural issues that exist in organizations and some strategies to handle them. Two leading
studies of cross-cultural management have been conducted by Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars
. Both approaches propose a set of cultural dimensions along which dominant value systems can be
ordered. These value systems affect human thinking, feeling, and acting, and the behaviour of
organizations and institutions in predictable ways. The two sets of dimensions reflect basic problems
that any society has to cope with but for which solutions differ. They are similar in some respects and
different in others. The dimensions can be grouped into several categories:

1) Relations between people. Two main cultural differences have been identified. Hofstede
classified them as individualism and collectivism. Trompenaarss classified it into
universalism and particularism.
2) Motivational Orientation. In this Hofstede identifies three categories masculinity versus
femininity, amount of uncertainty avoidance and power distance.MMM
3) Attitude towards time. In this Hofstede classified as long term versus short term orientation.
Trompenaars identifies two dimensions sequential versus synchronic and inner versus outer
Two additional categories called socio-cultural dimensions were proposed by Aycan
paternalism and fatalism. In a paternalistic relationship, the role of the superior is to provide guidance,
protection, nurturing and care to the subordinate, and the role of the subordinate, in return, is to be
loyal and deferential to the superior. Fatalism is the belief that it is not possible to fully control the
outcomes of ones actions and, therefore, trying too hard to achieve something and making long-term
plans are not worthwhile exercises (Anbari & Romonova, 2003).

In what follows we provide a brief description of the most relevant dimensions and
consider some cultural problems that might arise when managing an organization.

1. POWER DISTANCE refers to the acceptance (or lack thereof) of unequal power
distribution. In counties where power distance is high, citizens show deep respect for age
and seniority and rarely bypass hierarchy in important decisions. Countries with high
power distance are characterized by paternalistic management, where a supreme authority
maintains tight control over policies and procedures. Latin America, Arab countries, and
France are examples of high power distance countries.
In countries where power distance is low, competence is valued over seniority and
status is less important. Countries with low power status are characterized by participative
management, where decision making is shared across employee levels, and the opinions
of many are considered before taking action. The United States, Australia, Northern
Europe, and Israel are examples of low power distance countries.

2. INDIVIDUALISM VERSUS COLLECTIVISM refers to how loosely or tightly
integrated the society seems, the degree to which the people of the country prefer to act as
individuals rather than as members of groups. In countries with an individualistic
approach, individual achievement is emphasized and decision making is open to everyone
involved. People in individualistic cultures are valued for their self motivation and self
interest. Countries that can be characterized as individualistic include the United States,
The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands.
In countries with a collectivist approach, the emphasis is on group harmony, total
involvement in decision making, and a focus on decisions made in the best interest of the
group. Countries that have a collectivist approach include Japan, many Latin American
countries, and South Korea.

3. UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE reflects the degree of threat felt when facing ambiguity
and risk. In countries that are high in uncertainty avoidance, rules and procedures are
preferred and followed, there is a limited display of emotion, and citizens have the
expectation of long-term employment. Examples of countries with high uncertainty
avoidance are Greece, Guatemala, and Japan. In countries with low uncertainty
avoidance, risk taking is prevalent, entrepreneurship is encouraged, and citizens change
jobs frequently. Countries with low uncertainty avoidance include Singapore, Hong
Kong, and Ireland.

4. MASCULINITY VERSUS FEMININITY refers to the degree to which emphasis is
placed on assertiveness, relationships, and quality of life. In countries that are more
masculine, individuals are encouraged to be assertive. Task orientation and
competitiveness are valued qualities and money and status are valued highly. Examples of
countries that are more masculine in their approach include Japan and Italy.
In countries that are feminine, individuals are encouraged to work
collaboratively and to be less assertive about their own personal needs. Job Satisfaction
as well as work-family balance are both considered to be very important. Examples of
countries that are considered to be more feminine are Sweden, Norway, and Thailand.
5. LONG TERM VERSUS SHORT TERM ORIENTATION refers to a cultures tendency
to focus more on the future or the past, which relates to economic success and values
regarding savings and persistence. Long term orientation implies a focus on the future,
with trends towards delaying gratification, thriftiness (saving), and persistence. The top
long-term countries are China, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. These
countries typically have higher savings rates and are more economically successful than
countries with a short-term orientation.
In countries where short-term orientation is common, there is focus on values
toward the past and present, with respect for traditions and fulfilling social obligations.
These countries values include the tendency to spend even if this means borrowing
money. Countries with short term orientations are Philippines, Bangladesh and all
Western countries.

Some Other Cross Cultural Differences Are:
1. Monochromic versus Polychronic Monochromic cultures believe in doing one thing at a
time. People belonging to this culture believe in maintaining orderliness, and sequence
their jobs in such a manner that it does not get interrupted. Polychronic cultures, on the
other hand, believe in doing many things at the same time. A monochronic manager feels
distracted and even gets annoyed, when he/she gets interrupted for some other
assignments. In contrast a polychromic entertains everything in between a job. Again
interactions between these two cultures often invite problems. Germans who are
monochronic in nature do not like the American way of doing business meetings.

2. High Context versus Low Context In a low context culture, things are concisely and
candidly spelt out, as things made explicit, people believing in this culture depend on
what is actually said or written, and accordingly behave. In a high context culture, on the
other hand, thing are assumed as known to others, hence things are relatively not spelt
out, and issues remain implicit. This culture believes in communication in indirect ways.
The knowledge level of people, being considered on par or at equal level, it is expected
that members of the organization can assume the pattern of culture and behave
accordingly. As cultural requirements are made explicit in low context culture, people are
supposed to be good listeners and keep up pace with the knowledge requirements; else
they may not be able to match with organization requirements. High context culture is
more applicable for knowledge intensity culture. Example Japanese believe westerners
are irritatingly dull. Westerners, on the other hand, believe the Japanese are secretive and
even deceitful (Bhattacharyya, 2010).


Cultural patterns at work reflect cultural patterns in the wider society. Project managers share the
cultures of their society and of their organization with their project teams. For instance, project
management techniques and training packages have been developed almost exclusively in
individualist countries, first of all in the USA, and are based on cultural assumptions that may not
hold in collectivist cultures. For instance, the ability to communicate bad news and to manage
performance are considered key skills for a successful project manager. However, in managing
international projects involving partners from collectivist societies, one has to bear in mind that
discussing a persons performance or abilities openly with him or her is likely to clash head-on with
the societys harmony norm and may be felt by the subordinate as an unacceptable loss of face. Such
societies have more subtle, indirect ways of communicating feedback, such as through the withdrawal
of a normal favor or verbally via a mutually trusted intermediary.

In collectivist/particularistic/communitarian cultures greater attention is also given to the
obligations of relationships and to unique circumstances. Friendship has special obligations and hence
may come first. Accordingly, less attention is given to abstract legal codes. In
individualist/universalist cultures, the law and social norms may take precedence over friendships.
The key concept of guanxi in Asian business is by now known worldwide. It refers to personal
connections; it links the family sphere to the business sphere. Having a personal network of
acquaintances is extremely important in these societies. This is an evident consequence of
collectivism (relationships before task), but it also contributes to a long-term orientation and

Strategies For Addressing Cross-Cultural Issues
For Individuals
1. Live and work outside of your home country. Be willing to take an overseas assignment
whenever the opportunity arises.
2. While away, adapt to the customs of the new country. Get to know the local residents,
rather than spending your time with people of your own nationality
3. Work at developing a perspective on world events that differs from that of your home
4. When travelling outside your home country on business, learn in advance about cultural
differences and customs that will affect the way in which you conduct business outside.
5. Develop friendships with people from nationalities other than your own. Make it a point
to learn from them about their customs and the way business is conducted.
For Organizations
1. Offer language training to your employees.
2. Encourage your employees to accept work assignments outside the country.
3. Provide transition counselling to employees and their families both before and after an
assignment outside home country.
4. Provide training to help employees learn about and be sensitive to cross-cultural
5. Examine your employment practices to ensure that your company is not intentionally or
unintentionally discriminating against anyone due to his or her religion or ethnicity
(Janasz, Dowd & Schneider , 2008).


The growing trend in globalization of business is giving rise to the need for the development
of effective international management teams. For many organizations, this need will entail thinking
more clearly about cross-cultural issues and more overtly and systematically understanding and
valuing the benefits of diversity in international teams. Achieving this requires the integration of
thinking and practice relating to team building, and understanding the benefits of differing personal
styles and behaviours. Although much can be achieved by working with specific teams, the truly
successful global players are likely to be those that bring about change through integrated changes in
selection, development, reward and recognition policies and practices. In doing so, the value of
effective multicultural working can be captured at many levels in the organization. International
teams, be they project based or permanent, will strive to achieve strategic business imperatives.


1. Dilip Kumar Bhattacharyya (2010). Cross Cultural Management. Eastern Economy
2. David C. Thomas (2008). Cross-Cultural Management Essential Concepts. SAGE
3. Suzanne Janasz, Karen O. Dowd, Beth Z.Schneider (2008). Interpersonal Skills in
4. Joseph W. Wiess. Organizational Behavior and Change. South Western Publications.
5. Geert Hofstede. Cultures ans Organizations.
6. F.T. Anbari, E.V Khilkonova, M.V.Romonova, S.A. Umpleby (2003) . Cross Cultural
Differences And Their Implications ForManaging International Projects. Retrieved from


Effective use of cross cultural teams can provide a source of experience and innovative thinking to
enhance the competitive position of organizations. However, cultural differences can interfere with
the successful completion of projects in todays multicultural global business community. To achieve
project goals and avoid cultural misunderstandings, project managers should be culturally sensitive
and promote creativity and motivation through flexible leadership. This paper describes the most well
known and accepted cross cultural management theories. These theories consider relations between
people, motivational orientation, orientation toward risk, definition of self and others, attitudes to
time, and attitudes to the environment. We discuss motivation and training of multicultural project
teams and relevant implications for project management. We provide examples of success and failure
in international, multicultural projects. The paper concludes that global project management can
succeed through culturally-aware leadership, cross cultural communication, and mutual respect.
Without them, it is destined to fail.