Cross-Cultural Management: Theories Of Motivation

Introduction

Motivation in the business context is defined by Richard Mead (2005) as the set of factors that drive an individual to act in a particular manner. Employees in a workplace develop different attitudes towards their work, their employer, and fellow workers. Positive attitudes are important to build because attitude translates to the impetus that drives a worker to productivity or lack of it.

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Cross-cultural management refers to the managerial skills that one requires when handling workers within the same company but who have diverse cultural and social backgrounds, and sometimes even nationality (Mead, 2005).

There is a natural distrust or wariness that individuals feel towards those who do not belong to their own social or cultural groups. When it comes to the workplace where there are already stratifications of manager and worker, the situation is made even more complex. By analyzing the Dancom case study, about a Danish company operating in Russia, we will get a clearer picture of exactly what happens in the workplace given a cross-cultural workplace, what motivates or de-motivates employees, and how such difficulties can be overridden (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

Theories on employee motivation

The employer or manager plays a central role in determining or at least directing the attitude that workers develop. Though a manager cannot concretely shape the employees’ mindset, he/she can influence it by giving incentives (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

There are several theories that have been put forward in trying to understand and explain what motivates employees and understanding this stimulates creates an optimum working environment where the employees can give maximum output. The theories are divided into three major categories with subcategories within each. These are content theory, process theory, and reinforcement theory (French, 2007).

Content theory

The focus of content theories is built around helping the manager to comprehend what makes those beneath him tick and from this understanding, the manager can then proceed to allocate duties and responsibility to employees who can best do the job. Abraham Maslow formulated the Hierarchy of Needs Theory which is built on the tenet that there are some human needs more basic than others. These needs are at the bottom of the pyramid have to be fulfilled first before an individual can strive for higher and more secondary needs (Maslow, 1971).

Maslow extends that the most basic needs an individual has are the biological and physiological ones; be it food, clothing, shelter, or sleep. These are followed by safety needs; safety from weather and elements, financial and physical security as well as there being law and order to govern things. Higher needs are on the third level, the need to belong and be loved whether it is belonging to a workgroup, family, or any other form of a social group (Maslow, 1971).

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At the fourth level, Maslow put esteem needs where an individual yearns to fulfill a sense of achievement and self-worth. At the apex of Maslow’s pyramid is the need for self-actualization, where after all the other needs have been taken care of the individual can now concentrate on self-actualization needs which pertain to realizing fully ones potential, seeking self fulfillment and personal growth. However, Maslow asserts that this can only be achieved after the other needs have been taken care of (Maslow, 1971).

Fredrick Herzberg advanced the Two-Factor theory as to what motivates employees. His theory is based on two factors: hygiene and ‘motivators’. Hygiene refers to the general cleanliness and orderliness of the working environment. Herzberg theorized that employees working in a cluttered, disorganized and dirty environment would be less productive than those working under hygienic conditions. But hygiene does not stand by itself, there are other ‘motivators’ that workers need such as the amount of satisfaction derived from the work done. If a worker is happy doing what he/she does, the worker will not need to be prompted or pushed into carrying out duties but rather will even go farther than doing just what they are allocated to do (Perkins & Shortland, 2008).

David McClelland (1987) came up with the acquired needs theory. His hypothesis was that a manger should know that there are three major needs, fond in employees to different degrees that they have acquired from experiences in earlier years of their life. These are the needs to make achievements, need to create substantial human networks and the need to obtain power.

Process theory

The process theories, like Maslow’s recognizes the fact that individuals have needs but the process theories lay emphasis on the fact that workers will choose behaviors that fulfill a need (French, 2007).

Robert House contended in his path-goal theory that what employees need to be motivated is a well lid out ‘path’ that will take them to a guaranteed reward. This means the employees know exactly what they are striving to achieve and know how to achieve their objective. This minimizes time and energy that may be wasted on unfruitful ventures or things that might not be related to the main objective (House & Filley, 1969).

The expectancy theory by Victor Vroom say that how much an employee is motivated depends on two things: one yearns for the rewards that come with the work and two, if the set objective is seen as achievable (Vroom, 1984).

The equity theory emphasizes on the fact that at a workplace, workers seek fair and equal treatment among themselves; they want to compare the pay they get with that of each other, their workloads and if the pay they get is comparative to their workload (French, 2007).

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Reinforcement theory

This theory is based on the work done by Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner whose argument was that when people are rewarded for behaving in a particular way, there is a very high probability that they will repeat the behavior. This can be used to motivate employees by a public appreciation of good work and committed service. The employee will then strive to stand out in the future and other employees may want to follow in his/her footsteps (Perkins & Shortland, 2008).

Cross cultural management

The Dancom case study deals with a fictitious Danish company based in Russia. Such a company, having mangers and workers from both countries there are difficulties that face such a company arising from diverse cultural practices and work ethics. The Dancom case study helps in analyzing what pressures there are when people have to work in a cross cultural settings, what can result from these misunderstandings and how best to resolve cultural differences while making sure that the whole team keeps driving to attain the set objectives of the company (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

In a company, a corporate culture is built so that workers can have a sense of identity and to develop a code of ethics on which the strength of the company is built. The company culture creates a team spirit; a sense of being part of a whole. When a company takes its activities abroad, it is called upon to incorporate new managers and workers who have dissimilar approaches to management and work. This often leads to conflict from lack of clear communication, incomprehension of the other’s approach to carrying out responsibilities. There might also arise a rift, with sides, the newcomers and the natives taking opposing stands and each side firmly believing that their way of doing things is the best. This is where the idea of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ arises (Thomas, 2008).

In the Dancom case there were major differences between the Danes and the Russians because the differences in socialists and capitalist cultures helped widened the divide. The case study then wanted to examine two aspects of the Danish-Russian interaction: the first was to try and determine how the Russians see their position within the foreign organization and what kind of influence this has on their behavior, and the second was to determine at what aspects of management did the Russians find worlds apart from their own approach and how this affected the Danish-Russian relations(Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

In trying to understand the differences that arose between the Danes and the Russians, Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003 expound on the role that culture plays in ‘perception’. The two authors explain that individuals will react in vastly different manners to the same stimuli, depending on their outlook on their social, physical and organizational environment. ‘Perception,’ say Gooderharm and Nordhaug, ‘is like a map or picture.. that are influenced by socio-cultural factors and the culture of the group they belong to … consequently, different individuals react differently to the same stimuli in the same situation’ (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003, pg. 153).

The Russians felt that the Danish managers were too keen on making group decisions; something they thought was at times unnecessary and wasted time and resources. While the Dane’s approach to decision making involved gathering all the available information, getting the team together, discussing before coming to a final decision, the Russians were quick to decide on issues, whether there was sufficient information or not. It made it tricky for the Danish managers to monitor the work being done by their Russian employees who classified too much involvement by their superiors as meddling. What the Russians were interested in was delivery, not the actual process to the delivery (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

The insider and outsider phenomenon

When an individual works for an organization, it is important that they feel part of the team, like in one way or another, they contribute to the achievements made. Belonging, or inclusion means that an employee is integrated completely into the operations of the company. In the case where there are two diverse groups within the same company, there may come to be the classifications of insiders and outsiders. As the names imply, one group may feel left out while the other might feel privileged and in the know(Holden, 2002).

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In the Dancom case, it was even more intriguing. There occurred ‘hosting insider’ and ‘hosting outsider’ referred to in these terms because the people in both groups were locals. There were contrasting attitudes between the insiders and outsiders. It was noted that one’s language skills predisposed whether they would be an insider or an outsider. The Russians who had better mastery of English were in a better position to communicate with the foreigners hence found it easier to build relationships with them. On the other hand the Russians who had language barriers had ineffective communication and might have chosen to distance themselves from the foreigners(Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003)

While the insiders felt that there was a friendly open environment at the workplace, the outsiders found it to be peaceful but rather cool. It was the hosting outsiders who felt that the very formal approach taken by the managers in manager-employee relations was not good for work, the outsiders felt that this attitude worked well enough. The insiders were found to have closer personal relationships with the foreign managers while the outsiders found the foreigners to be unapproachable and distant (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

What both groups agree on however, is their animosity towards the headquarters in Denmark. The Russians complained that the communications with headquarters was extremely slow, with responses being delayed. When the headquarters did get back, the responses given were tepid or ineffectual. They felt that they were being undermined. On the other hand, the Dancom headquarters said that they tried to keep out of the workings of their Russian branch so as to create autonomy for them to be able to act on their own with minimal interference(Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

Since Russians see having information and being in the know as a basis for power and control, the lack of it from headquarters is considered a major snub. The Danes see information as a tool for communication and to helping the decision making process; if there is information that needs to be shared, then the logical thing to do is to share it. On the other hand, Russians use information in power playing, like a rare currency that is only to be used in high value trade (Gooderharm & Nordhaug, 2003).

Conclusion

Working within an organization where there are difference in culture calls for sensitivity and delicacy that is not required in an ordinary workplace setting. This can be helped by cultivating a corporate culture that is receptive of both aspects of cultures. The employee should be made to understand that at the workplace, their individual differences should be laid aside as much as possible and their energies focused on company objectives(Adler & Gundersen, 2008).

Employees should be armed with cultural intelligence so that they are able to better understand how a fellow worker may react to a certain stimuli. This will enable workers to rationalize reactions that may, if they are informed, cause unnecessary tensions and workplace conflict (Adler & Gundersen, 2008).

There should be no show of favoritism or preference for one group or the other, so as to minimize the formation of insider and outsider groups. What happens once such an occurrence takes place is that since the outsiders feel detached, sidelined and uninvolved with the company’s activities, their contribution and participation will also be mediocre. The mangers should learn what motivates employees best and how they can make employees feel integrated into the company. However, they should realise that onemoptivting factor does not work for all and managerial approaches used should be tailored to fit the social and cultural structure. This calls for an in-depth understanding of the social and cultural norms of the foreigners so that both groups can segue in with the most perfect balance, and merge their abilities to give the best of both worlds (Thomas, 2008).

Bibliography

Adler, N. & Gundersen, J. (2008) International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior (5th edition) Prentice Hall.

French, R. (2007) Cross-Cultural Management in Work Organisations London: CIPD.

Gooderharm, & Nordhaug O (2003). International Management: Cross-Boundary Challenges Sage.

House, J, R & Filley, C, A (1969). Managerial Process and Organizational Behavior University of California Press.

Maslow, A, H (1971). Self-Actualization Big Sur Records.

McClelland, C, D. (1987). Human motivation CUP Archive.

Mead, R (2005). International Management: Cross-Cultural Dimensions Wiley-Blackwell.

Perkins, S. & Shortland, S. (2006) Strategic International HRM – choices and consequences in multinational people management London: Kogan Page.

Thomas, D.C. (2008) Cross-Cultural Management: Essential Concepts London: Sage.

Vroom, H ,V. (1984) Work and Motivation Krieger Publishing.

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