As the world advances in technology and globalization, the likelihood of having people from different cultures working in the same place has increased significantly. This case is not different in Huawei, an international technology company that originates from China. Huawei has established long-term partnerships with over 100 countries where they work with telecom operators. The company has produced products that benefit millions of people globally and has grown spontaneously. It has become more internationalized hence accommodating employees from numerous cultures (Drahokoupil et al., 2017). To achieve an effective environment in a company with employees from so many diverse cultures, the management should have competent employee intercultural management strategies.
Many competing theories of cross-cultural management exist today to explain how multinationals operate across national borders. According to Jackson (2020), Geer Hofstede can be considered to be among the first scholars to successfully offer a simple theory that has persisted for decades. Hofstede is also the first person to quantify cultural orientations held by people in more than 60 countries (Beugelsdijk & Welzel, 2018).
Many multinationals face cultural problems that can be assessed by Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. This paper seeks to use Hofstede’s theory to explain Huawei’s management problems in France. The issues that Huawei face in France is diverse, but most of them are caused by the cultural conflict with the employee with cross culture background. An overview of Huawei and its problems in France will be presented, after which the challenges will be viewed from the perspectives of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Additionally, potential solutions that can be implemented at Huawei will be recommended.
Hofstede’s theory divides the different characteristics of each culture into six dimensions: Power Distance; Uncertainty Avoidance; Collectivism vs. Individualism; Masculinity vs. Femininity; Long-Term Orientation; and Indulgence vs. Self-Restraint.
This study was completed when Hofstede worked at IBM in the United States. He conducted a large-scale survey on the work values of employees in IBM’s global office. Between 1967 and 1973, Hofstede collected about 117000 questionnaires from 66 countries and made a comparative analysis of these data. But at that time, IBM did not have relevant businesses in all countries. Therefore, the data of many countries were supplemented by later researchers, such as China and central and Eastern European countries.
Power Distance is the level of social inequality portrayed by people living in a particular setting. In Hofstede’s ides, low power distance culture emphasizes the importance of minimizing interpersonal inequity, and people with less power and people with greater power should be interdependent. Therefore, in organizations with low power distance culture, employees often participate in decision-making (Neuliep, 2006). While subordinates rely on their bosses, managers likewise rely on the input and counsel of their subordinates (Paul, 2000). On the other hand, inequality is considered as a natural element of the natural order of things in cultures with a high power distance (Paul, 2000). There is a strict hierarchy among company members, managers usually hold power, and subordinates rely on their boss.
According to the Hofstede (1980), the degree to which individuals of a certain culture feel intimidated by unclear or unfamiliar events is called uncertainty avoidance. Individuals from high-uncertainty avoidance societies demonstrated elevated levels of stress and anxiety. These people are highly valued for control, which means it helps to have a fixed structure in everything they do in their lives. The application of stringent regulations enables them to articulate their beliefs and behaviours. They are uncomfortable with the creation of fresh ideas and will only risk what they believe has a probability of success (Hofstede, 2001).
Unlike high uncertainty avoidance, lower-level people use informality in their interactions with others, and they tend to rely on informal norms and behaviours for most things. Additionally, they will demonstrate a modest aversion to change. Personal concern from a low UA culture allows the future to arrive without control or planning. The rules of placement have no effect on them. People with low UA think it’s ok to question people in higher positions (McCornack & Ortiz,2017). They have lower rates of stress and anxiety. In addition, people with low uncertainty avoidance had no difficulty interacting with people who were different from them (Hofstede, 2015).
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Individualism-collectivism refers to the extent to which the self-identification of members of a society depends on the identity or characteristics of the group to which an individual belongs permanently and the degree to which the interests of the individual or group predominate. Individualist societies are loosely connected and often involve only individuals and their immediate family members. They emphasized “I” versus “we”. The corresponding collectivism describes a society in which the extended family and other groups are linked by a tightly knit relationship. When in conflict with another group, people within those groups are unquestionably loyal and supportive (Hofstede,1991,2015).
Masculinity vs. Femineity
Masculinity versus femininity refers to the attitude that society has on the achievement of their goals. In a masculine society, gender roles are defined distinctively, and people are more concerned about building wealth and material possessions (Drahokoupil et al., 2017). Conversely, in a feminist society, gender roles are not strictly adhered to, they have a nurturing attitude and people concentrate mostly on the quality of life than material possessions. In an organization set up, a masculine attitude is expressed when the management is willing to do anything in their power to grow and develop. The opposite is experienced in a feminist organization where they only do what is within their power while considering the well fair of employees.
Hofstede’s original set of cultural dimensions also has obvious limitations. Subsequently, Hofstede found a way to express the time orientation in his research in cooperation with a scholar who studied the Confucian cultural tradition (Chinese culture, connection, 1987). They believe that long-term orientation is a value with economic growth. This dimension links the past with current and future actions / challenges. The low level of this indicator indicates that tradition is respected and preserved, while firmness is valued. The society with high index believes that it is necessary to adapt to the environment and solve problems pragmatically.
Indulgence vs. Self-Restraint
This dimension relates to the degree of freedom that social norms give citizens to meet their human aspirations. Indulgence is defined as “a culture that allows for the relatively unrestricted fulfillment of human fundamental and natural impulses connected to life enjoyment and amusement.” Its opposite is characterized as “a society in which control requirements are addressed and social rules are strictly enforced.” Citizens of indulgent societies believe they are extremely happy because they have control over their own lives and place a high premium on leisure (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov,2010).
Huawei’s Cross-Cultural Problems in France
In the case of Huawei, the main issue is that some employees can’t adapt to the corporate culture Huawei brought from China. According to the Laufer and Fanta (2021), Former European employees in Huawei accused Huawei of discrimination. In Huawei offices in France, wolf culture is also very popular.
Moreover, most of Huawei’s leaders in various France are Chinese, which means that they are more used to using the management method in China to manage the organization. Some former Huawei employees said that they had less access to information and were excluded from important internal decisions. In meetings, managers sometimes switch to Chinese at critical moments (Laufer & Fanta, 2021).
Harvard Business Review pointed out that Huawei’s own position is that the only way to get opportunities is through hard work. It describes corporate culture as “the key to success”. However, as our survey shows, for some employees, this is more like a burden. The pressure to succeed within the company is enormous. A person who has worked in the company for more than five years summed up this management concept: “the second is not Huawei’s choice.”
On the Glassdoor, a French job search website, many employees that working for Huawei in the French office not only listed the benefits they gained when working for Huawei, but also described many of their shortcomings in Huawei. In summary, they can be divided into the following problems: 1. High work pressure; 2. Unable to balance living and working hours; 3. The leadership lacks communication with employees. These problems seem to be acceptable to most people if they are put in the context of China’s system. However, in France, these problems are obviously easy to cause employees’ dissatisfaction and affect the effectiveness of organizational management. This is the challenge Huawei is facing in France and even Europe. It can also be called a cross-cultural challenge from different national cultures between China and France.
Applying Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory
Huawei faces a different national culture in France as compared to a market in China. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory comprises six components: power distance, masculinity, individualism, long-term orientation, uncertainty avoidance, and indulgence (Sannino et al., 2020; Escandon-Barbosa et al., 2021). Therefore, the idea of cultural distance can apply to this scenario as it highlights how cultural values differ between China and France. I would like to use three dimensions to analyse Huawei’s problems in France as each of them can help clarify one or more aspects of the cultural distance.
Societies tend to differ across such aspects as social status, wealth, power, laws, and rights. According to Elmoez et al. (2021), power distance is a concept that implies the level of acceptance of unequal power distribution in organizations and institutions. Higher power distance is an indicator that the society is very stratified and that decisions are made centrally through autocratic leadership. The scenario in China can be described as having extremely high power distance.
In the case of Huawei in France, power distance is felt differently according to the culture and ethnicity of the employee and the management. Notably, Huawei hires most of its managers from China and allocates them in a different part of the world across their branches. Huawei also hires some French managers who work with their fellow Chinese (van de Bunt et al., 2019). Managers from the two ethnic groups practice different levels of power distance to their employees. The Chinese managers are well known for practicing high power distance while their French counterparts are less power distant. However, Chinese managers seem to relate and interact more with Chinese employees than other ethnic groups.
The Chinese managers at Huawei in France are more oriented to results than the means in which the employees use to achieve them. They practice a strict high hierarchy between them and employees and do not discuss work progress but rather demand results (Kamama & Ogendo, 2018). Chinese managers force their employees to set targets that sometimes seem unrealistic and order for results, failure to achieve may result in discrimination or termination of the contract.
On the other hand, the French managers are concerned about the work in progress. They require employees to meet regularly to report their progress as they gather ideas on how to achieve their targets (Guanmei, n.d). The difference in power distance affects employees differently as some prefer a high power distance working environment while others want a less pressured environment.
Even though all cultures recognize the existence of uncertainties, they approach it differently, with some confronting uncertainty while others prefer to avoid it. Those who avoid uncertainty tend to engage in such practices as imposing rules, laws, technologies, and systems (Elmoez et al., 2021).
The difference in uncertainty avoidance in Huawei, France is also dependent on the culture of the managers and employees. The French managers encourage working in teams to deliver a particular project to deliver project as they believe that it is hard for a group of experts to fail (Minkov & Kaasa, 2020). They constantly demand progressive results as they want to be sure that everything is going as planned. Conversely, the Chinese managers wait for the final results which should be provided after a given period after task allocation. This could be associated with their cultural differences where China has a low uncertainty avoidance orientation while France people are low-risk takers (Gallego-Álvarez, I., & Pucheta-Martínez, 2021).
The difference in culture can also be observed in employees where French employees prefer to work in teams to mitigate the impact of failure. They argue that failure in an individual project has more severe consequences than in a group project. This difference may lead to poor working relations between employees and managers from the two cultures.
Masculinity versus Femininity
Masculinity and feminism are concepts that are closely associated with a society’s social orientation. Masculinity is the opposite of social orientation, where the focus is on such aspects as career, heroism, and assertiveness (Sannino et al., 2020). Feminism is associated with modesty, quality of life, and cooperation. China can be described as a masculine culture because the citizens will sacrifice leisure and family to prioritize work.
Cultural differences distinguish display masculinity and femininity in Huawei, France. The Chinese managers express the “wolf culture” as encouraged by Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei. He supports those employees are allowed to bend certain internal laws as long as it is for the benefit of the company and not-self. Chinese managers also hold that employees must sacrifices for the growth of the company (Guerrero et al., 2021). This would mean working for long hours, engaging in incorporating behavior. To the Chinese managers, employees’ welfare is not the company’s priority. To promote the culture, the managers purchase some mattresses for the employees who would use them for a nap break after long working hours.
The “wolf culture” is not appreciated by many French employees as they believe in the quality of life. They find the company’s culture as a distraction from their personal life (Fan, 2021). They also complain of discrimination from their counterparts who engage in unlawful deals such as corruption for the benefit of the company. Employees who refused to engage in such acts are threatened or fired unlawfully from the organization.
As it was stated earlier, the Chinese and France cultures have different power distances, uncertainty avoidance, and gender presuppositions. Based on the current research, the Huawei working hierarchy and structure in France lacks the essential managemental concepts to ensure equal working conditions for both cultures. Huawei managers need to adjust the corporate culture for European insights to solve diversity at the workplace issues. The current management policy allocates the high level of inequality within the workers. The discussed problem can negatively affect the whole companies efficient functioning.
According to the Human Resource Management postulates, the company’s success depends on the workers’ job satisfaction (Shores, 2018). Thus, Huawei needs to implement different managemental strategies and theoretical techniques to empower the equality of cultures atmosphere at the France corporation.
The pure Chinese-oriented management of Huawei negatively affects the working efficiency of the France employees. In order to minimize such adverse consequences of the merging of the culture, the HR managers should consider the particular type of planning. Long term orientation of the company regulation proposed by Hofstede (2001) can be an excellent opportunity to plan multicultural management in the current and future periods. Huawei, situated in France, should develop culture-neutral corporative regulations avoiding discrimination, mentally-harmful biases, and prejudices at the workplace.
The creation of such an extensive plan requires vast resources allocation and long-term orientation strategies appliance (Hofstede, 2001). The planning includes determining the preconceptions, diversity training programs, and empowerment policy (Cletus et al., 2018). By using this strategy, Huawei will have the opportunity to ensure comfortable working conditions for employees from both cultures.
The first step for developing the proper solution is stating the problem discussing its details and insights. Chinese-oriented management should not be prevalent in the company. The administration should accept and deliberately pay attention to France employees’ work dissatisfaction. Moreover, some resources emphasize that the Chinese employees usually choose Huawei managers in different countries (Kitilit & Ogendo). Such an unequal distribution leaves the other cultures’ representatives without the opportunity to be heard. Inclusion and communication at the workplace start from wise leadership (Goswami et al., 2020). Thus, the representatives of both cultures should be chosen as HR managers planning the long-term company’s orientation.
The second step is to incorporate the diversity training programs. The difference in power distance at Huawei in France could lead to employees’ job dissatisfaction or the creation of a poor working environment (van de Bunt et al., 2019). To resolve this issue, the company’s management should conduct regular training for both the managers and employees. The training should aim at educating them on how the difference in culture could lead to the difference in power distance. It should also assist them to adjust their attitudes and beliefs about power distance to promote effective communication among them.
The third step includes the insertion of the empowerment policy and rewarding system. To solve the issue of uncertainty avoidance among Huawei employees and managers in France, a rewarding strategy should be adopted. Employees should be rewarded for their success alongside their manager. In case of failure, the employees should be offered an opportunity to correct their mistakes without being threatened or pressured. The fear of failure is derived from the consequences that one might face from the management (Guanmei, n.d).
Employees should be offered a conducive environment where they are constantly encouraged and offered room for mistakes. Thus, the long-term orientation of the company regulation third-step planning can be efficiently used to develop the cultural diversity management within the Huawei corporation in France.
Another recommendation relevant to the Huawei corporation’s cultural diversity management improvements is the employees’ enjoyment of the work. As Hofstede (2001) mentioned, indulgence society concepts can be applied for maintaining multicultural management. The main problem here is the difference in the Chinese and France cultural perception of success. The main contradiction point is the wolf culture inherent to the Chinese understanding of success. France employees cannot be satisfied with their job when the management policy is only oriented on the unlimited benefits seeking and no colleagues’ collaboration.
In order to create an indulgence corporation, the managers should consider the development of different approaches to estimate the performance of the workers from different cultures. Or, as an alternative variant, create a universal for both Chinese and France rewarding system finding the compromise. The wolf corporate culture is not a rational management strategy to implement within the multinational corporation (Grissom, 2018). It can cause significant problems with the collaboration and inclusion processes necessary to ensure a pleasant working atmosphere. Thus, the proper system of the task distribution accordingly to the workers’ personal preferences will be the rational choice for the company.
Another recommendation is related to the problem of gender presuppositions at the workplace. The best remedy for cultural conflicts caused by Masculinity is to reduce the behaviour of forcing employees to work excessively to promote the development of the company. The company should also be responsible for their employees’ well-being (Tao et al., 2016). In addition, Huawei managers should be taught and advised on the importance of employees’ satisfaction and its benefit to the organization.
It is also essential to emphasize that all the mentioned factors can be developed only through efficient leadership. The multicultural organization should constantly improve communication and team-building (Shores, 2018). As far as respectful interpersonal communication is the basis of the indulgence society, it should be present in any corporation (Hofstede, 2001). It is especially crucial in the multicultural workplace because it requires the acceptance of cultural peculiarities (Gupta, 2021).
The leaders are responsible for maintaining respectful relationships within the collective and regulating the moral issues caused by job dissatisfaction (Goswami et al., 2020). The most relevant for the multinational organization leadership approach is the value-based (Goswami et al., 2020). This strategy can contribute to positive changes in the psychological state of the workers. Moreover, this approach may unite the employees from different cultures through value-sharing behavioral patterns.
Therefore, to solve the cultural diversity problems at the workplace in the Huawei corporation branch in France, it will be rational to implement all the mentioned recommendations. The most efficient results can be achieved when all the techniques and factors are combined. The provided recommendations not only will help to increase the employees’ work satisfaction but also improve their efficiency. As a result, the working atmosphere and the company’s outcome will be enhanced.
Huawei’s company in France has met a number of management issues, which are the same predicament that other international firms encounter while facing cross-cultural management. Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory, as a core theory of cross-cultural management, offers the framework for assessing these problems. After examining the cross-cultural management challenges of Huawei in France from the three dimensions, it is determined that Huawei is difficult to implement comparable operating modes and strategies in France as it does in China.
However, Huawei’s challenges are not restricted to these three dimensions, and there are discrepancie s between Huawei and local culture in other dimensions. The national culture of France is distinct from that of the Chinese market. Huawei’s choice should be congruent with the principles of French national culture, while keeping its own business features. And how to attain the actual balance, still require additional discussion and research.
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