This paper discusses the essence and implications to management theory and practice of the article “Management of People across Cultures: Valuing People Differently” by Terence Jackson, which was published in the 2002 issue of the Human Resource Management journal. The article calls for a new emphasis in management that accepts and gives value to the cultural differences of people and countries, or what Jackson calls “locus of human value.” Cross-cultural management may be defined as the adoption of business strategies and managerial practices that attach a high value on the cultural beliefs of employees and other stakeholders. Instead of observing a uniform system of management for all employees, companies run their businesses by accepting and giving value to the cultural differences of people and countries. Jackson (2002; p. 455) says cross-cultural management is about persons from one cultural background meeting, understanding, dealing and interacting with persons from other cultural backgrounds. The thesis of Jackson’s article is relevant to today’s management research and practice because of the advent of globalisation and business process outsourcing. This means that managers have to manage people whose business and cultural practices are different from theirs. Thus, managers are adviced to engage in cross-cultural management by integrating their ways with these cultures to enable global interaction and worldwide learning. The need for such a management style for companies competing in the international market is also promoted by other authors like Thomas (2002; pp. 343-410), Brannen (2009; 265-267) and Trompenaars & Hapden-Turner (2004; p. 108). They believe that the emergence of the borderless economy calls for greater acceptance of “new ideas and products from other cultures, greater willingness to engage in multilateral action, and greater recognition of the bonds of economic interdependence (Thomas, 2002; p. 345).”
Jackson’s article attaches great significance and value to people in organisations that come from different cultures. It would be a mistake, he says, for managers to see multi-cultural employees as a means to an end. Thus, he proposes that managers take a more humanistic view by giving these people the corporate value that they deserve. According to Jackson’s locus of human value theory, culture clashes within organisations can disrupt operations if people are not valued according to their cultural differences. This locus of human value is either instrumental or humanistic in character. When instrumental, it sees people as a means to an end according to the Western concept of management. When humanistic, people are valued according to their way of doing things, which is how non-Western cultures manage people. Jackson favours the humanistic view, saying that the instrumental view ignores people and their objectives just to achieve organisational results. It is wrong to ignore the humanistic interests of stakeholders in favour of their instrumental objectives, Jackson says.
For managers to understand and incorporate multicultural collaboration in work arrangements, they must include all the cultural differences among team members. These may consist of what Hailey (2001; p. 201) describes as “different corporate cultures, national cultures, functional or professional cultures, micro-organisational cultures and socio-demographic cultures. This cultural complexity in the team must be considered without giving special privileges to anyone. Jackson thinks this is important for people who manage a multi-cultural workplace and those contemplating an international career.
In his article, Jackson argues that the old management theory rooted in the West contrasts with theories indigenous to other cultures, which consider the new challenges facing international managers. These challenges include “multi-cultural work groups and teams, a different organisational design of international organisations, the unique influence of multinational corporations on managerial roles and the relationship of culturally diverse individuals to the firm (Jackson, 2002; p.460). The author also discusses the challenges associated with the phenomenon of assigning individuals to overseas jobs from the perspective of both the firm and the individual expatriate worker. In effect, Jackson notes the many limitations inherent in current management theory as it applies to the new workplace, which calls for international management that pays respect to cross-national and cross-cultural issues. Without considering the locus of human value, the aims of stakeholders in an organisation are ignored both at the setting of strategy and at the assessment stage. According to Jackson, this will also lead to “reduced cultural appropriateness and also prevent organisational learning from taking place, give rise to employee alienation, and mitigate against the long term sustainability of the organisation (Jackson, 2002: p. 461).
In Jackson’s view, the cultural context in which the international manager today operates involves not only people’s traditions and beliefs but also the legal, political and economic environment. The author defines culture in practical terms and the reasons why cultures take form and persist. The idea that cultural variation is not random but systematic is examined, as are the basics of social cognition as applied to cross-cultural interaction. Among the concepts that Jackson discusses are selective perception, stereotyping, ethnocentrism, differential attributions, behavioural scripts, and cultural differences in motivation. Managers must engage in these activities, he says, because human races come from different backgrounds. The way people do things in one culture may be different from the way people do in their own culture. Activities may be the same in two different cultures, but these will always be given two different meanings or different interpretations.
According to Jackson, people from different cultures have different value systems, which make for different business practices. Organisational values are the result of cultural activities generated by the “ethnocentric, polycentric, region-centric and geo-centric strategies of organizations (Jackson, 2002; p.464).” These corporate strategies based on cultural factors are dictated by the need for global interaction and to respond to local conditions. The author dismisses the view that any reference to cultural values in organizations is the root cause of most problems in international business. Obviously, this attitude is engendered by the belief that conflicts in culture are capable of driving a wedge between managers so as to make them work at cross-purposes. In fact, more and more organizations are becoming more aware of the implications of cultural interplay in their business. They recognise the need to understand cross-cultural values and to work in a multicultural environment for them to acquire flexibility and mobility that are essential in effective management (Brannen, 2009’ p. 98). The desire of global-oriented companies to align their business strategies and operations with cultural realities is their way of keeping in step with changes in the international business environment.
Jackson’s contribution to management research and practice is the new focus he places on corporate leadership across cultures. This is a new way of looking into human resource management, which used to be concerned solely with workforce planning, recruitment of people with the right skills, team working and providing competitive salaries. Jackson provided new insights into this field, which can also be good reading for other managers in the corporate ladder. Jackson believes that managers should reconcile “an ever-widening spectrum of diversities that include different stages of economic cycles, different national cultures, different corporate cultures, different team roles, different functions, status levels, learning styles, disciplines, and personalities (Westwood & Gavin, 2009; p. 233). Cultural factors are carefully considered in the managerial functions dealing with recruitment and selection, compensation and rewards, and motivation and inspiration.
Implications for Managers
The breakthrough ideas of Jackson will make managers realise that the new business environment calls for the practice of cross-cultural management. Multinational companies are now scattered across the globe, operating under a confluence of culture. For example, the Japan-based Toyota Motors Corp. has a manufacturing plant in Jakarta on a 40-60 ownership arrangement with an Indonesian company. This requires Toyota to source most of its staff, with a significant number of management positions to be filled by local people who will run the company along with the Japanese executives that Toyota will bring from its head office. This puts cross-culture or international management into play, a common business phenomenon induced by globalization (Hofstede, 2001; p. 311). In this case, it should be noted that the Japanese cultural values and practices are worlds apart from those of the Indonesians. For the Toyota plant to be profitable in Indonesia, it has to adopt a cross-cultural management style that blends the Japanese and Indonesian cultures (Kanungo, 2006; p. 47).
Conclusion and Discussion
Since Jackson aired his views in 2002, more and more corporations are in fact viewing all professional careers as potentially having an international component. People are being hired for employment across national boarders or even between cultures and these expatriate workers are being given greater job responsibilities. Because of the need for cross-cultural management in these cases, internationalism has been incorporated in the curricula of educational institutions in many parts of the world. This is intended to produce managers with cross-cultural competency and multicultural awareness so they can succeed in the international business environment. Even professionals and workers looking for jobs in other countries would do well to study the culture and beliefs of their destinations to avoid “culture shock” (Hofstede, 2001; p. 62). It is not enough that they speak the language of their host country; they must also understand, respect and tolerate other beliefs and cultures.
I have done personal business with some companies whose managers and personnel come from different cultures, and I can vouch for the accuracy of Jackson’s observations. In Asia Pacific, where business internationalisation is more intense than anywhere else, I have seen American and European MNCs adjust to such unique Asian cultures as the Chinese guanxi, the Japanese kiretsu and the Korean chaibol. These are business traditions that involve family members in decision-making and enshrine lifetime employment, which are not countenanced in Western culture. What happens is that before locating their offices in China, Japan or Korea, the managers of Western MNCs are told to undergo a crash course on the culture and traditions of the host country. The same reorientation seminars are conducted for the local employees and managers of the companies.
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