DATE: September 8, 2021
TO: Ms. Mallory Masters
Sr. Director, ITS
FROM: Laith Jayyousi
RE: Cultural Considerations for Information Tech Strategies Prior to Expansion
The benefits of being intercultural savvy are well known to business leaders because of the increasing needs of globalization and because the workforce within their home country is getting more diverse. In simple terms, culture refers to a set of common values held by a certain group of people that determine how they think, act and judge others. These are called cultural norms.
Information Tech Strategies (ITS) wishes to expand its scope of operation outside the country. This move will come with a lot of benefits, including a wider influence and marginal profits. On the other hand, such an expansion means that ITS will encounter carious differences in terms of culture. The way the new market or audience perceives the company’s message and the information it relays is directly impacted by culture. For this reason, it is important to consider various cultural differences related to business. These will be discussed at length in the following sections.
GIFT-GIVING AND INFORMATION EXCHANGE
The giving and receiving of gifts or even hospitality play an important role in facilitating business practice and relationships. For example, having a meal with a supplier can help build a relationship, and presenting a customer a pen with the firm’s name on it can remind them of the company whenever they need a quote. However, this is not always the case. There is a fine line at times between what qualifies as a gift or hospitality and what makes a bribe. This can be unclear to the recipient, and the organization may become susceptible to accusations of unethical practices or even unethical conduct. Some cultures have clearer lines than others, and therefore it is important to understand the cultural norms of the company’s audience. ITS needs to have a clear company policy that gives employees guidance on the proper protocol on both giving and accepting gifts. This should include seeking the approval of a line manager or a senior leader when necessary, and they should enter in the gift’s records or hospitality register. It is also important to pick the right person to receive the gift. Some of the sensitive areas regarding the recipient are public officials. Again, the definitions of the constituents of a public official may vary depending on the society, and this means that the company should conduct more investigations on the issue .
While at a company outing, I was surprised at the different ways people from different cultures and countries greet, which prompted me to do an informal survey. In general, American adults almost automatically shake hands when they meet. Women may hug each other, men and women may hug one another, but men mostly stick to handshakes. In other countries such as Ghana, greetings such as hugging, or kissing are seen as a public display of affection and are frowned upon. Therefore, a handshake is the widely accepted and traditional way of greeting, making peace, congratulating, or sympathizing with other people. In contrast, it is common practice for people to kiss and hug each other in France. The issue here is to know how many kisses are enough to avoid looking insensitive or too enthusiastic. In Iran, women will not shake hands or look at a strange man, while men can do it liberally . Looking at these different scenarios, it is evident that preferred greetings are not uniform across all cultures. This means that ITS needs to dig deeper and learn about greetings that match the cultural norms of their audience.
Once ITS goes global (expands outside the country), it will interact with not only culturally diverse customers but also culturally diverse employees. The way people in these other cultures relate to or communicate with each other is different from the predominant communication style in America. Such differences can make communication difficult. When faced with uncertainties, it is worthwhile to ask questions to avoid making assumptions that will later lead to conflicts. It is also important to understand that while some cultures encourage confrontational conversations that are straight to the point, others may require that confrontations take a safer route. Additionally, some may prefer face-to-face communication, while others may not mind receiving information via email or text .
Relationship standards may act as a steppingstone or maybe a communication barrier. When interacting with colleagues, superiors, or subordinates from different cultures, it may be common to assume some degree of disconnection. Even in the absence of specific cultural variances, one may not feel quite as “at home” with the other person as they would with someone from the same culture. They may be careful and engage in less open communication because they assume they do not “know” the other person well enough. In general, there are two kinds of trust in relationships within the corporate environment – affective and cognitive. While all cultures may experience both kinds, different cultures will favor one over the other. In the United States and most of Europe, businesspeople tend to rely on cognitive trust. This is earned by proving to the other person that an individual knows what they are doing and can be depended upon. Several other business cultures favor effective (also known as relational) trust, which is developed through bonding with the other person. There is, however, some degree of affective trust involved in cultures that feature predominantly cognitive trust. For example, if one wants to think that another person is good at their job, they are more likely to assume and conclude that they are and view it as an exception only when they make mistakes .
Gender-related practices are defined by gender-role beliefs. These are the perceptions regarding gender roles in matters such as power distribution or gender-related tasks. In some cultures, women are not allowed to work, and even when they do, they will never be superior to men. In other words, they cannot rise to higher ranks in leadership. In other cases, men are believed to be the tough ones and will be the ones to do most of the heavy-lifting and fieldwork compared to women. In societies where women are educated, these instances are to a lesser extent, but there is always a gender gap in the corporate world .
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