Traditionally, the impact of a socio-cultural background is extremely important in the life of people, to the extent that it can even define their behavior, lifestyle, habits, and professional work. It is not a secret that each culture is unique and different from any other. Naturally, people representing different cultures are also quite different. At the same time, the development of the modern world increases the necessity of the closer cooperation of people representing different socio-cultural background. On the one hand, there is the growing impact of the process of globalization which makes many, if not to say all, countries of the world get integrated into one world market where each country could take its own niche. As a result, the globalization contributes to the higher integration of people from different cultures and their close cooperation in their professional work.
On the other hand, communities, which used to be ethnically solid with a low level of ethnic minorities, nowadays become more and more culturally diverse since people from other countries, and, thus, different culture flow to these communities. In such a situation, developed countries such as the UK turn to be the Promised land for people from many developing countries. As a result, the local society becomes culturally diverse as local population deals with such national groups which have an absolutely different socio-cultural background.
At the same time, representatives of developed countries also quite often have to work in developing countries, for instance, British work in India, since companies originating from developed countries expand their markets and network on developing countries.
In such a situation, it is extremely important to remember that the successful work of the manager substantially depends on his profound knowledge of the cultural background, traditions and norms of people he is supposed to work with. This means that cultural factors should be taken into consideration not only in a foreign country but also in his native land if he is working in an organization where people are culturally diverse or represent different community. In terms of this paper the work of the manager in India and Indian-based community organization will be discussed.
The national background
Before speaking about the perspective of a work of the manager in India or an organization with predominantly Indian workers, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the national background of India. First of all, it should be said that India is a country with a great history and not less great traditions that have not been radically changed for centuries. This is why the local traditions and norms are extremely important to Indians regardless the country they are currently living in.
On analyzing Indian cultural and national background it should be pointed out that it is quite a conservative country where the traditional caste hierarchy of the society still persists and influences practically all spheres of life of all Indians (1). The main religion of Indians is Hinduism that is actually also very important to them since, as a rule, Indians are religious people and are very respectful to the religious and cultural norms of their country(2). However, it is worthy of mention that other religions, such as Islam, are lasso spread in India that actually causes some serious conflicts within the country. In general, it should be said that Indian society is characterized as strictly structure so that the social position of a person in India is of a paramount importance that, to a significant extent, define the behaviour of Indian people (1). Basically, Indian culture is different from Western one and is more conservative that means that many social biases are still extremely wide spread and strong in India while in the UK they play less and less significant role, such as gender roles implying the total dominance of men and obedience of women. At the same time, Christian traditions are rather weak in India but it is important to underline that Indians are well acquainted with Western civilization since for a long period of time the country was under the control of the UK that naturally influenced the historical development of the country, created certain contradictions and affected relations between Indian and British people.
Naturally, in order to achieve positive results in the work of the manager in a different culture it is necessary to take into consideration its norms and traditions. Practically, it means that the UK manager should perfectly understand the mentality, culture, traditions and norms of India if he is supposed to work in this country or in an organization where Indians constitute a substantial part. At the same time, it is necessary to use a systematic approach and take into consideration a variety of factors that actually define the cultural differences between representatives of different national groups.
In this respect, it is possible to refer to Geert Hofstede’s works in which he analyzed various socio-cultural factors that influence behaviour, norms and perception of representatives of different nations. Basically, he defines five major factors, which should be taken into consideration and which traditionally differ representatives of different national groups.
First of all, it should be said that Hofstede develops a concept of Power Distance Index, which is defined by the researcher as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally” (2:7). It is worthy of mention that this inequality in relation to power is defined from below. Practically it means that it is not only the leaders that have the power in the community or organization but they possess this power because of the recognition of their higher position by the rest of the community. In other words, the community, notably follower, provides its leaders with the power and recognizes the existing inequality. In such a way, the follower and leaders are both conscious of the exiting inequality of power which may vary depending on a country and its culture.
Another important factor is individualism. Hofstede defines individualism as “the degree to which individuals are integrated into the group” (2:8). In actuality, the concept of individuals is based on the opposition of individualism and collectivism typical for different culture in a different degree. Practically, it means that some cultures are more susceptible to individualism while other are less and rather tend to collectivism where the role of individual is less significant compared to the interests of the community.
Furthermore, masculinity may be also an important factor that can have a profound impact on behaviour and belief of representatives of different cultures. According to Hofstede, masculinity refers to “the distribution of roles between the genders” (2:9), Similarly to the previous concept, masculinity is also based on the opposition, notably, on the opposition to femininity. As a rule, this factor reveals the gaps that exist between men and women in different societies. It is not a secret that the position of females and males in different cultures varies and may be quite unequal mainly due to the substantial differences in male and female values. The wider is the gap the more is the difference in gender roles in society.
Also, it is necessary to pay attention to uncertainty avoidance index. Hofstede estimates that uncertainty avoidance index indicates “to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations” (2:10). In this respect, it is possible to distinguish uncertainty avoiding cultures and uncertainty accepting cultures which differ substantially since the former tend to avoid uncertainty by setting strict rules and regulations that define their behaviour, beliefs, etc., while the latter tend to accept uncertainty that means that they do not really need any strict rules and accept the possibility of the pluralism of opinions, views, beliefs, etc. without any strict regulations.
The successful work of the manager in India
On analyzing the work of the manager in India, using the factors above, it is necessary to underline that the UK manager will have to adapt to quite a different cultural norms and mentality. It is obvious that the UK and India are quite different countries that have different cultures, religions and philosophies. The UK manager is a representative of a typically Western culture, while Indian people personify Oriental culture. Naturally, in order to achieve positive results in his work, the manager should not violate the rules and norms that exist in Indian society and, thus, he will need to refuse form his traditional manner of behaviour, change or revaluate his views so that he will not violate the norms accepted in India.
First of all, speaking about the difference between the UK and India that the manager should pay a particular attention to, it is necessary to underline that power distance index in Indian community is substantially higher than in the UK. It means that the manager should realize the fact that the social and organizational hierarchy in India is stricter than in the UK. In other words, the level of recognition of the inequality of ordinary employees and the organization’s leaders will be incomparably higher in India than in the UK. As a result, the manager would hardly be able to successfully apply the democratic and liberal methods of work since, he would rather need to create the image that could correspond to the traditional perception of Indians concerning authority. In practice, he should keep destine between himself and his subordinates who occupy lower position in the organizational hierarchy and the lower an employee is the larger should be the distance.
Furthermore, the traditional Western individualism would hardly be appreciated by Indian since this country rather tends to higher level of collectivism than individualism (3). As a result, the role of the organization, its interests and progress are more important to Indian than their individual success. Unquestionably, it will be difficult for the UK manager to change his individualistic style but still, to achieve success, he will need to change his style of work and show to employees that the success of the company is prior to his own interests and career growth. Otherwise, employees will never accept the UK manager as a reliable and well-qualified professional.
Even more difficult will be the position of the female manager from the UK in India because traditionally, the local culture is male dominated, while the role of women is often considered to be secondary. However, it is necessary to underline that the caste division of Indian society with its strict structure can be quite helpful for the UK female manager as the high social position is more important to Indians than the gender. In other words, the respect of the power of the female manager can outweigh gender-related biases.
Also, it will be quite difficult but necessary for the UK manager to get used to Indian high rate of uncertainty avoidance index. In fact, it is really difficult to reject traditional Western readiness to accept pluralism of views and opinions and be tolerant at large, while in India the manager should rather stick to the local traditions and norms that could not be violated. Otherwise, his authority and respectful position will be undermined because if the manager listen to and accept a different opinion, Indian will more likely to interpret it as his weakness.
Finally, it should be said that the UK manager should take into consideration the same factors even though he is supposed to work in an organization with predominantly Indian workers in the UK because they keep their traditions and the standards and norms established in Indian culture are very strong. Nonetheless, the difference is that in the UK the manager will have an opportunity to avoid extremes and rather modify his behaviour than change it completely as he would have to do being in India.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that the role of national culture is extremely important and the successful work of the manager is based on the knowledge of the cultural background of his employees. In such a way, the more integrated the manager is in the cultural background of his employees the more successful his work will be.
Country Profile: India. Retrieved April 2, 2007 from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/country_profiles/1154019.stm>
Taylor, Stephen J. IBC FOCUS ARTICLE: How do Hofstede’s Dimensions correlate with the World’s Religions? Retrieved April 2, 2007 from <http://www.international-business-center.com/international_newsletter/april_2003/april_03_web.htm#article>
Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions. Retrieved April 2, 2007 from <http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_india.shtml>
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