How Approaches To Managing People Differ

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Evaluate how approaches to managing people differ and how these differences can be explained by cultural context.

Introduction

In this international age of business where firms operate in many different parts of the globe, it is important to note that approaches to management may differ across cultures. In setting up a new office in, for example, China or Japan, potential managers should seek to adapt to the different cultural practices of the host country in order to better manage their workforce and achieve productivity. In this essay, we shall, firstly, discuss methods of measuring key dimensions of culture, and then using said dimensions, look at the different management styles between three countries; China, Japan and the US, currently the three largest economies in terms of GDP, and seek to determine how each approach is shaped by the unique cultural contexts of each country.

Measuring Key Dimensions of Culture

In order to measure the potential effects of culture on the behaviour of said culture’s firms and managers, Geert Hofstede (2001), while working for IBM in the late 70s and early 80s, identified six key dimensions of culture that could be measured through use of survey data and indexed values, namely; Time Orientation (Long Term vs Short Term); a measure of the extent to which each society values history, heritage and tradition – whether it prefers to uphold traditional values and is more resistant to new ideas and technology (Long Term Orientation) or whether it is more fluid, less focussed on the past and more open to change (Short Term Orientation); Power Distance (High vs Low), which measures how well the society in question handles uneven distributions of power; whether it is generally accepted and understood as a fact of life (high power distance) or whether it is held to be deeply unfair, unnatural, and something to be railed against (low power distance); Individualism vs Collectivism; a measure of the extent to which a sense of community and collective responsibility exists, and whether it is thought to be more important than individualist beliefs and desires. Individualist societies tend to value independence, privacy and personal fulfilment, while collectivist societies tend to value group interdependence and a repression of personal ambition when it is misaligned with communal values; Uncertainty Avoidance (Weak vs Strong), which measures the extent to which each society is comfortable dealing with risk, uncertainty and ambiguity –societies with high degrees of uncertainty avoidance tend to be highly regulated and value careful planning and structure, while societies with low degrees of uncertainty avoidance tend to be more pragmatic, and accept change and risk as factors of life; Masculinity vs Femininity; a measure of societal gender differentiation – in ‘masculine’ cultures, gender roles are highly differentiated and society as a whole places higher values on competition, ambition, and personal achievement whereas in ‘feminine’ societies gender roles are less starkly defined and more equal, and society tends to place higher values on relationship building, modesty and group harmony (Hofstede and Minkov,

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