Communication Across Cultural Lines
A Case Study of An Adult School in Southern California
This hub presents a case study of a small adult education program in Southern California in order to examine the problem of cross-cultural communications in organizations with staff members from multiple cultural backgrounds. The purpose of the study was to highlight cultural differences that have the potential to impede communication between co-workers from the various cultural backgrounds. In order to fulfill the stated purpose, the proposed study will perform a post hoc comparison of the cultures of four staff members from an adult education program in Southern California previously discovered in Project GLOBE study.
Key Words: cross-cultural communications,multicultural organizations,
The Problem of Cross-Cultural Communications in Multi-Cultural Organizations
This hub presents a case study of an adult school in Southern California in order to examine the problem of cross-cultural communications within organizations with staff members from multiple cultural backgrounds. The purpose of the study is to highlight cultural differences that have the potential to impede communication between organizational leaders and their subordinates and between co-workers from the divergent cultural settings. The study was undertaken in order to assist global leadership practitioners in their efforts to provide a more cooperative and effective organizational environment.
The Problem Statement
Before the ages of industrialization and globalization, most human beings around the world grew up and carried out their daily activities within restricted geographical confines, rarely coming face to face with others from different cultural backgrounds. However, due to various factors - e.g. (a) advances in and expansions of transportation and communication technologies and networks; (b) forced migration caused by wars, famine, and poverty; and (c) increased economic cooperation and collaboration of governments and multi-national corporations; such is not the case anymore. As of 2010, folks from different cultures in the world find themselves interacting and working with individuals and groups from other cultures, operating and communicating according to differing sets of cultural norms, values, and communication styles. Consequently, researchers and global leadership practitioners stressed a heightened need for understanding other cultures and their people and what factors show potential to impede effective communication within an organization characterized by cultural diversity. Corona-Norco Adult School is an example of an organization with staff members from a number of different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, the school’s leadership team faces the potential problem of cultural factors impeding effective communication within the organization.
The Purpose of this Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate some of the possible factors that have the potential to impede effective communication within global organizations such as the Corona-Norco Adult School including cultural dimension constructs such as:
1. Performance orientation
2. Individualism – collectivism;
3. Power distance;
4. Humane orientation;
5. Uncertainty avoidance. (Hofstede, 1980; House et al., 2004)
Moreover, the purpose of this case study was to assist global leadership practitioners in their efforts to provide a more cooperative and effective organizational environment.
Various studies have investigated the influence of culture on communication between individuals and groups from different cultural backgrounds. This section provides a literature review relevant to the discussion of the influence of culture on communication in cross-cultural settings including literature (a) conceptualizing communication and (b) conceptualizing culture. The literature conceptualizing culture and highlighted in this proposed study included (a) those delineating general cultural dimensions - e.g. Hofstede and House et al.; and (b) those that specifically address the problem of culture and its effect on communication in cross-cultural encounters e.g. Hall (1976) and Gundykunst (2003).
Generally, communication can be defined as all messages disseminated within a context and a situation (Communication, n.d.; Coggins, 2010). More specifically, communication is a process that involves a sender, a receiver and a message whereby a person or group (the sender) attempts to convey information (the message) to another person or group (the receiver) through both verbal and nonverbal cues (Harris, Moran, & Moran, 2004; Klopf, 1991).
In conceptualizing communication, Gundykunst & Kim (2003) identified at least eight assumptions involved in communication including (a) the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols to convey messages; (b) the transmission and interpretation of messages; (c) the creation of meaning; (d) different levels of awareness involved in the process; and (e) prediction of outcomes of their communication behavior.
Additionally, in writing of cross-cultural communication and communications within global organizations, Harris et al observed and emphasized that cross-cultural communication (a) occurs within a context; (b) is at the heart of all organizational operations and international relations; and (c) is “a process whereby individuals from different cultural backgrounds attempt to share meanings.”
Seedam (2009); Grunlan and Mayers (2004); and Linton (1947) each seemed to recognize the culture of a society as the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation. Keesing (1974) conceptualized culture as the theory an individual devises in his own mind concerning what he perceives those around him think about how he behaves and communicates. Accordingly, those perceptions work as set of parameters by which the person behaves and communicates in order to fit in. More formally, House et al (2004) defined culture as “shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives and are transmitted across age generations.” Fisher (1988) conceptualized culture as the mindset of a collective that works as a lens through which members of that collective tend to see, hear, and interpret everything around them and act accordingly.
Theories of communication within and across cultures. Besides the general cultural dimensions delineated by Hofstede and House et al, the literature presents other studies of specific theories and constructs concerning the role culture plays in communication between those from different societies including the concept of High – Low Context cultural communication, Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory, and Social Identity theory (Hall, 1976, 1981; Stephen, Stephen, & Gudykunst, 1999; Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Gundykunst & Kim, 2003).
Cultural contexts in communication.Hall (1976, 1981) made an important distinction between what he described as high- and low-context cultures and how the matter of context impacts communication (Harris et al, p. 44; Hall, pp. 105-116). The general differences between high- and low-context communications are tied to the amount of explicit information which must be shared verbally when attempting to convey a message. Hall explained
A high-context communication as one in which most information is either in the physical context or internalized (preprogrammed) in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. A low-context communication is just the opposite; i.e., the mass of the information is vested in the explicit code (i.e. the spoken words). (p. 91).
Harris et al. note that “communication between high- and low-context people is often fraught with impatience and irritation” and “unless global leaders are aware of the subtle differences, communication misunderstandings between low- and high-context communicators can result” (pp. 44-45).
Anxiety-Uncertainty Management theory. Gundykunst partnered with a number of different co-researchers to unmask the Anxiety-Uncertainty Management Theory (AUM). Basically, AUM was devised to explain how culture affects communication between those from different societies. First postulated by Gudykunst (1988) as an extension of Berger and Calabrese’s (1975) uncertainty reduction theory, AUM assumes that managing anxiety and uncertainty are fundamental processes influencing the effectiveness of communication with others i.e. individuals communicate effectively to the extent that they are able to manage their anxiety and uncertainty by accurately predicting and explaining the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of others.
Social Identity Theory. As a formal construct, Social Identity Theory was conceptualized by Tajfel and Turner in 1979 (Universite of Twente, 2010; Haslam, 2001). The theory was originally developed to understand the psychological basis of intergroup discrimination. Through their study, Tajfel et al (1971) attempted to identify the minimal conditions that would lead members of one group to discriminate in favor of the ingroup to which they belonged and against another outgroup. Tajfel’s findings seemed to suggest that human beings constantly strive to define themselves in relationship to the world around them (Gundykunst & Kim, 2003). Gundykunst & Kim (2003) observed that Tajfel concluded the constant measuring of one’s self with those around them led to social categorization and subsequently social identity. Furthermore, Gundykunst & Kim posited that social identities work as a highly important component of a person’s self-concept that influences communication with strangers from another another culture. Moreover, Gundykunst & Kim identified at least nine types of social identities that global leadership practitioners should be aware of as supervisors of staff characterized by cultural diversity. Those nine social identities included:
1. Cultural Identity
2. Racial Identity
3. Ethnic Identity
4. Gender Role Identity
5. Individual Personality
6. Social Class Identity
7. Identities of disabilities
8. Age Identity
9. Roles Identity
Sources of guidance and influence tactics of global leaders in cross-cultural settings.
Besides the general and specific studies in cultural differences and how those differences impact communication between those from different cultures, other studies addressed global leaders in particular and how they approach issues with employees in the workplace. Two recent studies concerning global leaders in the workplace sought to compare influence tactics and sources of guidance across cultures. (Kennedy, Fu, & Yukl, 2003; Smith, 2003).
Sources of guidance. Smith (2003) claimed that leaders in different cultural contexts rely on various sources of guidance and posited that mapping sources of guidance could lead to a clearer understanding of the types of challenges faced by global leaders than can be gained by focusing on their values. In his study, Smith sought to ascertain whether more recent studies could provide more relevant maps of contemporary cultural difference than Hofstede’s cultural dimensions framework which Smith saw as outmoded, based on old data. Moreover, Smith provided “a discussion of how managers and employees can work more effectively within the context of continuing cultural differences through shared understandings that extended into the field of tacit knowledge. Smith included in his notion of tacit knowledge “assumptions about meanings and significance of actions in terms of relationships between people” and noted that a key aspect of tacit knowledge was “knowing how to guide one’s actions in a particular context.”
In order to carry out the study of sources of guidance, Smith, Peterson, and Schwartz (2002) sampled middle managers in 53 countries to ascertain the degree of reliance on each of eight sources of guidance. Generally, the survey sought to rank nations by their reliance on vertical sources e.g. hierarchical versus participative against their respective tendencies to rely on (a) “beliefs that are widespread in my nation as to what is Right” e.g. traditional versus nontraditional; and or (b) unwritten rules as to how we usually do things around here.” The results were reported in two tables and applied to the country and individual levels. Ultimately, Smith seem to succeed in his aim to highlight how leaders and co-workers need to have a firm understanding of the differences between themselves in order to work together more effectively.
Influence tactics. Kennedy, Fu, and Yukl (2003) studied managerial influence tactics in international settings and reported the findings of a 12 nation study on the relative effectiveness of different influence tactics in business organizations. Influence tactics refer to how managers from different cultures seek to motivate their subordinates upon assigning them a task, especially an unwanted task. The aim of their study was to find if influence tactics employed in the United States applied universally across a variety of different cultures. Kennedy et al. discovered that at least four tactics were preferred universally e.g. rational persuasion, consultation, collaboration, and apprising. Conversely they found four others rated consistently low in effectiveness across the studied cultures e.g. giving gifts, socializing with the subordinate before assigning the task, exerting pressure, and taking the subordinate off-site to an informal setting before introducing the task.
To summarize, review of the literature suggested a variety of (a) cultural dimensions and differences in cultural norms, values, and practices; (b) approaches to communication within and across cultures, and (c) at least some of the factors which play a role in how leaders approach subordinates at the workplace. Furthermore, the literature demonstrates that cultural backgrounds show potential to impede effective communication within global organizations characterized by cultural diversity like Corona-Norco Adult School in Corona, California, USA.
General cultural dimensions. Through their respective research projects aimed at deciphering differences in cultures, Hofstede (1971) and the Project GLOBE study defined general cultural dimensions in order that citizens or delegates from one particular society might understand both (a) their own national cultural tendencies and (b) the general cultural tendencies of those they might encounter from other cultures.
Hofstede and cultural dimensions. Geert Hofstede was a Dutch sociologist hired as a personnel researcher for the European headquarters of IBM (Foster, 1999, p. 1). Concerning Hofstede’s research, Foster wrote
As part of his assignment, Hofstede worked with teams of international researchers to develop a 180-item survey of employee attitudes. Over the next seven years, the survey was translated into 18 languages and administered to about 88,000 respondents in 66 countries. By the mid-1970s, Hofstede had become aware of strong national patterns in the answers to the survey and requested access to the data bank in order to re-analyze it statistically to verify and study these patterns. (p. 1).
Through his ongoing research Hofstede eventually identified five dimensions of national culture that influenced communication within global organizations including
1. Power distance,
2. Uncertainty avoidance,
5. Long-term orientation
Power distance. Power distance (PD) refers to the degree or extent of which members of a certain society tolerate inequality in power distribution (Olausson Stafstrom, and Svedin, 2009, p. 9; Fowler, p. 2). A high PD score indicates that society accepts an unequal distribution of power and people understand "their place" in the system. Low PD means that power is shared and well dispersed. It also means that society members view themselves as equals. (Mindtools, 2009).
Uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty avoidance refers to the degree to which members of a particular culture can handle uncertain or ambiguous situations (Hofstede, House et al, 2004; Gundykunst & Kim, 2003). More specifically, uncertainty avoidance points to the extent to which members of a particular culture seek orderliness, consistency, structure, formalized procedures, and laws to cover situations in their daily lives. Members of societies characterized as high in uncertainty avoidance have less tolerance for ambiguity than those characterized as low in uncertainty (Gundykunst & Kim, 2003). In high uncertainty avoidance cultures, aggressive behavior of self and other is acceptable; however, individuals prefer to contain aggression by avoiding conflict and competition. Furthermore, cultures high in uncertainty avoidance show a strong tendency for consensus making deviant behavior or voicing dissent against the group unacceptable (Gundykunst & Kim).
Individualism-collectivism. Individualism and collectivism refer to the extent of which an individual is free to express him or herself independently of their group or cultural society (Olausson et al, 2009, p. 3; Fowler p. 3). “A high IDV score indicates a loose connection with people [whereas] a society with a low IDV score would have strong group cohesion, and there would be a large amount of loyalty and respect for members of the group” (Mindtools).
Masculinity-femininity. This cultural factor refers to how much a society sticks with, and values, traditional male and female roles. High masculinity scores are found in countries where men are expected to be tough, to be the provider, to be assertive and to be strong. If women work outside the home, they have separate professions from men. Low masculinity scores do not reverse the gender roles. In a low masculinity society, the roles are generally blurred. You see women and men working together equally across many professions. Men are allowed to be sensitive and women can work hard for professional success. (Mindtools, p. 1; Fowler, p. 3; Dimensions, p. 171).
Long-term – short-term orientation. According to Hofstede (2009) Long-term versus short-term orientation was a dimension discovered in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars. Generally, this cultural dimension concerns virtue regardless of truth. Furthermore, values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Both the positively and the negatively rated values of this dimension are found in the teachings of Confucius, the most influential Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 B.C.; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage.
The Project GLOBE study and cultural dimensions. The Project GLOBE study was a 10-year research program undertaken for the major purpose to increase available knowledge relevant to cross-cultural interactions. The results of the study are reported in the form of quantitative data collected from approximately 17,000 managers holding positions in 951 organizations from 62 different societies around the world. Through their research project, House et al (a) confirmed much of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions including power distance, uncertainty avoidance; and individualism-collectivism; (b) modified others e.g. split the masculinity-femininity dimension into two dimensions - gender egalitarianism and assertiveness and long-term orientation into future orientation; and (c) discovered others including performance orientation and humane orientation. The latter two are discussed below.
Performance orientation. According to House et al (2004), performance orientation reflects the extent to which a community encourages and rewards innovation, high standards, and performance improvement. Moreover, the GLOBE study researchers found performance orientation as important dimension of a community in that it demonstrates how communities find solutions to problems of how to survive (termed “external adaptation”) and how to stay together (termed “internal integration”). In other words, performance orientation “is an internally consistent set of practices and values that have an impact on the way a society defines success in adapting external challenges, and the way the society manages inter-relationship among its people.” Societal cultures with high performance orientation tend to (a) value training and development; (b) reward performance; (c) value assertiveness, competitiveness, and materialism; (d) expect demanding targets; and (e) believe that individuals are in control. Conversely, societal cultures with low performance orientation tend to (a) value societal and family relationships; (b) reward seniority and experience; (c) view assertiveness as socially unacceptable; (d) have performance appraisal systems that emphasize integrity, loyalty, and cooperative spirit; and (e) value harmony with the environment rather than control. In conjunction with communication styles, Grove (2005) highlighted that high performance oriented cultures “expect direct, explicit communication” while those from low performance oriented cultures “expect indirect, subtle communication.
Humane orientation. According to House et al (2004), the Humane Orientation cultural dimension is defined as “the degree to which an organization or society encourages and rewards individuals for being fair, altruistic, friendly, generous, caring, and kind to others. Through their empirical study, House et al discovered that among other traits societies with high humane orientation tended to (a) view others as important; (b) have fewer psychological and pathological problems; (c) give higher priority to altruism, benevolence, kindness, love, and generosity; and (d) be motivated by belonging and affiliation with others. In comparison, the same GLOBE researchers found that societies with low humane orientation tended to (a) view self as more important than others; (b) have more psychological and pathological problems; (c) give higher priority to pleasure, comfort, and self-enjoyment; and (d) be motivated by power and material possessions.
Corona-Norco Adult School
Corona Norco Adult School (CNAS), a subsidiary of Corona-Norco Unified School District in Corona, California, USA is an adult education institution. Adult Ed Learners.com offers the following description of the purpose and mission of CNAS:
The mission of the Corona-Norco Adult School is to provide life-long educational opportunities and services through programs that support the overall goals of the Corona-Norco Unified School District and respond to the unique needs of each individual in a diverse and growing community.
The school is committed to preparing students for their adult roles as productive workers, effective family members, responsible community members, and lifelong learners. Our commitment is that at the completion of a class or program, every student will have:
· Met his or her expectations for the class or program.
· Achieved personal goals.
· Gained a skill or life experience.
· Acquired tools to become productive individuals.
Adult Education provides opportunities for participants to obtain training and skills for employment, to become knowledgeable consumers, parents and citizens, and to develop potential for self-realization to the fullest.
Corona-Norco Adult School is a community-based school with classroom sites throughout the District. In existence since 1948, the Adult School offers a diverse range of classes to meet the needs and interests of the area's residents. It is an integral part of the District's effort to provide educational services to the community. (Adult Ed Learners.com, p. 1).
According to authorities at the school, CNAS has 45 staff members from a variety of different cultural backgrounds including the principal who is from the United States and those who immigrated to the United States from such places as Egypt, Iran, and Mexico.
Given the review of the literature, this case study will be guided by the following research questions:
1. According to the findings of the Project GLOBE research study, how do the USA, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico compare in terms of the performance orientation cultural dimension construct?
2. According to the findings of the Project GLOBE research study, how do the USA, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico compare in terms of the individualism-collectivism cultural dimension construct?
3. According to the findings of the Project GLOBE research study, how do the USA, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico compare in terms of the power distance cultural dimension construct?
4. According to the findings of the Project GLOBE research study, how do the USA, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico compare in terms of the humane orientation cultural dimension construct?
5. According to the findings of the Project GLOBE research study, how do the USA, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico compare in terms of the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension construct?
This section describes the methodology employed when conducting the case study; accordingly it covers (a) the research design; (b) the participants in the study; (c) instrumentation and materials; (d) procedures including data collection and data analysis; and (e) the results (Creswell, 2009).
The original intent of this case study was to employ a mixed methods design. According to Creswell (2009), mixed method designs utilize aspects of qualitative and quantitative analysis. More specifically, this study intended to employ a sequential mixed methods design beginning with a post hoc comparative cultural analysis utilizing the results of the Project Globe study, followed by semi-structured, informal conversational interviews with six staff members of the Corona-Norco Adult School. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances the study was limited to the post-hoc Project GLOBE study comparison of four cultures represented within the CNAS staff without the intended interviews. The reasons for not following through with the intended interviews are discussed in the results section of this hub.
The participants for this case study were limited to those who were previously included in the Project GLOBE study. The Project GLOBE study collected data from approximately 17,000 managers holding positions in 951 organizations from 62 different societies around the world.
Data for this case study were collected post hoc from the reported results of the Project Globe Study (House et al, 2004). Post hoc studies are those that are conducted after the fact, employing the results of a previously conducted study.
This case study employed a cross-case analysis design (Yin, 2003). The study employed a cross-case analysis in that its purpose was not to portray any single one of the participants or the respective national cultures of the participants, but to synthesize the data into an overall understanding of the cultural diversity in Corona-Norco Adult School organization in order to determine its potential impact on communication within the organization (Yin).
The results of this case study analysis were not as robust as originally intended due to complications at the Corona-Norco Adult School. While permission was granted by the principal to do the study and 15 of 45 members of the staff agreed to participate in the interview portion of the study, CNAS underwent a relocation project that dominated the time of the employees especially the principal and those surrounding her. Due to these extenuating circumstances, the intended interviewees were not available to answer the semi-structured interview questions as intended. Moreover, of the 15 who agreed to participate only four cultures were represented, limiting the scope of the comparison to those four cultures rather than the six originally proposed. The four cultures included (a) the United States, (b) Mexico, (c) Iran and (d) Egypt. As is only fair, authorities at the school asked that country comparisons of those who chose not to participate not be included in the study. Thus, the results of this study are limited to the post hoc country cultural comparisons from the findings of the Project GLOBE research study related to the four countries. So in essence, this study is more of a preliminary study of the possibility of hindrances of communication amongst cross-cultural staff members. However, further qualitative and quantitative studies involving the staff at CNAS or a similar site should be conducted to confirm that hindrances to communication do exist due to differing norms in cultural practices and values.
The cultural differences of four countries were compared in conjunction with the following criteria included in the Project GLOBE study findings:
1. Performance orientation
2. Individualism – collectivism;
3. Power distance;
4. Humane orientation;
5. Uncertainty avoidance. (House et al., 2004)
As stated above in the literature review section, performance orientation reflects the extent to which a community encourages and rewards innovation, high standards, and performance improvement. Those presiding over the GLOBE study measured performance orientation in three ways according to (a) practices, (b) values, and (c) leadership orientation to this dimension.
Performance orientation practices. This dimension looks at performance orientation as actually practiced in the culture. In terms of performance orientation practices, the survey yielded scores ranging from 3.20-4.94 (House et al., 2004, p. 250). Concerning the four cultures included in this study of Corona-Norco Adult School, the survey yielded the following scores:
1. Iran - 4.58
2. United States (USA) – 4.49
3. Egypt – 4.27
4. Mexico – 4.10
After conducting the necessary research, those who presided over the GLOBE study separated the participating countries into three sections signifying high, medium, and low. Iran and USA landed in the highest scoring group, while Egypt and Mexico scored in the medium range.
Performance orientation values. This dimension studies performance orientation as an ideal or as a general value of the society i.e. how people of a particular societal culture think things should be. Of 62 societies measured in the Project GLOBE study, scores for this dimension of performance orientation ranged from 4.92 to 6.58 (House et al., p. 251). Concerning the four cultures included in this study of Corona-Norco Adult School, the survey yielded the following scores:
1. Mexico – 6.16
2. USA – 6.14
3. Iran – 6.08
4. Egypt – 5.90
After conducting the necessary research, those who presided over the GLOBE study separated the participating countries into five groups. As determined by the researchers of GLOBE study, all four cultures included in this case study of CNAS fell in the second highest range in conjunction to performance orientation as a cultural value.
Performance orientation as a leadership characteristic. The third manner by which GLOBE researchers compared performance orientation amongst different cultural societies was performance orientation as a leadership characteristic. The survey of 62 societal cultures found that performance orientation was a highly favorable characteristic in leader in that the average score was six on a seven point scale. Concerning the four cultures included in this study of Corona-Norco Adult School, the survey yielded the following scores:
1. USA - 6.46;
2. Mexico – 6.14;
3. Egypt – 5.79;
4. Iran – 5.56. (House et al., p. 269).
After conducting the necessary research, GLOBE researchers divided the mean scores of the 62 participating nations into four groups. Of the four cultures represented at CNAS, the USA fell in the highest group and showed the highest tendency to encourage performance orientation in leadership; Mexico and Egypt scored in the second group; and Iran in the third demonstrating the least demand for this trait in leadership.
Individualism – Collectivism
As stated previously in this study, the cultural dimension of individualism collectivism cultural orientation pits the needs of the individual against the needs of the group. In other words, which is more important in a particular society individual achievement or group harmony? The GLOBE study yielded four measures of this theoretical construct including (a) societal institutional collectivism practices; (b) societal in-group collectivism practices; (c) societal institutional collectivism values; and (d) societal in-group collectivism values (House et al, pp. 468-471). In the GLOBE study institutional collectivism referred to the extent to which individual or collective interests were emphasized in society as a whole whereas societal in-group collectivism assessed the degree to which individuals express pride, loyalty, and interdependence in their respective families (House et al., p. 463). Furthermore, practices asked participants to answer according to their societies As Is; whereas values asked participants to answer according to how they perceive society should be.
Societal institutional collectivism practices. For this first measurement, the mean scores of the 62 societies included in the GLOBE study ranged from 3.25 to 5.22 with the high scores indicating greater collectivism (House et al., p. 468). In this measure the four cultures represented in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Egypt – 4.50
2. USA – 4.20
3. Mexico – 4.06
4. Iran – 3.88
For this measurement, GLOBE researchers divided the 62 surveyed countries into four group ranges. Egypt, USA, and Mexico all scored in the second highest range and Iran in the third indicating that in terms of institutional collectivism Iran displayed a lower tendency towards collectivism than the other three.
Societal in-group collectivism practices. In terms of societal in-group collectivism as actually practiced in daily life, the 62 countries in the GLOBE survey scored means of 3.53-6.36 wherein higher scores indicated greater collectivism (House et all, p.469). The mean scores for the four countries in this study were:
1. Iran – 6.03
2. Mexico – 5.71
3. Egypt – 5.71
4. USA – 4.25
For this survey category, the GLOBE researchers divided the 62 nations into three categories wherein Iran, Mexico, and Egypt all scored in the highest category of in-group collectivism and the USA scored in the lowest group. In this cultural dimension, a wide difference was revealed between the USA and the cultures of the other three staff members included in this study of Corona-Norco Adult School.
Societal institutional collectivism values. This measurement of institutional collectivism yielded mean scores ranging from 3.83-5.65 and sought to ascertain how members of each particular culture thought life should be (p. 470). The four cultures included in the study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Iran – 5.54
2. Mexico – 4.92
3. Egypt – 4.85
4. USA – 4.17
The GLOBE researchers divided the mean scores of the 62 surveyed nations into four categories, Iran scored in the highest category; Mexico and Egypt scored in the second highest range; while the USA scored near the bottom of the third range. Iran, Mexico, and Egypt scored what appears to be significantly higher than the USA.
Societal in-group collectivism values. This fourth survey of the individualism-collectivism cultural dimension yielded mean scores ranging from 4.94-6.52 (House et al., p. 471). The four cultures included in the case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Mexico – 5.95
2. Iran – 5.86
3. USA – 5.77
4. Egypt – 5.56
The GLOBE researchers divided the mean scores of the 62 participating cultures into three categories. All four nations in this case study of CNAS scored in the middle range. In the case of the USA it appeared those Americans who participated in the GLOBE study valued in-group collectivism more than they appeared to practice it.
As previous identified, power distance (PD) refers to the degree or extent of which members of a certain society tolerate inequality in power distribution (Olausson, Stafstrom, & Svedin, 2009, p. 9; Fowler, p. 2). The Project GLOBE research study sought to measure Power Distance as members of each culture thought it was actually practiced in everyday life and how they thought it should be practiced in everyday.
Power distance – society practice (as is). The first measurement of the power distance cultural dimension measures power distance as members of a particular society perceive that trait is practiced in normal everyday life. In this category, the mixed methods approach of the GLOBE researchers yielded mean scores ranging from 3.89- 5.80 with a higher score signifying greater power distance (House et al., p. 539). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Iran – 5.43
2. Mexico – 5.22
3. Egypt – 4.92
4. USA – 4.88
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into four levels wherein Iran scored in the highest group and the other three scored in the second highest group.
Power distance – society values (should be). The second measurement of the power distance cultural dimension measures power distance as members of a particular society perceive that trait should be practiced in everyday life. In this category, the GLOBE research study yielded mean scores ranging from 2.04-3.65 with a higher score signifying greater power distance (House et al., p. 540). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Egypt – 3.24
2. USA – 2.85
3. Mexico – 2.85
4. Iran – 2.80
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into five levels wherein Egypt scored in the second highest group and the scores of the USA, Mexico, and Iran landed them in the third (middle) group.
As previously discussed, the Humane Orientation cultural dimension is defined as “the degree to which an organization or society encourages and rewards individuals for being fair, altruistic, friendly, generous, caring, and kind to others” (House et al., 2004). As the GLOBE researchers did with the power distance cultural dimension, so they measured the humane orientation dimension in two ways – as is practiced and as members of the culture believe it should be.
Humane orientation – society practices (as is). The first measurement of the humane orientation cultural dimension measures humane orientation as members of a particular society perceive that trait is practiced in normal everyday life. In this category, the mixed methods approach of the GLOBE researchers yielded mean scores ranging from 3.18-5.23 with a higher score signifying greater humane orientation (House et al., p. 573). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Egypt – 4.73
2. Iran – 4.23
3. USA – 4.17
4. Mexico – 3.98
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into four levels wherein (a) Egypt scored in the highest group; (b) Iran scored in the second highest level; and (c) the United States and Mexico scored in the third group.
Humane orientation – society values (should be). The second measurement of the humane orientation cultural dimension measures the construct as members of a particular society perceive that trait should be practiced in everyday life. In this category, the GLOBE research study yielded mean scores ranging from 4.49-6.09 with a higher score signifying greater humane orientation (House et al., p. 574). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Iran – 5.61
2. USA – 5.53
3. Egypt – 5.17
4. Mexico – 5.10
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into five levels wherein (a) Iran and the USA scored in the second highest level and (b) Egypt and Mexico both scored in the lower portion of the third level.
As previously discussed in the literature review section, the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension refers to the degree to which members of a particular culture can handle uncertain or ambiguous situations (Hofstede, House et al, 2004; Gundykunst & Kim, 2003). (House et al., 2004). As the GLOBE researchers did with the power distance and humane orientation, so they measured the uncertainty avoidance dimension construct in two ways (a) as is practiced and (b) as members of the particular culture believed it should be practiced.
Uncertainty avoidance – society practices (as is). The first measurement of the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension measures the construct as members of a particular society perceive that trait is practiced in normal everyday life. In this category, the mixed methods approach of the GLOBE researchers yielded mean scores ranging from 2.88-5.37 with a higher score signifying greater uncertainty avoidance (House et al., p. 622). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Mexico – 4.18
2. USA – 4.15
3. Egypt – 4.06
4. Iran – 3.67
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into four levels wherein (a) Mexico and the USA scored in the second highest group and (b) Egypt and Iran scored in the third level.
Uncertainty avoidance – society values (should be). The second measurement of the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension measures the construct as members of a particular society perceive that trait should be practiced in everyday life. In this category, the GLOBE research study yielded mean scores ranging from 3.16-5.61 with a higher score signifying greater uncertainty avoidance (House et al., p. 623). The four countries included in this case study of CNAS scored as follows:
1. Iran – 5.36
2. Egypt – 5.36
3. Mexico – 5.26
4. USA – 4.00
The GLOBE researchers divided mean scores of the 62 participating countries into five levels wherein (a) Iran, Egypt, and Mexico scored in the highest level and (b) the USA scored in the third level.
The purpose of this study of Corona-Norco Adult School was to highlight cultural differences that have the potential to impede communication between organizational leaders and their subordinates and between co-workers from the divergent cultural settings. The study was undertaken in order to assist global leadership practitioners in their efforts to provide a more cooperative and effective organizational environment. Even though the researcher was unable to carry out the full intentions of the proposed study, the cultural comparison conducted through the post hoc examination of results of the Project GLOBE study did seem to suggest important differences in the four cultures included in this study e.g. USA, Mexico, Egypt, and Iran. Consequently, it is indeed possible those important differences could impede effective communication at Corona-Norco Adult School. Further quantitative and qualitative studies of Corona-Norco Adult School and organizations like them i.e. characterized by cultural diversity, should be conducted to confirm the preliminary results yielded from the post hoc GLOBE study comparisons. The one glaring limitation to this study is that the three staff members from Mexico, Iran, and Egypt have been in the USA for many years and may have different practice and value perceptions than those from their countries of origin who still live in those countries.
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ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on July 22, 2012:
Thank you jpcmc for your thoughtful evaluation and response. You are right. Companies do need to invest more to understand the differences if they want to overcome the hurdles and improve productivity. I appreciate your feedback.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 19, 2012:
This is an interesting study. Today where many companies have multi-cultural organizations, proper communication is vital to business success. Cultural differences lay a vital role in creating a cohesive environment. However, some cultural norms can impede processes as seen by an outsider. A good example is the observance of certain religious norms and holidays. Without understanding the culture it will only be seen as hurdles where others see it as part of their lives.
Companies need to invest more on understanding these differences and bridging it to improve productivity.
Henry Pelifian on March 25, 2012:
Cross-Cultural communication is a vital element for establishing positive bonds between peoples. On the other a lack of cross-cultural communication skills may result in disaster as shown in Lessons from Iran.