British and German Business Culture
by Dennis Henners (172781)
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) once said (the Prince cited: in Manger Magazin; 2005) that „eines der besten und stärksten Mittel besteht darin, dass der Eroberer seinen eigenen Wohnsitzt dort (, im eroberten Gebiet) aufschlägt“ („one of the conqueror’s best and most powerful instrument is to settle there (on the conquered ground)”).
Nowadays conquerors are big companies, hedge funds, the so-called “Global-Players”, etc. Mergers between companies from different countries have become very common. One of the most recent and most discussed is DaimlerChrysler. Not only globally, but also on a European level, we have experienced the urge of companies to expand their business operations into different parts of the EU with the result of settling on the targeted ground where they try to expand their market share. For this reason companies encounter more and more cultural diversity within their own borders. Therefore an effective cross-cultural-management becomes essential in order to work efficiently and build a strong union with the “foreign” branches.
Throughout numerous vacations abroad, I have experienced cultural differences between nationalities. Having stayed in the U.S.A. with a host family I have started to investigate these diversities where they have their roots and how to deal with them effectively. Having worked on an internship program for a German company in the U.K. I have experienced what the specific problems were when the two national cultures clashed. Even having a “corporate culture” could not prevent the faut pas being made for example during meetings. These faux pas were triggered by cultural diversity. The complexity of this topic is immediately clear, if only from the number of definitions for the word „culture“, and from the number of theories trying to explain the problem. I have chosen to lay my focus on the work of three major theorists on the topic that best fit my experiences
In this paper I will therefore introduce the theorist’s works and their view of culture to the reader and then apply the results to several situations one will encounter while doing business in either one of the countries.
Already several theorists have explored cross-cultural issues affecting the business environment. One theorist will always be outlined when talking about cross-culture: Geert Hofstede, but also will I briefly describe the work of Fons Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner. All works on this topic will describe tendencies within the different cultures. Each culture will inevitably display features of all cultural dimensions, but some will predominate. Individuals within each society have varying views and attitudes, but traditionally cultures show general tendencies towards certain behaviour, values, attitudes and beliefs.
Most theorists follow the model of comparing culture with an “onion” or an “iceberg”. An iceberg’s top-level is visible and relatively small compared to the invisible underwater level. Culture as an onion also consists, according to many theorists, of various levels. At the most rudimentary, ‘culture’ consists of two levels: a level of values, or an invisible level, and a visible level of resultant behaviour or artefacts of some form. Several aspects are underlining the importance of the view of culture having more than one level: “It identifies a visible area as well as an area that is not immediately visible, but that can be derived by careful attention to the visible elements of the cultural system as we understand it.” (S.Dahl; 2000)
Due to the over-simplicity of regarding culture as merely a two-level system Hofstede (1994) proposes a set of four layers, each of which cover the lower level, as it is a result of the lower level. In his view, the cultural onion can be peeled, layer by layer, in order to reveal the content. In Hofstede’s model of culture are “broad tendencies to prefer certain states of affairs over others” (Hofstede, 1994:8). The “core” of the cultural-onion is being formed by these values. These Values represent, how things “ought to be” in the view of the culture’s people. Hofstede also strongly assumes that these values strongly influence behaviour. According to Hofstede (1991) there are three clearly observable levels:
- Rituals, such as ways of greeting and paying respect
- Heroes, such as idols and admired persons who serve as an example for behaviour
- Symbols, such as words, colour or other artefacts that carry a special meaning
Hofstede states that visible practices, which carry out an invisible cultural meaning extend across the three layers of the ‘cultural onion’ and subsumes these. Therefore Hofstede’s concept is called ‘practices’. This model seems to be related to rituals and symbols to some extent. (S.Dahl; 2000)
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Geert Hofstede questioned over 11,000 IBM employees in some 40 countries about their work value orientation. The correlation, of the answers within certain countries were so astonishing that they were then categorized in five different cultural dimensions with one index for each dimension has been dedicated to every surveyed country (Cole, G.A., 1996: 117). The five dimensions and the indices for both the countries to be discussed here are as followed:
- Power Distance (PDI)
- Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
- Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)
- Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)
- Long Term Organisation (LTO)
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