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As to the Korean businessmen, they are more paricularists as they confer a personal meaning even to business acts: for instance the business cards that need to be answered in public, the drinking that welcomes one into the group. Their openness to confessions towards performance is another sign of this dimension.
With respect to the affective-neutral dimension, the U.S. is representative of the affective dimension as consultants in the case (e.g. Andrew raising his voice to the Korean management representative) express emotions freely. Raising the voice denotes anger, a very strong emotion that in Korean environment is not freely expressed. The attitude of the Koreans towards such outbursts is of understanding and patience. (Scott's confrontational meeting with one of the Korean consultants concerning this issue of how organizational processes should be flowcharted). The Koreans consider the expression of emotions improper and avoid such emotional outbursts. Moreover, neutrality is a characteristic of Korean (business) environment. Positive and negative emotions are both repressed. For instance even emotions that reflect praise and gratitude are not encouraged, for instance when mentioning that low performance is being criticized, while achievement is not praised overtly.
In terms of achievement / ascription, the U.S. is a highly achievement-oriented culture, while Korea is an ascripted culture. Social status is derived from a person's achievement for U.S. - Ellen for instance, although a woman was accepted in the team due to her prestigious professional achievement. The Koreans derive social status from age, experience, social connections, or gender. For instance, Jack's position as the lead Korean consultant, made it difficult for Ellen to impose herself as co-project manager. This is due to gender, culture, experience. The behavior of subordinates and superiors also reflected the Korean's respect for status and position.
In what concerns time perception, there is another issue that led to conflict, as the American consultants saw the project development sequentially while the Koreans have taken the synchronic perspective, since timelines are considered malleable. Illustration of synchronic perspective are the Koreans' plan of a market study when there was no time for such endeavors and they also neglected they deadline. Ellen stated that it was very important for the project to be completed on time, and in case that won't happen she would be held accountable for any delays. The statement above also reinforces the orientation on rules that characterize universalists (the Americans).
Another important issue is the distinction specific - diffuse. The American culture tends to be more specific - impersonal, comfortable in public space, sets and attains objectives, while Koreans are diffuse - more private, interaction is guided by authority, everything appears to be connected to everything, can easily lose face. The face loss is exemplified in the study as well as the importance of leadership for a manager. The leadership and face loss are approached by the manager in terms of disappointment (the privacy of feeling is also manifest at this point) in the individual's efforts.
The relationship to environment is discussed in terms of locus of control: the Americans are internally controlled, in that they place a lot of emphasis on attaining objectives and goals, and interpret failure as something that sometimes is unavoidable; they do not blame themselves or their capabilities. The Koreans are persistent, polite, and rejoice for successful activities and failure is assumed individually (for example Jack's humbling discourse at the Dinner as a result of his disappointment with his performance).
The most important issues that lead to conflict in this case appear to be the difference in uncertainty avoidance, several particularities concerning human relations described above, especially achievement vs. ascription. Uncertainty avoidance dimension has been detailed above. With respect to achievement vs. ascription I would like to comment upon Ellen's perceived role as a co-project manager. Although she was accepted to be part of the team from the beginning by her Korean counterparts, her further exclusion from the teams' activities may be interpreted as a manifestation of the Koreans stereotype of women's role in organizations. It is described in the case study that women have been present only in a small percent and only recently in organizations; even fewer reached top management positions. Ellen's presence may have been confusing, and in a culture dominated by collectivist, particular, neutral and diffuse involvement communication on this issue appears difficult. What is more likely the Koreans accepted her, respected her background and achievement but did not ask more information or suggested to their American counterparts they would prefer another consultant. Such an approach escalated the conflicts already manifest as a result of cultural values clash and was reflected in a poor communication.
Time-management seems to be another important problem on the part of the Korean consultants, as they decided, by themselves and without soliciting the American consultants' opinion to have a marketing research while they were having already difficulties in respecting the deadline.
At this point, when Andrew asked assistance from the highest management structures, the project was a month behind schedule and limited progress has been made since the previous assessment of the situation.
The first important alternative that may be explored is trust building. Building trust among the SI team members involves reinforcing the communication effectiveness and facilitating rapport. Exploring cultural similarities and learning to read bodily signs as well as taking the problem in an open dialogue may prove fruitful; effective speaking, listening and non-verbal communication need to be optimized. Moreover conflict management with the entire team may prove useful. Andrew should insist upon the redefinition of roles in the hierarchical structures and re-assign tasks as well since hierarchical structure is so important for Koreans. Insisting upon hierarchical structure may favor the understanding that cooperation may appear between managers as well. Andrew needs to explicitly assign a managerial role and decision-making power to Ellen. This may be facilitated by working on conflict management and building intercultural communication skills.
In Andrew's position I would work on redesigning the formal structure with the purpose of integrating Ellen formally. From the point-of-view of demonstrating her capability she did great and she succeeded in imposing herself but only temporary. Then, increasing awareness about cooperation at every level of the team is needed. Moreover, a clear redefinition of goals need to be done in order to increase awareness about sequentialism in such projects as a performance enhancement way.
Future global consulting project teams should be trained very well in diversity aspects that belong to culture. Business etiquette and communication patterns should be the most important to consider. A recommendation I think would be important as well is a focus on negotiation specificity concerning a certain international management structure.
Moreover, new awareness may be gained from confronting with different organizational cultures. If explicit attention is drawn to the importance of studying the organizational culture in relation to the national culture new insights may be gained when comparing two different organizational cultures immersed in different national cultures. Such knowledge will increase the degree of expertise in leading organizational change as well.
Another important point is the need for flexibility in working with global teams and emotional connection. The needs of the different team members vary a lot and flexibility is required in terms of addressing and meeting them. A sincere interest, active listening, trustworthiness and synergistically learning are very important in such context. Another key point is the keenness to capacity building and role definition among the team members.
In order to achieve all this, leadership coaching may prove useful in complex situation, as in the case analyzed.
In this context, the role and importance of national culture is extremely important, as it becomes clear which are the shared beliefs and principles that affect work performance. The culture of Korea is a collectivistic, authoritarian, has a large power distance and strong uncertainty avoidance. Confucian values have dictated a strict code of behavior in all aspects, including the relationship between men and women. As a result, the public and domestic life has been largely dominated by men. However, although men and women have equal chances to education, in the workplace only recently had women been able to claim equality. The payment is still different between men and women employees, the women being paid less than men in a large array of occupations. In the case study presented gender differences were quite apparent in the work place and the discrepancy in decision making and authority were extremely obvious and led to conflict. The perception towards women in the workplace I believed influenced greatly the evolution of the situation. The fact is even more obvious as the role of women is perceived with a greater flexibility in the American culture. Being an individualist culture, the American culture offered a greater credibility to women accomplishment and capability in the workplace all the more the revolution in the field happened several decades ago, and women have consolidated their status in such cultures.
Another values that belongs to the national culture and created problems are related to time perception,…[continue]
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