The business culture of the United Kingdom is characterized by the value of free economy and private property (Rendtorff, 2009). At another level, it is marked by a desire to manage work and life issues. The employees in British organizations have long been marked out for their relatively leisurely pace of work and their priority for relationship issues over work related issues. Compared with their American counterparts, employees in UK companies demonstrate a less aggressive work ethic and seek to maintain a low profile. Display of wealth and personality traits is generally discouraged in British society because a higher emphasis is placed on understatement and social modesty. Business managers typically demonstrate a paternalistic relationship which is also appreciated by their subordinates. Bypassing one's superior is disapproved in British organizational culture (Griffin & Moorhead, 2011). At the same time, employees in UK companies enjoy greater autonomy than employees in India or China where the culture emphasizes collectivism over individualism.
The business culture of the United Kingdom values tradition but is markedly open to innovation and developments in business practices and management philosophies. It should also be noted that employees in companies in the United Kingdom are known to have a weak employment contract with the company (Blossfeld, Mills, & Bernardi, 2006) and are frequent job-hoppers. This has implications for employee relations policies in the UK companies. Employers need to carefully evaluate whether the employee is in the job for the long-term or is simply acquiring experience while waiting for the next better job offer. Randlesome et al. (1993) notes that companies in the UK have been placed sufficiently low on the training and development of their employees. They do not invest large amounts in the skill development of their employees because it is likely that they consider that the investment may go to waste. Trained and skilled employees are in high demand and competitors are always on the lookout for skilled and experienced employees. When these companies offer them a higher pay or better facilities, employees switch over to the rival companies where they apply the sills acquired at the former company. However, Randlesome et al. (1993) also not that UK companies have started to realize the importance of investing in their employees.
George et al. (2012) describe some of the perceptions American managers have of British employees in a UK owned company. The American managers note that the British employees adopt a slow pace to their work. They take more frequent breaks for tea or coffee. In addition, they are also more likely to request leave for situations that may seem irrelevant to managers from a different culture. For example, an employee once requested leave to console a neighbor on the death of his wife from cancer. This example illustrates that the organizational culture in British companies is geared towards accommodating the life of the employees outside the workplace. In addition, the organizational culture is relative relaxed and not as high-strung as in the American business and organizational culture.
Ogbonna & Wilkinson (2003) highlight the functioning of managers in companies in the UK. According to their findings on a study of change management practices at a UK retail grocery store, they noted that managers in UK companies have to profess changed values while persuading their subordinates to adopt them as well. The researchers note that such actions fall short of convincing the subordinates of the importance and necessity of internalizing those values and they adopt a compliance attitude towards organizational change efforts. This means that employees behave in accordance with the new values of the culture change as long as they are being monitored by managers, but revert to their traditional practiced ways of working when they are left to their own. This encourages a greater use of monitoring and surveillance tools in UK companies' organizational culture, which restricts freedom and increases compliance behavior rather than internalization of management articulations.
Mills et al. (2009) investigated the application of values theory to UK business organizations and found that greater need for alignment in the perceptions of subordinates and managers is necessary for the values to be internalized and practiced in day-to-day organizational life. Some of the values held by employees in the UK were equality, excitement in work, innovation, freedom and creativity, and self-respect. They state that it is necessary for there to be greater dialogue mechanisms and channels between managers and subordinates so that value alignment can be increased for effective implementation. This shows that currently, manager and employees in UK companies follow a top-down approach to managing organizational culture and change management. Another example is the British retailer Marks & Spencer that has a top-down organizational culture (Alon, 2005). The employees at the lower level adopt a compliance behavior to please the managers but do not believe in those values.
Kirton et al. (2007) have discussed the importance of diversity in UK organizational cultures. Although diversity awareness is highest in the United States, the practice has also reached companies in the United Kingdom and they have also started increasing efforts at promoting diversity and dealing with it in their workforce. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom has never pursued a policy of cultural assimilation, with the result that cultural differences are more marked in British society than in American society. In fact, it has even successfully resisted assimilating into continental European culture (Henderson, 2007). At the same time, British society has been tolerant of ethnic and racial diversity because of its colonial past and the continuous immigration and exchange of people from different nationalities.
Pioch (2007) notes that culture management in UK organizations may not always have the intended results. This claim ties in with the findings of the previous studies where it is stated that employees in UK companies are more likely to comply with mangers as opposed to internalize those values. According to Pioch (2007), employees seldom change their assumptions as a result of culture management efforts. They simply alter their manifestations to comply with the expectations of their managers. At the same time, a strong sectoral culture is present with each group identifying the behaviors that contribute towards their success and adhering to it when not being monitored by managers.
Cooper (2004) has studied the transition of a public company in the UK to a private one and has pointed out the culture change issues that are experienced by the British employees. There are problems in realigning the motivations profile of the employees to the new culture. While employees in public sector organizations are primarily motivated by a service aspect of the job, employees in private sector organizations are expected to direct their efforts at increasing profits.
In the light of the above review, organizational culture in the UK may be described as relaxed with a balance between individualism among employees and paternalistic management styles. Management practices based on this culture may be difficult to replicate in foreign cultures and organizations with different values.
National, Business and Organizational Culture in China
The organizational culture of Chinese firms is also influenced by its Confucian philosophical traditions and the socialist political and economic system. There is an emphasis on formality and impersonality because the Chinese do not believe in expressing emotion (Alon, 2003). However, recently with the economic progress of the country, western ideas of business practices and organizational culture have started to enter the Chinese organizational culture. This has created expectations gaps between employees and managers in many Chinese firms. There has also been a revival of Confucian philosophy in modern times (Wang, 2011). According to Wu et al. (2011), employees in Chinese firms hold different perceptions about performance and organizational rewards than do their managers. The researchers also note that the gap exists in the form that employees believe that a competitive high-performance orientation would assure them bigger rewards. On the other hand, the managers believe that cooperation and teamwork are the best means of securing success for the organization and for the employee. The researchers also note that the gap is wider when the employees are highly educated and have a shorter tenure at the organization. Hence, western organizational culture practices and norms based on individualism and competition would be more welcomed by younger employees than by older employees and managers.
Tsui et al. (2006) identify some of the values that are commonly found in the organizational culture of Chinese firms. Understanding these values is important for the firm to consider the magnitude of the gap that exists between the organizational culture of Chinese firms and that of firms in the United Kingdom. The researchers discovered that values like equality, team work, fair treatment of employees, and top-down leadership were highly valued. This shows that the traditional hierarchical organizational culture is still vibrant and strong in Chinese firms. Their results also showed that performance-based pay systems were moderately popular among…