In the contemporary world, globalization has grown immensely, thus creating cross-cultural nations around the globe. For example, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and especially in Dubai, there are hundreds of thousands of immigrant people from across the world in search of greener pastures. The world biggest business organizations have a reputation due to their expansions to leading global markets beyond their national boundaries.
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This trend has contributed to the growth of cross-cultural heritages in various nations. The differences in the people’s cultural backgrounds in the workplace have advantages and disadvantages to the business and individuals. This report studies cross-cultural management by interviewing a sample of Serbians working in the UAE. It also examines their individual cross-cultural experiences with other nationalities in the region.
Culture is defined as the values, concepts, and ways of living that are shared by a group of people in the same social context. For many ages, cultural differences have played a major role in hampering universal social growth and development around the world.
However, in the contemporary world, globalization and technological advancement have played a major role in suppressing cultural values in many parts of the world by opening avenues for growth of universal cultural values. Universal cultural growth is facilitated by communication and transport technological advancements that have eased communication and mobility of people.
The modern world has become a global village hence the continuous movement of people to different regions in search of better work opportunities. Therefore, people of different cultures are mixing in workplaces, and this aspect poses some challenges and opportunities to business managers since they have to understand employees according to their individual cultural heritages (Reynolds and Valentine 88).
Cross-cultural management refers to the management of people of different cultures in an organization. The organization in question is a multi-national that has employees and client populations from different cultural origins. The human resource management handles the employees’ affairs in an organization, hence cross-cultural management.
Mott Macdonald Group is a multinational consultancy company that deals with engineering and environmental management. It has been operational in the UAE for more than fifty years with its headquarters based in Abu Dhabi. The company is well renowned for offering a good working environment to people of different cultures, and it has numerous branches in the UAE region. The company is headed by westerners since it has its roots in the United States and Germany. Therefore, many westerners work for the company across the region.
However, indigenous people also work for the company since the law requires multinationals to have at least 70% of residents as employees. The majority of the natives work as junior employees as they lack the technical knowhow to match the requirements needed to handle complex assignments that the company handles in the region. Hence, the researchers found it a suitable environment for people working in a cross-cultural environment.
In carrying out research on cross-cultural analysis, the researchers carried out interviews with three individuals. The results from this focus group were then analyzed. The team decided to choose Mott Macdonald Group. After a discussion, it was agreed that the interview subjects should be Serbians who were engineers having worked in other multicultural environments in other countries outside the UAE.
Introduction to the Interviewees
|Name||Gender||Age||Nationality||Years in the UAE||Work Position||Years at the Company|
|Alex||Male||227||Serbian||2||Junior Electrical |
|Srdjan||Male||443||Serbian||5||Protection Team Leader||5|
|Zoran||Male||441||Serbian||8||Network Planning Engineer||5|
The Interview Method
Before carrying out the interview, some precautionary measures were considered to enhance the chances of collecting valuable information from the interviewees. The researchers agreed to carry out a strategic interview approach by doing a focus group interview rather than one-on-one interview method. The group interview method provides an enabling environment for the interviewees whereby they are allowed to discuss some issues and sharing personal experiences amongst themselves.
The interview was conducted in an open environment outside their working stations in separate meetings to allow exhaustive discussions at every point. At the beginning of the interview, the interviewees appeared unsettled and nervous since we had not informed them in advance that we would carry out a group interview to people of the same profession. They asked various questions about the method and demanded to know why there was gender bias, and the researchers addressed the emerging issues politely.
At that point, the researchers realized that they had not taken some precautionary measures before embarking on the interview. For instance, the interviewees had not been informed about the purpose of the interview findings, and any presence of other participants and this issue raised many questions.
The interview was recorded in an audio file for the purpose of evidence to the intended audience and data analysis. The questions were both closed and open-ended. Matters of personal details had closed questions since they required direct answers. Such questions entailed age, nationality, work experience, and years lived in the UAE among other elements. On the other hand, questions on cross-cultural experiences were open-ended to allow for discussions and chances of the interview giving answers that would lead to further questions.
The Interviewees’ Experiences in the UAE
From the research methods, it has been found out that the interviewees have interesting thoughts regarding cross-cultural experiences in the UAE. Firstly, both Srdjan and Zoran shared that they were having no problems with any cultural behaviors in the UAE. Both were experienced engineers with five years’ experience in the UAE and more than ten years outside their home countries.
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However, they had encountered some cultural shocks soon after getting into the UAE for the first time. For instance, Srdjan narrated that when he first came to the UAE, he was taken aback to realize that eye contact was a taboo when communicating with locals as they consider it rude and a sign of disrespect.
In contrary, eye contact is the most significant sign of confidence in communication in other parts of the world. Whenever a person fails to maintain eye contact in communication, it is normally taken as a sign of dishonesty, and in some cases, the person has a questionable character. However, the locals understand that foreigners do not share the same cultural values. They take that opportunity to teach the foreigners about some issues to be considered when interacting with the locals to avoid cultural clashes and embarrassment.
Alex is the youngest amongst the three interviewees, and he had some cultural shocks experiences and especially those about his young age. He has lived in the UAE for only one year, and the first thing that surprised him was an incident where he wore a short and bartender failed to offer him a drink.
In the UAE, it is considered inappropriate to wear shorts or any form of clothing that exposes the legs from the knees upwards. Therefore, he had to wear trousers to get services in the bars and other hospitality premises. Besides, he countered problems with women whereby they did not offer a handshake. However, he later learned that according to the local culture, a man should not grant a handshake to a woman unless she offers it first.
However, Zoran had no cultural shocks, and he enjoyed working in a multicultural environment. Notably, he grew up in a multicultural environment whereby he schooled with students from Arabic-speaking nations.
Therefore, he got a chance to understand their culture, which later helped him in associating well with the locals in the UAE. However, upon arrival, he met challenges working in a team environment, which comprised people from different nations, as he did not know how to handle each one of them according to their culture.
Numerous scholars have addressed the issue of cross-cultural management in the contemporary world. The vast economic developments that are taking place around the world are contributing to cultural clashes in the workplaces as well as public places (Ferraro 142).
As mentioned earlier, globalization and technological advancements are the major causes of cultural clashes as they enable people from different cultures to interact freely. Globalization is more of a business-oriented venture whereby an organization expands its operations to other regions after identifying new market opportunities for products and services (Adler and Gundersen 81).
In most cases, the involved regions are overseas countries that have people with different cultural values and heritages. Upon venturing into the target region, the businesses become multinationals, and they tend to retain their management structure at the central level in the country of origin.
Such businesses encounter some challenges, which include government policies and cultural values. The government policies determine the type of products and services that a business will venture into and the needed trade licenses for operations. The government policies also look into the type of supplies that a business should work with as well as the ratio of foreigners to the local employees that an organization should have in its workforce.
After considering the government policies and venturing into the market, an organization encounters managerial challenges that are caused by cultural differences among employees. In most cases, the population of local employees exceeds foreigners, which puts an organization at the risk of sabotage resulting from unsatisfied local employees.
For example, in the UAE, there is a mix of different cultural values from the rest of the world. The local population comprises Muslims, who are strict to their religious values and calendars. Hence, businesses have to comply with the prevalent religious norms and values (Browaeys and Price 111).
According to the westerners, religious norms and values that are practiced by Muslims in the UAE are extreme in various ways. Such practices define the time for prayers and religious activities, which coincide with business hours of operation.
Besides, they define the modes of dressing that are different in the case of western countries, and thus businesses have to comply. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars regardless of whether they are foreigners or not, and thus businesses have to give such roles to men to avoid cultural crushes (Chaney and Jeanette 201).
In some cases, multinational organizations are forced to hire locals in the human resource department to address the demands of employees that foreigners do not understand. For instance, culturally, a woman cannot rule over a man in the Islamic religion. Therefore, a multinational organization cannot offer promotions to women employees to avoid conflicts that would arise from the male employees.
Additionally, some human resource management practices, which are normal in other Western countries with the aim of fostering motivation to employees, do not have a place in the UAE. Hence, multinational organizations are forced to restructure their management and operations to suit the cultural values of the locals (Earley 925).
Since the research found that the three interviewees highlighted similar cross-cultural perceptions, it suffices to conclude that all foreigners experience cultural shocks wherever they enter new cultural environments. However, in the contemporary world, the world is fast moving towards unitary cultural values whereby foreigners will experience minimal cultural shocks if any whenever they visit other multicultural environments for job purposes.
In the working environment, people are trained on how to adapt to new cultures and the locals through governmental agencies. In such programs, the foreigners are advised to accommodate the locals with their varied cultural values. However, the burden lies on the foreigners, who have the responsibility of acquainting themselves with the cultural heritage and norms of the locals to avoid any chances of embarrassments.
Besides, it is important for the foreigners to uphold the dignity of the locals by avoiding behaviors that would make them feel disrespected as that aspect would trigger unwarranted reactions. Therefore, the workplace environment in a cross-cultural setup is highly delicate, which requires competent management for optimal productivity and healthy co-existence.
Since the UAE is a multinational region due to the vast job and business opportunities, researchers would recommend the implementation of policy measures to accommodate people of different nationalities. The most notable difference in cultural values between the locals and foreigners attribute to religion and cultural norms.
It is recommended that the UAE should uphold the importance of other religious values and allow freedom for the foreigners to function optimally without unnecessary interruptions. For instance, in Islamic states, there are specified dressing codes for both men and women, but Christianity does not have such rules. Therefore, it is recommendable for the UAE to allow freedom in dressing codes in public places like in hotels and bars where they demand long pants and Islamic garments.
On the other hand, multinational business organizations that operate in the UAE should negotiate with the governments to ensure that policies that bridge the multicultural gaps are introduced in the work environments. For instance, in some cases, people are forced to pray by their Muslim supervisors regardless of their religion, which is an extreme exercise of authority in a workplace.
Additionally, the government should ensure that the rights of foreigners are observed since they have come to contribute to the economic development of the region by bridging the skilled employment gaps occasioned by unskilled labor amongst the locals.
Adler, Nancy, and Allison Gundersen. International dimensions of organizational behavior, Cincinnati: South-Western, 2008. Print.
Browaeys, Marie-Joelle, and Roger Price. Understanding cross-cultural management, New York: Princeton Hall, 2008. Print.
Chaney, Lilian, and Martin Jeanette. Intercultural business communication, New York: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.
Earley, Christopher. “Leading cultural research in the future, a matter of paradigms and taste.” Journal of International Business Studies 37.5 (2006): 922-931. Print.
Ferraro, Gary. The cultural dimension of international business, Englewook Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 2006. Print.
Reynolds, Sana, and Deborah Valentine. Guide to Cross-cultural Communication, New Jersey: Prentice, 2011. Print.