The expansion and globalisation that characterise many modern organisations lead to the recruitment of numerous new employees, many of whom are from different cultures than the one where the enterprise originates. As such, it becomes necessary to accommodate their needs and preferences to maximise performance and to gain appeal in the local market. Such initiatives belong to the cultural aspect of organisational change, which attempts to remove preconceptions and biases and promote diversity. However, this process is known for being challenging due to unpredictable and sometimes strong reactions from different employees. This post attempts to explain the primary cultural differences that arise in the process and the approaches employed in their management.
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As a company expands and begins hiring a more broad selection of employees of different genders, races, ethnicities and nationalities, its established mode of operations may be challenged. According to Saintilan and Schreiber (2017), failure to accommodate diversity in the workplace can lead to significant organisational issues. The problems can arise from a variety of sources, such as popular backlash or employee dissatisfaction. It is the task of the management to identify and prevent potential complications by implementing the necessary changes.
Eastern and Western cultures tend to exhibit the most noticeable differences in their approaches to definitions and transformations. Browaeys and Price (2015) describe the two counterparts as “being” and “doing”, with the latter being more focused on actions while the former concentrates on relationships. “Cross-cultural studies” (n.d.) states that the two paradigms employ different concepts of change, with “doing” demanding an immediate shift and “being” favouring a gradual transformation. An optimal approach in a diverse company would utilise a combination of the two methods, although uniting them may prove difficult due to their conflicting natures and potential employee rejection.
The intangible nature of culture and the need to answer the needs of a sizable and heterogeneous workforce make cultural change a challenging process. According to Hacker (2015), the task demands a change in the basic semi-conscious perceptions of individuals and cannot be achieved with only modifications to policies, procedures, or structure. However, the alterations also cannot alienate the original founding staff of the organisation that was responsible for forming the initial culture. Alvesson and Svenningsson (2015) note that the ability of top management to provoke positive alterations in companies is still in question. It is possible that the goal cannot be achieved consistently using the current knowledge on cultural change, and leaders have to rely on their beliefs and take risks if they want to try.
There exists a multitude of factors that differentiate people, and taking them all into account to promote acceptance and diversity is a challenging task. Various cultures employ fundamentally different approaches to organisation and transformation, making unification a desirable but often unrealistic goal. The process is a matter of balancing the imprecise perception and beliefs of various staff members, which may not be possible for upper management employees. Nevertheless, the effort should be encouraged, and further research of successes is necessary.
Alvesson, M., & Sveningsson, S. (2015). Changing organizational culture: Cultural change work in progress. New York, NY: Routledge.
Browaeys, M.-J., & Price, R. (2015). Understanding cross-cultural management (3rd ed.). Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Cross-cultural studies. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Hacker, S. K. (2015). Leading cultural transformation. Journal for Quality & Participation, 37(4), 13-16.
Saintilan, P., & Schreiber, P. (2017). Managing organizations in the creative economy: Organizational behaviour for the cultural sector. Abingdon-on-Thames, United Kingdom: Routledge.