Multicultural diversity is a major area of concern, which is reflected in most functions of an organization, either positively or negatively. Multicultural workforce is an emerging trend growing at an alarming rate in many organizations worldwide.
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There are many implications that are associated with multicultural workforce in organizations, which forces managers to find appropriate measures to reduce the negative effects that result in cultural conflicts of organizations. Standard Chartered banks in the UAE have a multicultural workforce.
Several challenges have been associated with multicultural workforce in Standard Chartered banks that the managers need to address to make sure that they do not compromise their relationship with employees and their customers. The banks have also a less appealing national outlook and need to improve. The case study used qualitative social research method to interview four workers selected from the bank.
Their opinion helped to bring out the challenges that members from various cultures had to face in the bank. Discussion on findings is given in the case study and suggested solutions to the challenges are outlined. Therefore, this case study focuses on the effects of multicultural workforce in Standard Charted bank, and recommends the best solutions to curb the challenges and increase the performance of the bank.
Cultural diversity in UAE has been on the increase in the last three decades. United Arab Emirates tops the chat globally on the percentage of migrant workers. Freedom of movement in UAE accounts for the high rate of diverse cultures that exists in almost every organization. There are various benefits and challenges these organizations encounter because of the cultural diversity.
Inter-cultural play brought about by the forces of globalization has become a major issue among chief executives that manages these organizations in UAE. The increase in the number of workers that have foreign nationalities working in the UAE has resulted in the multicultural differences existing in various organizations. The benefits these organizations enjoy include, a robust workforce, a determined and organized workforce.
However, the negative implication of cultural diversity can affect the benefits these companies enjoy. When the communication gap is not properly addressed, it would cause cultural barriers, which will be counterproductive to the organization.
Customs define the accepted practices and the behavior of people belonging to a particular society or culture. For example, some cultures object their members to eat various foods and drinks. In an organization with various cultural differences, customs of all employees should be considered to achieve a positive effect of cultural diversity.
Every culture aligns towards certain social beliefs and values that define the scope of behavior of members. Attitudes, behaviors, and approaches of workers in organizations depend on their cultural social values. The ability to manage different cultural interest in such an organization will boost the inter-cultural relations existing in the organization.
Language barriers and cultural differences can be reduced when the theme of the organization is teamwork. No matter the background, every person will learn to adapt to the seeming differences that exist with different cultures. Every organization has its code of conduct, and these codes are structured in ways that would not hinder the interest of any particular culture.
In order to define the work ethics in an organization, managers must consider cultural diversity of their employees, and develop unbiased, ethical principles that incorporate all the fundamental aspects in various cultures that represent the workforce. A robust workforce is one that comes to cultural diversity. This means that tolerance must be embedded as a slogan for the organization.
Many cultural barriers could be transformed into an advantage if the entire workforce understand one another and imbibe the rule of equality. These barriers include language, religion, and cultural space, the roles played by different people in public, cultural appearance and beliefs to mention a few.
Communication is a vital element in every organization. For the smooth flow of functions in an organization, effective communication must exist among its entire workforce. There are many forms of communication: verbal and non-verbal. Different cultures give different meanings to certain non-verbal communications.
Therefore, precaution should be taken when using non-verbal communication to avoid confusion among the communicating (Trompenaars 12). This case study focuses on cultural diversity in Standard chartered banks in the United Arab Emirate. The study also focuses on the influence of cultural diversity as a unifying factor to globalization and industrialization in the United Arab Emirates.
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Statement of the Problem
The purpose of this case study is to create a rich understanding of people’s cultural behaviors in the context of workplace in Standard Chartered Bank in UAE.
Workplace cultural diversity has various implications for performance of workers globally. Past researches have failed to produce a comprehensive analysis of cultural diversity and variations in cultural beliefs that exist in the United Arab Emirate. Past research reveals that most organizations even in the UAE have employees from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Some of the common cultures found in the UAE are European, Indian, Iranian, Egyptian, and French cultures. They dominate large organizations that have more than 1000 employees (Journal of International Business Studies 15).
The diverse nature of culture found in organizations in the United Arab Emirates, influences their performance, and their functions. Past research reveals that one of the major effects of culture in such an organization is a language difference between these cultures. Communication is a fundamental aspect to conduct the daily business of an organization.
Therefore, every organization should have an effective communication among its employees and management to function appropriately. Previous research shows that language difference affects operations in most multicultural organizations and reduces their performance significantly, when compared to other less multicultural organizations.
Another study revealed that most employees who were non-English speakers working at Standard Chartered Bank in UAE faced discrimination in various social functions conducted by their banks (Browaeys 7).
A research conducted by Hall (12) revealed that 42% of promotions in Australian Standard Charted banks went to native English speakers while 87% of promotions in the UAE were nationals from different countries. Activities and functions in most organizations depend on the dominant culture (Turner 18).
Most organizations ignored various cultural demands in planning and scheduling the events. In a research conducted by AUSI, 37% of the members surveyed felt excluded from a number of social events conducted by their organizations. The study observed that 56% of the challenges experienced in the organizations resulted because of cultural diversity.
Culture influenced behavior and attitudes of workers in 60 organizations surveyed and affected relationships among different members of these organizations. The study also found out that performance and culture of Standard Chartered Banks in UAE were dependent variables (European Journal of Cross-Cultural Competence and Management 3).
Hall (23) revealed that 71% of Christians dominated the workforce in top 100 leading non-governmental organizations in Australia, while 87% of the workforce in the United Arab Emirates was not Christians. According to the research conducted by Hall (27), most non-Christian employees depicted Christians as selfish.
The relationship between members of various cultures represented in organization showed that there was noticeable friction as regards understanding different religious beliefs. Members of the same religion interact within the workplace and out of work environment, and thus enhance their relationships.
Workplace relationships influence development and implementation of policies and strategies in organizations in various ways. Workers of the same religious groups tend to support policies and ideas of their members more than ideas and policies from members of other religious affiliations. Hall (54) attributed religious differences as one of the main challenges that affect a multi-cultural workforce.
According to the research conducted by Hall (34), customs influence people’s behavior; therefore, members from various customs have different behavioral patterns in terms of eating habits, practices and dressing code. Most of the dressing codes people adopt originated from a certain culture, where different dressing code signified some specific meaning.
Because of cross-culture diversity, differentiation in dressing code is evident among members of most organizations. Although many organizations have standardized mode of dressing, differentiation in dressing codes still prevails because of integration of different cultures in the workplace.
Hall (36) asserted that dress code influenced the perception of people in organizations, and thus affected how workers reacted towards other staffs.
He saw that dressing code gave members of certain cultures identities. In multicultural organizations, customers preferred to be served by their fellow members in the areas they needed help since they got the best service contrary to what they got from members of different cultures (Journal of international business studies 14).
Hall (87) stresses on the fact that although migration and cross-cultural integration have led to assimilation of many cultures, common customs are still evident within members of the same cultural origin. He found that people from dominant cultures assimilated minor cultures. However, the assimilated members preserved their certain beliefs and practices of their native culture.
Customs are rules and regulations that bind members of the same culture, they contain powerful forces, which are hard to refrain from even if members move and integrate with other cultures (Hall 46). This is typical of the native culture in the UAE. The research conducted by Hall (21) revealed that many banks in the UAE employ a multi-cultural workforce in the recent past.
Among the cultures, include Australians, Japanese, and Chinese, the French, Islamic, and Western nationals. One of the major aspects of culture is that members of certain cultures adhere to various kinds of food that their customs accept and reject other food that their customs prohibit. Hall (73) noted that there was a strong bond among members of a particular culture.
He further highlighted that members who shared the same customs interacted more socially, therefore, developed a stronger bond. Wallace believed that members who shared the same customs apart from their main duties portrayed the same behaviors and attitudes, which significantly influenced the overall performance of the organizations (Thomas 47). This similar trend exists in Standard Chartered Banks in UAE.
If a manager is from a minority culture, he/she will have to tolerate those who are from the major cultures in that organization. For example, responses of employees towards their managers affect the performance of any organizations thereby contributing to either the success or failure of the organization in running her daily operations.
In case of a strenuous relationship between the manager and employees, organizations implement their policies and strategies slowly which results in poor performance. On the other hand, when a good relationship exists among employees and their manager, it accelerates the rate at which the organizations efficiently manage cultural diversity and this result in improved efficiency and performance of the organization (Turner 33).
Hall (102) asserted that social values are the greatest link that holds members of the same culture together. He studied 387 employees in different organizations and noted common similarities and differences in their behaviors and attitudes propagated by differences in their social values.
Social values differed significantly among the multicultural workforce. Hall noted that members of the same cultures showed a similar pattern in their behavior at the workplace when they addressed similar situations. Hall found out that some members, especially from the United Arab Emirates, believed that women should be dominated by men both in the workplace and job situations.
In organizations where women were managers, members from the United Emirates Arab regions and other Muslims countries showed less respect to their managers. They tended to debate on most issues brought forward by the managers, and thus slowed down the process of policy making in the organizations.
Social values define the status quo in families as well as the roles played by different members in various cultures (Hall 23). In various communities, especially from the western culture, members believe in equal access to wealth to both men and women, but in UAE which dominated by Islamic culture they believe that men dominate women over wealth matters.
Hall found out that status quo affected the behavior and attitudes of workers towards their fellow workers and to clients in the workplace at large.
The study conducted by Hall (16) interviewed 137 clients from various organizations with employees from various cultures in Standard Chartered Bank in UAE, and measured their level of satisfaction in services offered. From the interviewed clients, 89% returned to the bank to do business because they felt safe with the multicultural workforce.
Theoretical Framework Used in the Study
This study inculcates Hofstede’s dimension theory on culture to explain how cross-cultural groups function systematically and bring out differences in national cultures. It also explains how cultural differences influence behaviors of workers in Standard Charted Bank, in UAE. Hofstede’s theory predominantly analyzes how the values of a given culture affect the behavior of members of the same culture.
Hofstede’s cultural theory encompasses four dimensions to analyze different cultures and values of their members, namely, individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and masculinity-femininity (Hofstede 4).
The four dimensions provide the basis through which the case study analyzed; the dimensions also provide a platform to understand the cultural diversity that exists and the benefits of multicultural workforce and problems associated with cultural diversity in Standard Charted banks, in UAE.
Methodology and Material Used
This qualitative research used various methods of data collection. The behavior of the selected population conveyed important information used in the study. The study prepared formal questionnaires and distributed them to four selected workers of Standard Charted Bank in the United Arab Emirate. Random sampling engaged was used to select two Australian and two was Emirati.
The major parameters paid attention to in the study were behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and values, workplace relationship, performance, language, ritual and customs of the Standard Chartered bank’s workforce. The study compared the Australian culture with that of Emirati represented in the selected study sample.
The parameters were compared to determine differences, weakness, and vary among the various cultures; they examined how they influenced functions in Standard Chartered Banks in UAE (Browaeys 7).
The interview contained 20 questions, which focused on the parameters measured in the study. The questionnaires were taken to the respondents at their place of work within the normal working days and were completed at an average of 20 minutes each.
According to the data collected through the interviews, the study revealed that there were major variations in behavior, attitudes, beliefs, rituals, performance, and customs among the four respondents who were interviewed. However, members from the same cultural background revealed similar characteristics.
Cultural variations from the respondents also revealed how the change was resisted in organizations. The interviewed male workers from Arabic culture undermined contribution of women managers in Standard Chartered banks. Most of the organizations that had women as their manager and most of the managing personnel from Arabic communities had more wrangles and differences in the management.
This affected the running of Standard Charted Bank managed by women, and, consequently, led to lower performance as compared to other Standard Charted branches with men being managers.
The research also found out that members who belonged to the same culture setting had a strong relationship at the bank. The interviewed members who belonged to the same culture interacted and assisted each other more as compared to other members of a different culture.
This significantly affected the general culture of the bank, whereby, members who belonged to the same culture often sought services to members of their culture because they believed that they could get better services.
The relevant culture at the bank was Indian and this led to several cultural barriers to other small cultures represented in Standard Chartered Banks. The main language used in and outside the bank was mostly English and sometimes Arabic and Hindu and thus, other groups, for instance, the members from United Arab Emirate felt left out in most social functions organized by the bank.
This condition derailed chances of a close relationship among members from different cultures, and thus barred members from various cultures to interact freely with each other (Hall 8).
The respondents interviewed showed a resistance to change. When asked about appreciations to other cultures, the respondents portrayed different concerns towards various cultures represented in the interview. Most of them appreciated other cultures but did not like some of the beliefs and practices. The respondents from Australia regarded the UAE culture as outdated and the one that needed change.
They cited the social values of UAE as having major weakness, specifically in the way they handled women in society. One of the respondents argued that multi-cultural differences would not be a problem if tolerance and communication exist among the entire workforce.
For example, an Emirati woman will not look at her manager in the face when she is addressed; such a behavior is typical of the Emirati culture, while an American will believe it is a mark of disrespect. Understanding this difference between various cultures will create a cohesive team spirit. The respondent termed the reason behind prohibiting pork eating as a strange belief that should not be followed.
The respondent disliked the dressing code adopted by UAE members, in which women covered most part of their face, termed it as hypocritical, and had nothing to do with purity. When asked how the culture of members from UAE affected the functions in the Standard Charted Bank, he said that most members of the UAE had less respect to their female counterparts.
On the other hand, respondents from the UAE region had various opinions about the Australian culture. One of the respondents said that he preferred UAE culture to the Australian since the UAE member’s show a lot more of respect and mutual relationship among their members than the Australian culture does.
The pinpointed said that despite the various challenges experienced because of cultural difference, the UAE members were able to cope with the prevailing Australian culture in Standard Chartered banks; therefore, they enhanced the working relationship with the Australians (Schedler 17).
Discussion on Findings
Social and Cultural Barriers
The major benefit from the composition of cultures in Standard Chartered banks is that they portray a national outlook, and thus are able to attract a wide market for their products and services. In addition, people from different cultural backgrounds can come up with applicable ideas that may be of benefit to the banks.
Despite these developments, there are various social and cultural barriers experienced by Standard Chartered banks because of cultural conflicts. The barriers contribute negatively to the operations by giving rise to conflicts that tend to delay the achievement of goals and objectives of the banks.
Members of the same culture have their own religions and thus Standard Chartered banks experience problems when setting up bank events. The bank executives are obliged to consider the social and religious welfare of their employees. The banks must observe the days of worship of all members from different cultures so that they do not defy the cultures of the members.
It is against the will of members of UAE regions to set functions of the bank on Friday since they consider it as their Sabbath day. It is also inappropriate to set date of various functions on Sunday since this defies the Christians Sabbath day. The bank operations are interrupted on these days since duties conducted by the absent employees must be reassigned to the present workers to ensure continuity.
When the bank holds social functions, for example, ceremonies most of them integrate UAE cultures in terms of language, customs and beliefs, therefore, other minority cultures represented feel left out. They felt neglected and disregarded thereby resulting in low motivation levels. These social and cultural barriers continue to derail the relationship among members of other cultures.
The effects of a strenuous relationship developed among employees in the banks lead to poor communication, and develop a negative culture that slows policies making and implementations. There is a reduced cooperation in various departments. Therefore, the environment created undermines the overall performance of the banks (Lane 14).
Resistance to Change
According to this research, members of different cultures show a strong resistance to change of the social beliefs, attitudes, customs, and behaviors adopted by their culture. They feel that changing would amount to betraying their communities that have held onto the culture since time immemorial.
Based on responses from the interviews, most of the respondents believed that their culture was the most appropriate and had the best system in place. Four interviewed workers commented positively on their cultural beliefs, customs, rituals and behaviors in their members, and only indicated flaws to other cultures.
The results signify the intensity and impact of the cultures on the workers’ lives. This resistance to change had various implications to the functions of Standard Chartered bank management since managers faced high resistance from the various groups in the bank.
Constant resistant from conflicts among various cultural groups undermined the internal operations of the banks. This led to customers’ complaints about the services offered by the bank by various bank officials (Gannon 26). Customers based their allegations on the levels of non-cooperation among bank officials.
It is important for Standard Chartered banks to formulate strategies that would enhance the relationship among the workers. In order for the banks to boost their performance and become competitive in international discourses, they must eliminate a negative effect brought about by cultural differences.
Failure to do so may result to reduced profitability and hinder the long-term achievements of its developmental goals. The management team should come up with comprehensive channels to mediate the conflict noted in the banks so that they can develop cultures that accommodate diversity (Browaeys 23).
Cultural diversity in Standard Chartered banks is a growing problem that cannot be ignored. Therefore, managers should come up with effective strategies to ensure that the banks continue to thrive both in the UAE and in other regions that have multicultural workforce. The first step that the managers should undertake to manage the cultural diversity is to understand differences among the various cultures present in their banks.
Thorough understanding of different cultural differences, the manager would comprehend the behaviors, attitude, beliefs and customs, and plan for the future programs of the bank with informed information about the cultures present in the banks.
The managers can choose to ignore the cultural difference, minimize the cultural difference, or manage the cultural difference.
Ignoring the Difference
According to the findings, Standard Chartered banks have workers who come from more than six cultural backgrounds. Therefore, there are many variations in behavior, social values, beliefs, and practices of the members, which directly or indirectly affect the banks’ performance. It is hard for managers to cater for all cultural needs in terms of clothing, beliefs, and behaviors of the members.
As such, the best option the managers have is to ignore the differences without considering the minor or the dominant cultures in their banks. This will give all the workers of the banks an equal ground to exercise their cultural diversity without any favoritism.
This will help to enhance the relationship between the manager and employees, thus creating an enabling environment that favors the establishment of policies and implementation of the bank plans. Ignoring of the differences minimizes the cultural differences among cultures represented in the banks, and reduces the negative effects brought about by the cultural differences (French 23).
Minimizing the Difference
Managers should adopt the strategy of minimizing the differences that exist among the various cultures represented in the banks. They should do this by considering cultural variables as a source of problems. Therefore, pay little attention to various demands of cultures represented in the banks. Managers should not concentrate on cultural diversity while adopting various policies and plans of the banks.
They should focus on developing the best strategies to increase the performance of the banks. Minimizing differences imply that the managers establish a homogeneous culture that is adopted by every culture represented in their banks. This helps to minimize differences that hinder the smooth functioning of the banks and boost the performance of an organization (Brewster 14).
Managing differences are one of the most appropriate strategies that managers can adopt to quell the difference that exists between various cultures within the banks. This strategy recognizes all the differences that cultures portray and note their advantages and disadvantages to the banks. Managers should engage synergistic approach and devise the best way to handle members from different cultures in banks (Gannon 17).
Managers should encompass creative ways that bring different cultures together in order to yield the maximum benefits. They should do this by adopting the best aspects of different cultures and setting up a universal culture in their banks.
Therefore, managers of different banks should be trained in order for them to understand the cultural diversity and comprehend cultures weakness and strong points to be able to cope with the growing cultural diversities in their banks.
Various ways should be used by the manager to curb multicultural workforce challenges. Managers should lay down policies and come up with social activities, for example, sports that enhances interactions of various cultures and promotes integration. Social activities will also enable workers to interact more in social events and improve their relationships.
If the interaction of different cultures is encouraged, the proper understanding of different cultures will be realized; it will reduce prejudices that prevail between workers of Standard Chartered banks in the United Arab Emirate. Managers should also take advantage of cultural activities to utilize the unique talents portrayed by different members from various cultures to improve the performance of their banks.
Cultural diversity is a predominant trend across Standard Chartered Banks in UAE. There are many cultures represented, in particular, Australian, Western, European, and Arabic among other minority cultures. Various problems can found in multicultural workforce. Members of the same culture prejudice members from other cultures, concerning their preference in clothing, customs, rituals, and behavior in general.
Members from various cultures believe their cultures are the most dominant and, therefore, undermine the existences of different cultures. In many Standard Chartered banks in UAE, cultural prejudices raise concern among managers and push them to devise strategies to minimize negativism brought about by cultural conflicts increasing the performance of the banks.
The researches have revealed that there is not enough research done to reveal the extent of damage caused by cultural diversity in Standard Charted Banks in UAE. Therefore, this case study provides a platform for a future research.
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Research Questions used:
- Do you think of quitting your job?
- Will you be spending the rest of your career in this bank
- How does the organization relate to you concerning your nationality
- What is the future of the organization
- Do the executives care about her workforce?
- How does the organization support employees in balancing their roles at home
- Do you believe in a multi cultured organization
- What is the communication level between the employees and employers in the bank
- How are cultural differences handled in the bank
- Are you encouraged to make observations concerning instituted policies
- Do you believe in equality
- Are you faced with minority challenges
- Are you satisfied with the way things are done in the bank
- Do you work as a team in the bank?
- Do you feel trampled upon when you do not get what you want?
- Do you have enough time for other activities
- Do you feel distant from home?
- How do you cope with language barriers
- How has the bank influence your culture
- Do you feel secure working within a multicultural environment?
|Position in the bank||Customer care officer|
|Opinions||Australian customs are founded on rationale basis not inheritance as in the case of Muslims||Every member of the community should be given equal rights to wealth and education||People should not inherit religion, they should be left to choose for themselves|
|Position in the bank||Human resource manager|
|I appreciate diversity but some culture especially Arabic are stingy||French are is more rich in terms of social values our style is great||Some religion denies their members independent of mind|
|Position in the bank||Public relation officer|
|Opinions||I believe every member should have their likes and don’t||Men should have a say in the family||I believe in one God, despite different forms of worship|
|Position in the bank||Teller|
|Opinions||In my view Australian don’t have a culture, they base most of their rules of education||do not understand most of their value||Most of The Christians are hypocrite, I don’t see their reason for going to church|