Hospitality industry organizations are fields in the service industry, which offer lodging services, transportation, theme parks, restaurants, and cruise lines among other services. This industry exclusively relies on leisure time and disposable income (Hodgetts & Luthans 2003).
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On the other hand, culture shock is a situation whereby an individual develops nervous feelings because of the unfamiliar environment to which he or she has shifted (Hodgetts & Luthans 2003).
As per this case, when an employee is transferred to or shifts to a different work station with new ways of life from those in the former station of work, the individual is likely to experience culture shock. Culture shock is one of the most significant topics discussed in the 21st century in many organisations.
In today’s world economy, cultural diversity is unavoidable hence organisations should train their employees on how to embrace it and live with it positively rather than avoiding it.
Moreover, if cultural diversity is received positively in an organisation, it develops the organisation to greater heights. However, this can be the opposite if cultural diversity is not received positively in an organisation.
Various employees in hospitality industry organizations have experienced culture shock when transferred to new working environments but some have managed to adapt the shock depending on how the employees are trained and how ready they are to absorb the shock.
For instance, in hospitality industry organisations, an employee may shift to an environment where a certain food is eaten, whereas in his former working station or home, that type of food is not edible and it is considered unclean.
For example, in some parts of the world, dog meat is consumed while in other places, the dog meat is considered ‘unclean’. In this case, an employee from the part of the world where dog meat is considered ‘unclean’ is transferred to a region where the meat is eaten; this individual is likely to undergo culture shock.
Communication skills and intellectual awareness are the key skills for coping with culture shock in hospitality industry (Kumar 2000). These two skills are more significant to managers than to other employees because the hospitality industry organisations experience labor movement worldwide.
Managers in these organisations are challenged in their workforces to deal with culture shock. This is achievable by training the workforce on the importance of communication skills and intercultural awareness (Kumar 2000).
This avails opportunities for hospitality industrial organisations to leverage their expertise and knowledge around the globe.
Stages of adjusting to new cultures
There are three significant stages unto which foreign employees or professionals are acculturated. First, the employee has to discover through encountering the differences and barriers which cause frustration and discomfort to them as well as their families.
Second, these employees begin to search for resources and people who can assist them overcome the cultural barriers on their way.
Third, they will be required to adapt by making necessary adjustments to their style of working, communicating styles, and business practices so as to build good relationships with the natives in the new working environment (Malekzadeh & Nahavandi 1993).
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Some employees may fail to make it through the three stages hence they may remain in the first or the second stage and the final result is that they will remain isolated from their colleagues in the work place, and this makes them less effective in their jobs as well as in the output of the organisation.
Intercultural Awareness and Communication Skills
Globalization of businesses is viewed from the perspective of our professional and personal lives where opportunities are created for people to meet, interact, and live with their colleagues from unique cultural backgrounds (Hellriegel & Slocum 2000).
Once an individual adopts a new life style from a different culture, he or she widens thinking and creates an open mind to fit in any part of the world.
This is the same case in business because if an employee is transferred to a new working station and decides to introduce a different menu from the previous one, this menu is likely to better than the previous one and is likely to boost the business (Bennis & Nanus 2003).
Communication among people of different cultural orientations is paramount for successful performance of any organisation in the market economy.
To develop communication skills and intercultural awareness, there are various considerations to be observed. The culture-general and culture-specific approaches are critical to the development of these abilities.
The culture-general approach is concerned with the training and generic issues, which surround culture as well as the skills and knowledge (Bennis & Nanus 2003).
Culture-general aspects are crucial to those employees who are recruited to intercultural interaction positions; hence, they require immediate training as part of the selection criteria. The culture-specific training comes later to build on culture-general training after the individual has moved to his or her specific location of work.
Culture shock and associated stress
A new cultural environment signals a new stimuli to an individual for which he or she has not learned the appropriate responses (Adler 2002).
These differences could crop from expectations, food, eating styles, language of communication, and the concept of personal space among others. Some researchers suggest that adapting to a new environment begins with excitement, the disillusionment and the state of culture shock (Harrison & Carroll 2006).
This shock comes up when physical and physiological rewards are difficult and uncertain to predict or control.
For instance, if an employee is transferred to a lodging where he or she is required to massage clients who lodge there, she may find it quite shocking if she was initially working in another environment where massaging was not part of the services.
Responses to culture shock
There are three responses to culture shock namely; resistance, assimilation, and acculturation. Resisting is rejecting the new culture encountered and powerfully defending one’s own traditions. Assimilation is rejecting one’s own traditions and embracing the new culture he or she comes across.
Finally acculturation is training oneself to live with the new culture while holding to ones own traditions (Blaško, Netter & Sinkey 2002). Managers in hospitality organisations are required to be familiar with symptoms of culture shock so that they can always tell when their employees are experiencing culture shock.
These symptoms include; reluctance to learn the new language, and feelings of helplessness among others (Abdou & Kliche 2004). Most employees in hospitality industry take more than a year to embrace the acculturation phase. The process of adapting the new culture can be either stimulating or stressing; depending on various factors.
These factors include individual factors like age, sex, education level, and past experiences among others. Aspects of the job may also enhance or hamper an employee from adapting to the new environment.
For instance, role clarity can assist the employee adapt the new environment while role conflict or role discretion is likely to make the employee hate the new working environment even more.
Competitive advantage of cultural diversity in hospitality industrial organisations
According to Hostede’s cultural dimension theory (1980), cultural differences create international awareness as well as multiculturalism for the sake of cultural introspection (Hofstede 2001). Employees from various cultural backgrounds think and interact differently, and they develop different mental programs.
Hofstede analyses that there is a close similarity between culture, family, professions, political systems, legislations, and ethnic and regional groups among others (Hofstede 2001). He argues that there is need to change mental programs to suit the changing behaviour so that we can achieve value change.
However, he adds that some groups like Gypsies, Basques, and Jews have opted maintaining their identity over a long period of time without changing (Hofstede 2001). Hofstede further demonstrates that there are regional and national groups of people who affect the organizational behaviour (Hofstede 2001).
He outlined the four dimensions of culture which include; power distance, uncertain avoidance, individualism verses collectivism, masculinity verses femininity, and later added long versus short term orientation.
According to Hofstede (2001), various societies have different solutions to social inequality. In organisations, inequality is practiced but invisibly. That is why there is the boss and the subordinate staff. According to Hofstede (2001), organisations portray how inequality is practised in the society.
He argues that the subordinate staffs try to reduce the power between them and the boss, but the boss always tries to enlarge it. He relates these to organisations and says that organizations with good performance have high inequality and the organizations with low performance have low inequality gap.
This is coping with uncertain future, and various societies cope differently with law, technology, and religion. Hofstede (2001) argues that these societies deal with this aspect in two ways, which are rational and non-rational.
For instance, rituals are dealt with non-rationally, and they include control system, planning, accounting systems nomination of experts, and reports among others.
Individualism verses collectivism
This is lack of harmony from the individual and collective-goal perspective. According to Hofstede (2001), this aspect is reflected by employees within organisations. Collectivist employees are emotionally independent of their organizational members and more especially when in an equilibrium state.
Organisations are required to show responsibility on their members. Organizational problems should be solved collectively other than individually to achieve a quick and lasting solution. According to Hofstede (2001), although some states U.S. prefer individualism, collectivism is the best in working out organizational matters.
Masculinity verses femininity
Masculinity and femininity portray the gender which dominate the society whether it is men or women. This is seen from the perspective views of cultural values, power relations and division of labour.
Long verses short term orientation
The long term orientation deals with the search of virtue by the society while short term orientation is concerned with seeking of the absolute truth by the society. These short term oriented societies think normatively, respect traditions, rarely save for the future, and are not ready to achieve quick results (Hofstede 2001).
Long term oriented society has members who believe that truth must come out of situations, time, and contexts. They prefer adapting traditions to changing conditions and they have a strong urge of investing and saving (Morrison 2002).
Cultural Diversity is a source of international competitive advantage
Cultural diversity, and more especially cultural absorption, creates an opportunity in an organization to bring in new ideas, which stimulate the organization to start thinking innovatively and creatively. Most hospitality industrial organizations, who embrace a diverse work force, are advantaged to have a creative competitive advantage. Globalization has come with diversified cultures, religions, languages, peculiarities, and characters in the work place (Harris & Moran 2000). Hence, most organizations are advised to be multicultural so that they are able to accept both familiar and strange cultures. Diversity management is an important tool for embracing cultural diversity.
Cultural diversity has the disadvantageous side. For instance, when an individual is required to shift to another country it begins with total confusion. It is not easy for an employee to accept strange beliefs, values, and ideas because they suddenly realize that their expectations are not conceding with reality (Bligh 2006).
Organizations, which have subsidiaries in other countries, are required to consider this aspect. If this aspect is not put into consideration, its employees are expected to undergo culture shock.
Employees, who move to new cultures without diversity management training, are likely to experience isolation, anxiety, performance deficit and helplessness, which will automatically affect their work performance (Bligh 2006).
Organisations in the current world economy are striving to escape cultural clashes by developing corporate culture which is unique to each organisation (Cartwright & Cooper 1995). The stronger the culture of an organization is the fundamental competitive advantageous the organization is.
Handling cultural diversity in organizations
Managers and other senior organizational leaders are able to detect the existence of cultural diversity in their organizations by acknowledging the differences among their employees. After realizing this aspect, they should let it grow in a positive way (Hill 2000).
This can be achieved by developing better communication skills between management and other employees. Usage of similar communication skills and communicating at the same level in the organisation is likely to promote and enhance negotiations, meetings, contracts, and the growth of the organisation in general.
It is important to think of cultural diversity as we move to the globalised workforce environment. Although it is difficult to measure attitudes, beliefs, values, and skills of different cultures, any hospitality industrial organization; which would like to expand its activities from domestic to international market has to consider the issue of cultural diversity before entering the international market.
This is because in each country, there is cultural conflict. If the misunderstandings of people from different cultures are not handled professionally, it can lead to total collapse of the organization. International managers are expected to be aware of Trans-cultural competence and cultural difference.
Cultural diversity helps in the creation of multicultural working environment and deletes all stereotypes and prejudices. Organisations have are expected to embrace cultural diversity from the time go to avoid future organizational challenges like unmotivated employees due to culture shock.
The human resource management team within organisations is the group to play the key role in ensuring appropriate cultural diversity in their organisations.
Most organisations which have embraced cultural diversity have gained competitive advantage worldwide and those which have not embraced this aspect should give it a chance to enjoy its fruits.
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