The case under analysis tells about the conflict between an English expatriate and his Barracanian successor. The present paper is aimed at analyzing the problematics of the case, possible solutions and their limitations.
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The interview was between Baker, the chief engineer leaving to Canada, and Rennals, a young and ambitious engineer of Caribbean Bauxite. Rennals was thought to become Baker’s successor but the interview was a failure because the latter made some remarks that the former perceived offensive (Evans 817-821). Baker did not realize that he may have sounded offensive because he, personally, would rather regard his statements as complimentary.
The cause of misunderstanding is the cultural differences that can be subdivided into several aspects. First, Barracania is a communitarian culture while the UK society values individualism, as per Trompenaars’ cultural dimensions (Vance and Paik 56).
The dimensions of communication mainly concern emotionality as opposed to neutrality and specificity versus diffusion. Emotional messages are attributable to Barracanian culture while the UK and other Anglo-clusters are neutral with their speech. Diffusion of Rennals’ culture is the reason he seems detached and unwilling to open up. The specificity and instrumentality of Baker’s communicative style mean he does not put any hidden meaning behind his words, while Rennals, accustomed to the indirectness of his native culture’s communication, has to elaborate a context and thus interpret what was said.
The problem needs to be solved to avoid further misunderstandings like this one. Indeed, culture clashes seem to be a common cause of offense that is likely to divert valuable human resources. Executives like Baker have to learn how to use motivational techniques properly to avoid confusion. For instance, although Baker did acknowledge Rennals’ nationalistic drive, he failed to assume his intrinsic communitarianism as the main factor motivating him to be promoted.
Complimenting Rennals on his progressiveness, Baker places him above his compatriots. Boosting his self-esteem could have worked if Rennals belonged to another cultural context; as a Barracanian, Rennals does not distinguish himself among his peers, which is why he is offended. Another important point is that Baker hinted at the Barracanians’ modest experience with the industry as opposed to the European one. For a nationally conscious person like Rennals, such remark sounded offensive because he thought Baker (and other Europeans) were stereotyping his culture as underdeveloped. Baker may not have meant to be offensive but the choice of the wrong motivation and the unawareness of the peculiarities of Barracanian culture (which relies heavily on context and elaborate communication) resulted in the conflict.
A possible solution for Baker would be to choose a different motivating factor when appraising Rennals’ work. He should have been aware that Rennals’ culture was communitarian and diffuse and that his communication style consisted of emotive messages hidden in the context of the discussion. He could have put his appraisal differently: instead of trying to boost Rennals’ self-esteem, he should have hinted that his promotion would greatly benefit his nation as a whole.
Alternately, and depending on how much he values Rennals, he could try and explain to him his true intentions in an attempt to reconcile with him. The risk of such a solution would be a further misunderstanding. On the other hand, the company would benefit from not losing a valuable employee, and reconciliation would give both Baker and Rennals a chance to understand the other culture better.
Evans, Gareth. “The Road to Hell.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Publishing. 1980. Web.
Vance, Charles M., and Yongsun Paik. Managing a Global Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in International Human Resource Management. Abington-on-Thames, UK: Routledge, 2014. Print.