Culture can be defined as a collective phenomenon, which sets several unwritten norms with respect to which an individual of a specific group (ethnic or geographical) differ from another. Cultural aspects significantly decide the code of conduct of an individual, not only in his or her personal life but also in the work place. Individuals accustomed to one lifestyle pattern often face difficulties after moving to some other country, due to stark cultural differences (Minkov and Hofstede 2012). These problems are especially more serious in their work places, which may affect their work satisfaction as well as their career graph significantly. In this particular case, Lee has stayed in Australia for long to complete his high school studies, MBA and internship before moving back to Korea, his motherland, to work in an international food and beverage company (Yang et al. 2012). Being a resident of Australia for fifteen years, Lee faces several crisis in his new work place in the Korean environment, much of which is attributed to the cultural differences between the two countries. The situation in the company, in which Lee works, can be explained in the following discussion, using Hofstede’s Framework of cultural dimensions (Hofstede, Jonker and Verwaart 2012).
Analysis of situation in Hofstede’s Framework:
The Hofstede’s Framework is a theory of cultural dimensions, which tries to analyze the cross-cultural communications and cultural differences between countries in terms of multiple dimensions namely:
- a) Index of Power Distance- Higher value of this index indicates the existence of a steep hierarchical construct in that society whereas a lower value implies flatter power dynamics (Minkov and Hofstede 2012).
- b) Collectivism and Individualism- Collectivism is high in the societies, where, people tend to work together, in an integrated way to achieve collective goals. On the other hand, individualistic societies are characterized by individuals, more motivated towards achieving personal goals (Gorodnichenko and Roland 2012).
- c) Index of Uncertainty Avoidance- A society with ranking high in this index generally is characterized by more rigidity and less acceptance of non-convenient thoughts whereas the ones with low scores are more accepting and ambiguous (Yang 2012).
- d) Masculine and Feminine- A masculine society generally attaches heroism, material rewards and achievements with success whereas, those with more femininity, believes more in modesty and cooperation and has a special caring attitude towards the weak ones (Hofstede, Jonker and Verwaart 2012).
- e) Indulgence- A society allowing fulfillment of individual desires and ways of having fun and imposes less restraints on the individual’s emotions. Conversely, their counterparts believe in restrictions and controls over ones’ emotions and lifestyles (Kohun, Bur?ik and Skovira 2012).
Long Term Orientation - High scores indicates that the society values practical examples more than traditional norms (Taras, Steel and Kirkman 2012).]
Korea, scoring high in the index of power distance than Australia, has a stiff hierarchical societal construct, both in personal and professional domains. Therefore, early departure of Lee (though he departed early only after competing all his tasks) was being seen as a rude approach towards his superiors (Geert-hofstede.com, 2017). On the other hand, the country believes more in collectivism than individualism, which implies that the efforts given by Lee in order to gain personal attention, and in order to stick out of the crowd was deemed as highly inappropriate and selfish behavior on his part, by his company. This may happen because being a Korean organization, the other employees and the company as a whole may believe in collective accolades and achieving together (Lee 2012).
Lee likes to dye his hair and prefers casual clothing. This may not be an issue in Australia as it believes in indulgence and freedom of choosing ones’ lifestyle. However, Korea scoring strikingly low in the indulgence index, these indulgences on part of Lee may not be seen as an appropriate behavior by Lee’s company and his co-workers, thereby making him more distant from other employees. Korea scores significantly high in the Index of Uncertainty Avoidance, implying the society in general is not highly accepting or open towards new ideas or thoughts (Despotovic, Hutchings. and McPhail 2015). Therefore, Lee’s approach of suggesting new and innovative ideas for the betterment of the company, are heard by his superiors but are not implemented in reality, as the company may not be inviting new experimenting approaches and believes in following conventional guidelines towards the path of success (M??tt?nen 2014).
Together, all these factors, as explained in terms of the Hofstede’s Framework, may have contributed in creating a hostile environment for Lee in his new workplace situated in Korea.
Possible Strategies that can be taken by Lee:
The hostile environment and distant attitudes of the co-workers, faced by Lee in his new work place, are mainly the result of the massive cultural differences between Lee, who though Korean by birth, has stayed for long in Australia and the company in Korea where he is currently working (Lee 2012). His company and his co-workers are negatively interpreting many of his non-significant actions and behaviors. This in its turn is leaving a negative essence in his work life and work place. These problems can be mitigated by implementing several simple but clever strategies with significant implications and affect on his professional conduct and on his career graph in the long run. Few of these potential strategies are discussed below:
- a) Staying back in his office, even after his work has been done and leaving only after his superiors in the company have left, may portray respecting hierarchy and his seniors on part of Lee. This may create a positive impression about him in his company, thereby decreasing the hostility to some extent (Layous et al. 2013).
- b) Instead of trying to work alone and stick out of the crowd to gain personal appraisals, Lee can try to mix up with his co-workers and work collectively with them with the objective of taking his team as a whole towards more productivity. The sense of collectivism can make his colleagues feel less distant with him ad may help Lee in the long run by strengthening his base in the company (Despotovic, Hutchings. and McPhail 2015).
- c) A little adjustments and changes in his personal behavior, like not arriving at his work place in casuals or maintain a decent, formal appearance without striking dyes in his hair or other loud style statements will change Lee’s lifestyle significantly, but, will definitely create a positive perception about himself to his colleagues and company. Following a strictly formal and simple dress code may help in his image building in the Korean company (M??tt?nen 2014).
- d) Spending a considerable amount of time in Australia, Lee is accustomed in its culture of freethinking and an outward approach in expressing ones’ emotions and opinions. However, implementing the same approach in the Korean company can have negative implications and his outward approach may be perceived as his over-smartness. Lee can maintain a more reserved and introverted approach, especially while approaching his seniors, in order to make a positive impression about himself in the company (Despotovic, Hutchings. and McPhail 2015).
Potential Strategies for the Korean Manager:
In the above discussion, potential strategies of Lee, which can make his experience I the Korean work environment better, have been discussed in details. However, with globalization and new age competition, it is also necessary on part of the Manager of the company to create and maintain a more integrating and encouraging work environment for the employees, especially those accustomed to a more individualistic type of work culture, to maintain the talented labour force (Shore 2013). This initiative may prove beneficial for the employees as well as for the company as a whole in the long run:
- a) To stay in the competition and maintain a stable growth of the company, the Manager has to keep the talented workforce, even a few of them maybe of more individualistic nature. These employees generally tend to get motivated when their efforts and achievements are individually praised and materially rewarded (Gorodnichenko and Roland 2012). Material rewards, if given to a particular employee, may appear inappropriate in the eyes of his co-workers, who have been long accustomed to the collective work environment of Korea. However, praising verbally and recognizing an individual’s efforts for the betterment of the company, will not appear strikingly out of norm on one hand and will encourage that person on the other hand (Geert-hofstede.com, 2017).
- b) Innovation is a key necessity for any company, in any part of the world, to sustain and experience increasing turnovers, in the contemporary competitive global business environment. Korea, being a high scorer in the Index of Uncertainty Avoidance, does not welcome new thoughts and ideas with much ease. This may adversely affect the growth of the Korean company in particular (Forbes.com, 2017). Incorporating innovative ideas from the talented and competitive work force may have two-way benefits; on one hand it may encourage the workers to e creative and innovative, thereby increasing their interests for working in the company and creating a competitive work environment. On other hand, incorporation of the potential innovative ideas may prove beneficial for the company by increasing its future prospects in the global atmosphere (Layous et al. 2013).
- c) Decreasing the stiffness in company hierarchy may enable the employees to approach the senior officials with new ideas, queries and problems if any. This may incorporate a sense of belonging and warmth among the employees thereby benefiting the company as a whole (Forbes.com, 2017).
The above discussion elaborates the problems Lee faces in the Korean work environment due to a difference in the work cultures of Korea and Australia. To rule out the differences and create an integrated and satisfying work environment, it is necessary on part of Lee as well as the Manager of the company to design and incorporate several simple yet significant changes in their respective professional approaches and behaviors. This, if done diligently from both sides, can help in creating a symbiotic as well as competitive work environment, which may benefit both Lee and the company as a whole in the long run.
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