Showing posts with label power distance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label power distance. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Culture of Economic Engagement Creates National Growth

Culture and economics not often something that are seen together as its smacks of elitism. However, culture as a belief system has a noticeable impact on societal behavior and the everyday choices people make that contribute to economic development. A paper by Svetlana Overbaugh, indicates that culture should be a major consideration in the determination of countries that are ripe for international investment and growth (2013).

Falling trade barriers, communication improvements, and shipping improvements have opened the markets to major change. Those nations that are likely to succeed have the right culture and infrastructure to capitalize on this change. As Asian countries zoom ahead in growth, Americans and Western European nations continue to lose market share. The time for regeneration based upon basic cultural principles may be needed to reclaim the marketplace.

The degree of economic freedom and the pace of a country’s growth influence its economic competitiveness (Johnson & Lenartowicz, 1998). The Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines global competitiveness as the ability of a country to produce new products that can successfully compete against other countries in the global marketplace (2011). Economic growth becomes a process of turning out the new and unique.

If we travel back in time we can find that Adam Smith (1776) believed that self-interested actions of many market participants leads to efficient allocation of resources that can result in higher productivity and economic growth. Other ancient theorists such as Tucker believed that countries become rich due to the desire to develop new knowledge, learn, and apply this knowledge in new ways (1776). Thus, economic development is rooted in the cultural underpinnings that afford opportunities to develop new knowledge and use that knowledge to enhance international sales and profits.

The author relied on Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Model and economic activity to determine competitiveness.  The six cultural dimensions of power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/ femininity, short/long-term thinking, and indulgence/restraint were part of the evaluation process. They are important because once the cultural underpinnings have been established they reinforce social rules and norms on society.

Even though the study focused on smaller post-communist countries, they also offer a glimpse into why some countries are growing and why some are not and this has broad implications. The Author found that since national culture impacts every aspect of social life it is necessary to foster innovativeness and human development within that culture to foster economic activity. It is the choices of many that make a viable system.

The author found that two cultural attributes of power distance and uncertainty avoidance have the greatest influence on growth. When power-distance relationships are low all members of society are encouraged to work and grow while low uncertainty avoidance encourages a higher entrepreneurship stance that takes chances on new products and services. Growth is through egalitarian and supportive risk-taking perspectives.

Beyond this report, we can see that those cultures that influence norms on productive innovativeness and human development also see higher levels of GNP development. These cultural attributes are based in the way people think about their place in the economic system. Through maximum engagement of all members of society in the self-enhancement, of their personal lives and their economic spirit of creation, the system can transform itself to a high product and service development society that reaps the rewards of international competition.  Culture must engage, encourage, and reward individuals or those who can offer the most are stifled under poor reinforcing economic structures that lead to a path of decline for a nation and its people.  The best and brightest must rise if there is to be hope for a better future.  Is it what you know or who you know that filters its way into your decision-making process and management decisions?

Hofstede, G. H. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and
organizations across nations (2 ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Johnson, J. P., & Lenartowicz, T. (1998). Culture, freedom and economic growth: Do cultural
values explain economic growth? Journal of World Business, 33(4), 332-356.

OECD. (2011). Retrieved ft-om OECD:

Overbaugh, S. (2013). National culture, country-level competitiveness, and economic development. International Journal of Business and Economics Perspectives, 8 (1).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mexican Power Distance Relationships and Communication Styles

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) along with more recent immigration of Mexican Americans has led to newer understandings of the power-distance dynamics of communication embedded in the South American culture. As new business partnerships emerge that lead to the furthering of relationships in Mexico, American managers will need to understand how communication and culture influences the organization processes. Furthermore, strong managers should have a global perspective to more effectively manage diverse cultures.

Mexico is seen as having a high power distance culture. They ranked with a score of 81 points that puts them fifth among 50 countries within the study (Hofstede’s, 2001). The greater this high-power distance the more uncomfortable employees feel when talking to managers, executives and others within positions of authority. Such employees would feel a natural anxiety when trying to connect with their supervisors and managers.

Imagine for a moment that you were a manager of employees from Mexico. You may not understand why they seem so silent, unwilling to bring forward problems, and not take initiative when problems occur. They seem to wait for direction and may not act even if such actions would have a positive result for the company. This could be part of issues related to the power-distance dynamics of two varying cultures.
It has been stated that such dynamics are “that silence can exact a high psychological price on individuals, generating feelings of humiliation, pernicious anger, resentment, and the like that, if unexpressed, contaminate every interaction, shut down creativity, and undermine productivity” (Perlow & Williams, 2003, p. 52). When cultures encourage such behaviors there is going to be less innovation and development within organizations as the environment creates passivity.

This means that managers need to engage such employees, build the right environments, and develop ways to create communication networks that result in productive outputs. By developing stronger relationships with such employees it begins adjust and create behaviors that are more productive. It takes time for employees to feel comfortable around managers and their positional powers before positive communication patterns can be developed. Trust develops over time.

A study by Madlock (2012) helps to highlight how the cultural aspects of power-distance influence communication styles. Through the surveying of 168 Mexican participants from non-managerial jobs the concepts of power distance, approach avoidance, communication apprehension, organizational commitment, communication satisfaction, and job satisfaction were measured. 

-Mexican employees exhibited more signs of power distance and use of avoidance methods.
-Mexican employees used less approach messages.
-There was a relationship between communication satisfaction and communication avoidance.
-There was a negative relationship between communication satisfaction and use of approach messages.
-Positive relationships existed between communication satisfaction, job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Employees from cultures with high power distance relationships naturally do not engage their environment well without help from management. The anxiety they feel when talking to people of higher authority leads to avoidance of such interactions. In such populations some employees will be more inclined to withdraw even further which lowers their communicative engagement with others as well as their satisfaction with the employer. Through the engagement of Mexican workers, and others from similar type cultures, it is possible to raise their trust of management for higher levels of performance.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Madlock, P. (2012). The Influence of Power Distance and Communication on Mexican Workers. Journal of Business Communication, 49 (2). 

Perlow, L., & Williams, S. (2003). Is silence killing your company? Harvard Business Review,
81, 52-58.