Culture Essay

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Elvin, Wong Wing Chung (073085)

What are the main sources of conflict in cross-cultural management within an international organization?


The boundaries between countries become less obvious and important today, people getting much closer than ever before. The whole world seems united into a single unit, and these changes are all brought by “Globalization”. International organization are also one of the products which produced by globalization. Working within a multi-national firm, it is unavoidable to work with people speaking different language, living with different culture. These cultural differences are always the main sources of conflict in the workplace.

What is conflict

Before the discussion of sources of conflict, we need to firstly know what conflict is. According to Kevin Avruch (1998), “Conflict is competition by groups or individuals over incompatible goals, scarce resources or the sources of power needed to acquire them.” Such competitions are determined by the people’s perception to power, resources and goals. At the same time, culture is one major determinant of people’s perception. In such words, conflicts are closely related to culture where people are living in.

What is culture

As mentioned above, culture is a key to conflict and conflict resolution. But what is the “culture” exactly referring to? The word “culture” has more than a hundreds of definitions. By Hofstede (1980), he defined “culture as a collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another”. And he also stated that culture is a slow process of growing into society. The content of culture are included the following four elements, learning values (dominant beliefs and attitudes), partaking of rituals (collective activities), modeling against heroes (role models), and understanding symbols (myths, legends, dress and jargon). These ingredients of culture are acquired from birth and are influenced by school, peers, religion, workplace, family, newspaper, television, books and other sources. Everyone “has” culture. We are shaped by the culture we are living in. The way we behave, we feel, we act, we think are all influenced by the culture. Under every single culture, there can be different norms. We see the way we act daily are normal and correct as it is acted according to our “norms”, meanwhile, we would feel odd and even discomfort when people violated our “norms”. Those “norms” are a kind of reflection of our value system; it seems a rule that help us to determine what is right and wrong. People in different cultures always have different value system. When one violates another’s “norm” and offense his value system, conflict occurred. Hence, the cultural difference is always said to be the main source of conflict between people with different culture.

Individualism to Collectivism

Everyone has culture and they may also belong to more than one culture group. However, at the same time, many scholar and researcher agree viewing the culture differences by the dimension of “Individualism and Collectivism” as they characterized the trait of almost all countries people. There is always a say of western countries, for example, American are tend to be in the group of Individualism advocate countries, whereas Eastern countries, like China are tend to be in the group of Collectivism advocate countries. In the later discussion, I will try to explain how the people in these two different cultures have conflict in the workplace.

Dependent and interdependent

Individualism and collectivism are subsets of whole world view, which have also been called, atomism and holism respectively. (Shore, 1996) Atomism is famous in the western hemisphere and refers to view things in terms of their component parts. On the other side, Holism refers to the tendency to view all aspects of life as inter-connected. Atomism and holism have different perception of how the boundaries among people are conceived,...
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