Organizational Acculturation in Foreign Subsidiaries
Jan Selmer and Corinna de Leon
Organizational acculturation refers to the influence of parent organizational culture resulting in change of work values of local employees in foreign subsidiaries. A study of host country national middle managers in Southeast Asia explored the impact of organizational acculturation. In the first phase, the work-related cultural values of managers employed by Swedish subsidiaries in Singapore were compared with those of a control group of managers employed by non-Swedish companies. The second phase investigated the work values of managers in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand, based on Hofstede’s four cultural dimensions. The findings,clearly indicated that local managers in Swedish subsidiaries had experienced organizational acculturation, as distinct Swedish values had been adopted. However, cultural change did not occur to an equal extent among the three countries nor between different cultural values. Implications of the findings for international human resource management are discussed. 8 1993 John Wiley & Sons,Inc.
The valuable comments on a n earlier version of the article provided by two anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged as well as the constructive advice from the Editor.
Dr. Jan Selmer i the Head of the Department of Management, School of Business, Hong s Kong Baptist College, Hong Kong. Dr. Corinna de Leon is a senior lecturer in the Department of Business and Management, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. The International Executive, Vol. 35(4) 321-338 (JulyIAugust 1993) CCC 0020-6652/93/040321-18 0 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cultural change that results from continuous, first-hand contact between two distinct cultural groups has been defined as acculturation (Redfield, Linton, and Herskovits, 1936). The concept was originally proposed as a group phenomenon, but lately has been used as well to refer to psychological mechanisms in the individual. Psychological acculturation refers to changes in the individual’s overt behavior and covert traits, when the individual’s cultural group is experiencing acculturation collectively (Graves, 1967). As a result of acculturation, biological, cultural, physical, psychological, and social changes may occur (Berry, 1990; Berry et al., 1989; Berry et al., 1992; Berry, Kim, and Boski, 1988). Personal work experiences in various organizations could shape individual work values (Feldman, 1981; Walker and Tausky, 1982). The development of these work-related factors are part of the process of organizational socialization, whereby the individual learns the normative behaviors, attitudes, and values expected of him/her as a member of the organization (Schein, 1968; Wanous, 1980). It has been demonstrated in empirical studies that this socialization process could occur frequently during an individual’s career, and that personal work values may undergo a series of modifications caused by job experiences (Weiss, 1978). However, organizational socialization does only include adoption of values, norms, and behavioral patterns that are espoused by the organization as the prerequisites of organizational membership. The extent of socialization varies with the importance the organization attachs to different norms and values. “Pivotal” norms and values are considered absolutely necessary for employees to learn but “relevant” ones are seen as optional (Schein, 1968). It has been proposed that changes in behavioral patterns, norms, and values result from imitation or modeling, for example, observational learning (Bandura, 1971). Weiss’ (1978) study suggested that work experience leads to the formation of certain values through the supervisor-subordinate interaction. It has also been proposed that organizational socialization includes the employee’s active search for information on the appropriate role (ibid.). In a domestic...
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