Mismanaging cultural differences can render otherwise successful managers and organisations ineffective when working across cultures. As stated byOsland (1990, p. 4) ``The single greatest barrier to business success is the one erected by culture''. Hofstede (1983) defines culture as "the mental programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another" (Hofstede 1983 p. 25). Through the comparison of Chinese culture and Australian culture using Hofstedes five cross-cultural dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, individualism, and long-term orientation an insightful view into the differences and similarities of the cultures can be obtained (Chong & Park 2003). Human Resource Management (HRM) activities such as: recruitment and selection, career planning and development, employee motivation, and compensation and benefits need to be performed in alignment with national culture as effectiveness of a human resource management practice hinges on the degree to which it fits the values and beliefs of people in the host country. By exploring the differences and similarities of Chinese and Australian culture from a HR perspective strategies aimed at achieving organisational goals can be better achieved. The inherent weaknesses of Hofstedes framework will also be discussed to emphasise the importance of other methods for determining culture.
Greet Hofstede's (1980) landmark study involved more than one hundred thousand IBM employees in forty countries. From those results, and later additions, Hofstede developed a model for classifying national cultures and analysing work behaviour according to five underlying dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, individualism, and long-term orientation (Chong & Park 2003). Hofstedes analysis of each country can provide a better understanding into the national culture that is specific to each country. The significant findings of Hofstedes analysis of Australia include a low power distance score of 36 (ITIM International 2003). Societies with low power distance are characterized by the norm value that inequalities between people should be minimized, and, to the extent that hierarchies exist in such societies and their organizations, they exist only for administrative convenience. Subordinates and superiors regard each other as like people, who have equal rights and representation (Hofstede 1983). In comparison China has a relatively high power distance of 80 (ITIM International 2003). By contrast, high power distance societies are characterised by the acceptance of inequality and its institutionalisation in hierarchies which locate people in their "rightful places". In high power distance societies, superiors are expected to lead and make decisions, and subordinates are generally afraid and unwilling to disagree with their superiors (Hofstede 1983). As a result of the significant difference in power distance between Australian and China Human Resource activities such as performance appraisals will require different approaches. In Australia and many western cultures performance appraisals are generally linked to the job description and individual career development plans. In Australian 360 degree feedback is often incorporated using feedback from management and peers. Constructive criticism is also another important component in the performance appraisals used in Australia which is vital for identifying gaps in learning and development and is accepted by employees as the norm (Harrison 1995). By contrast performance appraisals in China are less frequent as both managers and workers in Chinese enterprises want to avoid blunt confrontations; it is understandable that they would try to minimise the frequency of such conflict-prone encounters in the workplace (Huo 1995). Peer evaluation, frequently used in Australian organisations, virtually does not exist in the China. This may be attributed to the traditional...
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