Intercultural Management Hierarchy vs Equality

Topics: Culture, Decision making, The Culture Pages: 5 (1005 words) Published: December 4, 2012
Intercultural Management
Hierarchy vs. Equality
In hierarchical societies the unequal distribution of power, ro les and resources is legitimate. Individuals are socialized to comply with obligations and roles according to their hierarchical position in society and are sanctioned if they do not (see pic1). In egalitarian cultures, individuals are seen as moral equals and are socialized to internalize a commitment to voluntary cooperation with others and to be concerned with others welfare (see pic2). Schwarz (1994). An important term also to be defined is ‘power distance’ this is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. According to Schwarz’s research Countries such as China, Thailand, and turkey are hierarchical cultures while Denmark, Sweden and Norway are egalitarian cultures.



Dimensions of Hierarchy and equality
Hierarchy and equality have dimensions which are important in understanding the funct ionality of these two cultures.
Belief that power should be distributed

Belief that power should be distributed
relatively equally.

Belief in ascribed or inherited power.

Belief in shared or elected power with
ultimate authority residing in the people

Emphasis on organizing vertically

Emphasis on organising horizontally.

Preference for autocratic or centralized

Preference for participatory or

decision making

decentralised decision making

Emphasis on who is in charge

Emphasis on who is best qualified

Acceptance of authority, reluctance to

Rejection of scepticism of authority,
willingness to question authority.

question authority.

Reflection of culture
The culture of a people can be reflected in a number of ways; firstly it can be reflected by the values we hold, indeed values can be so wide ranging in dimensions that even members of the same family can have vastly different values. Secondly culture can be reflected in languages we speak, yes, words do actually say a lot. Finally and perhaps most importantly culture is reflected by our behaviour sometimes action speaks louder than words (see Pic3).


Case Study
Carl, a Swedish employee working in a French company in Paris, was frustrated at the time it took for decisions to be made between departments. He was used to making decisions himself. Although he‘d been instructed to go through certain channels, he decided to fax his proposals directly to a counterpart in another department. The head of Carl‘s department was extremely upset. He called him in and told him in no uncertain terms that every fax had to be approved before being sent.

This was a very interest ing case study and it showed a classical case of the clash of two cultures (see pic4). This can be a particularly hazardous scenario for both parties involved as they may not understand the cultural difference that are at play.


We were all in culturally diverse groups as we discussed this case study. We were asked to discuss four questions as it pertains to this cultural problem. It was very interesting to hear the different views being shared as we discussed these four questions.

1. What do you think was happening?
Most of us agreed what was happening was the negative clash of two polar opposites. Carl obviously thought that his way was better and more efficient, than having to go through the channels to get his decision approved. He is coming from the Swedish culture where he was used to doing things and making his own decisions.


Which strengths and needs might be involved?
The strengths involved for Carl are Achiever as he has a strong desire to accomplish goals as quickly as possible; Maximizer I think is also playing a role in Carl’s decision making. For the Manager I think the needs to be involved in the decision making process is playing a role in the conflict that...
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