The Impact of National Culture on Organizational Culture

The National Culture of a country is highly dominant and shapes the culture of organizations where they function (Lindholm, 2000). England (1983 cited in Thomas, 2008) that national culture influences organizational culture and as such influences the practices of the organizations. According to Hofstede and Hofstede (2005), national culture is distinctive in the way that it significantly differs not only in terms of language, religion and other factors but also in terms of the way people of that nation perceives, behave, act and hold the values in them. Robbins (2003) points out that the formation of an organizational culture stems from the ideologies of the founders of the organizations, the basis of which are the values, beliefs and assumptions of the founders.

Buchanan and Huczynski (2004) point out that the behavior of the employees is shaped by its organizational culture is somehow influenced by the respective national culture, which is supported by Jung et al. (2008), where they indicate that the employees of a multinational company’s subsidiary will be influenced by the national culture of their country in terms of the country’s values, beliefs, customs and others to a large extent compared to the values and assumptions of the company itself.

Joiner (2001) asserts that the inconsistency in the values organization’s culture and national culture hold by the managers has an adverse impact on the performance of the managers and results in employee turnover and absenteeism. A set of behavioral aspects (values, beliefs, morals, customs, assumptions and the like) dictate peoples’ behavior in terms of acceptable behaviors or unacceptable behaviors (Hofstede, 1984 cited in Parboteeah et al. 2005). The relationship between national culture and absenteeism, which is associated with the behavioral aspects of the people and very costly for organizations, is well established and that national culture influence absenteeism as it is assumed that in certain countries, absences are more acceptable in comparison to other countries (Parboteeah et al. 2005).

Kim (1991 cited in Nes et al. 2007) specifies communication as a cultural framework, which helps in decoding the message from the correspondent to the recipient. Steinwachs (1999) mentions that the extent to which the message corresponded by the sender and receiver is influenced by culture. Nes et al. (2007) indicate the influencing relationship between national culture and organizations’ operations and point out that due to such relationship, organizational cultures differ significantly in terms of their international communication pattern and managing difficulty in communication will depend on the variety among organizational cultures. Brooks (2006) indicates that the way people of an organization and of a country are communicated is shaped by the national and as such by the organizational culture. For example, in a high power distance culture, addressing people’s name should be in terms of using the title of their name instead of using the first name because this may result in a disappointing work environment and communication can be disconnecting. The use of language also poses similar kinds of problems in different cross cultural contexts.

House et al. (1999) indicate that national culture shapes the style of leadership and the way leaders function whereas leaders are the main actors in establishing the culture of the organization, who influence the organizational culture on a continual basis (Robbins, 2003). Subsequently, the behaviors of the leaders are influenced and altered in response to the culture of the organization, that is, organizational culture influences the functions of leaders (Schein, 1992). According to Trompenaars (1993), the four different types of organizational culture shape the style of leadership. For example, in a power oriented or family culture, leaders are the people who hold the power and subsequently, in an organizational culture, leaders expect that their subordinates will carry out the orders given by them. Role oriented or Eiffel tower culture represents bureaucratic rigid organizational culture where the power of leaders is basically the outcome of the role that they hold and play and a bureaucratic, inflexible leadership style is followed. In a task oriented or guided missile culture, the power that leaders hold is the result of their professional skills and emphasis is placed to attain the tasks assigned. Incubator or fulfillment oriented organization culture shows an emphasis on the self fulfillment of the organizational members. According to Brooks (2006), leadership style takes different form in terms of the five dimensions of the national culture where he points out that in a low power distance organizational culture, it is quite easy for the lower level employees to communicate to their leaders that defines a democratic style of leadership whereas in a high power distance organization, autocratic leadership is likely to be followed.

Motivation of people is also affected by national culture and organizational culture. For example, Francesco and Gold (1998) point out that organizations operating in a high context collective culture expect their norms to be respected, in such cases, motivation of individual behavior is unlikely to have a positive effect. In a high power distance culture where organizations are highly bureaucratic, employee motivation is much less in terms of job satisfaction (Parboteeah et al. 2005).

According to Furnham and Gunter (1993 cited in Buchanan and Huczynski 2004), through various dimensions of national culture, organizational culture is influenced in a variety of ways in terms of work place characteristics. For example, in a high power distance national culture, organizations have tall, bureaucratic, centralized organizational structure, where subordinates are expected to perform as per the direction of the leader and a more privileged structure for white-collar jobs whereas in a low power distance national culture, organizations are highly flexible, have flatter organizational structure, and encourage employee participation. National culture with a high masculinity indicates discrimination in gender roles as fewer women are seen to have higher ranked jobs and work is given the top priority whereas in a low masculinity culture, discriminations in terms of gender are reduced, women have access to higher ranked position, and social values are prioritized. High individualism indicates tasks are more important and initiatives are encouraged whereas low individualism emphasizes relationship over tasks. In a national culture of high uncertainty avoidance, organizations are reluctant to take risks and standardized their works while in a culture of low uncertainty avoidance, organizations encourage employees to be innovative, creative and risk taking with fewer rules and laws to apply.



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Posted by: Farid Ahmed

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