Egger Hefted is one of the most prominent researchers in the field of cultural differences. His studies are well accepted and internationally renowned. However, even though the above mentioned quotation almost seems to be a warning regarding intercultural cooperation, one cannot imagine today’s world without it. Companies act globally in different markets, meeting the needs of and collaborating with individuals from diverse cultural, religious and ethical backgrounds. People travel all over the world, flexibility regarding location has become a necessity and we grow up with extensive cultural wariness and sensitivity.
But even though we are used to living in a fast-moving global world cultural misunderstandings still are the main source of problems in international organizations. The case to be discussed is the perfect example of a critical incident, when Chinese country manager Yang Joining is promoted to global manager of product development in France and struggles as he is encountering cultural differences in terms of work ethos, hierarchy and further aspects discussed in the essay. Quickly, misunderstandings lead to frustration and Joining finds himself isolated from his colleagues.
On the other hand, the French employees, as well as, the business’s CEO, wonder whether the Chinese scientist was the right choice for the position. Can Joining make the transition and live up to the French and his own expectations? The assignment of this paper is to find an answer to this question. In the following the reader will first be introduced to the subject of intercultural communication in order to gain a better understanding of what culture is after all and how cultural differences affect people’s interactions. The main part of the paper aims at analyzing the case study in detail.
First, the challenges Joining is confronted with will be discussed and classified according to which extent they are of an intercultural nature. This will lead to an analysis of the different cultural dimensions, which turner help to understand the case. En ext, the role to cultural stereotypes will be discussed. The last part of the analysis aims at finding a solution to both the above mentioned question and proposes possible improvements in the behavior of the respective parties in order to avoid intercultural conflicts in the future. The last part of the paper concludes the problem.
Our behavior, thoughts, and values are to a large degree determined by where we come from, our culture. It is therefore of utmost importance to understand the concept of culture. In general it can be defined as “the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values. “ Resulting from this, culture has two main purposes. On the one hand, it is shared meaning, offering us a sense of togetherness, on the other hand, culture defines behavioral rooms and accordingly helps individuals to live together peacefully.
Of course, when defining culture one has to consider that there are different levels, e. G. Nation, region, religion or profession within this system. Furthermore, it is important to note that culture is intangible. It is a concept, a system that helps us to understand our complex world.  Acknowledging this it becomes obvious that people from different countries coming together find it difficult to interact with each other. Intercultural differences determine to a large degree the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization. They can cause improper behavior or misinterpretation.
With the increasing complexity of a situation in terms of stress, time limits and high stakes, people’s intercultural awareness and willingness to adapt decreases. Still as globalization makes borders irrelevant intercultural competence is becoming crucial. Namely the ability to handle cultural differences successfully, to understand why people behave the way they do and to work effectively in a multicultural environment. Martinet Carded Greeter defines intercultural competence in three dimensions: Cognitive, behavioral and affective (see graph). 4] A person with a high agree of intercultural competence has sufficient knowledge to understand and to interpret the behavior of individuals (cognitive), is able to communicate in a way to satisfy others and himself (behavioral) (Ruben 1983) and shows a great amount of empathy, flexibility, tolerance and self-disclosure (affective) (Bolton 2003). These three dimensions are of equal importance and multiply to the degree of intercultural competence one possesses .  Whereas this model helps coping with visible cultural differences, there are also a lot of hidden factors, like shared values deeply enrobed in a nation’s collective mind.
One of the most recent studies that is trying to make these factors accessible is the GLOBE study from 2004, for which over 17,000 people from all over the world were questioned in order to identify cultural differences. In this cross-cultural approach 9 different cultural dimensions, which describe “a spectrum of ways human cultures use to deal with a universally shared problem they are confronted with”, could be identified. 1. Performance orientation: This dimension describes the importance of excellence and results. 2.
Future orientation: The higher this value the more people emphasize strategic planning. 3. Assertiveness. This describes the degree to which individuals in a society are dominant and aggressive. 4. Institutional Collectivism: Whether people enjoy being part off broader entity like a community. 5. In-group Collectivism: Determines the importance for members to be part of a small group, e. G. Family. 6. Gender Egalitarianism: It describes how much gender role differences are minimized. 7. Uncertainty avoidance: A high value indicates avoidance of risks through meticulous planning. . Power Distance: This dimension describes how groups accept authority and adhere to hierarchy. 9. Humane Orientation: How much a society encourages fair and generous behavior towards others. The participants ranked their nation’s ‘As is’ value and ‘Should be’ value on a scale from 1 to 7. The study revealed similarities, especially in countries of close vicinity. Accordingly, these countries were combined into 10 clusters. Today the GLOBE study is one of the most commonly used sources in order to identify intercultural differences.
With regard to the case, one can see that cultural differences make it difficult for people to communicate and to collaborate, especially for managers who at the same time are confronted with stress and pressure. The same is true for Wang Joining. After his promotion the manager is facing a lot of challenges, not realizing, however, that he himself might be his biggest challenge. These challenges can mainly be classified as intercultural ones. Joining himself is very traditional and feels “nationalistic pride in his promotion” (line 16), but Droned is an organization with “unmistakable pride in its French identity’ (line 85).
When cultures clash as in this case difficulties are pre-assigned. Joining suddenly finds himself in a typical French “family business” (line 84). Familiar concepts of hierarchy in China are exchanged wrought a more personal approach. The company’s CEO Lain Droned treats the managers he trusts rather as family members than subordinates. They gather at his country home in Abeyance. Yves Sacra, vice president for developed markets, even spent the week cannoning with Lanai’s daughter and they “share a degree of trust” (line 341). This idea of business is completely the opposite of what Joining is used to.
In China the scientist is part of a strict hierarchy. He is used to respect from his peers and is never confronted with criticism. In China employees are reluctant to questioning their boss’s decisions. Hierarchies are crucial for people, business cards are so popular as they reflect one’s position and allow the people to address his or her counterpart. On top of that, Joining finds himself separated from a patriotic French “closed club” (line 243). Effective intercultural communication is another challenge for the scientist. He needs to find a way to interact with his colleagues and to become a part of their group.
Joining is not used to the comparably direct way the French approach him. On top of that the Coo’s behavior is quite challenging for Joining. Lain, who originally stated the importance of being “open to new ideas” (line 58) seems to be facing some kind of cognitive dissonance. He even seems to regret having hired Joining. Also the other colleagues don’t score high regarding intercultural competence. Yves even insults the Chinese when talking about China as a “third world country’ (line 282). On the other hand, Joining is confronted with other challenges. He is facing an immense amount of pressure by his environment and also by himself.
The hype about his personality, being the TLS t Chinese ever to become head product development in the global cosmetics industry and newspapers writing about him (line 37), builds up further pressure. Joining desires to live up to this hype (line 41). He is confident in his skills wants to achieve something, to ‘build the country Just like his name indicates. He has an intimate knowledge of Asian markets; still his challenge is to become fully aware of his new position. Joining is now global head of product development and no longer country manager. He has to shift his focus from China to the whole world.
The Chinese needs to realize that he has far more responsibilities now. His position is much more strategic and he needs to see the bigger picture. Also when doing market research he can no longer rely on intuition or recommendations by his niece, but is challenged to prove his findings with hard data. The new tasks are challenging for Joining and he has to figure out metrics how to achieve them. Resulting from this one can observe that Joining faces mostly intercultural difficulties. In order to identify them the findings of the GLOBE study as explained above can be used.
As these dimensions are rather absolute and homogeneous they help to simplify the case. On top of that clustering further helps to understand cultural differences of countries that are so remote in terms of location and beliefs. Three dimensions are especially important for the case. Firstly, with an ‘As is’ value of 4. 13 French people are much more assertive than Chinese with an ‘As is’ value of 3. 76. Whereas Chinese managers prefer solving conflicts in a non-confrontational, harmonious way, Western people make usage of a much more aggressive approach.
This becomes obvious when Yves’ tone becomes more and more assertive as he is talking to Joining. While not being afraid of directly criticizing others the French have a high ‘Should be’ value for humane orientation (5. 67). It is important for them to be warm, generous and caring. Even though ‘reining, networking and helping people in the inner circle, are of high importance for Chinese the situation regarding this dimension is more controversial. Societal changes and increasing uncertainty made the ‘Should be’ value drop to 5. 32. Most interesting are the cultural differences regarding power distance, China with an ‘As is’ value of 5. 4 (respectively a ‘Should be’ value of 3. 1) believes much more in hierarchy than France with a ‘Should be’ value of only 2. 76. French people desire more equality, whereas Chinese possess more tolerance for inequality of power in society. Traditional values and the above scribed adherence to hierarchy are pulling Chinese managers from becoming too competitive. When it comes to leadership the French strongly prefer a participative leadership style (5. 9). That explains why Yves proactively makes suggestions. Chinese on the other hand expect leaders to follow Confusion’s ‘5 constant virtues’.
They strictly follow the superior’s beliefs and are loyal, as well as submissive. The Oxford dictionary defines a stereotype as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing”  Stereotypes are ideas shared by one culture regarding another culture. In a generalizing way these attitudes describe certain habits with a subjective emotional tendency and are passed on through the media, school or public. Everybody is confronted with stereotypes and they can be the first move into a more intercultural perspective. Three different functions can be perceived.
The cognitive function helps us to deal with too much information. The affective function simplifies developing one’s personal identity and the social function strengthens a whole group’s identity. Furthermore, we tend to generalize. These are non-evaluative assumptions we derive room large scale group research and rather indicate tendencies, not universal truth. Typical stereotyping can also be observed in the case. Western people perceive Chinese commonly as diligent, shy, closed-minded, and often lacking in human skills. Also the French managers regard Joining as “a little hard to read” (line 57).
Lain fails to get to know Joining on a more private level, but already has a picture of the Chinese in his mind. Stereotyping can also be perceived when Lain pictures Joining and his wife enjoying French walnuts and foe grass (line 63). This is a common concept for French, not for Chinese. At the same time Joining stereotypes the French as loud, arrogant, easy-going and patriotic. They seem to be living proudly in their own world and Joining wonders whether “he’d ever make the guest list” (line 113). He finds himself being left out. This isolation is further enhanced by the cognitive consonance he is experiencing.
This is a major problem regarding stereotypes. When Lain and Joining find their stereotypes proven true, it makes them more and more believe in them. It also becomes more and more difficult to separate stereotype from truth. As a result this may lead to problems in the workplace. Stereotypes are used in order to make decisions and people may not be seen for who they really are and what they can contribute to the business. For example Joining might be happy to Join Lain in his country house, but as the CEO perceives the Chinese as withdrawn he will not invite him.
In the case stereotyping limits Lanai’s ability to get the best out of his new manager. Steve Robbins identified that cultural stereotyping leads to stress, lack of opportunity and poor employee performance.  In order to avoid this and to make the most of the cooperation, both Lain and Joining need to open their mind, et go of their stereotypes and think outside the box. The challenges Joining is confronted with seem to be immense. However, at this stage there is no going back. Lain has made the decision to hire Joining and the Chinese has accepted the offer. The two of them have to find a solution in order to make the business thrive.
The keyword for this can be seen in Else’s idea of compromise. Both Joining and Lain have to adjust in order to profit from the cultural differences and make use of the new ideas and different approaches. Lain needs to become aware of his subconscious behavior. He has to actively battle the cognitive assonance he is experiencing. He has made a decision that is different from the usual comfortable family business way and now he has to stand by it. It seems as if Lain had not been aware of the upcoming challenges when hiring a manager from a completely different cultural background.
Therefore Lain now has to open up. He can help smoothen the transition for Joining by showing more intercultural awareness. The CEO himself might consider doing research on how Chinese people do business. As soon as Lain understands the Chinese way he will be able to make better use of Gangues ideas. Lain must be become aware of the fact that the situation is extremely difficult for Joining and should try to help him settle in. Lain could stab art by getting to know his colleague better. Instead to excluding him trot the ‘inner circle’, he should try to make Joining a part of it.
A concrete example could be inviting Joining to the gatherings in his country house. This is not only an opportunity for the two of them to get to know each other on a more personal level, but also a chance for Joining to better understand the French way of life. On the other hand, Joining himself needs to change his behavior. He has an unmistakably pride in his nation, but has to realize that he needs to shift his focus. Drone’s core market is in Europe and Joining needs to develop all markets. As his peers have an extensive knowledge Oh these markets Joining needs to listen to their ideas.
He is no longer in China and things work differently in France. This is a fact Joining simply has to accept in order to succeed. Therefore he should try to get to know the French culture. Traveling, trying French food, talking to people, Joining should start living the French lifestyle, otherwise he will always be the outsider. By communicating with French people the Chinese will soon realize cultural differences and the way how French speak and think. He can learn to me more open and share his thoughts, even more personal ideas, with his colleagues.
As described above in France and especially in a family business humane orientation, being friends, is extremely important. The case discussed above can be regarded as a proof of the importance of intercultural competence. The degree to which we understand our counterpart determines the success of an international collaboration. A famous Chinese proverb states: our Axing sue us). Or the English equivalent: When in Rome do as he Romans do. This old saw is often right when it comes to intercultural experiences and especially when doing business in a foreign country. One has to follow the local customs in order to succeed.
At the same time compromise on both sides is required. People need to make an effort to understand where the other person comes from and why he or she thinks in a particular way. Moving from this rather static cross- cultural approach to a more intercultural one, it needs to be emphasized that intercultural interaction may create a completely new truth’. Individuals may adapt to their counterpart and accordingly establish a third context’. As a result intercultural differences must not always lead to problems, but can be a chance for improvement, growth and even better solutions!