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Understanding Diverse Cultural Values: Organizational and National

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It is essential to note that cultural issues are often overlooked by global managers simply because it is intricate and difficult to understand. Yet this issue is crucial if global managers need to fully understand, be aware, and be sensitive to the managerial outcomes and implications of working in a virtual environment. In addition, global managers also need to develop effective strategies and tactics on how to best overcome the culturally conflicting issues given that the individual team members comprise multicultural backgrounds.

There are two forms of cultural values that MNCs need to manage: organizational and national cultures. Since this article focuses on the intraorganizational VTs, the organizational culture therefore deals with the complex internal needs of an organization. It involves the intricate matter of culture, which includes both the physical environment and the internal supporting environment in which technology will be used. Organizational culture is like a glue that influences, motivates, and directs people in selecting the direction or goal they are heading in an organization. It is essential to note that communicating electronically is a challenging phenomenon to many teams at the workplace. Team members would feel anxious and uncertain unless the distant members clearly understand the communication that takes place and the activities and tasks that each of them are involved in. Furthermore, some people regard that this virtual work arrangement is not following the norm of working, which makes it even harder for them to adapt. Hence, this presents more resistance to adopt technology.

In order to introduce effective ways of working by means of technology, it is important for top management to support the use of the technology. The use of technology can be in a variety of forms, ranging from telephones, faxes, teleconferences, e-mail, videoconferences, collaborative design tools, and knowledge-management systems (Gibson & Cohen, 2003). Organizations, therefore, must have the right culture for the new structures, processes, procedures, and innovation. Any form of change can create a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety in people, be it organizational or technological. Resistance will surface unless the culture is receptive to changes and people are ready and able to accept new ideas. It is difficult to make any changes, especially if it involves a major or abrupt transformation, unless people are motivated to keep changing for improvements.

Apart from organizational culture, national culture differences can cause the same challenges. National culture is defined as a way of life as it characterizes a certain set of shared behaviors, thinking, beliefs, and attitudes of the people. According to Hofstede (1980), culture is defined as a collective mental programming that conditions people’s values and perceptions. Fundamentally, culture is an idea about the world that influences how people think, feel, and act. Those assumptions arise from the shared mental models and experiences of a group of people. Because different groups speak different languages and have different experiences, they construct different visions of the world. When people from different cultures come in contact with one another (which they inevitably do in a teamwork environment), those distinctive visions of the world and ways of doing things may collide or combine over time, or coexist disharmoniously. Thus, when culture clashes persist over time, this could potentially create chaos and an unpleasant working environment for people to work in. Each of these potential chaotic outcomes happens, though, at least partly because of miscommunication and misinterpretation, for example, of messages sent through e-mail.

Moreover, people need to effectively communicate before they can collaborate. As a team, they need to work hand in hand regardless of whether they are working virtually or physically. The wide-ranging forms of technology-mediated communication can pose a challenge to the team members who have different cultural values when they collaborate and communicate. It is useful to note that technology or medium preferences can vary based on the richness of the medium: from the high in richness, for example, videoconferencing, which is effective for immediate feedback and personalization, to the lowin-richness (leanest) forms of technology, such as e-mail, which is less effective for immediate feedback and its lack of nonverbal cues (Daft & Lengel, 1986). Collectivistic or high-context people like Asians and Arabs desire face-to-face communication or a rich form of technology medium better because they rely heavily on nonverbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures to understand the communication and information shared. The absence of nonverbal cues makes it harder for people to interpret the subtle meanings that are embedded in the cues. Collectivistic cultures also prefer speech that uses indirect, ambiguous, and subtle language (Hall, 1976; Hofstede, 1980). As a result, high-context people may prefer to use a technology medium such as videoconferencing to collaborate and communicate among team members.

On the contrary, individualistic and low-context people like Americans and British may be frustrated and confused when they try to interpret and understand the meaning of indirect requests because they use a more direct, detailed, and explicit language when communicating. They also prefer content of the message that focuses on words and verbal language as compared to context that focuses on nonverbal elements. Hence, low-in-richness technology media such as e-mail may suffice for them since the medium is heavily based on text and words when sharing information and communicating.

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