Decisions are choices between two or more alternatives to a problem and are usually in form of determinations, agreements, or declarations (Le Baron, 2007). Adler (1998) asserts that decisions can be findings and factual and can also be thought about as judgment or opinion of ruling. Decision making behavior as with other behavior is affected by various factors, chief among them the cultural orientation of an individual. The approach to decision making in a culturally diverse team may determine whether a team succeeds or not.
The understanding of the contribution and influence of national culture on decision making amongst individuals is a crucial factor in managing international organizations. Consequently, leaders of culturally diverse teams require an understanding of the team’s cultural dynamics in order to make effective decisions and to manage for effective team management. Below, the process of decision making and the approach in decision making for managers of multi cultural teams shall be looked at. Reasons as to why managers of different cultural locations are likely to make different decisions for their teams will also be identified.
Finally, the positive and negative effects of cultural differences on day to day life will be discussed. A cultural frame of reference is important in making decisions for a multicultural diverse team for various reasons. Individual decision making usually follows a pattern of problem recognition and definition, evaluation of solutions based on certain criteria, allocation of weight to the criteria, developing alternatives, evaluating alternatives and selection of the best alternative (Adler, 1998). At each stage of decision making, culture may influence the process of decision making.
For example, in the problem recognition stage, individuals may either recognize problems at different times, chose to accept the problem or solve it. At the information search stage, while some may use an empirical research or fact oriented approach, others will opt for an intuitive approach. At the alternatives stage, future oriented individuals would generate more alternatives. Similarly, other beliefs such as the perceptions on the ability of adults to change or not to change will influence the decisions of an individual.
Some factors in choice making that may influence decision making include perception of risk, the decision maker, speed of decision making and the individual’s personality as either thinkers or feelers. Finally, at the implementation stage, the decision will again be influenced on how fast it is made, whether it is participative or culturally bound (Edward, 1998). The above influences in decision making as determined by various cultural orientations have been explained by various researchers.
Hofstede identified five cultural dimensions that influenced decision making and they include individualism versus collectivism, which identifies the degree to which people in a nation prefer to act as individuals to groups, uncertainty avoidance, which explains the extent to which individuals prefer to avoid uncertainty in future thus preferring structured situation s with tight rules. Others include masculinity versus feminity, with societies high on masculinity valuing assertiveness, competition and success and those with high value for feminity keen on maintaining relationships, quality of life, caring for the weak and so on.
Finally, other influences were evident depending on the attitudes such as preference for short-term successes as compared to long time frames and persistence. Trompenaars identified individualism versus communitarians, which is similar to Hofstedes individual versus collective dimension. An understanding of societies that exhibit various dimensions will offer a cultural frame of reference thus enabling effective decision making for managers of multicultural organizations.
Decision making in a multicultural organization has several advantages and disadvantages for an organization. Among the advantages, a multicultural organization has less probabilities of experiencing group think. Groupthink is identified where individuals sharing similar cultures are faced with illusions of invulnerability, illusions of morality, pressure for conformity, and stereotyping, self censorship among other characteristics that are likely to affect an organization negatively.
Other negative effects of multicultural decision making are direct versus indirect communication (Edward, 1998). A woman who was working for a U. S company in its Japanese office, which was checking software, found out a mistake and e-mailed a notification to her boss and her three Japanese interfaces in Japan, as a result they lost so much face. Another difference comes when there is a differing attitude toward hierarchy and authority, In a hierarchical culture like India’s, there’s a lot of deference to senior people, either by age or level in the organization.
For instance, Indians engineers in multicultural teams happens to see Americans exchanging words with the team led or with by older people, and they are culturally not comfortable doing that, so the team passes them by and everyone loses (Le Baron, 2007). The third negative aspect is trouble with accent and fluency. When team members have accents or lack accents or vocabulary in the language of the team, often they are reluctant to speak up on their areas of expertise (Lederach & John, 1995).
For example, members who are not very tolerant of accents don’t listen to them that generate a self-reinforcing stigma, they become reluctant to speak and finally the team loses their expertise (Edward, 1998). Advantages that a multicultural diverse organization may experience include new approaches to problem solving, different frames of reference, and different levels of analysis, ability to blend in intuitive and empirical information thereby leading to better decisions.
Other positive effects of cultural differences include acquisition cultural knowledge of different cultural groups and influence all our aspects of our lives by learning their good side of culture. Dormant group members become active in case of group decision making process (Le Baron, 2007). Managers are also able to know their group members qualities in decision making and problem solving (Lederach & John Paul, 1995). The reason as to why an American leader is likely to make different decisions for their teams than an Asian leader is as a result of cultural background and differences in decision making (Le Baron, 2007).
Rationality is a major cause of difference between Asians and Americans, an American manager might make a vital decision intuitively, but he or she knows that it is important to proceed in a rational fashion. This is because rationality is highly valued in the west (Le Baron, 2007). In countries such as Iran, where rationality is not defied, efforts to appear rational are not necessary. The other cause of difference is because decision making in Asia is more group oriented than in the United States.
Asians value conformity and cooperation, therefore, their managers make an important decision, they collect a large amount of information, which is then used in consensus–forming group decision. References Adler, N. J. , (2008). International dimensions of organizational behavior. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Publishing. Edward T. (1998). Beyond Culture. , New York: Doubleday publishers. Le Baron, T. (2007). Conflict and culture. Management of multicultural teams Lederach, D. & John, P. (1995). Preparing for Peace. Conflict Transformation across Cultures. New York: Syracuse University Press.
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