Cultural Dilemma in the US Postal Service Essay
Cultural Dilemma in the US Postal Service
There are numerous cultural differences in our societies as a result of the numerous diverse cultures that people belong to. Each culture has its own ways of doing things with different cultural norms, values, perceptions, as well as behaviors. People from certain cultures will practice the values, norms and perceptions that their cultures belief in and therefore will end up having difficulties when interacting with people from different cultures who will have differing cultural norms, values and perceptions.
These cultural differences are manifested in the workplace as different people from different cultures come together to work together for the common goal of the institution or organization they work for. Since our cultural values and norms influence our individual understandings and perceptions, people will react differently towards events and circumstances that could occur within us and in the environment. These differences in perceptions will affect how employees within an organization will interact with each other and work in harmony so as to satisfy the needs of the organization’s stakeholders.
As such, cultural differences are a major concern for managers within organizations as they could help the organization achieve its objectives or hinder it from achieving them. The objectives of an organization are set in place by its stakeholders who have invested in the organization in one way or the other and expect to gain from such an investment in future. It is therefore the responsibility of managers to find a way in which the employees within an organization can work together in a seamless manner despite their differences in culture so as to ensure the organization operates continually for the common good of all stakeholders.
The United States Postal Service The Postal Service is an agency authorized by the constitution of the United States and is responsible for the provision of postal services to the whole of the United States. Established in 1775 in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin through the enactment of a decree passed by the second continental congress, it experienced minimal growth and was later transformed in to its current form as an independent organization through the signing of the postal reorganization act of 1970 by President Nixon.
As an independent organization, the postal service is self sufficient and does not rely on taxpayer’s money for its operations. The Postal Service’s mission is to offer the American people with trusted wide-reaching postal services that are at affordable prices. As such, the Postal Service is the only delivery service within the United States with the responsibility of providing all of the various features of a universal postal service at reasonably priced rates. The Postal Service conveys about 660 million mails to about 142 million delivery spot around the United States.
Although the postal service enjoys a monopoly as contained in Article I, (8), (7) of the Constitution that grants the Postal Service with the special right to make delivery of letters in addition to the power to restrict the access to mailbox that are exclusively meant for mail. Its major competitors are United Parcel Service and FedEx. The postal service manages 32,741 post offices within the United States with a labor force of about 656,000 employees. Cultural differences of management and how they affect the US Postal Service
The United States is a country that is full of cultural diversity with different cultural practices based on the numerous ethnic groups that live in the United States. The employees working in the postal service are drawn from these different cultural groups. As such, managers at the postal service have to deal with these differences effectively so as to ensure continues success of the organization. In doing so, managers need to be aware of and understand the seven dimensions of culture developed by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner detailed in their book Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business.
Below is a discussion of these seven dimensions. Universalism v/s Particularism This dimension is based on the view of how a culture perceives rules and relationships. Cultures that embrace universalism hold the belief that general rules, values, codes, norms and standards take preference over other particular needs, claims of friendship and other relations. In a society that is universalistic, the rules usually apply equally to all of the members of the universe (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
Exceptions to these rules are deemed as to weaken them. Universalism is based on finding rules that take a broad and general picture. In the event that there lacks a rule that fits for accomplishing something, universalism advocates for taking the alternative of establishing the most appropriate rule. Cultures that embrace Particularism perceive the ideal culture as one that is based on human friendship, and intimate relationships . People in these cultures view the spirit of the law as being more significant than the letter of the law.
This has the effect that when the rules within a culture take a perfect fit, people in such a culture will judge the case based on the advantages of the law instead of attempting to force the rule to fit. Rules and regulations within particularistic cultures merely codify how people are supposed to relate to one another. Individualism v/s Communitarianism This dimension is based on the view of how members of a culture functions, whether in groups or as individuals. Individualism has a basis on rights that appertain to an individual.
This is usually experienced in communities that have loose ties connecting their members resulting in an expectation of individuals to look after themselves. Individualism is aimed at giving individuals the right to personal space as well as the freedom of doing things as per individual liking (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). It permits each individual to develop or fail on an individual basis, as well as perceiving group-focus as striping the person of their absolute rights. Individualistic cultures are more egotistical and give emphasis to their personal goals.
People resulting from individualistic cultures have a propensity of thinking only on personal basis. Communitarianism or collectivism is based on rights that appertain to a group. Collective cultures usually place a lot of emphasize on groups and are more concerned with the whole rather than on the single individual. Harmony as well as loyalty within a group are very imperative and ought to be maintained always (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). Confrontations of any kind are highly avoided with people using expressions and phrases that would describe an argument in less negative manner.
Saying no to others is considered to be wrong and deemed as a way of destroying the harmony found within these groups. Neutral v/s Emotional Emotional or neutral perspectives are used in the description of how cultures articulate their emotions. Emotional cultures articulate their emotions in a natural way (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). This is witnessed in reactions that occur instantly through verbal and/or non-verbal means such as mimic as well as body signals. Members of the emotional culture unlike those in the neutral culture display a tendency of overreaction creating scenes.
Emotional cultures are usually focused on the individual and rarely on the object or position of discussion. It is considered to be alright for one to use emotional intelligence when making decisions. It is also okay for people to show various forms of physical contact while in public and during the communication process. The neutral culture tends to avoid displaying emotions publically. This is based on the fact that neutral cultures do not reveal what they are thinking in a way that is more precise as well as direct (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
This is an aspect that has the likelihood of leading to misunderstandings. This is because emotions of a certain kind may not necessarily demonstrate a certain situation. Neutral cultures usually appear to be rather reserved, an aspect that cannot be viewed as an indication of their disinterest or boredom. This appearance of reservation is based on lack of emotional tone. On a general perspective they harbor feelings of discomfort over contact in public resulting in a mode of communication that is more subtle thus making it hard for members of another culture to understand.
Specific vs. diffuse Specific cultures are those that usually have a small area reserved for privacy and its separated from the public life. People in these societies have many interactions with the outside world and are constantly involved in such activities such as socializing in various areas that involve many people. People from these cultures have a rather small amount of privacy preferring to share there interests with others who are within their groups of socialization (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
People from such a culture deal with specifics and will view the whole as a sum of these specific parts. The life of an individual is divided into several specific parts and one deals with one part at a time. Conversely, diffuse cultures are usually concerned with maintaining people’s privacy. People in these cultures will avoid any kind of confrontations in the public and have a high degree of privacy preferring to share just a small amount of their private life with other people especially strangers (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
People from diffuse cultures usually start with the whole before going down to the various parts that make it up. Each of the parts is viewed in the viewpoint of the whole total with all of these parts being related to one another. These people prefer attributes and behaviors that help build trust and honesty fostering the building of strong relationships. Achievement vs. ascription This dimension is concerned with the status accorded to individuals within cultures. In cultures that are achievement oriented, the status of an individual is based on the accomplishments that one has achieved and accomplished.
Individuals from these cultures gain their status from the various things that they have accomplished on their own (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). A person with such a status has to show prove of what he or she is worth with the various powerful positions within the culture being accorded to people who have certain accomplishments. In cultures that are ascription oriented, the status of an individual is based on the groups that one is associated with. In ascriptive societies, individuals gain their status mainly through birth, gender, wealth, or age (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
A person who has an ascribed status does not necessarily have to accomplish something so as to preserve his status since his or her status is accorded based on his or her being. Sequential vs. synchronic This dimension is concerned with the attitude of a culture towards time. People who are from sequential cultures tend to carry out one thing at a time in a sequential manner . They examine time as distinct, and made up of consecutive divisions which are both tangible and divisible (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
People from these cultures strongly prefer to plan for their time and will keep to these plans once they made them so as to aid in implementation. Any time commitments that one might have are usually taken seriously and staying on schedule is considered an important aspect of time management. Sequential people in particular place a lot of importance on the value of completing of tasks. Conversely, people from cultures that are synchronic usually perform several tasks at a time.
These cultures view time is a constant flow that allows many things and tasks to be carried out simultaneously (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). Time is perceived as a force that one can not be able to contain or control. Time is also regarded as flexible as well as intangible. Time commitments are often desirable but not absolute with plans that people could be having being easily changed. Internal vs. external control This dimension is concerned with the attitude of a culture towards the environment. In internal cultures, people usually posses a mechanistic outlook of nature.
They perceive nature as an intricate machine and which can be directed if one has the correct expertise needed to do so. People from these societies do not believe in the existence of luck or any form of predestination (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). These people are directed towards the inside as one’s personal decision is usually deemed to be the starting position for each action that they will do. They also believe that one can live the kind of life that he or she wants to live if that are in a position to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that might come on the way.
In addition, they believe that man is capable of dominating nature if he wishes to do so. . In external cultures, people usually posses an organic outlook of nature. They perceive that mankind is one of the forces of nature and should therefore operate in one accord and harmoniously with the rest of the environment. These cultures hold the believe that man should subdue to nature as well as get along with the other forces existing within the environment (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998).
These people do not believe in their ability of shaping their own destiny but rather hypothesize that nature moves in rather mysterious ways hence one can not never know what is going to happen in the future. As such, their actions are directed externally to the environment and are adapted to the external circumstances surrounding them. Conclusion Based on these seven dimensions, the American culture is individualistic, achievement, emotional, internal, sequential, universalistic, and specific.
These dimensions have several implications that managers need to consider in order to make sure that the employees are able to work in a manner that benefits the organization as well as themselves especially in a large organization such as the postal service that employs over 600, 000 employees. In addition, due to the cultural diversity present in the United States and the growth of globalization, there are numerous citizens from different cultures in the United States that do not follow these seven dimensions of the American culture and therefore follow different aspects of the seven dimensions.
With the postal service being a national agency that offers employment to all citizens irrespective of their cultural backgrounds, managers need to ensure that the employees are able to work in a manner that benefits the organization. This will require the managers to build cultural understanding through: • Building awareness of cultural differences. • Educating the employees on the various strengths and limitations of different cultures within the workplace • Educating the employees on the Building skills the impact of cultural differences within the workplace
• Educating the employees on various adaptive behaviors that could help them to realize valuable results within a setting with cultural differences. • Building unity and consistency through team working • Developing a shared understanding and vision between the employees • Establishing effective communication channels amongst the employees to facilitate quality exchange of ideas between themselves • Establishing feedback mechanisms aimed at reviewing and improving the employee’s awareness of cultural differences.
In addition, the managers need to come up with strategies that will enable the postal service to compete effectively. This will require them to actively develop: • A shared understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives • An acknowledgment of the significance of diversity in contributing towards expertise. • A clear and shared comprehension of the role of professional pooling of skills and knowledge within the organization. Reference Trompenaars, F. , & Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Global Business. New York: McGraw Hill.