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Over the past few decades, the notion of organisational culture has been significant in the study of organisational performance and behaviour. Organisational culture is described by Robbins and Coulter (2005) as the shared values, beliefs, or perceptions held by employees within an organisation or organisational unit. Schein (2004), states that culture is an abstraction, yet the forces that are created in social and organisational situations that derive from culture are powerful. If we don’t understand the operation of these forces, we become victim to them.
As the number of multinational companies are on the rise, pressure on these companies to interact cross-geographically and continue to operate efficiently (from an organisational culture basis) has started to rise.
A contemporary phrase commonly used today of “it’s a small world” has entrenched itself in modern dialogue due to rapid growth of technological advancements which enhance the reach and connection of social networks, both from a business and personal manner. According to Salzer (1994), when various international markets start to connect and work together, national identities begin to dilute and merge into a common and shared association.
Gossen (1999), says that transnational processes and identities will be among the major social, political, and economic phenomena of the twenty-first century.
Further to this, Harris, Moran & Moran (1979) examined the term ‘cosmopolitans’ many years ago which was birthed from the gradual interconnectedness of various nations and cultures. ‘Cosmopolitans’ describe themselves as ‘people of the world’ who are not constrained or defined by a single culture or national identity. Schwartz (2012), states that social network systems, associations and cultures are no longer constrained or confined by national borders of countries.
Daun (1989) thinks differently by explaining that as multinational companies diversify and interlink into other national cultures, the desire for individuals to reinforce their affinity to their national culture increases.
Hofstede (1998), brings in an interesting point for consideration by explaining that an individual’s national culture is deeply rooted into the very essence of that individual’s being from adolescence and it is therefore very difficult to influence or adjust. Various academics believe that individuals are strongly influenced by national culture through how they interact socially (Harzing and Noorderhaven 2008). Based on the present academic knowledge of global developments, we begin to see why organisations are focused around getting their cross-geographical and international corporate cultures right. Various national cultures have birthed unique belief and value systems, and therefore Martin (1992) states that corporate cultures in multinational companies are multicultural rather than one unified culture.
Nonetheless, most corporate organisations endeavour to strategically develop an organisational culture that incorporates the strengths of the various national cultures that are within the organisation. This is expected to then enhance the ability and opportunity for the different cultures to cooperate efficiently and effectively, whilst managing the cultural challenges that diversity may bring. Saltzer (1994), goes on to explain the idea of a ‘super-identity’: “A supra-identity is the idea that an organisation can transcend the differences of various local cultures and move beyond borders. It is the idea of sharing a common identity that will hold the company together and give it a consistent image, regardless of where you find the company. It is the idea of creating a sense of sharing and togetherness that would unify people in the global company” .
Hence, as multi-national organisations normally comprise of many different national cultures, it is considered that the corporate culture itself is formed by the various cultural contributions from the multi-national staff members which then creates the super-identity. However, a possible issue is that each individual employee may perceive and understand the existing corporate culture in a unique way and this can create the additional complexity for organisations to manage and perfect. As there is no fool proof formula that organisations can apply to achieve a quick resolve for these cross-border issues and differences, which tend to arise from national cultures, research into each specific company is vital in order to analyse the problem areas and identify where the strengths and weaknesses lie.
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