31 May 2013

Some recently accepted articles to look out for

Is this the future of cross-national research on workplace bullying?

In their abstract Kathryn J. L. Jacobson, Jacqueline N. Hood and Harry J. Van Buren III say of their article Workplace Bullying Across Cultures: A Research Agenda:

Workplace bullying has increasingly become of interest to scholars and practicing managers due to its creation of dysfunctional intra-organizational conflict and its negative effects on employees and the workplace. Although studies have explored bullying in different cultural contexts, little research exists that provides a comparison of bullying behaviors across cultural dimensions. This paper describes a new research agenda that analyzes the impact of specific cultural dimensions—assertiveness, in-group collectivism, and power distance—on organizational bullying. An expanded categorization of bullying prevalence and form is also proposed, with implications for both future research and organizational practice provided.

I am sure this article will be well cited as the interest in workplace bullying increases, and will itself stimulate further research in this area. This also has major policy implications, particularly for organizations working internationally where, in different countries both the forms of bullying and the perception of bullying may differ considerably.

This article is scheduled to appear in issues 14(1) – April 2014. Look out for it on OnlineFirst.

Using Guanxi research methods in cross-cultural management research

This article is of particular interest to me in my work on the management and organizational implications of China in Africa, and I think anyone else planning or doing research with Chinese colleagues. Anton Kriz, Evert Gummesson and Ali Quazi summarise their innovative article Methodology Meets Culture: Guanxi-Oriented Research in China as follows:

Guanxi has been well documented for its critical business role in China but rarely has it been investigated for its important methodological implications. This paper focuses on the ways in which researchers can utilise the socio-cultural phenomenon of guanxi as a tool for more effective Chinese related data collection. This paper arose as an unanticipated methodological outcome of a preceding qualitative study of Chinese perceptions of interpersonal trust. The paper has empirical foundations but is largely conceptual in nature. One of the key aspects presented in the paper is the construction and illustration of a researcher developed guanxishu or tree of connections. Such insights are likely to prove invaluable to novice investigators interested in management research in Mainland China and overseas Chinese markets. Experienced researchers understand the importance in Chinese markets of accessing and utilising connections in the process of data collection. However, seldom has this process been discussed or comprehensively documented. The paper identifies some of the important intricacies around using guanxi in management research.

This is another article scheduled for publication in issue 14(1) – April 2014, and will be appearing soon on OnlineFirst

How can we combine qualitative and quantitative methods in new interactionist approaches to cross-cultural management research?

Jean-Pierre Dupuis of HEC Montréal provides us with an innovative and exciting approach to doing cross-cultural management research in his article New approaches in cross-cultural management research: the importance of context and meaning in the perception of management styles. His abstract tells us that:

The field of cross-cultural management is expanding rapidly. Traditional approaches are being critiqued and new approaches put forward. The latter mainly adopt an interactionist perspective, pay more attention to context and different levels of analysis (local, regional, national, etc.) and propose more qualitative methods as well as a more dynamic definition of culture. Our research is in keeping with this new shift and contributes to this renewal in two ways. First, it shows the variability of the perceptions of individuals from a given culture regarding the management practices existing in another culture when they find themselves working in that other culture. This variability is based on contextual elements that we have identified: duration of work experience in the country of origin, occupation of the respondent, quality of the relations with locals, etc. Then, the research reveals the link that exists between the quality of the respondents' integration into this culture and their interpretation of the others' management practices. These findings were obtained by combining a qualitative approach (some forty semi-directed interviews) and a quantitative approach (a questionnaire administered to a population of more than 1000 respondents) among a population of French nationals working in Quebec and Quebecers working in France.

Look out for this article in issue 14(1) – April 2014, and on OnlineFirst over the coming months.

17 May 2013

Culturalists versus Institutionalists: A False Debate?

Recently published as the Editorial in IJCCM 13(1) April 2013

Do please contribute to the discussion by leaving a comment.
There appears to be a continuing debate between ‘culturists’ and ‘institutionalists’. Differences across nations are either attributed to institutional arrangements, which are seen as fundament; or, differences are attributed to cultural factors or, in Hofstedian parlance, to differences in the ‘software of the mind’. Sorge (2004) believes that the two approaches should be complementary. He cites Giddens (1986) in saying that individual behaviour and social structure are reciprocally constituted: that is, normative customs that are instituted to be binding are kept in place by acting individuals. Sorge (2004) believes that such an integrative approach will consider both the construction of actors, that is people with values, preferences and knowledge, and the construction of social and societal systems as reciprocally related to an extent that they cannot be separated from each other. However, to see culturalist approaches as focusing ‘on the mind of the individual as the place where differences reside’, and institutionalist approaches focusing ‘on wider norms and standards supported or enforced by institutional machineries’ (p.119) may in itself be seeing the issue from an institutionalist perspective.

Jack Goody (1994), a prominent British social anthropologist, points to the dichotomy in the American tradition of cultural anthropology between ‘cultural studies’ concerned with symbols and meaning, and the social (social structures, organizations). He maintains that in the European tradition, of social anthropology this dichotomy is not readily accepted, and has tended to treat these two categories as virtually synonymous. Certainly this is reflected in Tylor’s (1871) classic definition of culture constituting: ‘that complex whole which involves knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’, and for example Firth’s (1951) view where culture is seen as the content of social relations, not as some distinct entity. Hence the institutional context both shapes meaning, and is shaped by it. Both are what can be described as culture. Institutions are cultural constructs with rules that are applied in society, and they also shape and are shaped by values, which are part of the meaning systems of society. This is different, for example, from the conceptualization of the American cultural anthropologist Geertz (1973:89) who sees culture as ‘an historically transmitted pattern of meaning embodied in symbols of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means which men communicate’, and distinguishes between cultural symbols as ‘vehicles of thought’ and social structure as ‘forms of human association’ with a ‘reciprocal interplay’ occurring between them. Goody (1994: 252) therefore maintains that ‘..attempts to differentiate the cultural from the social, or the symbolic from other forms of human interaction, seem open to question. The terms may serve as general signposts to areas of interest within a wider field of social action..’ In terms of this debate Hofstede seems to be firmly in the American camp, distinguishing ‘the software of the mind’ as meaning/value systems and juxtaposing himself to the institutionalists.

However, integrating the cultural and the institutional is not as straightforward as that. In societies that were colonized by Europeans, there appears to be a clear distinction between imposed institutions and local cultures. For example, Dia (1996) takes the view that institutions were imposed on African societies during the colonial period. They have largely remained and evolved through the post-colonial period, and mostly are seen as still inappropriate to African societies and their context. Here, rules seem to be at odds with values; institutions appear to be at odds with symbolic culture.

The introduction of colonial institutions into Africa appear to involve a number of elements: firstly the (cultural) background of the colonizing countries; secondly the interaction of colonizers with colonized societies and institutions (for example African institutions such as chiefdoms were integrated into colonial administrations to enlist the help of local chiefs to keep law and order and to collect taxes: Gluckman, 1956/1970); and thirdly the wielding of (economic, military and then ideological) power by the colonizers within the interactions with local communities. There is no doubt also that these institutions have an influence on African communities today, and that they have helped to shape modern and urban African cultures. Through interactions these institutions have also been shaped by African cultural influences that include African institutions (Ayitter, 1991). This does not just apply to Africa, as so much of the Globe had interactions with colonial powers, including today’s emerging powers such as China, India, Brazil; and indeed continue to have interactions with global powers that may be imposing ‘global’ institutions on local communities.

So, is this a false debate? Is there really a distinction between institutions and culture? Anyone schooled in British social anthropology may perhaps argue, as Goody, that there is not. Yet my main point would be that as cross-cultural management scholars we perhaps do not spend as much time as we ought in thinking about and conceptualizing the ideas that we work with. The growing literature in the area of international management appears to accentuate this dichotomy between ‘institutions’ and ‘culture’, to the extent that we appear almost afraid of treading on each other’s toes, that we feel we cannot borrow from each other’s literature. This dichotomizing might itself have a cultural (and/or indeed an institutional) root, in the way subject disciplines have evolved slightly differently in Western Europe and in North America, and cross-cultural management may have taken, from the beginning, a distinctly North America turn.


Ayittey, G. B. N. (1991) Indigenous African Institutions, New York: Transnational Publishers.
Dia, M. (1996) Africa’s Management in the 1990s and Beyond, Washington DC: World Bank.
Firth, R (1951) Elements of Social Organization, London:Watts
Geertz, C (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books.
Giddens, A (1986) The Constitution of Society,Berkeley and Los Angeles:University of California Press.
Gluckman, M. (1956/1970) Custom and Conflict in Africa, Oxford: Basil Blackwell
Goody, J. (1994) Culture and its boundaries: a European perspective, in R. Borofsky (ed) Assessing Cultural Anthropology,New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 250-61.
Jackson, T. (2011) From Cultural Values to Cross-cultural Interfaces: Hofstede Goes to Africa, Journal of Organization Change Management24(4): 532-58
Sorge, A (2004) Cross-national differences in human resources and organization, Chapter 5 in  A-W Harzing and J Van Ruysseveldt, International Human Resource Management, London: Sage, 2004, pp.117-140.
Tylor, E B (1871) Primitive Culture, cited in C Levi-Strauss (1963) (Trans. Jacobson, C and B G Schoel), Structural Anthropology, Harmondsworth: Penguin

A lack of Activity?

You may have noticed a decided lack of activity on this blog of late. If there is an excuse, it is that we have been focusing on how we can streamline our submissions systems so that we can create a far more efficient service for our authors. If you have recently submitted an article, you will have noticed a fairly quick response. We are determined to maintain this. We have been trying very hard to clear up our backlog. We have always enjoyed a healthly submission rate, which helps us keep up our high academic standards, but because sometimes it may be difficult to locate the right reviewer, or reviewers often have other pressing tasks, it is not always possible to get back to authors quickly. We are trying our best to give authors as quick a response as possible.

But do please give us your feedback on how we are doing, and of course any suggestions.

Above all, watch this space, and if you would like to, contribute to the ongoing discussions on developing cross-cultural management scholarship. We are all not looking to follow these developments, but to lead them.