Larry had been with the company for 17 years and held leadership roles in a variety of functions across the business so it was no surprise when he was named Vice-President of Production which included a three-year assignment in Europe. Larry was excited for his new role and was aware there would be challenges but welcomed them with a youthful optimism. He was nervous about relocating his family to France because of the stereotypes that the French did not work hard, that they had negative attitudes and that they were not open to new ways of working. He was also very concerned with the number of work-related accidents that had taken place over the previous eighteen months and he knew that he would have to address this quickly upon his arrival. Once relocated, Larry spent his first month observing his direct reports interact with their teams and with each other and was able to dispel some of his initial concerns although the safety issues remained. He scheduled weekly team meetings and discovered that his management team had worked together for many years and were clearly aligned in their thinking and problem-solving approach. By definition, they were a group because of their interaction and interdependence with each other and because their goals were aligned toward a particular end state (PSU L11, 2019) which included not only the company’s objectives, but their personal objectives. Larry noticed their cohesion, the bond that linked them together, right away as well as the unique culture of the group due to their shared values and the length of time they had been working together.
In his second month, Larry began to get involved in the business, shared his objectives and expectations, and asked for input from the group as they addressed some of the major production and worker safety issues. As he did this, he began to encounter some withdrawal from key members of the group which he found peculiar. To help, Larry researched Hofstede’s model which defined several dimensions in cultural differences along a spectrum. Definitions and individual country scores can be viewed by visiting Hofstede Insights to learn more. Prominent differences that Larry found were power distance which deals with hierarchy and the recognition that all individuals are not equal, is much higher in France which was affecting how people reacted to Larry’s position in the group. Another distinct difference was France’s score on uncertainty avoidance which measures the level of discomfort with the unknown or ambiguous. In this case, France scores very high which means as a society they value structure and planning – this was a surprise to Larry but something he felt was important to know since he could use it as he introduced new changes to the organization. Finally, long-term orientation, which looks at desire to maintain a link to its past while dealing with the challenges of the future, was a surprise for Larry since he made an incorrect assumption that France would be low in this dimension, because of the country’s pride with its history, when they actually scored higher than average – this also changed Larry’s plans in how he should approach his team members.
Larry also noticed in his early months that the ethical climate with regards to safety was lacking. When he arrived, safety was not a primary concern and workers would look the other way while a coworker took part in an unsafe act because they didn’t want to get involved. This was in direct conflict with company values and was a main reason the facility had the worst safety record in the company, Larry immediately introduced additional safety measures and invested in specific safeguards that emphasized a safety mindset as a company priority. This helped workers better understand the expectations and adapt their behaviors so that over time, the ethical climate could be strengthened and worker safety improved – using Victor and Cullen’s model, the culture shifted from individual egoism to cosmopolitan benevolence which means it went from employees focused on their own needs and wants to a organizational focus that kept employee safety as a focal point. He also modeled the way by setting a good example of safe work practices and calling attention to unsafe acts whenever he witnessed them. This helped workers better understand the expectations and adapt their behaviors so that over time, changes could be made and worker safety improved. It took time but the culture slowly began to shift and Larry noticed that even when it was difficult, a worker would call attention to an unsafe act. With repeated recognition, workers began to embrace this new way of working and the safety record began to stabilize.
After fifteen long months and with some adjustments in his approach, Larry earned the trust of his team and was able to implement some effective changes in the French operations. As a result of their increased performance, Larry also created a global program that connected French team members with their peer counterparts in other countries. He was happy to see his team members share their experiences and collaborate in a way that led to additional improvements in their respective business areas. Larry recognized that this collaboration was demonstrating globalism and multiculturalism because it was connecting his various workgroups from around the globe to “exchange of ideas from one region of the world to another” (PSU L12, 2019) and was giving all of his employees a varied perspective that they would not otherwise have. Larry realized he could have done a better job of preparing himself for the cultural changes that are part of working in another country but he was still satisfied with his ability to make effective changes and recognized that it was mainly due to his willingness to learn and adapt, like he had expected his French workers to do.
Hofstede Insights (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/models/national-culture/
PSU. (2019). L11 Small Groups. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l11-introduction?module_item_id=25808523.
PSU. (2019). L12 Globalism. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l12-globalism?module_item_id=25808536.