The Impact of Culture on Group Behavior

Culture and Group Behavior

It is a known fact in management theory and practice that culture has a direct impact on group behavior. To elaborate, groups in organizations are comprised of individuals belonging to a common or a different culture. Therefore, it can be expected that the behavior of these individuals would depend a lot on how their culture has shaped their worldviews and has fashioned their outlook towards work and life.

When employees in a particular organization belong to different culture, the organization is faced with the challenge of ensuring that all employees behave according to the common set of principles that are laid down by the policies of the organization. Indeed, as we shall discuss in detail subsequently, this is a challenge in almost all Asian organizations in addition to the Technology sector in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom.

Examples from the Real World Organizations

To understand how culture shapes group behavior in organizations, we can take the example of a transnational organization such as Unilever. Considering that its operations span from the gleaming and glitzy corporate offices to the “heat and dust of the countryside”, the organization has to ensure consistency in vision and uniformity in practice in accordance with its policies. Whenever there are conflicts in this regard, group behavior can be expected to condition along cultural lines.

Suppose the company is faced with a massive order to be delivered in a short time. While the Western Expatriates in Unilever might think twice about leaving everything to the last minute, the Asian employees and in particular, the Indian employees long used to Jugaad Innovation would assure their clients that the order can be actualized.

Further, it is also the case that cutting it close to the deadline might cause differences in opinion among the employees belonging to different cultures.

While the above example is on the operational side, the following example from another organization that has employees belonging to different cultures illustrates how attitudes towards women are shaped by culture.

For instance, in team lunches and group outings in many Indian organizations, it is common to find the men and women sitting separately with only some of them interacting with each other. This might seem surprising to anyone from the West who are used to professional and personal interactions between men and women in a much more informal manner. This is a real world example wherein many Westerners are often baffled by the wide chasm between men and women in almost all Asian countries.

Indeed, one of the first things that many transnational organizations do when they onboard new employees is to clearly explain policies related to discrimination and harassment based on gender, ethnicity, race, and any other personal preference categorizations.

Challenges of Globalization and Culture

Next, turning to the ways in which culture shapes group behavior, it is common in the Tech companies in the United States to have employees from countries around the world. While the Asian companies grapple with group behavior with employees from different regions in the same country, the Western companies have to contend with different countries meaning that while the cultural aspect is the same, the challenges are different. This can take the form of employees from countries considered less developed than the West would often work harder as well as are eager to satisfy their superiors in contrast to the native citizens for whom such insecurities do not play a major part.

In addition, culture shapes group behavior in this aspect wherein all employees from a particular culture hang around together and all employees from a particular country tend to coalesce into organizational groups.

The Glocal Approach Explained

Finally, these examples are just a few of the many challenges that globalization imposes on organizations. While the global economy is integrating at a faster pace, the cultural group behavior tends to be rooted in their particular experience and hence, global organizations find that they have to contend with the “disconnect” between globalization and localization.

The solution to these challenges can take the form of adopting a Glocal approach wherein the organization encourages diversity and ensures tolerance with a purely local execution plan, it also ensures that its global policies and vision and mission are not being compromised.

In other words, they have to ensure that employees in the workplace must first and should follow organizational norms and any deviations are not tolerated. This must be done without hurting the cultural sentiments of the employees and this is where an astute manager or a visionary leader can make all the difference.

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