The Multicultural Organization: A Historic Organizational Theory for Gaining Competitiveness in Global Business Environment

The Multicultural Organization: A Historic Organizational Theory for Gaining Competitiveness in Global Business Environment

Tongo Constantine Imafidon (Covenant University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-270-1.ch006


This chapter avers that over the past years, monolithic organizations, as opposed to multicultural organizations, have been created by many top business executives in order to attain their corporate visions and missions. One particular feature of the monolithic organization is that its leaders psychologically impose the culture of the organization on their subjects (employees). Their expectation is that a business organization should be able to satisfy the diverse needs of its various stakeholders (customers, suppliers, shareholders, etc.), when a unique set of covert and overt behaviour is revered by a homogenous workforce. Oftentimes, the imposed “organizational culture” is nothing but a mere derivative or microcosm of the wider societal culture in which the organization is domiciled. This was conceivable in yesteryears, given the fact that most organizations only operated within their domestic business enclaves. However, with globalization and the increasing need for organizations to develop businesses and
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The importance of culture in the conduct of organizational life is well established in the literature of organizational theory (Jackson, 2004; Kuada, 2007; Okpara, 2007). According to Wren (1994), organizational practices have never been developed in a cultural vacuum. Stakeholders of organizations have always been affected by the cultures of their organizations.

For instance, the fact that organizational members in the West and East, and more specifically, the United States and Japan, are influenced by their cultures is well acknowledged. The U.S. organization is characterized by such cultural values as assertiveness, decisiveness, innovativeness, and risk taking, which stem from the frontier- conquering history of the U.S. (Hall & Hall, 1990). The culture of U.S. organizations is also characterized by individualism; the belief in the power and autonomy of the individual (Yeh, 1995).

However, Easterners, particularly the Japanese, complain that Americans are too legalistic and less willing to be flexible (Thorton, 1993). Hence, Japanese organizations, as compared to U.S. organizations, are more likely to have cultures characterized by flexibility, and people and detail orientation. Possibly, these cultural factors are the driving force behind the competitiveness of Japanese organizations. That is, Japanese organizations may rely heavily on the virtues of flexibility, people orientation, detail orientation, and team orientation to achieve greater business performance and customer satisfaction. Relative to Japanese organizations, U.S. organizations are more likely to have cultures characterized by innovation, outcome orientation, and aggressiveness. Further, these cultural values, which characterize the U.S. organization, are likely to impact on their performance because their business strategies and the resulting successes are attributable to their cultural values. Just as Japanese organizations utilize the cultural values that characterize them to achieve greater competitiveness, U.S. organizations will exercise the characteristics of innovation, outcome orientation, and aggressiveness as their competitive weapon to achieve greater business performance and customer satisfaction. Thus, it is expected that the relationship between organizational culture and business competitiveness should vary across national cultures.

Therefore, aside from the fact that many studies have already recognized the importance of culture to organizational life; there is also a common consensus amongst them with regards to the impact of national culture on organizational culture. Precisely, these studies have found out that the culture of a work organization is nothing but a mere derivative or microcosm of the wider national culture (Tongo, 2005). According to them, managerial jobs are carried out within organizational cultures that are akin to the national cultures in which these organizations are domiciled. As Hofstede (2001, p. 374) observed in his monumental cross-cultural study:

…organizations are culture bound. This applies not only to the behaviour of people within organizations and to the functioning of organizations as a whole; even the theories developed to explain behaviour in organizations reflect the national culture of their author, as do the methods and techniques that are suggested for the management of organizations. In the management literature, there are numerous unquestioning extrapolations of organizational solutions beyond the border of the country in which they were developed. This is especially true for the exportation of management theories from United States to the rest of the World, for which the non United States importers, are at least, as responsible as the United States exporters. However, the empirical basis for American management theories is American organizations; and we should not assume without proof that they apply elsewhere. This assumption is found not only in the popular literature; in scholarly journals-even in those explicitly addressing an international readership- the silent assumption of universal validity of culturally restricted findings is frequent…

This quotation therefore implies that as long as a national culture is monolithic in nature, all organizations within the boundaries of such a nation should inherit the monolithic culture of the host nation. Also, for organizations located within a multicultural society, it is expected that these organizations should reflect the cultural diversity of the society.

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