Cultural difference is an aspect of cultural dimensions. Cultural dimension can be looked at as structures of organization within a particular group of people. The structures constitute the framework for each individual in the group. Cultures can sometimes be very broad and can be looked at in terms of national identity: the Australians, the Indian, the Americans and so on. They can also be specific to the common interests that are shared by different participants in it. This is clearly seen in the case of a corporate culture, ethnic minority culture, and urban culture.
Culture and cultural dimensions can therefore be considered as the collective horizon used to represent a specific societal reality. They thus consist of consists of explicit and implicit patterns of behaviors acquired and transmitted by symbols. However, the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and their attached values.
According to Geert Hofstede, there are five primary cultural dimensions. these are: power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus feminity, uncertainty avoidance and long term versus short term orientation.
Analysis of the cross-cultural differences in the movie and documentary using theories of cultural dimensions.
In an abstract, the movie Outsourced is about the effect of cultural differences on work, love and friendship, and the impacts of global economy on national and personal identity. The story revolves around a young man, Todd Anderson, who is the vice president of customer relations of a Seattle phone-order company. Part of Todd’s job is to keep his operators’ order-taking time down to as low as possible. However despite the fact that he is good at this task, the company outsource Todd’s entire department to a place India where customer calls can be fielded more cheaply. Todd is then sent to India to train his own replacement, this he does oblivious of the fact that he is training his replacement. He is however accosted by a sharp cultural shock and he has an allergic reaction (personified by the intestinal pain he suffers) towards the local food. He however realizes that the only way to live normally is to accept the Indian culture. This he does after meeting a fellow American, Larry Pine, in a local knockoff, McDonald, who tells him: “I was resisting India. Once I gave in, I did much better.” Meanwhile his job of improving his employees’ minutes-per-call rating starts to bore him and leaves him frustrated. He wonders at the way things work in the small town in Bombay when he sees wandering cows, too many family photos in cubicles, errant electricity, unfamiliar toilets, and being a cynic, he can’t believe that his best employee Asha has a crush on him. She helps him undo some of his assumptions about Indian culture.
Outsourced the documentary is a comparison between two call centers – Gecis in India and SalesForce in Australia. while SalesForce is strictly an outbound telemarketing company; Gecis is a customer inquiry call centre that provides all computer related jobs like legal document preparation, transcription, accounting, payroll. The documentary revolves around four women who work for GECIS, India’s largest Business Process Outsourcing Company, which has over 13,000 employees. The documentary profiles these young women in their demanding job that requires long hours, late-night shifts, and Westernized work habits and reveals the personal and cultural impact of this sweeping global trend of outsourcing. Through the stories of the four GECIS employees, Outsourcing reveals the evolving landscape of Indian cities and towns, the change in the Indian economy, and other changes in the lives of young Indians entering the new globalized work force. Pramod Bhasin, President and CEO of GECIS who is also a pioneer of the outsourcing industry in India remarks that “What I love about it is I think its given India confidence. Confidence is a huge thing,”
In the two instances portraying cultural dimensions in Australia, India and the USA, we find elements of cultural differences like power distance which can be looked at as the degree of inequality among people which is considered as normal by the normal population. This is seen in the movie by the fact that in Seattle Todd assumes a different dominance structure from the one he cuts out India. The inequalities in terms of income and levels of dependence vary from place to place. In the documentary, the lives of workers in SalesForce (in Australia) are different from the lives of those working in GECIS (in India).
There is also individualism versus collectivism difference in the cultures of the countries in both the movie and the documentary. While in Seattle, Todd (in the movie) lives a solitary life away from his parents and other relatives he is shocked by the closeness in family ties of his Indian workers when he sees the many photos of family members in cubicles and is also invited by Puro who seems to be about ‘ 40-ish’ but still lives with his parents he is surprised.
Masculinity versus femininity is also seen as a difference in the cultures. This difference in culture can be described as the extent to which a culture is conducive to dominance, acquisition of things and assertiveness. While one culture may more conducive to people, quality of life and the societal feelings another can be completely the opposite. In the documentary, the four ladies who work for GECIS go through what may be viewed as rough life with the tight schedule, late hours of work and long hours and so on is masculine in nature as compared to the workers in the Australian company of SalesForce.
Uncertainty avoidance, the degree to which people in a country prefer structured over unstructured situations, as a cultural difference described by Hofstede is potrayed in the movie by the way Todd handles situations when he realizes that Asha has a crush on him and so on. .
How do these cultural differences affect the way business is conducted in the three countries?
Business practices being extensions of cultures, they vary from one country to country. They therefore can influences, and are instrumental in determination of policies, structure and style adopted.
The Indian culture can be described as polychromic. In this culture which is human relationship oriented, many things are done at the same time. Other characteristics of this culture include: need for little information and assumption that there is an infinite amount of knowledge through relations networks. Through the movie it can also be seen that members of this culture have respect for authority as well as displaying hierarchical organizational structure. This cultural difference has made India one of the most sought after outsourcing country in the world.
The American culture can be described as monochromic; this is due to the fact that things are basically done in sequential order, one after the other. Other characteristics of the American culture as depicted from the movie are that: work is taken seriously and a lot of information is needed to accomplish a task (this is because of the assumption that the inquirer knows nothing) this is a characteristic low power distance orientation of workers who will need continual guidance. This has led to more and more businesses in the US outsourcing from other countries where workers have high power distance: do not need constant monitoring.
Australians basically display a tendency towards monochromatic cultural trend. In fact according to a survey based on Hofstede analysis, Australia reflects a high level of individuality. The Individualism (IDV) index for Australia is estimated to be 90, the second highest score behind the United States’ ranking of 91. And it is often said that Australians live to work whereas, Indians work to live. These differences, though not exhaustive, make Australians loose a lot of jobs to overseas outsourcing.
Discuss the motivational and leadership differences between Todd, his American boss, and the Indian employees in the movie
Todd’s American boss employs limited supervision type of leadership. He allows Todd to manage the customer relations department at his own discretion. He can be said team motivated or partly self motivated. Todd on the on the other hand is displays a high level of supervision. His command and control of the Indian employee is motivated by fear of failure and can be said to be authority motivated. The Indian employees employ mixed styles of leadership with motivation type being goal motivated, recognition motivated and reward oriented. They perform well based on opportunity, social status and materialism.
Compare those differences to the motivational and leadership styles shown in the documentary.
Generally the leadership style in the documentary is that involving limited supervision, the four ladies are worker with decision making responsibility with their motivation being based on creativity. Their working long hours on tight night shifts is a proof of this.
Holt, DH 1997, Management principles and practices, Prentice-Hall, Sydney.
Hofstede, GH 1984, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values, SAGE, Carolina.
Scarborough J. 2000, The Origins of Cultural Differences and Their Impact on Management, Greenwood Publishing Group, Sydney.
Harris, PR & Moran, RT 1979, Managing Cultural Differences, Gulf Pub. Co. India.