Key Methods Used to Describe Cultures
Methods used in describing cultures normally use cross-cultural approaches to compare and contrast cultures more objectively. Presently, the key methods used to describe cultures are those developed by Geer Hofstede and Edward T. Hall. Hofstede developed the value dimensions method, which attempts to describe a national culture by focusing on systematic differences between nations (96-97). The method describes cultures using five major value dimensions that analyze and interpret the behaviors, values, and attitudes of a national culture. These value dimensions include the power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation (97). Power distance refers to the extent to which a culture or society accepts or does not accept the differences between people in terms of hierarchies, such as in the workplace or the political sphere. In this case, the high power distance cultures are those that openly acknowledge that an individual at the top of the hierarchy is senior, hence deserves more formal respect and authority. The lower power distance cultures are those in which superiors and the subordinates consider each other as equal in power, Secondly, the individualism dimension focuses on the people’s tendency to take care of themselves and their immediate families and friends, sometimes at the expense of the larger society. Self-realization is the most important thing in individualistic cultures, in which competition is the determinant of success (98). Contrary to individualistic cultures, in collectivist societies, group’s goals come before those of an individual. Thirdly, the masculinity dimension looks at how a society views traits that are considered masculine of feminine. Masculine-oriented cultures are those in which men appear to place more focus on performance, ambition, and material success, while women strive for modesty and quality of life. In feminine-oriented cultures, both genders exchange roles, and emphasize quality of life, service, and independence (99). Fourthly, the uncertainty avoidance dimension looks at the extent to which people from a specific culture are willing to accept risks. The high uncertainty avoidance cultures are those in which people strive to avoid conflict and competition, and tend to follow clearly defined rules and rituals. In low uncertainty avoidance cultures, people are more ready to take risks, and tend to have less formal rules of interaction. Finally, the long-term orientation dimension looks at whether a culture has long-term or short-term orientation.
The method developed by Edward T. Hall describes cultures by focusing on the differences in communications and interactions between cultures in terms of context, space, and time. In the context dimension, we have high-context and low-context cultures, which focus on how a message is communicated. In high-context cultures, the message’s physical context is very important, and individuals tend to be more indirect in their communication (101). In low-context cultures, people are more open and direct in their communication. Secondly, the space dimension explores space and distance between interacting individuals, including how they mark their boundaries (101). Finally, in attitudes towards time, a culture can be polychromic or monochromic. While people in polychromic cultures perform several tasks at the same time, those in monochromic cultures value time more, and perform one task at a time (102).
Additional Determinants of Cultures
Additional determinants of cultures include manners, mind-sets, values, rituals, religious beliefs, ceremonies, laws, arts, ideas, customs, beliefs, social institutions, myths and legends, language, individual identity, and behaviors, among others. Communication, through both verbal and body languages is among the most significant determinants of cultures. Finally, ethnocentrism, a view in which a person considers his/her own culture as superior, hence a point of reference to other cultures does influence cultural habits, values, and perceptions, all of which are determinants of cultures.
Global Business Ethics
Global business ethics is a system of moral standards and values that attempts to deal with questions regarding what to do or avoid in circumstances where ethical morals come into conflict because of differences in cultural practices across societies or nations (115). It is essential in helping global managers understand and deal with critical operational and strategic issues. Therefore, business activities that are acceptable in one culture may be prohibited in other cultures, as they may be in conflict with their established customs, values, and beliefs.
How Culture Impacts Global Business Ethics
Culture affects global business ethics by influencing the people’s local values. Cultures have placed varying importance on certain ethical behaviors. For instance, bribery is prevalent in many countries. Although people may consider it as unethical, some accepted it as essential in their daily life. Others consider bribery as a form of reward that seeks to enhance one’s motivation in the accomplishment of particular tasks. Furthermore, an individual’s socialization and experiences since childhood influences how they perceive an issue and its related acceptable or unacceptable behaviors. For instance, while the involvement of children in income generating activities may be perceived as child labor, which is a violation of a child’s rights, some may perceive it as a means of instilling business knowledge and skills in children to make them better entrepreneurs or business people in the future. Culture also influences how people perceive each other in the workplace, especially in terms of age, gender, religious and political beliefs, and position in the organizational hierarchy. Some of the perceptions may compromise the respect for diversity in the workplace as an ethical behavior in particular cultures, such as those restricting women’s participation in formal income generating activities. Finally, local cultures influence what activities businesses will undertake to generate revenues, and how they would share such profits with the society as part of its corporate social responsibility.