Cultural Differences in Employee Work Values and Their Implications for Management

Article excerpt

Research has clearly established that culture affects the application of management theories and practices. Work values, in particular, are an important part of cross-cultural understanding in that they are themselves measures of cultural dimensions, and also have strong implications for many areas of management, from employee motivation to organizational communication. In order to successfully implement management practices originating in a different culture, it is necessary to first identify domestic needs, values, and behaviors, and then adapt the management practices before implementation. In order to illustrate these traits, work value preferences of Croatians and Americans were tested. Similarities, but also significant differences were found between the two groups.

1. INTRODUCTION

The field of management is constantly changing and evolving, and with it new ideas about how best to manage organizations and employees are emerging (Adler, 1997). Myriad theories and methods of management have been developed in order to increase the operational efficiency of organizational systems and employees. However, the majority of modern management theories has emerged from, and necessarily reflects, the culture of the United States (Adler, 1997; Haire, Ghiselli, & Porter, 1963; Hofstede, 1980). These theories have been designed and developed according to what will maximize the productivity and success of American organizations, managers, and employees.

What occurs, then, when these management theories and ideas, which have developed naturally in and reflect the cultural identity of American managers and employees, are applied in a non-American culture? When applying American management principles outside of the United States, culture cannot be ignored. Research has clearly shown the culture does affect the application of management principles outside of the United States (Alavi & McCormick, 2004; Haire, et al. 1963; Hofstede, 1993; Hui, et al. 2004; Laurent, 1983; Zander and Romani, 2004).

According to Michael (1997), whose research focused on how cultural differences influenced managers' behaviors, attempts to import western management practices without considering the host country's culture leads to the frequent failure of these practices. Similar findings have been found for such common management practices as participative management (Singh & Pandey, 1986), Management by Objectives (MBO) (Hofstede, 1984), and empowerment (Hui, et al., 2004).

Although American management theories still have merit and can be successfully applied outside of the United States, it is naïve to assume that culture, a profound influencer of human values, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors, plays no role (Hofstede, 1980). As businesses operating in Southern and Eastern Europe continue to refine and improve their management practices, it is imperative that the culture of the country of operation be taken into account. In order to successfully implement management practices originating in a different culture, it is necessary to first identify domestic needs, values, and behaviors, and then adapt the management practices before implementation (Hofstede, 1980; Hoppe, 1990; Ronen & Shenkar, 1985).

Determining the work values of each culture is an important part of this process. According to Hofstede (2001), work values are significant for two different reasons. First, they are an excellent measure of culture in that they are shaped more by sociological and cultural factors than individual psychological differences. Secondly, the work values of an organization's employees will affect that organization in many ways, from conflict resolution, to its ability to change, to communication, to employee motivation.

This paper will present the results of a cross-cultural analysis of work values between Croatian and American undergraduate students, and will attempt to answer the question of what, if any, differences exist between these two cultures. …