When in Rome, Behave as the Romans? Some Cultures Are Hostile to Concepts of Human Rights. the Course of Action You Take Abroad May Need to Differ Markedly from the One You Take at Home

By Strudler, Alan | European Business Forum, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

When in Rome, Behave as the Romans? Some Cultures Are Hostile to Concepts of Human Rights. the Course of Action You Take Abroad May Need to Differ Markedly from the One You Take at Home


Strudler, Alan, European Business Forum


You are the on-site representative of a Western firm that has just acquired a manufacturing plant in Asia. An employee tells you that his immediate superior treats him unfairly, giving him the worst job assignments in his group while not giving him the raises that others get. To make matters worse, he says, he has no way to voice a complaint; his rights are not respected. What should you do?

The question seems difficult in ways that many other moral questions about international business are not. When asked to acquiesce in local practices of child labour or slavery, for example, the moral repugnance of the practices is so clear that the right answer is unavoidable. Whether or not you agree to your employee's request to recognise his workplace rights, however, you do nothing of the magnitude of acquiescing in slavery. Still, your employee asks you to defend his rights in a culture and country in which rights have a different significance than at home. This difference introduces great complexity to your decision-making. I would maintain that the right course of action in your host country differs fundamentally from what would be the right one in your home country.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We westerners have our own way of doing things. When tackling the hard moral problems in business, we try taking rights seriously. When concerned about our employees, we ask about their rights to decent wages, safe working conditions, and job security. The language of rights also looms large in our deliberations about the proper treatment of shareholders, suppliers, and the larger community in which a firm operates. We take pride in our commitment to rights. Yet what sounds noble to us often sounds crude to others. When I invoke my rights, I ordinarily do so for the sake of one person: me. Even when defending the rights of another, the focus is on an individual, the person whose rights are at stake. For many reasons, this focus on the self may seem far outside the moral ideal of easterners, particularly some of those of a Confucian tradition: it may seem selfish; it may seem to aim to defeat, and hence needlessly humiliate whomever these rights claims are made against; and it may seem divisive in ways that gratuitously harm the prospects for community.

Thus, many people may see a large downside to a moral culture built on rights. It is hard to argue persuasively that the downside is not real, or important enough to provide a reason to avoid seeing moral problems in terms of rights. Indeed, differences between eastern and western perspectives on rights seem incommensurable, which puts the manager facing rights issues in a tough position. Still, a good western manager will strive to find ways to navigate the conflict between eastern and western perspectives, no matter how hard the sailing.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The eastern perspective may be explained through analogy with the family. When a problem occurs within a family, one does not try to solve it by giving each individual his right; doing so would promote self-centeredness and disrespect for the family. So, even in a western culture one instead strives to find a way for the family to flourish as a group. A Confucian may think that the family forms a model for other moral relations, even relations within a firm; we westerners do not, and may even find the family analogy overly paternalistic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When in Rome, Behave as the Romans? Some Cultures Are Hostile to Concepts of Human Rights. the Course of Action You Take Abroad May Need to Differ Markedly from the One You Take at Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.