Paradoxes in Vietnam and America: "Lessons Earned"-Part III

By Risher, Howard | Human Resource Planning, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Paradoxes in Vietnam and America: "Lessons Earned"-Part III


Risher, Howard, Human Resource Planning


Vu Van Than, Lecturer at the National Economics University Business School in Hanoi, Vietnam, Nancy K. Napier, Professor of Management and International Business and Director of the International Business Consortium at Boise State University's College of Business and Economics, Boise, Idaho.

In previous issues of Human Resource Planning, we indicated that all cultures and countries have their own set of inconsistencies or paradoxes. We rarely identify them in our own cultures but instead see them as something that "others have." Our past discussion focused on three paradoxes:

Paradox 1: When losing face isn't

Paradox 2: Good collectivism does not breed good teams

Paradox 3: Calculative relationships versus friendship

In this issue, we conclude with two final illustrations of such paradoxes and how employees who work abroad and their organizations can use these inconsistencies as a way to better understand and work within an environment that is not their own:

Paradox 4: Power--real and perceived

Paradox 5: "Step by step" versus wild experimenting

Paradox 4: Power--Real and Perceived

I sat in a meeting where the president of the company got her own coffee, where employees argued with her in front of everyone, and where all workers called each other by their first names.

Vietnamese who worked in an American software firm

One of the problems in our (Vietnamese) office is that assistants don't always show proper respect. They should never just put a paper on my desk and walk away. They should hand it with two hands to me, slightly bending.

Vietnamese manager on employees in his organization

When someone has a great idea, that will save money or make money, that will bring prestige to the organization, and the ministry is encouraging it to happen, why doesn't the director of the unit just tell people to do it? What's all of this talk about getting everyone to agree?

American working in a Vietnamese business school

Another dimension that is often bandied about as distinguishing cultures from one another is the degree to which hierarchy exists and the "distance" between levels of hierarchy in organizations or families. Sometimes this is reflected in language or in the extent to which managers have and use "power" over subordinates. For example, the limitless ways in the Vietnamese language to address and categorize people ("my #1 brother" to refer to the older brother in the family, "my older sister" to refer to a revered teacher), the extensive use of titles (Professor, Dr., Mr.) and the hierarchy within offices and families are signals of "power distance," according to cultural variables. In America, the use of first names, the informality in the work place, the give and take between managers and employees, suggest a lesser distance between workers and managers than in Vietnam. While the surface conditions suggest that American managers and employees have less "distance" between them, some Vietnamese observers have th e perception that "below the surface" the reverse situation is more real.

Vietnamese colleagues are baffled by what they see as surface informality but the apparent ease with which an American manager makes a decision and employees will (must?) follow it. Regardless of discussion and argument about some point, the manager in the United States holds the right and expectation of making a final decision, particularly if there is not consensus among employees. Some firms have agreements that within the firm or team, disagreements can be rampant, vehement, and strong. But once a decision is made, the team will band together and present a unified front to the "outside." Thus a manager may make a final decision and employees will rally behind it. This, to Vietnamese, suggests that the power and hence distance of the manager is in fact stronger than in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, they claim, the surface power distance exists, but a manager rarely wants to or can "make a decision" alone or in a formal way; instead the manager would seek, informally, full consensus and agreement from all key players before moving. …

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

Paradoxes in Vietnam and America: "Lessons Earned"-Part III
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.