Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Carpet Capital Culture Clash

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Carpet Capital Culture Clash

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns the issues faced in a U.S. company with a large percentage of immigrant Latino workers and the resulting interactions with their original Anglo workforce. The case is appropriate for junior and senior-level business courses. The case is designed to be taught in two class hours and is expected to require one-to-three hours of outside preparation by students.


Teaching culture to business students is important, but often challenging. The authors developed this case study to describe the cultural issues and challenges encountered between an Anglo and Latino workforce in the U.S. This case is different from traditional cases that discuss culture in a new or "foreign" environment because this case is a domestic-based cultural case. This case profiles Dalton, GA home of the world's carpet and flooring producers. The industry, struggling for labor, actively recruited an able workforce from Mexico and Latin America to augment its local, Anglo workforce. Yet after years of working side-by-side, the Americans are puzzled over the behavior of a large group of Mexican workers in their midst. Specific situations outline the various encounters and behaviors that seem puzzling to both the Anglo and Latino employees. When viewed in the cultural context of the U.S., these exhibited behaviors violate cultural and social norms as well as common business practices. The case issues become understandable when viewed within the cultural norms of each group as presented in this Teaching Note.

The Human Resources Department is unclear how to address the issue facing the company. Students are asked to consider ways to educate the employees in the cultural norms and business practices of each group to improve morale and workplace functioning. Use of this case in various undergraduate international business classes can aid students in understanding the challenges of managing employees form several cultures. The issues of cultural misunderstandings should be generalizable to similar situations with other groups of mixed nationalities. The Latino culture was chosen for this case because it became a growing issue to the community of Dalton, Georgia and was and is experienced in a number of towns in the U.S., particularly along the U.S. Mexican border, in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.


Sam Haws left the meeting with his divisional human resources directors distressed his Anglo and Latino workforce was not working together as effectively as hoped. Many of the practices of the hardworking Latino populations staffing his 23 plants still perplexed Sam and his top management staff. Sam recalled the key points of his meeting.

Lee Floyd had mentioned his Mexican workers took all the overtime he offered, never called in sick, worked hard and steady on day or night shifts, but might just disappear for weeks at a time with no warning and would reappear and expect to go right back to their old job at the same place on the carpet manufacturing line. Lee could not understand why they were leaving without giving notice to human resources or to him. Others were often tardy and didn't seem to respect the work schedule.

Sam checked his expenditures for hiring bi-lingual employees to help translate company, policies, procedures, and key documents. Why did these problems persist? His bilingual translators were U.S. citizens, many graduates of the local college, and were good at their jobs. They seemed to be extremely fluent in both Spanish and English.

Judy Haynes, from Sam's largest plant manufacturing builder-grade residential carpet, brought a handful of anonymous worker complaints to the meeting that mentioned the "nasty Mexicans" who continued to toss used toilet paper all over the plant's bathroom floors. Others complained the Mexican workers broke the line at the cafeteria, congregated in the doorway, and would not move out of the aisle ways. …

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