Differences in Strategies of Upward Influence: A Comparative Study of Managers from China, Macao and Portugal

By Terpstra, Robert H.; Ralston, David A. et al. | International Journal of Business, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Differences in Strategies of Upward Influence: A Comparative Study of Managers from China, Macao and Portugal


Terpstra, Robert H., Ralston, David A., Jesuino, Jorge C., Cheung, Irene, International Journal of Business


ABSTRACT

This research investigates the impact that working together has on Eastern and Western culture managers regarding their strategies of upward influence. Specifically, we will investigate the degree to which foreign culture behavioral tactics are adopted by expatriates, and the impact of a long-term foreign sovereign on home-country managers' behavior. Macao provides a unique environment to investigate these issues. Thus, our subjects include Portuguese expatriates working in Macao and Macanese Chinese working in Macao, as well as Chinese working in China, and Portuguese working in Portugal. The latter two groups serve as our baseline groups. The findings indicate that there are cross-cultural differences in upward influence strategies that indicate tendencies for divergent and/or crossvergent behavior, with no indication of convergence.

JEL: M10

Keywords: Upward influence; Cross-cultural; China; Macao Portugal

I. INTRODUCTION

As borders become more and more seamless and transparent, business is becoming increasingly global. With this steady growth in the number of multinational corporations, the nature of business in today's global marketplace requires people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds to work together. Management styles are clearly affected as traditional behavior and beliefs are challenged. Because value differences may result in misunderstandings and inaccurate perceptions when the work situation is culturally diverse, it is increasingly important to distinguish among the values held and the behaviors exhibited in various cultures (Kelly, Whatley and Worthley 1987; Ralston, Gustafson, Cheung and Terpstra 1993).

An important area that until recently has received little attention is the effect of Eastern and Western values on the strategies and techniques used to gain influence in an organization (Smith and Peterson 1988, Ralston, Gustafson, Mainiero and Umstot 1993, Ralston, Terpstra, Cunniff and Gustafson 1995). These strategies, important as they may be to organizational effectiveness, gain additional significance for multinational corporations to the extent that acceptable influence strategies may differ significantly among cultures. How individuals attempt to gain influence over others is an important part of their behavior and crucial to their success in their organizations. Often the most critical challenge is to use influence behaviors with those in an organization who are in a superior position (Ansari and Kapoor 1987, Porter, Allen and Angle 1981). To be effective, managers must use influence strategies that are acceptable to their superiors. Those who use strategies that are incongruent with the culture of their superiors risk losing rather than gaining the influence they seek.

One particular group of managers for whom the understanding of behavior patterns of individuals from different cultures is particularly acute is expatriate managers. To be effective in a foreign culture, expatriate managers must understand both the origin of their own behavior and the congruence of their behavior with that of individuals who are from the foreign culture (Black, Mendenhall & Oddou 1991). While the success or failure of expatriate managers is a complex issue, the degree to which their home-culture values dominate their behaviors is likely to be a factor of some importance. The other side of this issue is the degree to which the expatriate sovereigns significantly influenced the local Macanese managers. To fully explore this latter issue, we wanted to identify a work environment that consisted of expatriates who were primarily from one culture, where their culture has also had a long-term impact on the local economy.

Our challenge was to find an environment (location) where the dominant expatriate culture has been stable over the past century. This allowed us to substantially remove the concern of expatriate cultural variance from our study. …

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