Subcultures and Conflict Management Style

By Kozan, M. Kamil | Management International Review, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Subcultures and Conflict Management Style


Kozan, M. Kamil, Management International Review


Abstract

* This paper goes beyond the current practice of treating cultures as uniform entities, and investigates the influence of sub-cultures on the styles used during conflict. Data were collected using Schwartz's values inventory from 435 employees of 40 organizations in Turkey, and subjected to a cluster analysis.

Key Results

* Three distinct sub-culture clusters in addition to the main culture were identified. Traditional (the main culture) preferred avoiding, while power seekers preferred competing, and egalitarians preferred accommodation in comparison to other subcultures.

While the influence of culture on conflict management has seen increased coverage recently, research on subcultural differences has been scarce. Examples of the former are comparisons of national cultures in terms of negotiation and conflict management styles (Glen/Witmeyer/Stevenson 1977, Graham 1985, Ting-Toomey et al. 1991, Elsaed-Ekhouley/Buda 1996). A rare example of subcultural effects is the study of styles of conflict resolution of Anglo-, African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-Americans (Cox/Lobel/McCleod 1991). Yet, knowledge of intra-national variations may be as important for effective conflict management as cross-national differences. In some instances subcultures may be as far removed from each other in terms of conflict management as are national cultures. Without knowledge of possible subcultural differences, managers in a multi-national organization would naturally assume that all employees from a particular country approach conflicts in the same manner.

This study investigated the effect of subcultural differences on conflict management styles in Turkey. This is a country where marked subcultural differences exist due to rapid industrialization and concerted efforts to modernize a traditional culture. Change has taken place in an uneven pace at various segments of the society. Turkey's geographical location at the interface of East and West has also contributed to the emergence of a culture that embodies a duality in its values. Today, the population exhibits a mosaic of values, and the diversity of its culture makes Turkey a good choice for studying intra-cultural effects.

Although conducted in a single country, the study should have implications for future cross-cultural research. Schwartz's (1992, 1994) values inventory was used as the basis for defining subcultures in Turkey. Given the increasing use of his measures in cross-cultural research, demonstration of subcultural effects in one country may stimulate research on subcultures in other countries or the inclusion of subcultural level of analysis in cross-cultural studies.

Diverse Elements in Turkish Society

The major source of tension in the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey was a part, was due to conflicts between the central administration and the periphery that was composed of primordial groups in Anatolia (Mardin 1973). Starting with the nineteenth century, the administration pressed for the Westernization of the military in the wake of losses against Europen powers. This was followed by changes in political life, including the recognition of the limits to the powers of the sovereign, and the rights of religious minorities, the latter as a result of European pressures (Lewis 1968). As a result, Mardin (1973) notes, center-periphery tension was transformed into a conflict between ruling classes pressing for Westernization and traditional elements that had to lose from such changes.

The founding of the republic early in this century constituted the greatest break with the traditional ways of the Empire. Western institutions were adopted wholesale, including a legal system based on Western models, secular education, Latin script, and Western dress and calendar (Lewis 1968, Berkes 1964). The process as well as the content of these mostly top-down changes reflect a Jacobinist attitude.

In the economic realm, heavy investment by the government in the manufacturing of basic necessities dominated the initial development strategies of the Republic. …

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