Culture emergence in international cross-cultural management contexts: the different roles of values, expectations, and contingencies

Zhang, X 2008, Culture emergence in international cross-cultural management contexts: the different roles of values, expectations, and contingencies, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Business Information Technology, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Culture emergence in international cross-cultural management contexts: the different roles of values, expectations, and contingencies
Author(s) Zhang, X
Year 2008
Abstract Increasing globalization and economic integration have resulted in culturally diverse and dynamic workplace realities. The dominant perspective on culture in international cross-cultural management (ICCM), however, still views culture as fixed and immutable. Other perspectives that regard culture as variable and emergent have emerged in recent years to better accommodate the new workplace realities. The emerging perspectives, however, seem to have gone to the other extreme, conceptualizing it as emergent and "in the making".

The aim of this study is to develop a perspective on culture which would integrate the views of both opposing camps. Qualitative field data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews of Chinese and Western expatriate informants working in Sino-Western ICCM (SW-ICCM) contexts in China, supplemented by non-participant observation and documentary data. Three cultural themes, pay confidentiality (PC), knowledge/information sharing (KIS), and status differentiation (SD), were developed for the semi-structured interview and non-participant observation. Next, the data were analyzed in grounded fashion to generate a substantive theory for each of the three theme areas. Finally, the theme-grounded substantive theories were compared and integrated to generate a formal theory that would apply to SW-ICCM contexts in general. Results show that the emerging culture in the SW-ICCM context takes on a hybrid form.

Another major finding is the demarcation of Cognitive State into three interrelated variables, Values, Expectations, and Contingencies, each of which has a mutually conditioning relationship with behavior. As defined in this thesis, Values are concerned with fundamental rights-and-wrongs with regard to behavior, and are thus context-independent. Expectations refer to a set of cognitive rules regarding appropriate behavior that a person develops through interaction with other individuals in a particular context; as such they are context-dependent or context-specific. Contingencies refer to behavioral rules formulated ad hoc according to the behavior of the cultural other on a particular occasion. Therefore they are occasion-dependent or occasion-specific.

The three cognitive variables need not be consistent among themselves. Metaphorically, they can be compared to a multi-carriage train, which allows for the relative lateral movements by individual carriages so as to cope with bumps and turns in the tracks. They enable individuals to cope with conflicts in cultural practices and values, and to accommodate and adapt themselves to SW-ICCM contexts. They explain how interactions by individuals give rise to emerging hybrid cultural practices characterized by both stability and change.

One major theoretical contribution of this "multi-carriage train" perspective is its allowance for the existence of inconsistencies among the three cognitive variables. Furthermore, inconsistencies may even exist within each of them. This internal inconsistency view contradicts the traditional internal consistency assumption held by many culture scholars. The other major theoretical contribution is the view of culture as an over-arching entity comprising a multiplicity of Values, Expectations, and Contingencies. This notion of one (multiplicity) culture to an organization leads to the classification of culture along its path of emergence into nascent, adolescent, and mature types, each of which is distinct in terms of the pattern of the cognitive variables and behavior.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Business Information Technology
Keyword(s) International business enterprises -- Management
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