Folkways and how they affect business
Folkways and how they affect business
How can an entrepreneur greet a potential investor from a different culture? Perhaps the entrepreneur could smile and shake hands with the investor and what if the culture of the potential investor regards it offensive? One of the greatest hurdles to cross-cultural understanding and the efficient relationship remains our inability to decipher the impact of culture on personality. Folkways, a term coined by William Grahams Sumner refers to norms that dictate routine and casual interaction. Folkway considers appropriate greetings, dressing and normal behavior in varied settings. Folkways consider what is deemed polite or rude. However, violations of folkways do not warrant capital punishment in contrast to mores. To achieve success in different set-ups and environments, a business must consider the importance of obeying a particular communities cultural esteem. Understanding local cultural habits, local preferences, and values on both local and international business is a foundation for success in a multicultural regional and international business community.
Folkways define hierarchical power set up in a business environment, a concept of power distance. Greet Hofstede; an influential Dutch social psychologist, introduced the concept of understanding power distance in relation to folkways. Power distance according to Hofstede, refers to the perception of business hierarchy in the company. Specifically, power distance refers to the extent of respect or discordance to a hierarchical business structure. Hofstede argues that in high power distance cultures, the boss is considered as the figure of the organization and, therefore, warrants a formal respect. The high power distinct cultures include Japan, Mexico, and the Philippines. Mexican and Japanese setup considers the senior most people as a figurehead who demands loyalty and respect without questions. Critically looking at this, it implies that for a business set up in Mexico, Philippines or Japan, understanding the power and the relationship of servitude forms the most fundamental considerations for such the success of business in such a setup.
In contrast to high power cultures, Hofstede further introduces the effect of low power concept of power distance in the hierarchical levels of interaction. Hofstede suggests that norms in some societies gauge persons in superior positions as equal. What Hofstede implies is that in cultures like Denmark and Sweden, superiors and the subordinates are most likely to consider each other as equals in power. Furthermore, in countries like Sweden and Norway’s, as well as Israel the concept of respecting equality is considered as a warrant for freedom. This implies that the subordinates and the respective managers have the chance of speaking their mind, an idea of carte balance. Furthermore, research shows that the United States considers the lower power distance. What these two authors suggest is that for the success of a business set up in Sweden Denmark’s or the United Sates, investors cannot underplay the values of power in such a setup. Prevention of internal wrangles in such industries of the cultures highlighted must ensure that structural guidelines and rules are enacted that fosters an esteem of either high power distance or a low power distance, ensuring that internal wrangles and dishonesty is an unprecedented factor.
Apart from power distance, individualism is another factor of control by societal folkways. Individualism refers to the tendency of persons to take explicit care of themselves and the circle of families around them. From the definition of individualism, it seems that set ups can value individual and family success at the expense of the business and even perhaps to other partners of persons. Hofstede explains that in individualistic setups, the most prominent consideration lies in self-actualization, the desire to do it on yourself, excel on a personal basis. In other words venturing into the unknown alone, winning it without collective effort lies as the factors that define applause. Hofstede gives an example of the United States, Northern Europe cultures, Australia, and the United Kingdom as the countries that believe in the ideals of self-efficacy. In fact, the political structure of the United States is based on capitalism, the zeal to entrepreneurship where stiff competition forms the fuel to success. In contrast, other societies value the ideas of collectivism. What drives success in these communities is the urge of doing it together, the realms of us against him or her. Basically, this implies that the individual members will render the royalty and privileges to a group, thus, precedence given to over us than him or her. By extension, the collective groups to an extent so protective such that outsiders cannot enter such a group. According to Ismael et al., the Singapore, Korea and Mexico form substantial examples of such countries that favor collective success. The Arab world also forms another important consideration to the ideas of collectivism. An example of Japanese industries is cited as important drivers to the ideals of collectivism.
Hofstede also introduced the concept of the uncertainty avoidances a factor influenced by Folkways and a pertinent consideration to the success of business in various set ups. According to Hofstede, Uncertainty avoidance refers to the extent a society is willing to take the risk. In other words, uncertainty avoidance can also be defined as risk propensity of persons subscribed to a specific cultural dimension. According to Seeger persons who have exhibit significant (high) uncertainty avoidance are generally clearer in their operations; such persons try to avoid any violence, conflicts and competition. This is achieved through defined tasks and procedures set out in the office to steer clear any tasks. As well in the enterprise, such persons follow explicitly defined rituals and procedures to complete any task. From the foregoing, it is important to consider that entrepreneurs in such countries prefer low-risk decisions consequently implying that employees in such setup show less power of aggressiveness. High-risk uncertainty avoidance has been shown in Japan and France societal set-ups. In contrast Cultures, that favors low levels of uncertainty avoidance promotes risk taking. Business in such setups are more prone to taking risks; thus, the companies appear in a form of less structured paradigm (innovation is favored in the business set up). Sumner categorically states that Australia, Singapore, and Denmark show a considerable low-risk avoidance favoring the concept of critical thinking, beyond the obvious. This implies that such societies have relaxed rules of interaction; the United States to an extent shows this kind of behavior. Understanding risk in a business set up implies that a business is more suited to meet the demands of the interaction of the people involved. Basically, the interests of the servants, Risk factor and attitude towards entrepreneurship is known and gauged beforehand. In low-risk prospective set-up, the management can ensure that funds are availed for further research and entrepreneurial activities that steer forward the corporate goal.
Culture, as defined by the precepts of religion and ethnicity, affects personal beliefs about trust that impacts on business and transactions. According to Guisso, any virtual financial transactions carried out in any setup carries with it the burden of trust. Scholars have shown that a direct relationship exists between trust and business transaction in varied communities. Particularly important is the factor of trust in business that involve people from varied background, and when the course of business relationship spans over time, rather than an instant process and as well in cases where the legal protection seems imperfect or obsolete. Guisso et al. carried out a study of the effects of trust on bilateral relations in European cultures and the importance of trust in favoring bilateral relationships in these countries. The team considered trade goods, foreign direct investments, and financial assets. The team discovered in their study that trust is an important determinant of all the transactions listed. More specifically, the team discovered that societies that uphold the value of trust are easier to trade with and accept offers without second guessing. By extension, in such a set-up, a country that tends to trust one another engages in substantial business opportunities, financial assets and the extent of foreign direct investment increases significantly due to trust. To show this claim and the pervasive influence of culture in making business choices, the team constructed a regression analysis in predicting the values of economic outcomes based on trust and entrepreneurship. An interesting discovery is made in that in set ups that value integrity; entrepreneurs can complete business deals by merely shaking hands, thus relying on trust. What can be derived from the analyzed information above is that individuals that show an extent of trust has a fair advantage of engaging in fruitful entrepreneurial deals.
Management forms another pertinent business facet influenced by folkways. Folkways affect how people perceive the role of one another in a corporate set-up. Can an American multinational company send a woman representative to negotiate business terms in the Arab world? Certainly this would prove a hard nut to crack, but based on the American social values and the realms of gender equality this is acceptable. By extension, in Europeans countries and countries in a consortium to Western philosophy, this is acceptable: Any person irrespective of gender can negotiate business terms. However, this changes with the local contexts. Handing local customs regarding the treatment of women in the workplace proves an important indicator of the success of a firm. Although clear rules exist (as well as company policies) that define indiscrimination in the business set-up, folkways play significant roles in understanding the role of women in business positions of influence. Therefore, it is imperative that companies steer clear guidelines that incorporate specific societal values concerning management. An industry must, therefore, set guidelines regarding gender, ethnicity and race in dealing with specific localities. Umer suggests that this effect may not be tentatively felt in larger corporations especially companies in the Forbes top 500. These companies to an extent are free to make managerial choice irrespective of coercion or inconsideration to the local terms based on the fact that they have reputable bases. And to a good percentage, most managers of multinational companies in various countries hail from their mother countries, (the country of origin effect). Contrastingly; midsize and less known companies find it difficult to neglect top local management. What Umer implies is that for the underestablished (smaller companies) determining their enterprise representative is more significant. The small companies must rely on their enterprise representatives in creating a picture and clot of bond with the local persons upholding their life values. To an extent, this forms a pertinent form of brand marketing, but basically driven by Folkways. Moreover, societal, cultural norms can even impact a company’s ability to fire or lay off workers. In some countries it is considered unethical to fire or lay off workers. Employers are seen as paternal figures, the guardian of life, and this makes it unethical to fire or lay off an employee. Guisso gives a specific example of Japan, where Japanese culture trades lifelong employment with employee loyalty and firing an employee was (and to an extent contemporarily) considered an unethical. Can this practice stand even in times of recession? This is a paramount question for an investor or an entrepreneur. It is important to understand that social, ethical values can shift depending on economic situations, like the case presented of the Japanese social values, a great shit and tantamount lay off were witnessed during the 1990 recession that lasted for a decade.
Apart from managerial positions, Preference is another important factor determined by Folkways. The social values of life of a particular country, social or a religious affiliation can consider it unethical to promote certain practices, and this significantly determines the type of business that can thrive in a specific locality. For example, a certain practice can consider smoking as rather illegal or not socially acceptable. Another social set up can consider abortion or use of certain drugs and acceptable. What this implies is that setting up of a business or industry of specialized specification is based on the specific culturally acceptable values. An empirical study by Guiso et al. on instillation of values of thriftiness by religious groups based on the data from World Survey found out that the Catholic and Protestants are 3.8% and 2,7% more likely to consider teaching values of thrift (as an important value in business) to their children against the nonreligious. On the same scale, the team discovered that the Hindus and Jewish parents show a scale of 7, 2% and 6, 4% on the importance of teaching thrift in business practice. What the studies suggest is that the success of an entrepreneurial opportunity is affected by local preferences based on their values.
Contrastingly Bourdieu presents another perspective disagreeing with the notion that tastes and preferences are defined through folkways. Bourdieu’s in his theory of consumer formation presents a different view of consumer behavior. What Bourdieu suggest is that the consumption arena is an interplay between the definitions of legitimate, middlebrow and popular culture. In Bourdieu’s accord, the predominant scheme of social and economic groups in a society maintains a strict hierarchy based on cultural forms. From Bourdieu’s perception judgments in the product, consumption is subjected to the context of the hegemony of legitimate governing cultural tastes. Theses tastes are accomplished in a way that does not consider the conscious direction or not coerced since the social class of s Peron or rather “the class habitus” has pre-existing natural conditions that conforms to personal reflections of what reality means. Bourdieu present an example of the western world where art collections, theater, philosophical books, and collections of contemporary art, Journal, and other media subscription forms are considered as facets controlled by the dominant culture. A tentative look at Bourdieu theory shows that the middle and the lower class dominance of the society define the sect dominant behavior. Although suspicion might arise as to their predispositions by a sect of members ascribed to such a society, their status in the pinnacle of consumer defined hierarchy is a matter that goes unchallenged. Bourdieu’s presentation might suggest that although minor elements in the society might have different tastes and preferences of a specific product based on their culturally perceived norms, their position is quenched by the force of a reckoning dominant power.
By extension from Bourdieu’s theory, consumer choice is reflective of the social status quo. It is a component of symbolic hierarchy that favors the dominant group in any society and is not a factor of choices based on personal intellect. Thus were can infer from his presentation that tastes and preferences are factions or social weaponry that defend the high social class from the low soil class. Furthermore, taste defines sacred against profane, as well as what is considered legitimate and what is illegitimate. These factors are seen dominantly in clothing, foods, drinks (Beer), art, music, and newspapers. However, Bourdieu’s notion has been a subject of debate for a considerable time. What remains absolutely clear is that even if the dominant class controls the popular tastes, then through defined interactions the dominant group will define social values that control the product consumption of a particular locality or an ethnocentric mundane thus forming an acceptable cultural value that is acceptable in that community. Wilson and Laurie suggest that the cultural domination of the most dominant group stems from the concepts of “comfortable familiarity” that are derived from family socialization and class socialization. The educational class bias instills that the dominating group will remain top in the hierarchal structure in the cultural dimension through the limitation of access to how the appropriation of legitimate customs is deemed.
The dimension of context, Space and Time introduced by Edward Hall, a revered anthropologist, are greatly influenced by Folkways, and this substantially affects various factions of communication and interaction in the business set up. Concerning context, Hall divides context into two factions, that is high context and low context cultures. In cultures that perceive high context as satisfactory, the physical dimension of a transmitted message carries with it a great deal in business communication (as well as other facets of communication). In such cultures, information can be relayed indirectly, and the person expects the receiver to decode the message as appropriate (the concept of literal communication in some contexts). The sender painstakingly considers the context of the message; the receiver is expected to decode the message as implicit as per the dimensions of the sender, in other words, the message is verbally indirect. Such forms of communications are prevalent in Latin America, African continent, and Asia. Although this is acceptable in such cultures, this can present self as a challenge in business communication with person from low context cultures that prefer direct context of the message, especially persons from the United States, and Northern Europe. The low context cultures put emphasis on the direct communication, emphasizing in the context of the message and reduction of the margins of misunderstanding that stems from business communications. Hal further introduces the concept of space in business communication and interaction. What Hall implies is that marking of territory or rather the proxemics involved in the workplace affects comfortability of persons. Hall suggests that standing very close in a set up to a person from the United States can make them very uncomfortable while for cultures like the Latin as well as the Spaniards standing close to someone in business contexts are acceptable. Moreover, the extent of closeness depends on a person and culture, and this consciously or to an extent, unconsciously, is shaped through our culture. Persons that stems from cultures that breed high values of interaction and closeness can, therefore, share spaces often in areas such as a workstation or even business projects. Lastly, Hall considers how cultivated perceptions of time in a specific community affect response. From the foregoing, Hall divides time into polychromic and monochromic societies. In monochronic cultures, the value is up on time, a form of imposition of order. For the monochromics, if a business meeting is supposed to start at 9.00 am, that is the time the meeting has to start, and in case of delay, the meeting can start latest 9.05am. Monochromic society is more placed to finish business projects in time thus smooth efficacy in transitions and handling corporate assignments. Contrastingly Hall shows that in polychronic societies witnessed in Arab World, the Mediterranean, the emphasis is heaved on relationships and persons, that is there is the concept that it is never too late. In such societies walking in late for an appointment or business meeting is not considered a big deal since that is the norm. Based on Halls presentation, it can be inferred that polychromic and monochromic behavior can greatly influence business management. A manager with the roots of monochromic society can find it a challenge to manage persons from polychromic society. Therefore, for multinational companies, the foregoing present’s one of the pertinent factors that are imperative for consideration before venturing into the unknown.
Finally concerning how folkways determine business communication, it is important to consider the importance of body language in business communication, and how society perceives it. Sitting positions, eye contact, and confidence and walking into a business meeting is a factor controlled largely by the cultural setting of a person. According to Winsted, conservative business environment implies that the body language of a person should be very formal. Through structured and disciplined nonverbal behavior, persons project a positive and confident message, thus greatly reducing portrayal of emotions and feelings. Winsted further suggests that implicit body language increases the rate of understanding a message up to 67%. Is language body cross-culturally adaptable? Does shaking the head imply acceptance universally? Hall introduced context in culturally understanding dimension. In high context norms, understanding body language is pertinent in interpreting a gesture, or a comment. In some business situations (especially cross-cultural business communication) a person might not understand the words spoken but can interpret the body language in reference to their societal norms. Thus understanding nonverbal cues in business communication are an important sect of both the parties, but in most cases gauged by Folkways.
Until recently, business executives have neglected the importance of integration of communally accepted ways of life in the business set-up. This stemming from the fact that understanding culture presents itself as broad and vague, without testable hypothesis thus depicting that culture does not affect business, and if it does, perhaps through a selection mechanism that is based on multiple potential equilibria. However, this argument has been proved to be obsolete, socially accepted norms of life affect everyday’s business from the actual business transaction, building trust to business communication. Effective business interaction involves communication, a convincing form of communication, and this is gauged by societal norms. The success of any entrepreneurial activates depends squarely on the taste of a particular set up that the respective business is located. Thus, unless failure will form part of the business success, folkways can never prove obsolete as pertinent factors that gauge business success.
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