What is culture? Culture—according to many scholars is “a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that when taken together constitute a design for living” (Hill, 2009). Because, culture is characterized by individual persons; race, ethnicity, and creed are not always common, thus the existence of pop and hip-hop cultures. As businesses continue to operate on a global level, diversity is becoming inherently important. When a firm decides to send managers abroad; careful consideration must be taken to ensure that the cultural characteristics of the home culture can be integrated into those of the host culture.
Venturing out on a new business opportunity; I have decided to open a new telecommunications company in Sierra Leone. Located in North-Western Africa, Sierra Leon is the prime location for establishing telephony. Before setting up operations; I would like to become better acquainted with Western African culture—that is to be certain that my United States (US) culture and business practices will not have a negative impact on those of Sierra Leone; for this have turned to Geert-Hofstede. com. Geert-Hofstede is a psychologist who is known for his studies and research on how culture impacts work ethics and values (Hill, 2009).
In his seven year research, Hofstede compared cultural dimensions in forty countries and divided this into four (or sometimes five) areas that summarized each culture. The dimensions included: Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism (IDV) (opposite collectivism), the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI), and Masculinity (MAS) (opposite femininity), and Long-term Orientation (LTO). Power distance refers to the extent that less powerful members accept and expect inequality. Individualism is the degree in which each person is integrated into groups—that is whether they have tight bonds or are forced to lookout for themselves.
Masculinity refers to the measure of gender and their respective roles. Uncertainty avoidance regards the extent to which members tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Lastly (not applicable to all countries, but does apply for Sierra Leone), there is the long term orientation which deals with virtue (Hofstede, 2009). According to Hofstede’s research Sierra Leone ranks (on a scale from one to one hundred) are as follows: LTO = 57, IDV = 27, UAI = 54, MAS = 46, LTO = 16. The following is a graph that compares Sierra Leone’s ranks to that of the United States, (Hofstede, 2009). The Impact
From the graph above we can see that there are significant differences in PDI and IDV—from this we can conclude that these areas will be of most concern. While the differences in the other three dimensions are not as wide spread they are note worthy and should be considered as they too will have an impact on the work relationship within the country. PDI On the Power Distance Index the United States ranks a forty and Sierra Leon ranks seventy-seven. Consequently, my cultural work ethics strive to ensure equality whereas those of Sierra Leone are more lenient with their acceptance of disproportionate classes.
Thus, I must not let this conviction impede negotiations when considering corporate social responsibility. IDV According to Hofstede’s research the United States is a highly individualist country; ranking ninety-two on the scale, whereas Sierra Leone is more collectivist coming in at twenty-seven. As a result, the US capitalism beliefs will have to be reduced in importance as the culture is Sierra Leone is based up “family ties”—that is they are more concerned about the well being of one another and work to ensure that everyone’s need are met.
UAI Sierra Leone’s Uncertainty Avoidance is a fifty-four on the scale which is rather close to that of the US; which is a forty-six. This means that both cultures accept differing opinions and are generally relativist. However, the numbers show that is more in between, therefore I can assume that while differing opinions are ok (which works well in negotiations); there will be some formalities. MAS In terms of Masculinity there is some difference in cultural beliefs—however they are not significantly different.
From this I can assume that like the United States, Sierra Leone both men and women have differing values, thus it can be assume that certain job will be predominantly occupied by certain genders (i. e. women working in the office and men doing hard labor, or vice versa). LTO Long-term organization is another dimension that shows a large gap on the scale. The United States ranks twenty-nine and Sierra Leone a sixteen. Consequently, like the IDV rankings . . . my traditional capitalist beliefs will have to be lessened to accommodate the cultural belief of tradition and social obligations of the Sierra Leone culture.
Conclusion In the grand scheme of things, the United States work ethic themselves do not appear to be sacrificed when doing business in Sierra Leone. Both cultures have respect for social responsibility and believe that risk factors are an important part of business. As result, I am confident what business in Sierra Leone will be successful for both my company and the citizens.
Hill, C. (2009). Global business Today. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Hofstede, G. (2009). Geert Hofstede cultural deminsions. Retrieved January 23, 2011, from Itim International: http://www. geert-hofstede. com/
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