BUDAPESTI GAZDASÁGI FŐISKOLA KÜLKERESKEDELMI FŐISKOLAI KAR KÜLGAZDASÁGI ANGOL SZAK

BUDAPESTI GAZDASÁGI FŐISKOLA
KÜLKERESKEDELMI FŐISKOLAI KAR
KÜLGAZDASÁGI ANGOL SZAK
NAPPALI tagozat
NEMZETKÖZI MENEDZSMENT szakirány
STAFF MANAGEMENT IN A BELGIAN COMPANY WITH SPECIAL
REGARD TO THE LOCAL CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Prepared by: Kovács Gyöngyi
Budapest, 2007
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.
INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................................ 4
II.
NATIONAL CULTURE OF BELGIUM................................................................................... 7
1.
2.
HISTORY OF BELGIUM......................................................................................................... 7
1.1
History of Belgium in terms of ethnic divisiveness............................................................... 7
1.2
Belgium as a nation .............................................................................................................. 9
POLITICS ............................................................................................................................... 11
2.3
3.
LANGUAGE CONFLICTS – REASON OR CONSEQUENCE ............................................ 12
3.1
III.
1.
2.
3.
IV.
1.
About Party Politics – ruled by ethnic divisiveness............................................................ 11
The Main Language Communities...................................................................................... 12
CULTURE AND NATIONAL CULTURE......................................................................... 16
CULTURE AND SHARED CULTURAL VALUES.............................................................. 16
1.1
The concept of culture ........................................................................................................ 16
1.2
Different Layers of Culture ................................................................................................ 17
1.3
Shared Cultural Values and Norms.................................................................................... 19
1.4
Concept of National Culture .............................................................................................. 20
1.5
National Cultural Differences ............................................................................................ 21
1.6
Cultural differences according to region, religion, gender, generation, and class ........... 21
BI- AND MULTICULTURALISM ........................................................................................ 23
2.1
Domestic multiculturalism.................................................................................................. 23
2.2
Ethnocentrism and xenophilia ............................................................................................ 23
2.3
Group encounters: auto- and heterostereotypes ................................................................ 24
2.4
Language and humour........................................................................................................ 24
CORPORATE CULTURE...................................................................................................... 25
3.1
Definition of Corporate Culture ......................................................................................... 25
3.2
Process Losses in Culturally Diverse Teams ..................................................................... 26
3.3
Potential Productivity: Advantages in Culturally Diverse Teams...................................... 28
SCIENTIFIC MODELS AS A BASIS OF ANALYSIS.......................................................... 30
MODELS PROVIDING COMPARABLE CATEGORIES FOR NATIONAL
CHARACTERISTICS...................................................................................................................... 30
1.1 Kluckhohn and F.L. Strodtbeck model................................................................................... 30
2
1.2
Edward T. Hall: High-context and Low-context cultures .................................................. 31
1.3
Geert Hofstede's four dimensions of culture-related values............................................... 31
1.4
Fons Trompenaars`s five dimensions ................................................................................. 33
2. CULTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE BELGIANS SPECIFIC TO THE FRENCH AND THE
FLEMISH ......................................................................................................................................... 33
V.
2.1
Case specific set of dimensions .......................................................................................... 33
2.2
Summary on national characteristics ................................................................................. 42
CASE STUDY ............................................................................................................................ 43
1.
SUMMARY ............................................................................................................................ 43
2.
AIM OF RESEARCH ............................................................................................................. 44
3.
TOOLS OF RESEARCH ........................................................................................................ 45
4.
PREFACE ............................................................................................................................... 46
5.
INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... 46
6.
ABOUT THE COMPANIES: ESTRO AND EQUAL-ESTRO .............................................. 47
7.
6.1
My field of activities ........................................................................................................... 47
6.2
ESTRO, the Association...................................................................................................... 48
6.3
EQUAL-ESTRO offering external audit in radiotherapy ................................................... 50
6.4
ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO .............................................................................................. 51
6.5
MANAGERIAL APPROACH AT ESTRO ........................................................................... 52
NATIONALITY CHARACTERISTICS ................................................................................ 55
7.1
Power distance ................................................................................................................... 55
7.2
Universalism versus particularism..................................................................................... 57
7.3
Individualism versus collectivism....................................................................................... 59
7.4
Neutral versus affective relationships ................................................................................ 62
7.5
Specific versus diffuse relationships................................................................................... 63
8.
OVERVIEW ON ESTRO ....................................................................................................... 66
9.
EQUAL-ESTRO SUCCESS STORY ..................................................................................... 67
VI.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................................................... 69
VII.
TABLES AND FIGURES..................................................................................................... 72
VIII.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................. 79
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I. INTRODUCTION
In this assignment I draw a detailed picture about the core, the appearance and the solution
for an actual managerial problem at the companies ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO in
Brussels as well as an overall picture about the Belgian culture, nationality differences,
working cultural differences. The case study is based on personal observations I made
during the 23 weeks in 2006/2007 I was working at ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO as an
intern. Thus I have an impression about the ‘Belgian working culture’ - if such exists.
This study can be divided into two parts that can clearly be distinguished. The first part is a
sum of theoretical scientific observations; studies and approaches that help us understand
the underlying processes of the second part, which is the detailed description of my
empirical case study about ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO.
I chose this topic driven by the curiosity how people in this very unique Belgian
environment – where the two in political power and in numbers of inhabitants most
significant nationalities are the Flemish and the French can be managed and motivated and
what hardships deriving from national and personal differences a manager can face. My
subject is a very complex case: the personal problems at ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO are
not only typical of this particular company but of the whole society.
Therefore in the first part of the assignment (Chapter I., II. and III.) I describe the way the
Belgian society is structured, the Belgian history, and the language difference as the most
important social factor and the contradiction between its nationalities. Then I present
scientific models created by Fons Trompenaars and Geert Hofstede that analyse the two
nationalities on certain aspects and outline the national cultural characteristics of them and
differences between one another. I integrate the observations of other scientist and
communication researchers in drawing a versatile picture. In the following I put the two
nationalities, the Flemish and the French, separately under the loupe and examine both on
the same aspects. Further I define and depict corporate culture in general and in Belgium
with special regards on the two major nationalities.
In the case study chapter I describe my actual experiences and observations of ESTRO and
EQUAL-ESTRO. First I present the activities of these two companies, the staff and the
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social network and in-group correlations of these people. I characterize the behaviour of the
two nationality groups and point at the differences that can be a source of friction on the
micro level. I also depict the management style the leader is adopting and the changes it
went through. As the most important step I draw light on the central problem that the
company is facing - and in the following I bring the reasons for the problem to the surface,
based on the observations I made. Finally, I provide a possible solution method and give
reasons supporting it. At last I characterize the problem and the solution on the macro level.
The employees at my hosting companies had significant difficulties working together, cooperating
with each other and creating a pleasant office atmosphere that motivates them to work more likely
and better. It was visible that the contradiction is mainly between the members of the two
nationalities – intentionally I do not call them ethnicities as they consider themselves different
nationalities and not two ethnicities of one nation. Nevertheless, the appearance of this conflict is
not unique for the company, it leads back to an overall phenomenon in Belgium and this made me
look into it more thoroughly.
The report gives an overview on the hosting companies ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO, the jobs
and employees at the companies, the way I received the job offer and the tasks I had, the
behavioural patterns of the leaders and the staff’s approach towards the leadership. I go into details
regarding the characteristics of the Flemish and the French nationalities and the possible reasons
and areas that make them have difficulties with working together. Therefore I am using an
individually created managerial model that analyses and compares their characteristics based
purely on my observations. Supporting my assumptions I give examples and stories that happened
to me personally or others reported to me, I include in the assignment the opinion of both
nationalities about the conflict based on private discussions with the members of both groups and
also with people that live in Brussels but are not members of any of them. As I was in connection
with several expatriates, the so called ‘expats’, they expressed their own view about the ‘Belgians’
they know quite well. I include their stories and opinions that I learned during private talks, too.
The principal question to be answered is where exactly the problem lies preventing the Flemish
and the French from working effectively together and what can help them to do so. As the leaders
are the ones that can make changes towards this, the problem brings a managerial question to life.
The desired situation would be to find a way to bring the two nationalities together in a peaceful
and tolerant business environment, which makes efficient mutual work possible and has an
enhancing impact on the employees. I am drawing up a solution, which was successful in the case
5
of EQUAL-ESTRO and therefore is also well expected to deliver the same results at ESTRO. This
gives an answer to the problem on the micro level.
The objective of the report is to describe the existing problematic situation at ESTRO, find the
reasons and the weak points in the managerial system and to show a possible solution that could
work out as well as possible.
6
II. NATIONAL CULTURE OF BELGIUM
"'Belgianisation' - the abandonment of national responsibility in favour of totally commercial
values"
Leon Trotsky
“The best way to understand Belgium is to imagine a Belgian road junction. Four drivers
coming from four different directions - none of them giving way. One of the cars contains the
Flemish, the second the Walloons, the third the Brussels Community and the fourth the German
speakers from the Ostkantolle. They all meet in the middle, but they don't crash. They simply
block one another's way, including their own. “ (Richard Hill)
This example sums up Belgian politics today and also typifies the sadly blinkered mentality of
many influential people who should know better. Belgian politics, described by The Economist
as "straight from Ruritania, via Freedonia", are byzantine. It is no reflection on the driving
skills of the Belgians. They drive as well, or as badly, as any other European nationality these
days. The stories about bad driving simply demonstrate the lasting power of folklore.
1. HISTORY OF BELGIUM
1.1 History of Belgium in terms of ethnic divisiveness
The original Celtic tribes of the North Sea coastal regions became part of the Roman Empire
when they were conquered in 57 B.C. by the armies of Julius Caesar. During this time, the
inhabitants of southern Belgium were heavily influenced by Latin culture, giving rise to
Latinate cultural traditions and the use of a Latin language. In the north, the cultural influence
of Rome was weaker. The invasion of Salian Franks in the fifth century abruptly interrupted the
period of Latin Influence and established a Germanic Frankish kingdom, which included the
use of a Germanic language. The linguistic border that crosses Belgium is believed to mark the
7
extent of Frankish influence. In the ninth century, Charlemagne united independent Frankish
regions into a vast kingdom, of which Flanders was a central part.
The county of Flanders, the duchy of Brabant, and the bishopric of Liege were three of the most
politically dominant. In spite of political, organizational, and language divisions, similar
cultural traditions and a prosperous textile industry led to a degree of political cooperation
between districts. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, under a balance of power
between nobles and free citizens, Flemish cities established a trade association in London and
became central to trans-European trade, as members of the German Hanse.
When Flanders became part of the Kingdom governed by the Spanish Habsburgs, the people
became subject to authoritarian structures foreign to developing cultural traditions. The rule of
the Spanish proved disastrous for the Flemish people; during the years of the Spanish
Inquisition, many were tortured or killed for religious and political dissent. In an attempt to end
Spanish rule, the region went to war against Spain, resulting in the separation of the northern
from the southern Flemish, the creation of the independent nation of Holland comprised of
liberated northern provinces, and the continued subjugation of the "Spanish Netherlands”. On
January 29, 1579 the northern provinces united in the Union of Utrecht. This southern area,
what is now known as Belgium, was predominantly Catholic and the northern Calvinist area
consisted of the seven provinces.
The Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons continued to live under the Spanish until the
War of Spanish Succession, 1700-1713, when the Territories passed to the Austrian Habsburgs.
During this period, French became the dominant language for social and political life; the
Flemish became marginalized as a national identity grew. In 1794, Napoleon conquered and
annexed the Flemish and Walloon territories for France.
After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the years of economic and political separation between the
Dutch and the Flemish, the years of a Common fate with Walloonia, and the quite different
economic and political positions of the Dutch and the Belgians in a world economy proved to
be stronger political factors than a common heritage in a more distant past. Belgians - both
Walloons and Flemish - revolted against the Dutch in 1830, proclaiming Belgium as an
independent nation. In 1831, they elected Prince Leopold as king, defined their government as a
constitutional monarchy, and instituted a bicameral parliament with democratic representation.
Although Flemish leaders were an integral part of Belgian independence efforts, the Flemish
played a minority role in national politics until the early 1900s, because of the predominance of
French language and culture during the period of French and Austrian control.
8
In 1914, Germany invaded Belgium. Many of the battles of World War I were fought in
Flanders, which sustained enormous damage in both urban and rural areas and suffered great
loss of life. Again, in 1940, Germany invaded. In an attempt to avoid the devastation it had
suffered in World War I, the king quickly surrendered to the Germans. The strategy was
ineffective and deadly. Belgian Jews and Gypsies were exported and killed by the Nazis. Many
Flemish and Walloons were conscripted and sent to work in German factories and labour
camps.
In 1944, Belgium was liberated by Canadian, Australian, and American forces. The postwar
period was a time of rebuilding, but it was also internally divisive and disruptive for the
Belgian People. German collaborators were punished, and the king was forced to give up his
rule to his son. Partly because of the favouritism shown by the Germans for the Flemish during
the war, ethnic tensions between Flemish and Walloon increased.
During the 1960s and 1970s, ethnic divisiveness in Belgium was largely resolved with the
creation of independent Flemish and Walloon assemblies, which each have authority over
cultural, social, political, and regional administrative affairs of their respective groups. At this
time Flemish was recognized as an official state language. The Flemish regions also gained in
relative economic importance, while Walloonia experienced a decline in the heavy industries—
notably in steel and coal. After World War II, Belgium joined NATO and, together with the
Netherlands and Luxembourg, formed the Benelux group of nations. Belgium is also one of the
six founding members of the 1951 established European Coal and Steel Community, and the
1957 established European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community.
Belgium hosts the headquarters of NATO and a major part of the European Union's institutions
and administrations, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union
and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament, as well as parts of its
administration.
Flanders's importance rose in international trade, high-tech manufacturing, industrial
agriculture, tourism, and fishing. Today, the Flemish enjoy full political and social equality
with the Walloons (see Figure 1). (1)
1.2 Belgium as a nation
Belgium, in general, is not a country; it is an accident of history. Belgium has the enormous
9
distinction of bringing together the two great western European traditions, the Germanic and
the Latin, but those Belgians who admit this are probably in a minority at the moment. Yet
there is an individual awareness of being Belgian, sentiment, pride but a different kind than
homogeneous nations.
Belgium as a nation state in the traditional meaning is a nonsense. Created in 1830 from the
leftovers of Western Europe, it happens to take in both sides of the northern frontier of the
Roman Empire. The diutisc-speakers, with a stretch of the imagination today's Flemish, still
look down on the descendents of the settlers to the south - with an even greater stretch of the
imagination, today's Walloons. Yet among themselves, despite such accidents of history, the socalled Belgians have managed to make something worthwhile out of this little country.
The Belgians are the Italians of northern Europe. They have pragmatism, both in politics and in
everyday life, and a nose for opportunity that has seen the country through many crises. They
can also work very hard but, like the Italians, much of the effort is conducted below the surface.
The existence of a parallel economy, as in Italy, is matched by the influence of an establishment
mafia clustered, in this case, around the Sociètè Gènèrale and a few other major holding
companies. The true Belgium is a politically elusive and geographically complicated entity
which, more than any other region, offers a microcosm of Europe past and future. In this
relatively small area, you have at least three races (apart from the substantial European
community), Romance and Germanic languages, and a richness and variety of heritage and
nature which other countries, even large ones, have difficulty in matching.
Within the Flemish Movement, the demand for outright independence grew stronger in the last
decades. The Vlaams Belang party is the strongest advocate of a Flemish Republic: it is
considered by all other Flemish political parties to be far right. Its identification of the Flemings
as a separate 'people' is controversial. It associates that claim with rejection of a Belgian
national identity, and describes itself as a Flemish nationalist party, seeking a separate and
sovereign state for the Flemish people, which is claimed to be a nation, and to have its own
national identity. It seeks the dissolution of Belgium. The viewpoints of the Vlaams Belang are
not shared by Flemish mainstream parties, and with the French Community parties they formed
a cordon sanitaire - not forming a coalition or cooperating at any level of government with
Vlaams Belang.
The Flemish are recognized as a "community" by Belgium's institutional creation of a separate
Flemish Community (not an administrative region). The term "Belgian people" is also in use,
10
but Article 33 of the Belgian Constitution states that power derives from the "nation" rather
than from the "people".
2. POLITICS
2.3 About Party Politics – ruled by ethnic divisiveness
Belgium is a constitutional popular monarchy and parliamentary democracy that evolved after
World War II from a unitary state to a federation. The federal government, formally nominated
by the king, must have the confidence of the Chamber of Representatives. It is led by the Prime
Minister. The numbers of Dutch- and French-speaking ministers are equal as prescribed by the
Constitution. The King or Queen is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. Actual
power is vested in the Prime Minister and the different governments, who govern the country.
The judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic code.
Belgium's political institutions are complex; most political power is organized around the need
to represent the main language communities.
During the twentieth century, and in particular since World War II, the history of Belgium has
been increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main communities. This period saw a
rise in intercommunal tensions, and the unity of the Belgian state has come under scrutiny.
Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalization of the unitary state had
led to the establishment of a three-tiered system of federalism, linguistic-community and
regional governments, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic tensions. Nowadays,
these federal entities uphold more legislative power than the national bicameral parliament,
whereas national government still controls nearly all taxation, over 80% of the finances of the
community and region governments, and 100% of the social security. (2)
In the "golden ’60s” reforms began to take place. Both the Flemish population and the
Walloons wanted some degree of autonomy, be it cultural, linguistic or territorial. The
Walloons sought to pull themselves out of the economic slump through new and more efficient
industry, a new division of the territory and the right to administer their own natural resources.
Since around 1970, the significant national Belgian political parties have split into distinct
components that mainly represent the interests of these communities (that is to say along
political as well as linguistic fronts). The major parties in each community, though close to the
political centre, belong to three main political families: the right-wing Liberals, the social
11
conservative Christian Democrats, and the Socialists as left-wing. Other important younger
parties are the Green party and, especially in Flanders, the nationalist and far-right, Flemish
Interest party.
The constitutional revisions of the 1970s and 1980s, and the accompanying legislation, were all
designed to preserve the language, culture, lifestyle and spiritual beliefs of the different groups
within the country. Politics is influenced by lobby groups, such as trade unions and business
interests in the form of the Trade Federation of Enterprises in Belgium.
The development of the Brussels region is the latest outcome of the constitutional reform.
There are many facilities around Brussels, which serve both the Flemish and Walloon
communities. The institutional reform has succeeded in bringing a temporary halt to the historic
development towards the fragmentation of an entirely federal state. Many Belgians feel that this
policy, known as the ‘compromis à la belge’, attempting to devolve power to every conceivable
minority, has got out of hand.
The influence of the European Union over different sectors of communal life is increasing,
especially in regional relations. In Belgium, the zones of development recommended by the EU
have been imposed on the autonomous Flemish-Walloon regions. European resolutions
concerning production capacities for the steel industry have led to added friction. The central
state has authority in national defence, foreign affairs, social issues, agriculture, justice and
financial and monetary issues. Policy-making in areas such as the economy, education,
transport and the environment have all been passed to the regions.
There is growing pressure from Flanders to devolve social security; the Flemish feel they are
bearing the brunt by financing the large welfare payments being dished out to the growing
numbers of sick, aged and unemployed in Walloonia. Friction between the language groups is
aggravated by an influx of foreigners, particularly the Eurocrats who are forcing up house
prices. (3)
3. LANGUAGE CONFLICTS – REASON OR CONSEQUENCE
3.1 The Main Language Communities
Since 1970, three communities and three regions have existed within Belgium: the Flemish-,
the French- and the German-speaking communities; the Flemish, the Walloon and the Brussels
regions and most political power is organized around the need to represent the two main
12
language communities; the Walloons and the Flemish. The official language in Belgium is
Standard Dutch (i.e. the Dutch standard language), along with French and German.
In certain municipalities along the border with the Walloon and Brussels regions, Frenchspeakers enjoy "linguistic facilities". Similar facilities are enjoyed by Flemings in some
Walloon municipalities, by German-speakers in Walloonia, and by French-speakers in the
German-speaking territories. These cover rights such as those of minority language speakers to
receive official documentation in their own tongue. Historically, dialects tended to be very
strong and particular to locality. However, since the Second World War, the influence of radio
and television, and the trend towards a more mobile population, has resulted in a sharp decline
in the use of traditional dialects. Differences between the regional dialects have been eroded
and new intermediate dialects have appeared.
Depending on the definition used, Flemish shows more or less differences with the Standard
Dutch. Some usages that are common in Belgium, but not in the Netherlands, are recognized as
being interchangeably correct, and are therefore correct Dutch, while others are rejected in
Flanders as dialectics. Flemish is the term for the dialects of Dutch spoken in Flanders or,
alternatively, the forms of Dutch spoken in Belgium. The latter definition, though being the
most common, is considered too precise by linguists, since the political borders seldom entirely
correspond to linguistic ones.
For students, the intellectual norm in Flanders means learning two or even three foreign
languages (at least two are obligatory in most secondary school programs, generally French and
English, sometimes also German and/or a language chosen from a supplementary list) to a
higher standard than in most countries. Cosmopolitanism is a historical constant in Flanders'
very open economy, while the mainly Anglo-Saxon orientation is a rather recent phenomenon
as, until the 1960s, Flanders was heavily dominated by French culture (as long imposed by the
Belgian state), which now only is an honourable second.
French Flemish (in English occasionally known by its Dutch name Frans-Vlaams) is a dialect
of the Dutch language. It is spoken in the north of contemporary France and is considered part
of the West Flemish dialect group. Place names testify of the dialect being spoken since the 8th
century in the area that was ceded to France in the 17th century and became known as French
Flanders.
Walloon is a regional Romance language spoken as a second language in Walloonia. It belongs
to the same language family with the French language, and is sometimes considered a French
dialect. However, though Walloon was widely spoken till the mid 20th century, only few
13
inhabitants of Walloonia are currently able to use it. Most of the younger generations (born
within the 1970s and after) know only a few idiomatic expressions which are often curse words.
Nevertheless the Walloon language is still a part of the Walloon heritage and as such is one of
the foundations of Walloon ethnicity, though the very existence of the Walloons as an ethnic
group is a controversial issue.
Walloon was the predominant language of the Walloon people until the beginning of the 20th
century, even though they had a passive knowledge of French. Since that time, the use of
French has spread to the extent that now only 15% of the Walloon population speaks their
ancestral language. Breaking the statistics down by age, 70-80% of the population aged over 60
speaks Walloon, while only about 10% of those under 30 do so. Passive knowledge of Walloon
is much more widespread: claimed by some 36-58% of the younger age bracket. Legally,
Walloon has been recognized since 1990 by the French Community of Belgium, the cultural
authority of Walloonia, as an "indigenous regional language" which must be studied in schools
and encouraged. The Walloon cultural movement includes the Union Culturelle Wallonne, an
organization of over 200 amateur theatre circles, writers' groups, and school councils.
3.2 Language and its political significance
In contrast to countries where the names of languages may have a more purely descriptive
significance, in Belgium language is at the basis of a long political emancipation struggle,
which accounts for the weight being put on the use of correct terminology, as well as the
involvement of government in determining and defining standard languages.
Language and culture are not so closely linked that sharing a language implies sharing a
culture; nor should a difference in language always impose a difference in cultural values. In
Belgium, where the special local dialect of the Dutch and French are the two dominant national
languages (there is a small German-speaking area too) the scores of the Dutch- and Frenchspeaking regions on the four dimensions of the IMB Studies conducted by Geert Hofstede were
very similar, and both regions scored very much like France and very different from the
Netherlands. This reflects the Belgian history: the middle and upper classes used to speak
French, whatever the language of their ancestors, and adopted the French culture; the lower
classes spoke Dutch whatever the language of their ancestors, but when upclassed they
conformed to the culture of the middle classes. This also helps to understand why language is a
hot political issue in Belgium. (4)
In Belgium there is nothing more important and violently protected then one’s own language.
The fight started in 1961 February as the first written evident shows. On 28 May 1969 a
14
linguistic and cultural compromise re-established French faculties at the University of Louvain
and provided for a new Flemish Free University of Brussels. (There are two major universities
in Brussels now: the French speaking ULB and the Flemish speaking WUB.)
On 14 July 1993 a final vote in the Chamber of Deputies completed constitutional reform
begun in 1970, as Belgium officially became a federal state comprising three regions
(Walloonia, Flanders, and bilingual Brussels) and three linguistic communities. (5)
15
III. CULTURE AND NATIONAL CULTURE
1. CULTURE AND SHARED CULTURAL VALUES
1.1 The concept of culture
Social interaction or meaningful communication presupposes common ways of processing
information among the people interacting. These have consequences for doing business as well as
managing across cultural boundaries. The mutual dependence of the actors is due to the fact that
together they constitute a connected system of meanings: a shared definition of a situation by a
group. Culture dictates what groups pay attention to. It guides how the world is perceived, how the
self is experienced and how life itself is organized. Individuals of a group share patterns that enable
them to see the same things in the same way and this holds them together. Each person carries
within them learned ways of finding meaning in their experiences. In order for effective, stable and
meaningful interaction to occur, people must have this shared system of meaning. (6)
There must be some common ways of understanding events and behaviour, and ways of anticipating
how other people in your social groups are likely to behave. How do these shared beliefs come
about and what is their influence on the interactions between members of an organization is an
absolute condition for meaningful interaction in business and management is the existence of mutual
expectations.
Culture is always relative. There is no cultural absolute. People in different cultures perceive the world
differently and have different ways of doing things, and there is no set standard for considering one
group as intrinsically superior to any other. Each national culture is relative to any other cultures`
ways of perceiving the world and doing things. Expectations and them being different for all of us
derives from this fact. What I expect depends on where I come from and the meanings I give to what I
experience. Expectations occur on many different levels, from concrete, explicit levels to implicit and
subconscious ones. (7)
“More so now than a generation ago, most of us meet people with cultural backgrounds different from
our own and are expected to work with them. If we maintain the naive assumption that because they
look like us they also think like us, our joint efforts will not get very far. If we begin to realize that our
16
own ideas are culturally limited, from that moment we need the others - we can never be self-sufficient
again. Only others with different mental programs can help us find the limitations of our own.”
Acceptance of cultural relativism is in itself easier in some cultures than in others. On the level of
intellectual discourse (not necessarily on the level of practice) the French have little difficulty.
Germans can, however, accept the relativity of ideas as part of an absolute truth of a higher order. (8)
Culture is also learned and derived from your social environment, not from your genetic make-up.
The noted business author and scholar Geert Hofstede describes culture as the 'collective programming
of the mind' and explains that it lays between human nature on one side and individual personality on
the other. He distinguishes three levels of uniqueness in human mental programming (see Figure 2).
1.2 Different Layers of Culture
According to Fons Trompenaars each person carries around several layers of cultural 'programming'. It
starts when a child learns basic values: what is right and wrong, good and bad, logical and illogical,
beautiful and ugly. Culture is about your fundamental assumptions of what it is to be a person and how
you should interact with other persons within your own group (which again is a boundary culturally
drawn) and with outsiders. This first level of culture is deepest, the most difficult to change and will
vary according to the culture in which we grow up. (see Figure 3.)
Other layers of culture are learned or 'programmed' in the course of education, through professional
or craft training and in organizational life. Some of the aspects of culture learned later have to do
with conventions and ethics in your profession (that is, what it means to be a lawyer, accountant or
doctor; the way a particular organization functions, how people get promoted or how office politics
are played, and so on). These layers are more ways of doing things, or practices, as opposed to
fundamental assumptions about how things are. Because of the timing and sequence of learning
these values and ways of doing things, their capacity for change is also different.
The outer layer is the explicit products. Explicit culture is the observable reality of the language, food,
buildings, houses, monuments, agriculture, shrines, markets, fashions and art. They are the symbols of
a deeper level of culture. Prejudices mostly start on this symbolic and observable level.
The middle layer consists of the norms and values. Explicit culture reflects deeper layers of culture,
the norms and values of an individual group. Norms are the mutual sense a group has of what is
"right" and "wrong". Norms can develop on a formal level as written laws, and on an informal level as
social control. Values, on the other hand, determine the definition of "good and bad", and are therefore
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closely related to the ideals shared by a group.
A culture is relatively stable when the norms reflect the values of the group. When this is not the case,
there will most likely be a destabilizing tension. In Eastern Europe we have seen for years how the
norms of communism failed to match the values of society. Disintegration is a logical result. While the
norms, consciously or subconsciously give us a feeling of "this is how I normally should behave",
values give us a feeling of "this is how I aspire or desire to behave". A value serves as a criterion to
determine a choice from existing alternatives. It is the concept an individual or group has regarding the
desirable. For instance, in one culture people might agree with the value: "Hard work is essential to a
prosperous society." Yet the behavioural norm sanctioned by the group may be: "Do not work harder
than the other members of the group because then we would all be expected to do more and would end
up worse off." Here the norm differs from the value. It takes shared meanings of norms and values that
are stable and salient for a group's cultural tradition to be developed and elaborated.
The core of the model includes the assumptions about existence. To answer questions about basic
differences in values between cultures it is necessary to go back to the core of human existence. The
most basic value people strive for is survival. Historically and presently we have witnessed
civilizations fighting daily with nature. Groups of people organize themselves in such a way that they
increase the effectiveness of their problem-solving processes. Because different groups of people have
developed in different geographic regions, they have also formed different sets of logical assumptions.
Each has organized themselves to find the ways to deal most effectively with their environments,
given their available resources. Such continuous problems are eventually solved automatically. The
solutions disappear from our awareness, and become part of our system of absolute assumptions. From
this fundamental relationship with the (natural) environment man, and after man of the community,
takes the core meaning of life. This deepest meaning has escaped from conscious question and has
become self-evident, because it is a result of routine responses to the environment. In this sense culture
is anything but nature.
We see that a specific organizational culture or functional culture is nothing more than the way in
which groups have organized themselves over the years to solve the problems and challenges
presented to them. Changes in a culture happen because people realize that certain old ways of doing
things do not work any more. It is not difficult to change culture when people are aware that the
survival of the community is at stake, where survival is considered desirable. (9)
The different layers are not independent from one another but are complementary. The shared
meanings that are the core of culture are man-made and are incorporated into people within a culture,
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yet transcend the people in the culture. In other words, the shared meanings of a group are within them
and cause them to interpret things in particular ways, but are also open to be changed if more effective
"solutions" to problems of survival are desired by the group.
The solutions to three universal problems that mankind faces distinguish one culture from another.
The problems - people's relationship to time, nature and other human beings - are shared by mankind:
their solutions are not. The latter depend on the cultural background of the group concerned. (6)
1.3 Shared Cultural Values and Norms
People within a culture do not all have identical sets of artefacts, norms, values and assumptions.
Within each culture there is a wide spread of these. This spread does have a pattern around an average.
So, in a sense, the variation around the norm can be seen as a normal distribution. Distinguishing one
culture from another depends on the limits we want to make on each side of the distribution. In
principle, each culture shows the total variation of its human components.
A norm or social norm is a rule that is socially enforced. Social sanctioning is what distinguishes
norms from other cultural products or social constructions such as meaning and values. Norms are
thought to affect a wide variety of human behaviour. (10)
Each individual or culture has certain underlying values that contribute to their value system. Many
values are subjective and vary across people and cultures.
Personal values evolve from experiences with the external world and can change over time. Integrity
in the application of values refers to its continuity; persons have integrity if they apply their values
appropriately regardless of arguments or negative reinforcement from others. Values are applied
appropriately when they are applied in the right area. For example, it would be appropriate to apply
religious values in times of happiness as well as in times of despair. Personal values are implicitly
related to choice; they guide decisions by allowing for an individual's choices to be compared to each
choice's associated values. Personal values developed early in life may be resistant to change. They
may be derived from those of particular groups or systems, such as culture, religion, and political
party. However, personal values are not universal; one's genes, family, nation and historical
environment determine one's personal values. This is not to say that the value concepts themselves are
not universal, merely that each individual possess a unique conception of them.
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We talk about cultural values when members share a culture even if each member's personal values do
not entirely agree with some normative values sanctioned in the culture. This reflects an individual's
ability to synthesize and extract aspects valuable to them from the multiple subcultures they belong to.
If an individual expresses a value that is in serious conflict with their group's norms, the group's
authority may carry out various ways of stigmatizing or conforming the individual. For example,
imprisonment can result from conflict with social norms that have been established as law. (11)
Cultures whose norms differ significantly tend to speak about each other in terms of extremes. Using
extreme, exaggerated forms of behaviour is stereotyping. It is, quite understandably, the result of
registering 'what surprises us, rather than what is familiar. But there are some dangers in stereotyping.
First, a stereotype is a very limited view of the average behaviour in a certain environment. It
exaggerates and caricatures the culture observed and unintentionally the observer. Second, people
often equate something different with something wrong. “Their way is clearly different from ours so it
cannot be right.” Finally, stereotyping ignores the fact that individuals in the same culture do not
necessarily behave according to the cultural norm. Individual personality mediates in each cultural
system. (6) I will discuss it in details in Chapter 2. Bi- and Multiculturalism 2.2 Etnocentrism and
xenophilia.
1.4 Concept of National Culture
Nations should not be equated to societies. Historically, societies are organically developed forms of
social organization, and the concept of a common culture applies strictly speaking, more to societies
than to nations. Nevertheless, many nations do form historically developed wholes even if they consist
of clearly different groups and even if they contain less integrated minorities.
Within nations that have existed for some time there are strong forces towards further integration:
usually one dominant national language, common mass media, a national education system, a national
army, a national political system, national representation in sports events with a strong symbolic and
emotional appeal, a national market for certain skills, products, and services. Today's nations do not
attain the degree of internal homogeneity of the isolated, usually non-literate societies studied by field
anthropologists, but they are the source of a considerable amount of common mental programming of
their citizens.
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1.5 National Cultural Differences
To some extent in every nation there remains a tendency for ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups to
fight for recognition of their own identity, if not for national independence; this tendency has been
increasing rather than decreasing in the latter part of the twentieth century. Examples are the Ulster
Roman Catholics, the Belgian Flemish, the Basques in Spain and France, the Kurds in Iran, Iraq,
Syria, and Turkey, and many of the ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union.
In research on cultural differences nationality, the passport one holds should therefore be used with
care. Yet it is often the only feasible criterion for classification. Rightly or wrongly, collective
properties are ascribed to the citizens of certain countries: people refer to 'typically American',
'typically German', or 'typically Japanese' behaviour. Using nationality as a criterion is a matter of
expediency, because it is immensely easier to obtain data for nations than for organic homogeneous
societies. (8)
1.6 Cultural differences according to region, religion, gender, generation, and class
Regional, ethnic, and religious cultures account for differences within countries; ethnic and religious
groups often transcend political country borders. Such groups form minorities at the crossroads
between the dominant culture of the nation and their own traditional group culture. Some assimilate
into the mainstream, although this may take a generation or more; others continue to stick to their own
ways.
Discrimination according to ethnic origin delays assimilation and represents a problem in many
countries. Regional, ethnic, and religious cultures can be described in the same terms as national
cultures: basically, the same dimensions which were found to differentiate among national cultures
apply to these differences within countries.
Religious affiliation by itself is less culturally relevant than is often assumed. If we trace the religious
history of countries, then the religion a population has embraced along with the version of that religion
seem to have been a result of previously existing cultural value patterns as much as a cause of cultural
differences. The great religions of the world, at some time in their history, have all undergone
profound schisms: between Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant groups in
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Christianity; between Sunni and Shia in Islam; between liberals and various fundamentalist groups in
Jewry; between Hinayana and Mahayana in Buddhism. Cultural differences among groups of believers
have always played a major role in such schisms.
Gender differences are not usually described in terms of cultures. It can be revealing to do so. If we
recognize that within each society there is a men's culture which differs from a women's culture, this
helps to explain why it is so difficult to change traditional gender roles. Women are not considered
suitable for jobs traditionally filled by men, not because they are technically unable to perform these
jobs, but because women do not carry the symbols, do not correspond to the hero images, do not
participate in the rituals or foster the values dominant in the men's culture; and vice versa. Feelings
and fears about behaviours by the opposite sex are of the same order of intensity as the reactions of
people exposed to foreign cultures.
Generation differences in symbols, heroes, rituals, and values are evident to most people. They are
often overestimated. Complaints about youth having lost respect for the values of their elders is an
ancient phenomenon. Many differences in practices and values between generations will be just
normal attributes of age which repeat themselves for each successive pair of generations. Historical
events, however, do affect some generations in a special way. The Chinese who were of student age
during the Cultural Revolution stand witness to this. The development of technology also leads to a
difference between generations which is unique.
Social classes carry different class cultures. Social class is associated with educational opportunities
and with a person's occupation or profession; this even applies in countries which their governments
call socialist, preaching a classless society. Education and occupation are in themselves powerful
sources of cultural learning. There is no standard definition of social class which applies across all
countries, and people in different countries distinguish different types and numbers of class. The
criteria for allocating a person to a class are often cultural: symbols play an important role, such as
accents in speaking the national language, the use and nonuse of certain words, and manners. (4)
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2. BI- AND MULTICULTURALISM
2.1 Domestic multiculturalism
You do not have to go abroad to meet someone with a cultural background different from your own.
With increasing immigration, increasing numbers of people working abroad, and the presence of
indigenous ethnic communities, managers who never leave home often face a multicultural work force
in local companies and organizations.
Culturally distinct populations live in all countries of the world. Singapore, for example, has four
cultural and linguistic groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian. Belgium has two linguistic
groups, French and Flemish. Switzerland has four distinct ethnic communities: French, German,
Italian, and Roman. Canada, a multicultural country by national policy, uses two official languages,
English and French. Many countries, including Israel and the United States, have developed
historically as havens for immigrants from around the world.
At a company team members can have very similar or quite different backgrounds, perspectives.
Diversity can refer to many characteristics: gender, race, profession, nationality, age, experience, and
cultural differences. Therefore teams with all members from the same culture are referred to as
homogeneous and those with more than one culture as multicultural. Multicultural teams can be
divided into three types: those with a single member from another culture, those with multiple
members representing two cultures (bicultural teams), and those with members from three or more
cultures.
2.2 Ethnocentrism and xenophilia
There are also standard types of reactions within host environments exposed to foreign visitors. The
people in the host culture receiving a foreign culture visitor usually go through a psychological
reaction cycle. Ethnocentrism is to a group of people what egocentrism is to an individual: considering
one's own little world to be the centre of the universe. If foreign visitors arrive only rarely, the hosts
will probably stick to their ethnocentrism. If regularly exposed to foreign visitors, the hosts may move
into a third phase: polycentrism, the recognition that different kinds of people should be measured by
different standards, and the ability to understand the foreigner according to the foreigner's standards.
This is a mild form of bi- or multiculturality.
Uncertainty avoiding cultures will resist polycentrism more than uncertainty accepting cultures.
However, individuals within a culture vary around the cultural average, so in intolerant cultures one
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may meet tolerant hosts and vice versa. The tendency to apply different standards to different kinds of
people may also turn into xenophilia, that is, the belief that in the foreigner's culture, everything is
better. Some foreigners will be pleased to confirm this belief. There is a tendency among expatriates to
idealize what one remembers from home. Neither ethnocentrism nor xenophilia is a healthy basis for
intercultural cooperation, of course.
2.3 Group encounters: auto- and heterostereotypes
Intercultural encounters among groups rather than with single foreign visitors provoke group feelings.
Contrary to popular belief, intercultural contact among groups does not automatically breed mutual
understanding. It usually confirms each group in its own identity. Members an even greater extent than
outgroups from their own culture. Integration of the other group are not perceived as individuals but in
a stereotyped fashion. As compared to heterostereotypes about members of the other group,
autostereotypes are fostered about members of one's own group. Such stereotypes will even affect the
perception of actual events: if a member of one's own group attacks a member of the other group, one
may be convinced that it was the other way round. The majority of people in the world live in
collectivist societies, in which people remain throughout their lives members of tight ingroups which
provide them with protection in exchange for loyalty. In such a society, groups with different cultural
backgrounds are outgroups to across cultural dividing lines in collectivist societies is even more
difficult to obtain than in individualist societies. This is the major problem of many decolonized
nations, like those in Africa where national borders were inherited from the colonial period which in
no way respected ethnic and cultural dividing lines. Establishing true integration among members of
culturally different groups requires environments in which these people can meet and mix as equals.
Some ethnic group cultures produce people with specific skills and such skills can become the basis
for their integration in a larger society.
2.4 Language and humour
In most intercultural encounters the parties also speak different mother languages. Throughout history
this problem has been resolved by the use of trade languages like Malay, Swahili or, more and more,
derivations from English. Trade languages are 'pidgin' forms of original languages, and the trade
language of the modern world can be considered a form of business pidgin English. Language
differences contribute to mistaken cultural perceptions. Communication in trade languages or pidgin
limits communications to those issues for which these simplified languages have words. To establish a
more fundamental intercultural understanding, the foreign partner must acquire the host culture
language. Having to express oneself in another language means learning to adopt someone else's
reference frame. It is doubtful, whether one can be bicultural without also being bilingual.
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The skill of expressing oneself in more than one language is very unevenly distributed across
countries. For example, among the 12 countries of the European Community a public opinion survey
in 1987 produced figures about the ability to participate in a conversation in a foreign language (see
Table 9.1 on pp.213, Software of the mind). The champions are the small, wealthy, Germaniclanguage countries: Luxemburg (where virtually everybody speaks other languages besides the local
Letzeburgisch), the Netherlands, Denmark, and the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. Switzerland is
missing on the list because it is not an EC member but it certainly also scores high. (4)
3. CORPORATE CULTURE
3.1 Definition of Corporate Culture
The collection of beliefs, expectations, and values shared by an organization's members and
transmitted from one generation of employees to another.
Organizational culture, or corporate culture, comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of
an organization.
It has been defined as "the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and
groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders
outside the organization. Organizational values are beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals
members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of
behaviour organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values
develop organizational norms, guidelines or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behaviour
by employees in particular situations and control the behaviour of organizational members towards
one another." (12)
Work-groups within the organization have their own behavioural quirks and interactions which, to an
extent, affect the whole system. Task culture can be imported. For example, computer technicians will
have expertise, language and behaviours gained independently of the organization, but their presence
can influence the culture of the organization as a whole. According to Charles Handy we can use four
Greek gods to illustrate the basic leadership approaches and the organizational cultures they result.
Each culture stems from different assumptions about the basis of power and influence, what motivates
people, how people think and learn, and how change should occur. (13)
Power culture is like a web with a ruling spider. Those in the web are dependent on a central power
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source. Rays of power and influence spread out from a central figure or group. In a Zeus organization,
power derives from the top person, and a personal relationship with that individual matters more than
any formal title or position, e.g. small entrepreneurial companies and political groups.
Role culture is often referred to as a bureaucracy - controlled by procedures, role descriptions and
authority definitions. Co-ordination is at the top. Job position is central - value predictability and
consistency - may find it harder to adjust to change. An Apollo culture creates a highly structured,
stable company and precise job descriptions, usually with a single product.
Task culture is very much a small team approach - the network organisation - small organisations cooperating together to deliver a project. The emphasis is on results and getting things done. Individuals
empowered with discretion and control over their work. The Athena culture emphasizes talent and
youth, continuous team problem-solving e.g. consultancies.
In the person culture the individual is the central point. If there is a structure it exists only to serve the
individuals within it. The culture only exists for the people concerned; it has no super-ordinate
objective. Tend to have strong values about how they will work. They are very difficult for the
organisation to manage. A Dionysus "existential" organization exists so that individuals can achieve
their purposes: e.g. university, a medical practice other professional groupings.
3.2 Process Losses in Culturally Diverse Teams
Diversity makes team functioning more difficult because it becomes more difficult to see situations in
similar ways, understand them in similar ways, and act on them in similar ways. Diversity makes
reaching agreement more difficult. Employees from the same culture are generally easier to manage;
they communicate with each other more clearly and trust each other more readily. In culturally diverse
teams, misperception, misinterpretation, misevaluation, and miscommunication abound. Stress levels
increase, with multicultural teams more frequently disagreeing implicitly and explicitly on
expectations, the appropriateness of relevant information and the need for particular decisions.
Diversity increases the ambiguity, complexity, and inherent confusion in the team's process. These
process losses diminish productivity.
It is normal that multicultural teams are initially less cohesive than most homogeneous teams as they
begin with a less substantial base of similarity. The higher levels of mistrust, miscommunication, and
26
stress present in multicultural teams diminish cohesion. More importantly, these attitudinal and
perceptual communication problems also frequently diminish productivity. The main process
problems experienced by multicultural teams are discussed in the following.
Attitudinal Problems: Dislike and Mistrust
Culturally diverse teams possess higher levels of mistrust than do their more homogeneous
counterparts. Team members often find themselves less attracted to people from other cultures than to
those from their own culture. For example, researchers in Belgium found Walloon and Flemish
individuals speaking more frequently to colleagues of their own than of the opposite culture. Mistrust,
however, results primarily from cross-cultural misinterpretation rather than dislike.
Perceptual Problems: Stereotyping
Team members often inappropriately stereotype colleagues from other cultures rather than accurately
seeing and assessing their skills and potential contributions for accomplishing a particular task. For
instance, when some members come from higher status cultures and others from lower status cultures,
team members tend to talk more to those from the higher status cultures. They assume, usually
subconsciously, that national stereotypes apply to each individual in the team. Thus, in initial meetings
team members frequently judge those colleagues from the most developed and economically strongest
countries more favourably.
Communication Problems: Inaccuracy, Misunderstanding, Inefficiency
Diversity causes communication problems. It slows down communication when all members do not
fluently speak the team's working language. In linguistically diverse groups, some members must use a
foreign language or employ an interpreter. In both cases communication speed decreases and the
chances for errors increase as compared with teams in which all members are native speakers of the
same language.
Team members from different cultures often disagree over important meanings, such as the causes of
events, the determination of admissible evidence, the relevance of specific information, and the
possible conclusions that can be drawn. In some cases disagreement remains implicit or hidden;
members assume they interpret things similarly when in fact the opposite is true.
Stress
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Stress and tension levels in culturally diverse teams often exceed those in single-culture teams, due
primarily to communication inaccuracies and a lack of trust. Multicultural teams often exhibit
symptoms of considerable social stress, including bickering, apathy, single-party (or single-culture)
domination of discussions, stubbornness, and reprimanding. Multicultural teams can also show "a
quiet climate of politeness and gradually increasing friendliness", but according to some researchers,
these rituals of politeness have to be seen as the superficial defence of a weak group cohesiveness.
This ritual politeness leaves members frustrated and becomes yet another hindrance to team
productivity.
Decreased Effectiveness
Cultural diversity can diminish effective team functioning in a number of serious ways. Studies show
that members of multicultural teams use more of their time and effort in creating cohesion and
solidarity than do members of homogeneous groups. If unmanaged, cultural differences can paralyze a
team's ability to act. (17)
3.3 Potential Productivity: Advantages in Culturally Diverse Teams
Although encountering more process problems, culturally diverse teams also have the potential to
achieve higher productivity than do homogeneous teams, primarily because their wider range of
human resources allows them to function more creatively. Effective teams need to perceive, interpret,
and evaluate situations in numerous ways and then agree on the best decisions and directions.
Multicultural teams can more easily consider many alternatives; the team's diversity results in a
divergence of ideas. Leaders of all teams constantly balance divergence with convergence; that is, the
gathering of new ideas with the gaining of agreement on particular decisions and actions. This
balancing of creativity and cohesion particularly challenges leaders of multicultural teams.
Multicultural teams have the potential to invent more options and create more solutions than do singleculture teams. Diversity makes it easier for teams to create more and better ideas. It allows them to
avoid the trap of "groupthink". It often forces members to pay closer attention to the contributions of
their colleagues. However, heterogeneous teams only realize their potential when they adequately
manage the process problems associated with diversity.
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Limited "Groupthink"
Groupthink describes a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a
cohesive in-group, when the members' striving for unanimity overrides their motivation to realistically
appraise alternative courses of action. Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality
testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures. Groupthink constitutes one of the
major sources of ineffectiveness in teams. The three major symptoms of groupthink are: overestimates
of the team's power and morality, closed-mindedness, and pressures toward uniformity. Compared
with their single-culture counterparts, multicultural teams are less likely to prematurely agree on a
decision. They are less likely to take part in such counterproductive groupthink behaviours as: selfcensorship of deviations from the apparent team consensus, shared illusion of unanimity concerning
judgements conforming to the majority view and direct pressure on any member who expresses strong
arguments against any of the team's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type
of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members.
More and Better Ideas
Due to the varied backgrounds present in multicultural teams, members create more ideas, alternatives,
and potential problem solutions than do homogeneous teams. Researchers have found that
heterogeneous teams also propose more inventive alternatives and higher quality solutions to
problems. However, heterogeneous teams only realize their potential when they adequately manage
the process problems associated with diversity.
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IV. SCIENTIFIC MODELS AS A BASIS OF ANALYSIS
1. MODELS PROVIDING COMPARABLE CATEGORIES FOR NATIONAL
CHARACTERISTICS
To explain variations, in the meaning organizations have for people working in them, we need to
consider variations in meanings for different cultures. If we can identify and compare categories of
culture that affect organizations, this will help us understand the cultural differences that must be
managed in international business. In every culture a limited number of general, universally shared
human problems need to be solved. One culture can be distinguished from another by the specific
solution it chooses for those problems.
1.1 Kluckhohn and F.L. Strodtbeck model
The anthropologists F. Kluckhohn and F.L. Strodtbeck identify five categories of problems arguing
that all societies are aware of all possible kinds of solution but prefer them in different orders. Hence
in any culture there is a set of "dominant", or preferred, value orientations. The five basic problems
mankind faces, according to this scheme, are as follows:
What is the relationship of the individual to others? (relational orientation)
What is the temporal focus of human life? (time orientation)
What is the modality of human activity? (activity orientation)
What is a human being's relation to nature? (man-nature orientation)
What is the character of innate human nature? (human-nature orientation)
In short, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck argue that mankind is confronted with universally shared
problems emerging from relationships with fellow beings, time, activities and nature. One culture can
be distinguished from another by the arrangement of the specific solutions it selects for each set of
problem situations. The solutions depend on the meaning given by people to life in general and to their
fellows, time and nature in particular. (6)
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1.2 Edward T. Hall: High-context and Low-context cultures
Edward T. Hall identified two classic dimensions of culture: high versus low context and polychronic
versus monochronic time orientation.
Firstly, he identified high-context and low-context cultures, where the high and low context concept is
primarily concerned with the way in which information is transmitted, that is to say communicated.
According to Hall, all “information transaction” can be characterised as high-, low - or middle context. High context transactions feature pre-programmed information that is in the receiver and in
the setting, with only minimal information in the transmitted message. Low context transactions are
the reverse. Most of the information must be in the transmitted message in order to make up for what
is missing in the context. (14)
The high/low context concept is one of the easiest concepts to witness in intercultural encounters. This
concept deals primarily with language, which is located in the outer layer of the ‘culture onion’ (see
Figure 3), and is one of the most widely-used concepts for any type of intercultural communication.
Although clearly it is not only the high/low context concept that makes communication difficult, the
high/low context concept may well play an important role in the difficulties encountered when a
person from a high context country, such as China, communicates with a person from a low context
country, such as Germany. Equally, mass communication is likely to be influenced by the high/low
context concept. In particular, it can be expected that the information content of advertising, for
example, is lower in high context cultures than low context cultures. (18)
Hall’s second concept, polychronic versus monochronic time orientation, deals with the ways in which
cultures structure their time. Similar to the high/low context concept, this concept is easy to
understand, but it lacks empirical data. The monochronic time concept follows the notion of “one
thing at a time”, while the polychronic concept focuses on multiple tasks being handled at one time,
and time is subordinate to interpersonal relations (see Table 4). (16)
1.3 Geert Hofstede's four dimensions of culture-related values
Prof. Geert Hofstede conducted perhaps the most comprehensive study of how values in the workplace
are influenced by culture. According to him, there is inequality in any society.
Even in the most simple hunter-gatherer band, some people are bigger, stronger, or smarter than
others. The next thing is that some people have more power than others: they are more able to
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determine the behaviour of others than vice versa. Some people acquire more wealth than others.
Some people are given more status and respect than others. Physical and intellectual capacities, power,
wealth, and status mayor may not go together. Successful athletes, artists, or scientists usually enjoy
status, but only in some societies do they enjoy wealth as well, and rarely do they have political
power. Politicians in some countries can enjoy status and power without wealth; businessmen, wealth
and power without status. Such inconsistencies between the various areas of inequality are often felt to
be problematic. In some societies, people try to resolve them by making the areas more consistent.
Sportsmen become professionals to become wealthy; politicians may exploit their power in order to do
the same; successful businessmen enter public office in order to acquire status. This trend obviously
increases the overall inequalities in these societies.
In other societies the dominant feeling is that it is a good thing, rather than problems, if a person’s
rank in one area does not match his/her rank in another. A high rank in one area should partly be offset
by a low rank in another. This process increases the size of the middle class in between those who
come out top in all respects, and those who lack any kind of opportunity. The laws in many countries
have been conceived to serve this ideal of equality by treating everybody as equal regardless of status,
wealth, or power; but there are few societies in which reality matches the ideal. (4)
The most widely known research in the attempt to compare national cultures in terms of broad value
differences is the pioneering work of Geert Hofstede. From his research with a very large sample of
employees from 50 countries and three regions within a single organization, IBM, Hofstede identified
four dimensions of work-related values.
These are power distance (PDI), uncertainty avoidance (UAI), individualism/collectivism (IDV) and
masculinity/femininity (MAS). The Belgian rates please see Figure 5. Values, according to Hofstede's
definition, are 'a broad tendency to prefer certain states of affairs over others'. These differences in
preferences, or values, have important implications for managers and organizations operating across
cultural borders.
Geert Hofstede added a fifth dimension after conducting an additional international study with a
survey instrument developed with Chinese employees and managers. That dimension, based on
Confucian dynamism, is long-term orientation and was applied to 23 countries. These five dimensions
can also be found to correlate with other country, cultural, and religious paradigms.
32
1.4 Fons Trompenaars`s five dimensions
Over a 10-year period, Trompenaars administered research questionnaires to over 15,000 managers
from 28 countries. The relative positions of each country for each of the dimensions that he defined
are based on the responses of at least 500 managers. Responses of 23 countries are included in his
analysis.
According to him the five dimensions that are most relevant to the business areas as follows:
universalism versus particularism/ societal versus personal obligation, individualism versus
collectivism/ personal versus group goals, neutral versus affective relationships/ emotional orientation
in relationships, specific versus diffuse relationships/ degree of involvement in relationships,
achievement versus ascription/ legitimation of power and status. The first four dimensions will
explicitly be discussed in the following chapter.
2. CULTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE BELGIANS SPECIFIC TO THE FRENCH
AND THE FLEMISH
2.1 Case specific set of dimensions
Out of the models mentioned in the last chapter I picked those factors that I consider relevant to the
case study I am describing in Chapter IV. I chose those dimensions that were most relevant for me
when observing the behaviour of the Flemish and the French in Belgium. In this chapter I elaborate the
dimensions I use as reference basis and describe their relevance on the Flemish and the French,
separately. I compare the culture of the two nationalities on the basis of the following set of factors:
power distance, universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism, neutral versus
affective relationships and specific versus diffuse relationships.
A. Power distance
The first dimension, power distance, Hofstede created as a concept. Power distance is the extent to
which inequality (a pecking order or hierarchy) is seen as an irreducible fact of life. It would condition
the extent to which employees accept that their boss has more power than they have and the extent to
33
which they accept that their boss's opinions and decisions are right ‘because’ he or she is the boss. A
low power distance organizational setting is one where employees accept that their boss has more
power and is right only when he or she knows the best way to do something and knows the correct
answers. (8)
In the larger power distance cultures superiors and subordinates consider each other as unequal; the
hierarchical system is felt to be based on some existential inequality. Indigenous organizations
centralize power and subordinates are expected to be told what to do. Superiors are believed to be
entitled in a high power distance culture. There are more visible signs of status, and contacts between
superiors and subordinates are supposed to be initiated only by superiors.
In smaller power distance situations subordinates and superiors consider each other as more equal; the
hierarchical system is just an inequality of roles, established for convenience and which may change
depending on the circumstances. Organizations have a tendency to become decentralized, with flatter
hierarchies and a limited number of supervisory personnel. Privileges for the top ranks are essentially
undesirable, and superiors are expected to be accessible to subordinates. Organizations more often
have in place ways of dealing with employee complaints about alleged power abuse. (7)
According to Hofstede`s study Belgium has a middle position on the scale where the power distance
scores are ranked. It is the twentieth out of the 53 countries listed on his scale, where the first country
is of largest and the last is of smallest power distance culture. This means that in general, people living
in Belgium have medium power distance and compound the two rather distinctive manners of the
Flemish and the French that end up in this medium state.
In general French employees show signs of high power distance, apparently, managers seen as making
decisions autocratically and paternalistically, close supervision is positively evaluated by subordinates
managers like to see themselves as benevolent decision-makers and higher- and lower-educated
employees hold similar values about authority. This culture’s characteristics are greater centralization
and steep organization pyramids. Hierarchy means existential inequality, superiors consider
subordinates as being of a different kind, subordinates consider superiors as being of a different kind,
power holders are entitled to privileges, power is a basic fact of society which antedates good or evil
and its legitimacy is irrelevant and powerful people should try to look as powerful as possible. It is
typical that there is stress on coercive and referent power and latent conflict between powerful and the
powerless, cooperation among the powerless is difficult to bring about because of low faith in people’s
norms and that the way to change a social system is by dethroning those in power and other people are
a potential threat to one's power and rarely can be trusted. (8)
34
Universally speaking, Flemish managers are – much like the Dutch - seen as making decisions after
consulting with the subordinates, they like to see themselves as practical and systematic; managers
admit a need for support and higher-educated employees hold much less authoritarian values than
lower-educated ones. This culture’s characteristics are the following: less centralization and flatter
organization pyramids, inequality in society should be minimized, all should be interdependent,
hierarchy means an inequality of roles and is established for convenience, the use of power should be
legitimate and is subject to the judgment between good and evil, all should have equal rights, powerful
people should try to look less powerful than they are, stress on reward, legitimate and expert power,
people at various power levels feel less threatened and more prepared to trust people and cooperation
among the powerless can be based on solidarity.
B. Universalism versus particularism
Universalism applies where people believe that what is true and good can be discovered, defined and
'applied' everywhere. Particularism is said to prevail where the unique circumstances and relationships
are more important considerations in determining what is right and good than abstract rules. A clear
example of this dimension in business is the role of the contract in different cultures. While weighty
contracts tend to be a way of life in universalist cultures, more particularist cultures tend to rely on
relationships with people they hold in high regard for enforcement of a deal. Encounters between
universalist and particularist business people may result in both sides being sceptical of each other's
trustworthiness.
In America is of course operating in a universalist culture. But even here a universalist solution has
run into particularist problems. This first dimension defines how we judge other people's behaviour.
There are two "pure" yet alternative types of judgment. At one extreme we encounter an obligation to
adhere to standards which are universally agreed to by the culture in which we live. At the other
extreme we encounter particular obligations to people we know. (7)
In this aspect the difference between the countries shows a separation between East and West, and
between North and South, notoriously the two divides that show up most in any global political or
organizational issue. Universalists are more common in protestant cultures, where the congregation
relates to God by obedience to His written laws. There are no human intermediaries between God and
His adherents, no one with the discretion to hear particular confessions, forgive sins or make special
allowances. Predominantly Catholic cultures retained these features of religion, which are more
relational and particularist. People can break commandments and still find compassion for their unique
circumstances. God for the Catholics is like them, moreover; He will probably understand that you
35
were lying for your friend. In this sense the Flemish are partly exceptional as approximately 75 per
cent of the population is catholic, however, their culture proves to be universalist as an inheritage from
the Dutch. The French are catholic in vast majority, so the general rules can be more easily adapted on
them.
Generally, The French are proven to be particularists, while the Flemish – just like the Dutch –
universalists in their behavior. According to Hofstede’s study on the horizontal scale where pure
universalism on one and pure particularism on the other end Belgium is located on that part that is
oriented towards universalism. Not that much like Germany or the Netherlands but much more than
France. They are, of course, in the middle between the Dutch and the French. (see Figure 5)
Flemish culture seems to be universalist as focus is more on rules than on relationships, legal contracts
are readily drawn up, a trustworthy person is the one who honours their 'word' or contract, there is
only one truth or reality, which has been agreed on and strictly speaking; a deal is a deal. Universalist
or rule-based, behaviour tends to be abstract. Try crossing the street when the light is red in a very
rule-based society like Switzerland or Germany. Even if there is no traffic you will still be frowned at.
It also tends to imply equality in the sense that all persons falling under the rule should be treated the
same. But situations are ordered by categories. For example if "others" to whom you "do unto" are not
categorized as human, the rules may not apply. Finally, rule-based conduct has a tendency to resist
exceptions that might weaken that rule. There is a fear that once you start to make exceptions for
illegal conduct the system will collapse. Countries with strongly universalist cultures try to use the
courts to mediate conflicts. The more universal the country, the greater the need for an institution to
protect the truth.
Generally, in the French culture focus is more on relationships than on rules, legal contracts are readily
modified, a trustworthy person is the one who honours changing circumstances, there are several
perspectives on reality relative to each participant and relationships evolve. Particularist judgments
focus on the exceptional nature of present circumstances. This person is not "a citizen" but my friend,
brother, husband, child or person of unique importance to me, with special claims on my love or my
hatred. I must therefore sustain, protect this person no matter what the rules say. (see Figure 7.)
Business people from both societies will tend to think each other corrupt. A universalist will say of
particularists "they cannot be trusted because they will always help their friends"; a particularist,
conversely, will say of universalists "you cannot trust them; they would not even help a friend". (14)
C. Individualism versus collectivism
36
Essentially this factor concerns how groups have resolved a problem of a person regarding himself or
herself primarily as an individual or as a part of a group. Furthermore, the question is that should
society focus on individuals so that they can contribute to society as and if they wish, or is it more
important to consider the collectivity first since it is shared by many individuals.
International management is seriously affected by individualist or collectivist preferences within
various countries. Negotiations, decision-making and motivation are the most critical areas. Practices
such as promotion for recognized achievements and pay-for-performance, assume that individuals
seek to be distinguished within the group and that their colleagues approve of this happening. They
also rest on the assumption that the contribution of anyone member to a common task is easily
distinguishable and that no problems arise from singling them out for praise. None of this may be true
in more collectivist cultures. (7)
As in the case of universalism and particularism it is probably truer to say that these dimensions are
complementary, not opposing, preferences. They can each be effectively reconciled by an integrative
process, a universalism that learns its limitations from particular instances, for example, and by the
individual voluntarily addressing the needs of the larger group.
Individualism is often regarded as the characteristic of a modernizing society, while collectivism
reminds us of both more traditional societies and the failure of the communist experiment. (6)
The individualistic Western world
Most of our received wisdom on this subject derives from the individualistic West, especially from
theorists writing in English. The capital letter I is one of the most used capitals in the English
language. So the idea that rising individualism is a part of the rise of civilization itself needs to be
treated as a cultural belief rather than a fact beyond dispute. Clearly, however, it took many centuries
for the individual to emerge from the surrounding collectivity. It is generally believed that the essence
of the relationship between the individual and society, at least in the West, has changed considerably
since the Renaissance. In earlier societies individuals were defined primarily in terms of their
surrounding collective: the family, the clan, the tribe, the city state or the feudal group.
Individualism and religion
There is considerable evidence that individualism and collectivism follows the Protestant-Catholic
religious divide. Calvinists had contracts or covenants with God and with one another for which they
37
were personally responsible. Each Puritan worshipper approached God as a separate being seeking
justification through works. Roman Catholics have always approached God as a community of the
faithful. Research has found that Catholics score higher on group choices and Protestants significantly
lower. Geert Hofstede's research confirms this; along with Asian cultures of the Pacific Rim score
lower on individualism than the Protestant West.
Individualism and politics
Individualism has been adopted or opposed by different political factions in the history of countries
and the strength of that ethic today depends greatly on the fortune of its advocates. It triumphed in
America but is still strongly opposed by the French Catholic tradition. Eighteenth-century France
though was exposed to the pleasures of individualism by Voltaire and Rousseau. Later in the 19th
century the French socialists pointed to the positive effects of individualism, while outlining a new
independence from traditional structures and rejecting the authority of religious economic and
intellectual hierarchies. French business may have been affected forever by the fact that the probusiness French liberal party was in power when France fell suddenly to the Nazis in 1940. (6)
According to Hofstede’s study Belgium is very much in the middle of the horizontal scale that has
pure individualism on one and pure universalism on the other end (see Figure 6).
The Flemish are typically individualists, in negotiations they more frequently use ‘I’ and ‘me’ than
‘us’, decisions typically made on the spot by a representative, people ideally achieve alone and assume
personal responsibility, holidays taken in pairs or even alone.
The vast majority of the people in the world live in societies in which the interest of the group prevails
over the interest of the individual. These societies are collectivist. It does not refer to the power of the
state over the individual but the power of the group. The workplace in a collectivist society may
become an ingroup in the emotional sense of the word. The relationship between the employer and the
employee is seen in moral terms and it resembles a family relationship with mutual obligations of
protection in exchange for loyalty. Poor performance of an employee is no reason for dismissal.
Performance and skills, however, do determine what tasks one assigns to an employee.
Among the French the more frequent use of 'we', decisions typically referred back by delegate to the
organization, people ideally achieve goals in groups which assume joint responsibility, holidays taken
in organized groups or with extended family is general. Within collectivist societies, the particular
group with which individuals choose to identify varies a great deal. It could be their trade union, their
family, their nation, their corporation, their religion, their profession or the state apparatus.
38
D. Neutral versus affective relationships
All human beings have emotions, but this dimension concerns the different contexts and ways that
cultures choose to express emotions. In affective cultures, expressing emotions openly is more
‘natural’, whereas in more neutral cultures people believe that emotions should be held in check so as
not to cloud issues or give the appearance of being out of control.
There is a tendency for neutral cultures to consider anger, delight or intensity in the workplace as
'unprofessional'. Conversely, affective cultures would probably regard their neutral colleagues as
emotionally dead, or as hiding their true feelings behind a mask of deceit. Americans tend to exhibit
emotion yet separate it from 'objective' and 'rational' decisions. On the other hand Dutch and Swedes
tend not to exhibit and to separate. The whole notion of rationality as a category of thought separate
from other kinds of thought and emotion is a particular cultural preference. It is clear that even
apparently scientific 'objectivity' cannot be separated from the particular cultural context in which it is
embedded. (7)
Reason and emotion are of course combined. In expressing ourselves we try to find confirmation of
our thoughts and feelings in the response of our audience. The indirect path gives us emotional support
contingent upon the success of an effort of intellect. The direct path allows our feelings about a factual
proposition to show through, thereby "joining" feelings with thoughts in a different way.
Degrees of affectivity in different cultures
Members of cultures which are affectively neutral do not telegraph their feelings but keep them
carefully controlled and subdued. In contrast in cultures high on affectivity people show their
emotions plainly by laughing, smiling, grimacing, scowling and gesturing; they attempt to find
immediate outlets for their feelings. We should be careful not to over-interpret such differences.
Neutral cultures are not necessarily cold or unfeeling, nor are they emotionally constipated or
repressed. The amount of emotion we show is often the result of convention. In a culture in which
feelings are controlled, irrepressible joy or grief will still signal loudly. In a culture where feelings are
amplified, they will have to be signalled more loudly still in order to register at all. In cultures where
everyone emotes, we may not find words or expressions adequate for our strongest feelings, since they
have all been used up.
39
The amount of visible "emoting" is a major difference between cultures. We may think that a
Frenchman who curses us in a traffic accident is truly enraged close to committing violence. In fact, he
may simply be getting his view of the facts in first and may expect an equal stream of vituperation
from us in return. He may, indeed, be further from violence as a result of this expression. There are
norms about acceptable levels of vehemence and these can be much higher in some countries than in
others.
As a special example in the USA the habit of using diminutives and nicknames, "smile" buttons,
welcome wagons and the speed with which cordial and informal relationships are made, all testify to
the need to remobilise in new neighbourhoods several times in a lifetime. This is a very different
experience from life in smaller countries like Sweden., the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and so on.
There it may be harder to avoid than to meet those of your generation with whom you grew up.
Friendships tend to start early in life and last many years, so the need to be effusive with relative
strangers is much less. (6)
In Hofstede's model, the willingness to express emotion is seen as part of uncertainty avoidance. In his
view, one reason for the need to manage uncertainty is a greater indigenous anxiety, a more prevalent
fear of the unknown; this implies greater emotional volatility and therefore expressiveness.
On Hofstede’s horizontal figure that measures neutrality versus affectivity Belgium is located
eventually exactly in the middle, while Dutch and French culture are both tending to be rather
affective than neutral (see Figure 8).
The French is a typically affective culture, people in many cases show immediate reactions either
verbally or non-verbally, expressive face and body signals, at ease with physical contact and raise their
voice readily.
The Flemish are traditionally neutral in this sense and the following manners are typical of them;
opaque emotional state, do not readily express what they think or feel embarrassed or awkward at,
discomfort with physical contact outside 'private' circle and subtle in verbal and non-verbal
expressions.
E. Specific versus diffuse relationships
This dimension deals with the degree of involvement individuals are comfortable with in dealing with
other people. Every individual has various levels to their personality, from a more public level to the
40
inner, more private level. However, there can be cultural differences in the relative size of people's
public and private 'spaces' and also in the degree to which they feel comfortable sharing those parts of
their personality with other people. In more specific cultures, Trompenaars says people tend to have a
larger public area and a smaller private area. They prefer to keep their private life separate, guarding it
very closely. In more diffuse cultures, the private space is usually larger, while the public area is
smaller and somewhat more carefully guarded. (7)
While diffuse cultures, for example the Flemish, may come across as cool initially, once in the more
closely guarded public space, the private space is more accessible than in specific cultures. In other
words, the whole individual tends to be involved in relationships is diffuse culture.
Doing business with a culture more diffuse than your own appears very time consuming. In specific
cultures, business can be done in a mental subdivision called 'commerce' or 'work', which is kept apart
from the rest of life. In diffuse cultures, everything is connected to everything else. Your business
partner may wish to know where you went to school, which your friends are, what you think of life,
politics, art, literature and music. This is not 'a waste of time' because such preferences reveal
character and form friendships. They also make deception near to impossible. The initial investment in
building relationships is as important, if not more so, as the deal in these cultures. More 'closed' public
space, but, once in, more 'open' private space, appears indirect, closed and introvert, often evades
issues and 'beats about the bush', low mobility, work and private life are closely linked, consistent in
approach, especially with use of titles.
The French are much more specific in this sense and they tend to have a larger public area and a
smaller private area. They have a large circle of acquaintances they have dinner together with and with
whom they organize mutual programs but they do not consider their friends. They have the need to
maintain these official or non-official relationships with a certain circle of people to have the feeling
of being socialized. On the other hand, just a few of these acquaintances can be considered real
friends.
According to Hofstede’s study Belgium is located rather in the direction of the specific end on the
scale where most specific culture is on the one and diffuse culture is on the other end (see Figure 9).
(6 )
41
2.2 Summary on national characteristics
French
Power Distance
Flemish
Low power distance with less
High power distance with
centralisation and flat
greater centralisation and steep
organizational pyramid
organizational pyramid
Universalism versus
Focus is more on rules than on
Focus is more on relationships
Particularism
relationships
than on rules
Individualism versus
•
Collectivism
•
Specific versus Diffuse
•
relationships
•
People achieve alone
•
People achieve in
and assume personal
groups which assume
responsibility
joint responsibility
Individual working and
•
Mutual work and
spending free minutes
spending free time in
alone
groups
Subtle in verbal and
•
Show immediate
non-verbal expressions
reactions verbally and
No not express readily
non-verbally
what thinks or feels
•
Expressive face and
body signals and at
ease with physical
contact
•
Neutral versus Affective
More ‘open’ public space and
More ‘closed’ private space but,
relationships
more ‘closed’ private space
once in, more ‘open’ private
space
42
V. CASE STUDY
1. SUMMARY
Between August 2006 and March 2007 I was doing my graduation assignment at ESTRO and
EQUAL-ESTRO in Brussels, Belgium and I kindly invite my reader to pay attention to the
observations I made. The companies work closely together and employ altogether 17 people and an IT
company is hired as a subcontractor of ESTRO and works part-time together with them. The
nationalities of the employees are mixed, Flemish and French people work together. In the following I
am not calling the latter Walloons as I have never met any of them considering him or herself a
Walloon – according to them they are French.
The employees at my hosting companies had significant difficulties working together, cooperating
with each other and creating a pleasant office atmosphere that motivates them to work more likely and
to do a better job. It was visible that the contradiction is mainly between the members of the two
nationalities – intentionally I do not call them ethnicities as they regard themselves different
nationalities and not two ethnicities of one nation. Nevertheless, the appearance of this conflict is not
unique for the company, it leads back to an overall phenomenon in Belgium and this made me look
into it more thoroughly.
The report gives an overview on the hosting companies ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO, the jobs and
employees at the companies, the way I received the job offer and the tasks I had, the behavioural
patterns of the leaders and the staff’s approach towards the leadership. I go into details regarding the
characteristics of the Flemish and the French nationalities and the possible reasons and areas that make
them have difficulties with working together. Therefore I am using an individually created managerial
model that analyses and compares their characteristics based purely on my observations. Supporting
my assumptions I give examples and stories that happened to me personally or reported by others, I
include in the assignment the opinion of both nationalities about the conflict based on private
discussions with the members of both groups and also with people that live in Brussels but are not
members of any of them. As I was in connection with several expatriates, the so called ‘expats’, they
expressed their own views about the ‘Belgians’. I include their stories and opinions that I learned
during private talks, too.
43
The principal question to be answered is where exactly the problem lies preventing the Flemish and
the French from working effectively together and what can help them do so. As the leaders are the
ones being able to make changes towards this aim, the problem brings a managerial question to life.
The desired situation would be to find a way to bring the two nationalities together in a peaceful and
tolerant business environment, which makes efficient mutual work possible and has an enhancing
impact on the employees. I am drawing up a solution, which was successful in the case of EQUALESTRO and therefore is also well expected to deliver the same results for ESTRO. This gives an
answer to the problem on the micro level.
The objective of the report is to describe the existing problematic situation at ESTRO, find the reasons
and the weak points in the managerial system and to show a possible solution that could work out as
well as possible.
2. AIM OF RESEARCH
The definition of the company problem is the following: the ESTRO staff faces problems with building
an effectively working team due to personal acceptance problems from the employees’ side. People do
not show a tendency to formulate a group and thus the office atmosphere does not support a fruitful
cooperation regarding business issues. Everyday controversies and malicious rumours are typical of
the group. Recently numerous colleagues resigned and changed for another company but stayed in the
same jobs.
The problem analysis shows that the above mentioned problems mostly derive from the fact that
Flemish and French employees work closely together in the office and are dependent on each other to
some extent in terms of work-related issues. The experienced conflicts show some similarity to the
appearing processes in the Belgian society, as Brussels is a melting pot for both legal nationalities of
the country with a significant number of citizens of foreign countries hosted.
Another reason for the crisis is a wrongly chosen management style and lack of attention from the
director’s side. This leads to dissatisfaction among the staff members and the feeling of being left
alone with the sensitive issues I will describe in the following.
44
Recognizing the situation, the top manager chose a new direction and a solution is being adapted.
Employees from foreign countries can help to formulate a smoothly cooperating working group with
much less controversies.
The description of my assignment and the definition of my activities in solving the company problem
are the following: my main task at EQUAL-ESTRO is the organization, control and monitoring of the
quality check of two clinical trials in the field of radiotherapy treatment. This job includes collecting
and processing data and communicating them to the relevant places.
The company had just started this activity of providing quality check for clinical trials when I joined,
so I used both primary and secondary sources of information to get trained for the job. As my
colleagues were changing all the time I could gather a lot of experience in how the group content and
the management influence the quality of work.
In my assignment, I want to dig deeper and see the sources of the appearing problems and draw the
light on the solution that ESTRO has chosen to abridge those old inevitable controversies lying under
the surface. This solution is based on the positive experiences of EQUAL-ESTRO.
3. TOOLS OF RESEARCH
As I was working as a full-time employee at ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO I was member of the staff
and an accepted colleague. I spent my time with the colleagues, had lunch together, took part in the
social gatherings and to a certain extent I was integrated in the social network of the staff. Therefore I
was trusted to be present at private conversations and had the chance to ask every colleague any
questions that occurred to me. I conducted several in-depth interviews with Flemish, French and
foreign people that live and work in Brussels. As Belgians and non-Belgians in Belgium are very open
it was quite easy and effortless to make them express their views for me, especially when it went about
the national conflicts and personal dislike. They turned to me with an open and helpful attitude.
I was taking notes in conflict situations and of the announcements and private opinion of the
employees. I was also using scientific literature to understand the background of the happenings better.
I circulated a questionnaire among the members of the staff the answers of which I have used in my
analysis. All the ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO employees were subject of my survey. The questions
45
included are related to my individual set of factors used in the description of the characteristics of the
French and Flemish nationalities. (see Appendix 1.)
All staff members were also examined by a Cultural Test measuring their cultural intelligence. The
results I also include in the assignment. (see Appendix 2.)
Furthermore I was offered the right to access a bunch of the company documents and use them as data
source. Besides this as I was working for the company I gained an overall insight of the organization,
activities, market situation and objectives of the company as well as the personnel and their exact
fields of activities, working culture, personal attitudes and norms and the company culture and shared
values.
4. PREFACE
I would like to express my special thanks to Jean-Xavier Hallet for his efforts and his patience to
educate me how to fight business battles and acted as my tutor during my working weeks. His trust
and belief in me helped me above all.
There was a specific problem that I faced at ESTRO at the first moment: the hardship of being
accepted in the circle of colleagues. Each click in the office wants the newcomer to “win for itself” but
if he/she does not show unconditional commitment, it is very difficult to feel being part of the team.
5. INTRODUCTION
Brussels is a very unique place to live and even more unique to work. It consists of three types of
people; the French, the Flemish and the expats. The Flemish and the French have historical conflict
that makes common life hard in general. As the capital is located in the Flemish part of the country,
they feel that the French with their absolute majority (approximately 95 per cent French-speaking
inhabitants in Brussels) invaded their territory. Both nationalities can hardly tolerate and find the
presence of the numerous immigrants and expats threatening. They are most of the time well-educated,
professionally competent and can take the jobs of the Belgians in any moment. There is an EU
regulation in force that prescribes that a Belgian company cannot employ a foreigner unless he proves
46
that there was no competent applicant from any of the EU countries for the same job. As this
administrative process is very time-consuming, foreign workers are not very welcome by many of the
Belgian companies. Another Belgian rule exists, non-written rule though, which says that a Belgian
company employs an applicant only if he/she speaks French as well as Flemish and Flemish
companies hire only those people speaking good Flemish.
After some occasions of working for ESTRO as a hostess on the conferences organized by the
company, I received their job offer for the time of compulsory work placement period required by the
Budapest Business School. When I was hired, the company needed help in doing the administration
and auxiliary work that no one has the time to do, to stamp envelopes and copy documents, etc.
Approximately on the third day the director of EQUAL-ESTRO, Jean-Xavier Hallet recognized that I
could possibly fill in the lack he has in his company. First he needed help during the three weeks his
only employee was on holiday. That was in the infant phase of EQUAL-ESTRO when the projects
have just started.
6. ABOUT THE COMPANIES: ESTRO AND EQUAL-ESTRO
6.1 My field of activities
I worked as a clinical trial executive at EQUAL-ESTRO. EQUAL-ESTRO is denominated to provide
external quality assurance for clinical trials in the field of radiotherapy in cancer treatment. In each
phase of a clinical study organized by a pharmaceutical company there is an essential need for an
external body of experts that ensures that every step is made correctly and no mistakes are done in
treating the patients. EQUAL-ESTRO is involved only in the radio therapeutic and oncological parts
of the studies, as the experts are involved in the field of radiotherapy.
I was occupied with the overall organization of two clinical studies. One study involved 8 hospitals
treating 62 patients and the other study involved 126 hospitals with 1064 patients. My job as a project
manager was to collect all relevant data about the hospitals, doctors and other employees involved and
machines used in the trial and organize the filing and processing of these data as well as to carry out
the medical and monitoring activities according to various study protocols and expectations of the
business partners. Our business partners were Glaxo Smith Kline and GENMAB.
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The work also consisted of following up with the hospitals to deliver data, with business partners to
cooperate and help the process with freelance doctors having contract with the company to meet all
deadlines and previously set requirements and follow the predetermined process. There was a very
thorough reporting procedure implemented by which all EQUAL-ESTRO activities were screened and
monitored to the smallest details.
The job was complex and bared overall responsibility and required a creative executive as this field
was brand new for the company and EQUAL-ESTRO had just started with the organization of clinical
trials some month before I joined them. Thus I had had to invent a way I organize the work and gather
information from internal and external sources as well in order to implement an effective working
system and method with which all parties are satisfied.
I took part in two clinical study education meetings that introduced me to the clinical trials I was
working on and in the pre-organization and on-the-spot activities of an eight-days-long International
Radiooncology and radiotherapy Meeting organized by ESTRO in Leipzig in October 2007.
6.2 ESTRO, the Association
The European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ESTRO), was founded in Milano in
September 1980. As a non-profit society of individual members working in the field of radiotherapy
and oncology its principal objectives are to foster radiation oncology, to develop standards for the
quality assurance of radiation oncology, radiophysics, radiation technology and radiobiology in
Europe and stimulate their implementation. The organization is also committed to improve the
standards of cancer treatment by establishing radiation oncology as a clinical specialty integrated with
other cancer treatment modalities, to promote international exchange of scientific information on
radiotherapy and oncology and related fields of science such as radiophysics and radiobiology, to set
standards for education and practice in radiation oncology and associated professions and to establish
relationships and cooperation with international, regional and national societies and bodies in the field
of radiation oncology.
ESTRO is a member of the Federation of European Cancer Society, which is a unique umbrella
organization gathering all the disciplines involved in research and treatment of cancer. The Federation
of European Cancer Societies is an international non-profit association that co-ordinates collaboration
between European societies active in different fields of cancer research, prevention and treatment with
the ultimate goal of providing the best possible treatment and care for all European cancer patients.
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ESTRO has developed a multi-layered co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) including joint research for the development of quality assurance techniques, agreements to
share the responsibility for auditing dosimetric accuracy in radiation in Europe. It is engaged in a
strategic partnership with Nuclear Medicine, the Joint Research Centres of the European Commission,
some radiation protection agencies and the industrial sector of radionuclide producers and distributors.
The aim of the European Union is to safeguard the provision in radionuclides for medical applications
was broadened to cover other fields of shared interest such as education, research on the basis of
genetic variability in individual radiosensitivity, quality assurance and incident reporting. ESTRO
supports scientific and educational events outside its main geographical area either through formal
endorsement or by joining forces with international bodies pursuing the same goals in developing
countries. Its main efforts are geared towards the newly independent states and Russia. (19)
ESTRO is involved in six ongoing projects that receive financial support from the European
Commission and there are further ones in the pipeline. These aim to develop education programmes
for Radiation Therapy Technologists both within and outside the European Community, to increase
the confidence level of clinicians for delivering optimized radiotherapy treatment for the patients and
to create a data base with full documentation of the tissues of all patients suffering from cancer.
The association has a group of employees that work on managing its activities and organizing its
scientific meetings, events and teaching courses, releasing scientific publications and control the
scientific projects founded by the Commission. The ESTRO staff is based in Brussels, Belgium and
counts sixteen employees. These people are placed in one office and work daily together next to the
ULB University and Hospital in the outskirts of the city. The composition of the staff according to
their age and gender is the following:
Number of mail employees
Age brackets
French
Number of female employees
Flemish
25-40
4
2
40-55
3
2
55-
3
2
The table is complete with me and the employees of DMD, who are not constantly working in the
ESTRO office thus cannot be considered staff members - that is why I did not include them.
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It is important to mention the general trend of the consistency of nationalities in the staff in the past
nine years. Until nine years ago, the association employed only Flemish people. Since the first French
employee arrived, the Flemish were replaced by French or foreign employees most of the time. At the
moment the proportion is reversed and the Flemish are in vast minority in the staff.
French, Flemish and foreign employees at ESTRO are seated mixed in the office: the colleagues
responsible for education sit together (three French persons and two Flemish), the event organizers as
well (two French) and the financial experts as well (one French and one Flemish) and the rest of the
employees are also placed close to them. This created a situation where they need to communicate
during the day and it is impossible to ignore each other even is they have a problem.
6.3 EQUAL-ESTRO offering external audit in radiotherapy
The European Commission issued a directive concerning Medical Exposures, which emphasizes the
need for comprehensive clinical audit. External audit as one cornerstone of quality assurance is well
established and has already become a necessary requirement for radiotherapy centers in some
countries. European Union member states have to implement EC directives in their national
legislations. In 1997, the European Commission enacted a new directive 97/43/EURATOM on the use
of ionizing radiation in medical practices (20 MED-directive). It is also gradually becoming a legal
requirement. One of the major new concepts introduced by this directive is Clinical Audit, which is
expected to be of high importance for the improvement of the quality of all medical radiation practices
(diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy). By definition, Clinical Audit means "a
systematic examination or review of medical radiological procedures which seeks to improve the
quality and the outcome of patient care, through structured review whereby radiological practices,
procedures, and results are examined against agreed standards for good medical radiological
procedures, with modifications of the practices where indicated and the application of new standards if
necessary". As for the detailed contents and practical organization of this "structured review", the EU
member states are given freedom for interpretation, because the MED directive requires only that
clinical audits shall be carried out "in accordance with national procedures".
The practical approaches and methodologies to meet this demand are still being developed at national
and European levels, but one necessary part of such clinical audit in radiotherapy is for quality audit of
radiotherapy dose and some EU countries are already beginning to implement this requirement by
inclusion in national legislation; for example, France has developed a legal requirement for external
audit, which is now a practical reality. It is likely that other EU states will follow. The existing
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EQUAL-ESTRO laboratory with its expertise and experience in this area is offering a service to the
whole of Europe.
EQUAL-ESTRO takes efforts to improve accuracy in dosimetry to achieve better agreement between
prescribed and delivered radiation dose. This is of great importance as a too low dose might reduce the
possibility for cure while a too high dose might result in serious radiation induced morbidity. EQUALESTRO provides an independent verification at some critical points of the consistency of the
application of quality assurance programs and standards between different centres. Such an external
validation, or audit, is necessary to ensure good agreement between radiotherapy centres in terms of
the basic statements of dose delivered to patients and to minimize the uncertainties at these critical
levels. This in turn is necessary for confidence that the radiotherapy treatment doses provided to all
patients is consistently the same, for recording of treatment outcomes and for sharing of clinical
experience between centres and countries. As a by-product, it ensures that the probability of
systematic problems and potential accidents is reduced and a practical solution has been the use of a
technique called "postal dosimetry", where the assessments are carried out through irradiation of
thermoluminescent dosimeters mailed to the hospitals and evaluation of the results at a central quality
assurance laboratory that was set up in Paris. (21)
6.4 ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO
As ESTRO has had an activity - among many others – to offer external audit for radiotherapy in the
health sector of the EU. To cover these expenses the money was given by the EU that had split the
money dedicated for atomic defence into three parts for three sectors: national defence, atom energy
and health. After 11 September 2003 the money was drawn away from the health sector to be
distributed in the remaining two sectors. As the subventions were taken away ESTRO had two options
to choose; to quit the provision of quality assurance services or change for a profit-oriented profile and
to offer its services for money. ESTRO has ensured that a high quality service is available to all its
members and has a strong interest in making sure that this is continued.
Since the time ESTRO receives no further financial support from the European Commission for
EQUAL-ESTRO activities, the available dosimetric checks can no longer be free. It is strictly
prescribed within the EU that all radiotherapy machines have to be checked by a third party. Among
all, only France applies this regulation – and is very strict about it - thus ESTRO is in a monopole
situation in this segment of the French market. After the application of the new law Michel Taillet, the
director of ESTRO, had the impression that it would be prosperous to create a profit-earning company
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providing full set of quality assurance programs for hospitals and other companies. However, for
ESTRO and its members the EQUAL-ESTRO laboratory and its activities are an important resource to
foster and improve radiotherapy quality and external audit is one prerequisite with the aim of
promoting safer radiotherapy and participating in the harmonization of the European regulations for
Quality Assurance (QA) in radiotherapy, the members of the association are not all happy with it.
They oppose the existence and activities of EQUAL-ESTRO because it is unpleasant for them that
money interferes in their milieu and their network based on social relations. The members of the
association are not happy with the fact that an external party is checking their work and EQUALESTRO’s approval is needed for being allowed to operate.
EQUAL-ESTRO is a company established as a legally separate entity from ESTRO taking advantage
of its reputation, expertise and funds and deals in the provision of QA programs for radiotherapy on
the international market. EQUAL-ESTRO is a monopoly in France because they have the full variety
of services to offer and on the top of it, reputation and knowledge is combined as inherited from the
honoured European association. Thus the members of ESTRO are not happy with the existence of
EQUAL-ESTRO. Now EQUAL-ESTRO is the financial backup for ESTRO, which enables the
association to finance far more projects than it could afford after the withdrawal of money support
from the Union, and acts very successfully in this field.
According to the division between the two companies they have separate offices and as a consequence
of the fact that the two companies are so close in terms of business interest and there is one chief
executive director of the two, there is only a glass window between ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO and
a door that is never closed. This made it possible for me to have an insight in the life of the ESTRO
staff when working apparently for EQUAL-ESTRO. The employees of both regularly have lunch
together inside or outside the office and the Christmas and birthday lunches are also organized
combining the two groups of people.
6.5 MANAGERIAL APPROACH AT ESTRO
Michel Taillet, the director of ESTRO applies a horizontal type of management structure at the
company. The pyramid is very flat and there is only one head standing high on the top - it is him. He
has unquestionable power and everyone refers to him if a decision has to be made or permission given.
There is no action taken without his consent. The ones he favours are legally allowed to have better
working conditions and more remuneration than others. In this case the French autocratic power is
combined with the Flemish equality among the employees in the organizational structure. Mr. Taillet
is very open and direct – like each staff member - as it is a common feature in Belgium. They call you
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on your first name and you can talk about any topics you like in the office. I did not notice the staff
would have taboos or have strict norms determining what you can talk about in the office and in what
way.
Mr Taillet in his leadership combines the following two approaches: the relationship- and the taskoriented approach. He is relationship-oriented in dividing the tasks and responsibilities among the
employees and not setting up a centralized monitoring system, but self-control is typical from the
employees’ side. He is – on the other hand – following the performance of each employee closely and
regards good results and successful performance outstandingly important. Having human values and
being accepted by the staff combined with a poor work performance is not enough to be considered a
successful employee. Besides this, he decides individually about numerous issues and expects the staff
in an autocratic way to implement his ideas. Mr. Taillet is very cooperative with the subordinates: their
ideas are welcome; he asks for comments regarding most of the company issues and shares the reasons
for his decisions with the staff. The best example for this statement is the way he organized the longterm objectives of the company after he was appointed to be the director. Mr. Taillet asked each
employee at the company where they see the weak points of ESTRO, what they lack in the
organization and what actions should be taken – all recommendations and ideas of the colleagues were
executed in the past years as they reported.
Mr. Taillet has created a management system based on his already existing employees and changes job
descriptions according to their abilities and preferences – instead of seeking the adequate employees
for well-defined jobs. His central idea he builds his staff on is the trustworthiness. Usually his
preference is given to hiring relatives because working with people one already knows reduces risks.
Also, relatives are concerned about the reputation of the family, help to correct misbehaviour of a
family member, more cooperative and more dedicated than others.
As Mr. Taillet is most of the time away from the office, all employees do their daily work
independently from him and most of the time from each other. The people responsible for education
have their own tasks and projects to do, the event-organizers are working in a different field and the
financial department and the IT group also does its job separately. In the ESTRO office there are also
desks for the people of an IT company called DMD. They are responsible for the quality work of the
computer system in the office and during conferences. Mr. Taillet’s philosophy is to give a free hand
and trust to all staff members, does not control them on a regular basis and does not give a scheme to
follow when completing a project. His motto was: “Do it your own way and if you succeed, I
appreciate your work.”
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The above mentioned positive approach is very incentive for some employees, who have such a
personality that needs it and that can handle this total freedom and being left alone. The employees at
the education and teaching courses are ready for it and enjoy it very much. The event organizer group that now consists of a head and an assistant and will expand soon – is also happy with their freedom,
as there is one person to hold to overview and control the processes. On the other hand the two
employees at the financial department do not get on very well and cannot work together and there is
nobody to communicate with DMD in the proper way to give them the right requests to be able to
deliver what is required from them. The assistant of Mr. Taillet is always feeling left alone with all
that needs to be done, as well. Thus it is obvious that not all the employees enjoy these laissez-faire
circumstances. Mr. Taillet found a solution with DMD: hiring a French IT person on the behalf of
ESTRO who is responsible for the communication. It seems to work out.
The open-door policy Mr. Taillet followed seemed to ease these problems and people could turn to
him in case it was needed. In the first weeks of my job he regularly walked around the office chatting
with the colleagues, discussing current matters. “Basically, that is all I do”- he said in a funny way.
His office door was open for anybody. He also encouraged the employees to eat together in the kitchen
to form a community that lives together during the day. His attitude has apparently changed after the
reconstruction works in the office. The change must have started earlier and was a long process but the
physical appearance of the new situation was obvious for the staff after the off ice reconstruction. He
has decided to change his office, with his assistant at the entrance that stops everyone without an
appointment and he is usually too busy to walk around to have personal contact with the employees.
The reason for the change in his attitude can be a failure experienced in another association, where he
was interim director – and was not able to keep his position and act successfully. This triggered him to
be more distant and strict with his employees at ESTRO.
The company culture Mr. Taillet created was – „Dionysus Culture” – according to Charles Handy’s
four-fold division of `The Gods of Management', a classification of the internal philosophies and
organisational cultures of management systems, which he bases on analogy with four of the leading
gods of Greek mythology. (Dionysus was the god of wine and song, and represented a self-orientated
and self-motivated existential ideology amongst the Greek pantheon.) According to this company
culture emphasis is significantly on individualism and not on the organisation; the organisation
enables the individual to achieve, not the other way round. Due to a change in his management
approach he changed for a more autocratic and centralized leading style and adopts the “Zeus Culture”
and can be characterized as entrepreneurial, power oriented, non-bureaucratic, often little in the way of
formal organisation. (Zeus, the patron God, was the centre of things, charismatic, feared and respected,
and controlled by alternating destructive thunderbolts when displeased and with showers of gold when
seducing.) All lines of communication lead, formally or informally, to the leader or sub-leaders. (22)
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Mr. Taillet has changed the one flat pyramid with only one leader into three smaller pyramids, all
steep ones with three sub-leaders on the top – and the director remained Mr. Taillet. Three separated
divisions have been created with separate field of activities and well-defined hierarchy under the
umbrella of ESTRO and all employees have to report directly to the sub-leaders. This organizational
structure is very different from the former one and the former staff members are not happy with the
changes, however, for the newcomers the structure is acceptable as it is.
7. NATIONALITY CHARACTERISTICS
Using the studies of Prof. Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars I created my scientific model to
characterize the culture of the two nationalities on the basis of the following case specific set of
dimensions: power distance, universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism,
neutral versus affective relationships and specific versus diffuse relationships. The features I mention
about the Flemish and the French are no stereotypes, only observations that I made personally or my
acquaintances did. My purpose is to find those points in the cultures that differ and could possibly
make friction among their members.
7.1 Power distance
The first dimension, power distance, conditions the extent to which employees accept that their boss
has more power than they have and the extent to which they accept that their boss's opinions and
decisions are right ‘because’ he or she is the boss. The basic question is: how convinced are people
that differences in power are given and accepted?
I combine this concept with the idea of uncertainty avoidance as the two usually go together; one dares
to express your disagreement only if you do not dread further consequences. Here the question is: do
employees feel afraid to disagree with their managers?
The French employees:
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They regard higher authority as something they publicly cannot confront with. They very much
respect their boss and would never express that his orders are not good. The most powerful step they
make is that they suggest doing what he asks another way. If the superior does not agree, they will do
as he likes. They never confront with the manager, avoid conflict situations and use a diplomatic
smiling mask. In the case of four employees it is true that on the surface they do not disagree and ‘beat
around the bush’ but in their own click in the office, during private conversations they do. As an
outsider you can experience a normal atmosphere between them and the director and the complains
stay within the supporters’ circle, the group of colleagues that agree with him/her and criticize each
step taken by the leader and the ones having the power. These employees constantly feel overburdened
and abused - independent of any conditions.
Three French employees feel so unsatisfied in their positions; they search for a new job. They have
been seeking for several years but they do not announce it officially. Below the surface they make sure
the director knows about their intentions though. This kind of threatening behaviour has not ended up
in the resignation of any of them is the past years.
Other five French employees are satisfied with their working conditions, find challenges and diversity
in their jobs and plan to stay with the company in the long term.
The Flemish employees:
The five Flemish employees at ESTRO recognize and accept the superior having the power and
respect him upon his expertise. For the Flemish the exceptional skills and the success in the business
are most important features of their superior and their feeling of respect is based on accepting his
expertise and experience. They accept a chief when they see that the he is an outstandingly good
expert and manages the company better than anyone else.
They were raised in an individualistic way that they always have the right to think and express their
point of view. The Flemish people – especially the highly educated ones - are not easy to control and
this derives from the flat organization pyramid they are used to. Of four employees out of five it is
typical that if they do not like an idea, order or rule, they go directly to the boss and tell him in his face
what they do not like and how they would like to have it changed. If they are asked to take an action,
first they have to be persuaded to do so. If they do not agree, they simply will not do it until they
discuss with the one giving the order. Most of the time they are very strongly convinced that the idea
they suggest is better than the order given and they want theirs to be implemented. Even if they honour
their superior, they do not have the view that he is unerring and have the self-confidence to consider
their ideas better than his. In general they do not fear the consequences of contravening to their
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superior because they are secured by a set of laws and regulations and they are very much aware of
their rights.
In practice, these four people disagree frequently with the higher authority and have a tendency to see
all situations as a question of being fair to someone. As to my experiences they find some kind of
pleasure in fighting for justice; for their and others’ rights. They take these cases personally and
continue the discussions on the partly business and partly personal matters outside the office as well –
as for them it is not purely business anymore. These Flemish employees, if needed, support each other
against higher authority because they consider equality very important. They appear to formulate small
“trade unions” and demonstrate for their rights not thinking about the consequences as the desire for
protecting their ideas is normally stronger.
There is one Flemish person in the office that does not join the group of the Flemish at ESTRO and
their group norms do not apply to her.
They do not practice the French way of threatening the management with their resignation. In the case
of Flemish employees wanted to leave the company they informed the director about their intentions
and the reasons. Thus they gave it another chance to enhance change. As they realized that it will not
come true, they actually resigned.
In general in ESTRO it is not a practice to fire employees with a long history at the company – this is
the fundamental idea Mr. Taillet follows. Colleagues reported that they hardly know about anyone
having been dismissed. A former colleague in an honoured position was even accused with stealing
money and the process of dismissal from the position of the director was very discreet and diplomatic.
7.2 Universalism versus particularism
In this aspect the principal question is: which has the greatest impact – the rule of law or the person
who makes it? Universalism applies where people believe that what is true and good can be
discovered, defined and 'applied' everywhere. Particularism is said to prevail where the unique
circumstances and relationships are more important considerations in determining what is right and
good than abstract rules.
The best example that shows the difference in this aspect is the daily routine the employees follow in
the office, the time schedules they have and how they keep the office rules. The general rule at
ESTRO is that work starts at 9 am until 5 pm with lunch break excluded. This means that the time of
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having lunch expands the working hours. Mr. Taillet is not strict in this sense and, in practice, people
possibly can alter these rules as they fancy. There is a great difference in how the two nationalities
approach this unwritten possibility.
The French employees:
In general, they seem to use this chance to act however they want. The French employees enjoy the
freedom and understand the rule as something they change the way they want. The performance is of
greatest importance for them. They expand the fringe of the rules as far as they are allowed by their
superior and never further because they accept his authority. As long as he does not complain, they can
go their own way.
Six of them arrive in the office constantly later than 9 am and leave later than 5 pm. In some cases an
employee did not even come to the office for one day and worked from home. This person considers
his job project-based that can be delivered according to his own discretion. Some of the French
colleagues have also the concession to skip half a day every week for out-of-office matters and work
those hours on other days when needed.
In general French people come to the office at 9.30-10 am and stay until 6 pm. There are two persons
living outside of Brussels, they come later than the French average – at around 11 o’clock or even later
and therefore stay in later as well. They all have long-lasting personal and professional chats in the
office, talk on the phone for personal matters and sometimes go out to the gym in the lunch break.
They most of the time have a peaceful lunch in a restaurant or in the canteen of the university in the
neighbourhood, which takes them approximately an hour or more.
In order to compensate their individual approach to the set rules they regularly work from home and
stay extra hours in the office if needed. They are very flexible and work on weekends if a teaching
course is organized or their help is needed by the company.
Another good example that supports the French particularist attitude is Mr. Taillet’s decision to
change his management style, the physical projection of which is the reorganization of his office. The
ones he favours will always be welcome to enter his office, while the others will be asked to wait for
an appointment – this is a case where rules are of less importance than the decision of the boss.
The Flemish employees:
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Each of the five Flemish employees in the office keep themselves to the prescribed working hours and
are very much disturbed by the freedom of the others. Rules are very important and were made to keep
to them. They consider the attitude of the French negligence towards their work and disrespect
towards their colleagues that take the job serious. The Flemish feel offended seeing their French
colleagues arriving late in the morning and think that they are disordered and lazy to get up early in the
morning.
They focus on their work and see the office as a place to work rather than to chat. They have private
discussions as well but not as long as the French. They have shorter lunch breaks and usually stay
inside the office. This basically has two reasons: gastronomy is not as important for them as for the
others and they are satisfied to eat sandwich for lunch and staying inside the office takes less time so
they can go home earlier. It is always them who leave the office first and most of the time when saying
goodbye to the others they mention that they have been working since early morning. They are also
not satisfied if they have to do overtime and take work to their homes.
In some cases they also enjoy the advantages of the exemptions Mr. Taillet gives the employees time
by time but tend to reduce the number of these occasions as much as possible. At least they do not like
to make these exemptions public as they believe that hard work requires everyone keeping themselves
to the rules.
In general it is a problematic part of the mutual work between the two nationalities that they have a
different view about work. On the other hand there are other reasons for the two groups of nationalities
not to eat at the same place and regard the altering point of view of the others valueless and irritating.
The root of these reasons can be found in the stereotyping tension of the entire society.
7.3 Individualism versus collectivism
Essentially this factor concerns how groups have resolved a problem of a person regarding himself or
herself primarily as an individual or as part of a group. The question is which carries more weight –
the individual or the group?
In the ETSRO office environment both nationalities have a desire to formulate groups because the
people need the feeling of belonging and do not want to feel to be left alone. This is best reflected in
the way they spend their ‘free minutes’, like going out for lunch or having a cigarette. Of course there
are exceptions in this case as well, two employees that do not express their commitment to any of the
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groups and can integrate in both, however, most of the time they choose their own company when
having lunch.
The Flemish employees:
Two of the Flemish employees are mother and daughter and are always together in the office (in
private life not that often though) and two other Flemish colleagues are personal friends of them. This
creates an invisible force that keeps them socially together, thus they always dine together and help
each other in the office, if needed. When there were reorganization works going on in the office
rooms; furniture, boxes and all documents had to be moved, the responsible person was one lady
among the Flemish employees. She asked all colleagues to give her a hand but only the other Flemish
went to help her including even unpaid hours in the weekend. The French were also asked to give a
hand but they did not react. This occasion resulted in even greater controversies between the two
groups than before.
The ceremony of dining means far not so much for a Flemish than for a French. The Flemish like
steaks and pommes frites (or ‘Belgian Frites’) and are fond of sandwiches of any kind. Many of them
simply have a sandwich at the office desk while reading his/her emails. They do not consider having
lunch more important than doing anything else, eg. having a shower.
The Flemish employees at ESTRO are very individualistic and do not definitely need company to
organize programs for themselves. As the Flemish culture is low-context they do not have the need
always to have somebody to speak with, to have a lunch appointment with or to talk to on the phone.
When speaking they do not use that sophisticated and complex way to transmit a hidden message to
the listener like the French do, but they speak more directly. This does not mean they say out
everything or they do not use diplomatic tricks to intentionally change a part of the truth but they do it
in a different way. Their language does also not support that kind of highly sophisticated diplomatic
way of speaking the French language does.
Nevertheless, the company language is English in order to bring the two language groups together.
Each employee speaks or at least understands both national languages because they are taught in
primary and secondary school in Belgium but the colleagues reject to use the other language. If a
French talks to a Flemish in French, he/she will understand and reply in English and in case a group
has at least one Flemish member, they choose the third language as means of communication. If you
want to be polite to a Flemish, talk to him/her in English and vice versa. This is a serious source of
friction for both groups as they express their silent dislike towards the other’s language that creates an
unpleasant feeling for everyone. This phenomenon can be observed on the country level as well: the
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Flemish inhabitants are not inclined to speak French and in case they receive a phone call in this
language, they immediately start the conversation in English and insist to it. Most of them speak
proper English and expect the French as well.
The French employees:
The French in general are highly collectivists and they do not usually do anything alone. For all
activities they need to have company and people to discuss with. This is reflected in their obsession
with gastronomy, which has two main functions: the pleasure of having a nice meal and the chance to
socialize in a pleasant atmosphere.
The French basically live and do business involved in the network of the ‘right contacts’. The contacts
and personal relationship to one’s current of future colleagues and business partners is in many cases
far more important than the expertise they have. The most significant factor is trustworthiness. This is
just the opposite to the Flemish approach due to which the expertise is of highest importance and not
the personal impact. That can be a reason why it is natural to hire family members of the employees or
friends at the company. However, at ESTRO it is not a nationality-specific feature because this
phenomenon can be observed in both groups.
The French spend an enormous part of their lives with maintaining these contacts, having business
lunches and dinners and travel thousands of miles to personally discuss with a partner accompanied by
a nice meal. The most typical environment for a discussion is a restaurant. In general, the most
beloved activity of the French people I know is to go to a good restaurant. In accordance with this
there was no business without dining together at ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO either. And eating out
is really the place and time to chat, so they discuss general and common topics, including business. On
occasions like birthdays, celebrations or the departure of someone from the company, the management
reserves a table at a restaurant in the neighbourhood at lunchtime and the staff eats out together.
During conversations the French colleagues at ESTRO are all ready to switch for another language –
as they report about themselves.
It is typical at the ESTRO office that the members of one family are going out for lunch together and
the members of the ‘French click’ in the office also share their lunchtime with each other. This team is
the one that is organized on a purely office-friendship basis – the members are not personal friends and
are not intervening in each other’s private life, but they form a strong community at the workplace.
They talk about work all the time and use their free minutes to talk about their colleagues and share
private opinions about the working conditions. The ones not joining any groups of the staff definitely
61
have an appointment with an external person for lunch. According to the questionnaire, two French
employees usually have lunch with external people.
Because the French culture is high-context, general information flows freely and they share specific
information only within their network and often they do not share information with subordinates. As
they often resist keeping subordinates informed about important aspects of the business operations, it
results major problems developed. Only common information leaves the circle of trust that consists of
the closest followers of the manager. This was reflected in the dissatisfaction of a French colleague at
EQUAL-ESTRO – she complained about not having any explanations for the managerial orders. She
felt uninformed and she did not like being “just an executive with no initiation” – as she reported.
7.4 Neutral versus affective relationships
All human beings have emotions, but this dimension concerns the different contexts and ways that
cultures choose to express emotions. In affective cultures, expressing emotions openly is more
‘natural’, whereas in more neutral cultures people believe that emotions should be held in check so as
not to cloud issues or give the appearance of being out of control.
The Flemish employees
Flemish people in general are rather introvert and do not talk about emotions with anyone else than
their closest friends and family. Their environment does not see them being emotional because they
usually do not express their feelings freely but keep them inside. They are open and caring with the
ones they let in their closed private sphere but with members of the outer circle they are much more
distant. With acquaintances and colleagues touch, embrace and closeness is very seldom, they do not
even sit too close to each other with their nighest colleague at their desk.
In general they do not show their feelings plainly by laughing, smiling, grimacing, scowling and
gesturing; they do not attempt to find immediate outlets for their feelings. They communicate with
medium-tone voice – I have never heard a Flemish screaming and complaining loudly. Their special
humor reflects this phenomenon very well. They are joking with a plain face, not expressing many
emotions on the face. In the Flemish – and apparently Dutch culture - the maintenance of face and
status is not a big issue, a ‘friendly insult’ is a common way of joking among friends. For example:
‘you fool’ pronounced with the right intonation, expresses warm sympathy.
62
On the other hand they are just as sensitive in the inside as the French are. When they feel to be
offended or hurt, they keep the pressure inside and, especially the women, may burst out crying after a
point. At ESTRO there has been a major conflict between a French and a Flemish women that
involved the supporters of both parties. In some occasions they were shouting at each other and
throwing brickbats at the head. After one incident even the Flemish lady started to cry. She was
showing a plain face and kept many injuries inside and let them pile up – this is where the difference
lies.
Three out of five people stated that their private feelings sometimes interfere in their professional lives
and one person said she never shows her feelings in the office.
The French employees
Most of them are very expressionist. The French stand and sit closer to each other than the Flemish do
and in their interactions they are totally engrossed and intent on their discussions. Friends or
acquaintances meeting shake hands, embrace, start talking about private issues immediately and
maintain the intense eye-contact that enables them to read the other person’s responses. They do not
feel uncomfortable touching their partner if they feel like. They are doing many things at the same
time and speak constantly. They are moving with a quick and flexible beat and their faces are
communicating their actual thoughts and reactions; they raise their eyebrows, smile and shrug their
shoulders. Even if you do not speak the language you can almost understand their message by
watching them.
They talk about food, wines and restaurants and fashion on a regular basis. It is not stereotyping, but it
is true. I do not remember a day when I did not hear my colleagues touching these subjects. As a
French described his people: “our nation is hedonistic, we love to enjoy life and that you cannot do
alone”. They express their views and need other people’s presence to release that much energy they
have. For them social life is very important. Thus they show feelings and emotions in the office as
well. The vast majority of the French colleagues reported that their personal feelings affect their
professional life.
7.5 Specific versus diffuse relationships
This dimension deals with the degree of involvement individuals are comfortable with in dealing with
other people. Every individual has various levels to their personality, from a more public level to the
inner, more private level. However, there can be cultural differences in the relative size of people's
63
public and private 'spaces' and also in the degree to which they feel comfortable sharing those parts of
their personality with other people.
The Flemish employees
The Flemish have a small private sphere and they open themselves only in their circle. They make
friends with somebody knowing him/her for a long time and they have just a few of them. Family and
close friends are very important for them. Office-born friendships are rare. One out of five people said
that she has developed a friendship with a former colleague. They like to be in their own people’s
company in two senses: those people are their close friends and also of their nationality. Flemish
people prefer to be with Flemish people together, they insist on speaking their language and hardly let
any outsiders in their social groups. Even if you are in, you have difficulties for a long time just
because you are not born to be one of them. Four out of five people reported that they mostly make
friends with Flemish people. To speak Flemish is a key factor to accept anyone because they do not at
all fancy switching for English if a newcomer enters their company- according to four ESTRO
members. In general they are open to hear about anything new and interesting, they are tolerant and
accept your ideas but reject to share them. They are always open for a chat about general issues but
after a point it is very difficult to get closer to them. If their ideas are questioned they can very easily
be offended.
In public places they are not so loud and vivid like the French. They are also joking and chatting with
each other but they mostly remain in their circle of friends. They do not show direct signs towards
other people around them but do not establish contact with others rather easily. For them it is not that
natural to engage in a conversation with a stranger as it is for the French. This is very typical of
women-man relationships, too. If a Flemish man wants to meet a women; he prepares himself how to
ask her out and if he decides for her, the girl can mostly take his intentions serious and vice versa.
Generally speaking, they take things serious. They do not make decisions so easily and quickly and
keep themselves to their set plans and objectives. They are working hard, systematically, pay attention
to the details and deliver results on time. Nevertheless, they are very well-organized people on each
field of their lives. They organize programs well in advance and are very strictly on time wherever
they go.
They have a materialistic way of thinking and work and the money that comes with is very important
for them. The worthiness of the furniture, the brand of the clothes and the money value of the birthday
present is significant. For example a Moldavian lady married a Flemish man was surprised that the
family of his groom opened a bank account for wedding donations and each guest at the wedding were
64
told how much they should remit as a present. So in the end they received no actual presents in the
hand only money sent electronically.
One of the French top managers described his Flemish colleagues the following way: “They are
hopeless people who have never seen anything outside the county borders, do not want to interact with
others than Flemish, narrow-minded and too down to Earth so I am hiring anyone else but them.”
The French employees
The French employees at ESTRO are very group-focused, communicative, like talking and joking and
they make friends more easily than the Flemish. Their private area is large and the public is smaller
and somewhat more carefully guarded. They are conscious about choosing their partners at work and
get close to them quite easily. They tend to be more involved in relationships with anybody entered
their public sphere. On the other hand these relationships are not often very deep; for instance about a
French colleague who is a member of the ‘French click’ everybody knows that this person has
difficulties in her private life but no one knows what the problem is. This is because nobody has ever
asked about it during the several-hours talk every day.
On the other hand close and long-lasting relationships are likely to develop between French
colleagues. Many of them see each other frequently even after changing jobs and choose an old
beloved neighbor as the godfather of their child. Such friendships can also occur when two people
have the same business interest and their personalities complete each other in negotiating and leading:
the directors of ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO are good examples for that. They spend most of their
working- and free hours together and involve each other even in each other’s family life. They meet
more than regular friends do and enjoy both the personal and the business advantages of their
cooperation and in the meanwhile are good friends. This is not likely to happen to a Flemish so
intensively and in such a short time. Except for one person, all the French employees state that it
happened to them having made friends with one of their colleagues and they are still in touch with
that person.
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8. OVERVIEW ON ESTRO
In the previous chapter I listed the factors that generate tension between the management and the
employees and among the employees themselves on the micro level. The constant growth of this
tension resulted in the resignation of three people during the period I was working with them.
The receptionist, a Flemish lady changed jobs and she mentioned the unbearable social environment
and the lack of attention from the management as a reason. Besides this, she was overeducated for her
job, but the new one she found is very similar.
One of the two financial experts, also a Flemish lady, resigned and her reason was that she could not
work together with her French colleague. Her colleague frustrated her and made it impossible for her
to work by rejecting to cooperate in vital questions.
A French lady also resigned and was not satisfied with the lack of clear instructions, responsibility and
communication with the management. She felt being left alone with her daily problems. And some
employees are considering leaving the association and seeking new job opportunities and participate in
job interviews.
There would be four possible solutions for ESTRO to set their cultural environment up depending on
the personality of the staff members and the leader’s objectives and approach. These four directions
are the following: one culture dissolves the other and starts to rule over it in a violent way, one culture
gradually assimilates the other over time, the two cultures fuse or they separate from each other and
live together not interfering in each other’s territory. (20) In the case of ESTRO assimilation is the only
way to go because the staff members are too individualistic and proud of their own cultures to accept
the other’s rule over them - and according to Mr. Taillet’s management style their approach is very
important.
To estimate the ESTRO staff’s degree of adaptability to people of different cultures, I circulated a
Cultural Test, measuring one’s cultural intelligence (CQ). Interacting with individuals demands
perceptiveness and adaptability. And the people who have those traits in abundance aren't necessarily
the ones, who enjoy the greatest social success in familiar settings. Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is the
ability to make sense of unfamiliar contexts and then blend in. It has three components: cognitive,
physical, and emotional/motivational. Although it shares many of the properties of emotional
intelligence, CQ goes one step further by equipping a person to distinguish behaviours produced by
the culture in question from behaviours that are peculiar to particular individuals and those found in all
human beings. (23)
66
In general, a sharp change in the management direction was needed in ESTRO and Mr. Taillet
recognized that after experiencing this flood of resignations. Looking at the success story of EQUALESTRO, the solution is to follow their method.
9. EQUAL-ESTRO SUCCESS STORY
The CEO and of the company is Michel Taillet and the director is Jean-Xavier Hallet. Mr. Hallet is
running the business, organizing the activities of the company, makes day-to-day decisions and
manages the company. In major issues the two of them decide jointly and the recruitment of new
employees is also a common task.
Since 2004 Mr. Hallet has been working on the establishment of the company. In January 2006 a
French lady was hired as an assistant to cope with the anticipated growing amount of work in the
office – the expected contracts were waiting to be signed, so she hardly had anything to do. She felt
frustrated by this and also was not satisfied with the management style of Mr. Hallet. I joined in
August 2006 when the actual work started and the company and the atmosphere became much more
delighted. We could work very well together and she found it very interesting that I am coming from a
different country. This lady – like many others in Brussels – had worked for the institutions of the
European Union previously, so she is used to be encompassed by foreigners. At this time a physicist
also joined our team in part time, he is a Frenchman coming from South-America. In general in a
managerial point of view the productivity and efficiency was not very high and the staff had
communication problems; my French colleagues had disagreements with the director. The lady
announced her intention to resign and left by the end of December.
By 2007 many new projects reached the implementation stage, thus the workload started to grow
dramatically and new people were needed. Mr. Hallet decided to exclude the Flemish and possibly the
French nationalities from the target group of future colleagues and focus on the foreigners. The two
directors have a lot of experience with the problematic common work of the two ‘Belgian
nationalities’. In order to avoid future conflicts they searched for exclusively foreign applicants five
positions at EQUAL-ESTRO. By the time I left the company a Turkish and a Check lady was hired
and the common work was outstandingly effective. They were ready to acclimatize to the local
conditions, worked hard to be accepted by the staff and did not hesitate to complete the requirements
of their superiors. The cooperation with me and with each other was also smooth as we all were
outsiders and thus had a common sense of belonging.
67
The example of the Turkish lady draws the light on the main reason why it is fruitful to employ
foreigners in Brussels, this special melting pot for nationalities: she had the only chance to receive
residence permit in Belgium by being employed by a Belgian company. In general, as a foreigner it is
extremely hard to get in any of the companies in the business sector because the Belgian legislation
raises administrational barriers for the hosting company in such cases. For the foreigners simply the
fact that they are employed carries an extra advantage that the locals do not have. This creates a
situation, where the foreign employees will be more motivated to work and have much less
expectations towards their employers than the locals.
Besides this, a rather strict attitude towards keeping office rules is adopted. Mr. Hallet, the director set
the requirement to keep to the office rules from the beginning of their operation and the employees
being repeatedly late in the morning were warned to change their attitude. Thus the staff was wellorganized and productive.
68
VI. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The definition of the company problem is the following: the ESTRO staff faces problems with building
an effectively working team due to personal acceptance problems from the employees’ side. People do
not show a tendency to formulate a group and thus the office atmosphere does not support a fruitful
cooperation regarding business issues. Everyday controversies and malicious rumours are typical of
the group. Recently numerous colleagues resigned and changed for another company but stayed in the
same jobs.
The problem analysis shows that the above mentioned problems mostly derive from the fact that
Flemish and French employees work closely together in the office and are dependent on each other to
some extent in terms of work-related issues. The experienced conflicts show some similarity to the
appearing processes in the Belgian society, as Brussels is a melting pot for both legal nationalities of
the country with a significant number of citizens of foreign countries hosted.
Another reason for the crisis is a wrongly chosen management style and lack of attention from the
director’s side. This leads to dissatisfaction among the staff members and the feeling of being left
alone with the sensitive issues I will describe in the following. Recognizing the situation, the top
manager chose a new direction and a solution is being adapted. Employees from foreign countries can
help to formulate a smoothly cooperating working group with much less controversies.
As the conflict between the Flemish and the French results in inefficiency in the long run ESTRO has
to find a solution to change the current environment. The resignation of several people gave the red
light to the current management concept to develop and people abandoning significant positions
enabled the director to fill them in with the right people. Besides filling the empty chairs in, further
people need to be hired to help the current employees and share the workload.
The used data collection method is as follows: scientific literature, my own experiences working
closely together with the staff of the two companies, I circulated a specific work-related questionnaire
and a cultural test measuring the staff’s cultural intelligence. These gained data I included in the
assignment.
My idea of the solution on the micro level is a combination of two: reviewed management style and
hiring foreigners at ESTRO for all empty positions.
69
The foreigners would explode the rigid old forms in the office community of mutual dislike and
irritation. If the group of outsiders is big enough to form a significant community it will not be so
natural to divide the staff into two parts and they would abridge the nationality differences because
they do not belong to any of the groups formulated on nationality-basis. They will dismantle the old
organization of contradictory positions and create an independent force, where nobody belongs to the
others. None of the old groups will accept a foreign colleague unconditionally, but more likely than a
member of the other nationality group. Apart from this foreign employees will increase efficiency by
their own performance and create a more striving atmosphere for others. They will be some kind of
competence for the old employees in terms of work performance. Their presence will do the service of
imposing the use of the third language (English) on the whole staff in order to shrink the
diversification between the national languages and therefore cease a source of pressure. The conflict
between the French and the Flemish cannot be solved on the community level because it has deep
roots in the society. It can only be avoided.
It is obvious that the solution given and tested by EQUAL-ESTRO is not universally applicable for all
companies in Brussels for the fact that we should not replace all local employees with foreign ones. In
these cases, however, the two companies are organizations with an international profile and the
company language is English and enables foreign people to possibly provide better results. They are
commonly in disposal of the abilities required by the job; excellent English knowledge and cultural
diversity is a great advantage as the companies’ business partners are all over the world. Moreover, the
size of the Flemish group in ESTRO will shrink so much that the existence of the Flemish-French
conflict will disappear.
According to the Cultural Test the ESTRO and EQUAL-ESTRO staff was subject to, both the Flemish
and the French have some space for improvement regarding the tolerance of the culturally different
environment. This should be made them clear so that they would recognize the need to develop in this
field. Organization of team-building programs and other common activities could be a good occasion
for this purpose and would enhance the improvement process.
Regarding the management style according to my opinion the solution is to pay more attention to the
employees and to maintain more personal contact with each of them. Exact job description is needed
for each employee and to discuss if he/she is satisfied with the amount of work it means. Besides this,
stricter attitude towards keeping office rules is absolutely needed. People being constantly late and
staying away regularly is not acceptable because it ruins the group norms. Open-door policy from the
superior’s side was very welcome by all employees and would be an efficient tool to maintain staff
70
satisfaction. More attention should be paid to the Flemish-French differences and conflicts should be,
if possible, avoided by diplomatic tricks.
The conflict between the French and the Flemish is not on the way towards a solution on the macro
level. The Flemish has become more and more violent in their wish to become independent and the
right wing is gaining more power in every election period. It is a global Western European tendency
that the right wing becomes stronger and stronger and nationalistic views gain more and more
territory. The two main nationalities in Belgium fight for individual rights and for being distinguished
– the nation is not tending to create one unit but the symbiosis of the two nationalities.
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VII. TABLES AND FIGURES
Figure1.
Regional Map of Belgium: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/BELGCUL.html
Figure 2.
Human mental programming (Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences,
Rev. ed. 2 vols. Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd.
Three levels of human mental programming. (Source: Adapted from Hofstede, 1991)
72
Figure 3.
Different Layers of Culture (Fons Trompenaars, (1996): Riding the waves of culture,
Rev. ed. 3 vols. London)
A model of culture
Figure 4.
Monochronic and Polychronic Cultures (Fons Trompenaars, (1996): Riding the
waves of culture, Rev. ed. 3 vols. London)
Interpersonal
Relations
Activity
Co-ordination
Monochronic
Culture
Interpersonal
relations are subordinate to
present schedule
Schedule
co-ordinates activity;
appointment time is rigid.
Task
Handling
One
task at a time
Breaks
and Personal Time
Breaks
and personal time are
sacrosanct regardless of
personal ties.
Time
is inflexible; time is
tangible
Work
time is clearly separable
from personal time
Activities
are isolated from
organisation as a whole;
tasks are measured
by output in time (activity
per hour or minute)
Temporal
Structure
Work/personal
time separability
Organisational
Perception
73
Polychronic
Culture
Present
schedule is subordinate to
Interpersonal relations
Interpersonal
relations co-ordinate
activity; appointment time
is flexible
Many
tasks are handled
simultaneously
Breaks
and personal time are
subordinate to personal ties.
Time
is flexible; time is fluid
Work
time is not clearly separable
from personal time
Activities
are integrated into
organisation as a whole;
tasks are measured
as part of overall
organisational goal
Figure 5.
http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_belgium.shtmlimensions
Figure 6.
Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences, Rev. ed. 2 vols.
Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd.
Figure 7.
Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences, Rev. ed. 2 vols.
Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd.
74
Figure 8.
Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences, Rev. ed. 2 vols.
Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd.
Figure 9.
Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences, Rev. ed. 2 vols.
Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd.
75
APPENDICES
Appendix 1.
Cultural Test (used resource: P. Christopher Earley, Elaine Mosakowski: “Cultural
Intelligence” 1 Oct 2004, Harvard Business Review)
Cultural Test
Please score the following statements from 1 to 5.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
not at all agree
do not agree
I do not know
agree
very much agree
__
Before contacting people from a different culture, I think about what I hope to achieve from
him/her.
__
When I have to face a new situation working in a new cultural environment, I use this
experience to find new ways to approach new cultures.
__
Before meeting people of other cultures I make plans how to approach them.
__
I clearly recognize when the communication is not effective in a new cultural environment.
__
It is easy for me to adjust my body language to the others of different cultures.
__
I can change my appearance in a new cultural situation.
__
I can alter my utterance (e.g. intonation, pronunciation) and adjust it to the ones of different
cultures.
__
I can easily change my behaviour if a meeting with culturally different people requires it.
__
I am convinced that I can effectively cooperate with people of other cultures.
__
I am sure that I can make friends with people of other cultures.
__
I can relatively easily adapt myself to the lifestyle of other cultures.
__
I know that I can cope with new cultural situations that I face.
My mother tongue is: ……………
Thank you for your efforts and cooperation!
76
Appendix 2
International Management Questionnaire
1. Which leadership approach do you consider more incentive: the autocratic or the democratic?
2. Which one do you prefer: work with project-based responsibilities and flexible time schedule
or regulated daily routine with freedom in delivering results? Why?
3. Which structure would you choose if the director asked you for advice:
• One leader to report to and all others are in equal positions at the company
• Each expert group has a different leader to report to
• There is nobody to report to and each employee is responsible for their own field and
performance.
4. Do you think that flexible working hours ruin the quality of work delivered?
Yes/ No
5. Does it disturb you if your colleagues have a different working culture than you do?
Yes/ No
6. Do you usually have lunch?
• With ESTRO colleagues
• With people outside the office
• Alone
7. Is it natural for you to speak other national languages of Belgium? Do you speak any of them?
Yes/ No
8. If you are asked in another national language, do you reply in that language or do you attempt
to?
Yes/ No
9. Which statement do you think refers to you most?
• My private feelings do not interfere in my professional life. If I have a problem, I do not
show it in the office.
• Sometimes my personal feelings affect my attitude towards my colleagues.
• I am driven by my feelings and emotions in my relationships with my colleagues in the
office.
10. Do you usually show your emotions by your behaviour, mimics and gestures or keep them
inside?
11. Is it bothering for you iof you have to switch for a different language than your mother tongue
when somebody, who does not speak your language, enters the conversation?
Yes/ No
77
12. Do you make friends with people from different cultures than your own?
Yes/ No
13. Has it ever happened to you that you made friends with one of your colleagues? If yes, are you
still in touch?
Yes/ No
14. Gender: Female/ Male
15. My age is…
16. My mother tongue is …
Thank you for your efforts and cooperation!
78
VIII. BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. www.everyculture.com/Europe/Flemish-History-and-Cultural-Relations.html
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_history#Politics
3. http://www.expat-online.com/moving/Belgium/history/history_since_1945.cfm
4. Geert Hofstede (1994): Cultures and Organizations - Software of the Mind,
Hammersmith, London
5. http://www.bartleby.com/67/2824.html
6. Fons Trompenaars, (1996): Riding the waves of culture, Rev. ed. 3 vols. London
7. Lisa Hoecklin, (1995): Managing Cultural Differences, Rev. ed. 2 vols. Addison-Wesley
Publishers Ltd.
8. Geert Hofstede, (1984): Culture’s Consequences, Rev. ed. 5 vols. Sage Publications
9. http://stephan.dahl.at/research/online-publications/intercultural-research
10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_%28sociology%29
11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Values
12. Charles W. L. Hill, and Gareth R. Jones, (2001) Strategic Management 5th Edn.,
Houghton Mifflin, MeansBusiness, Inc
13. http://www.onepine.info/phand.htm
14. Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall,(1990): Understanding Cultural Differences
15. http://stephan.dahl.at/research/online-publications/intercultural-research/halls-classicpatterns
79
16. http://www.geert-hofstede.com/geert_hofstede_resources.shtml
17. Nancy J. Adler (1997): Organizational Behavior, Rev. ed. 3 vols. Ohio, USA
18. Nigel J. Holden (2002): Cross- Cultural Management, Rev. ed. 3 vols. Chicester, England
19. A. Roué, J. Venselaar. “The ESTRO Quality Assurance Network” ESTRO Scientific
Journal 56 – Winter 2006: A8-10.
20. A. Roué, J. Venselaar. “EQUAL starts a new phase” ESTRO Scientific Journal 56 –
Winter 2006: A10-11.
21. MED-directive: EURATOM of 30 June 1997, Official Journal of the European
Communities 199; No L 180: 22-27
22. http://www.onepine.info/phand.htm
23. P. Christopher Earley, Elaine Mosakowski: “Cultural Intelligence” 1 Oct 2004, Harvard
Business Review
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`