Management The Effects of Collectivist and Individualistic Values on Teamwork: How Managers Can Bridge The Distance Between China and the UK: A Case Study on Pizza Express, Derby Essay

Management The Effects of Collectivist and Individualistic Values on Teamwork: How Managers Can Bridge The Distance Between China and the UK: A Case Study on Pizza Express, Derby Essay

Introduction

There is currently no literature concerning Pizza Express and the importance of teamwork between the Chinese and British culture, therefore this research has been undertaken in order to shed some light with relation to Pizza Express, Derby.

The history of Pizza Express began in 1948 and is one of the UKs most successful private restaurants. There are over 300 restaurants in the UK and Ireland and a serving of 16 million customers a year (Pizza Express, UK 2006). According to Page the success of Pizza Express lies in our employees, therefore we encourage a work environment that is fair, open and communicative (2002:2) this was put forward by the chief executive and the emphasis throughout the employee handbook is placed on teamwork. The success of a restaurant depends upon working as a team. It is vital that all employees communicate (Emenheiser 1998), in order to ensure that consumers are receiving their food in an acceptable time frame, to the required quality and in the correct manner. Although Pizza Express realise the importance of teamwork, the success rate has been below 50% (Smith 2006), the failure of teams is a major problem for managers as they must deal with associated costs with team failure such as team training, high turnover and lower productivity.

This paper will highlight the major differences towards teamwork from individualist and collectivist cultures and analyse the barriers that lead to successful teams and how management can overcome these problems.

This paper is looking, specifically at the Derby branch, which employs thirty members of staff, ranging from management, chefs, waiters and cleaners. Of these thirty employees, nine are from overseas, including France, Germany and China. The author has chosen to focus this study on China because, according to Strange China is emerging as one of the most important investment sites around the world, second only to the US (1998:1). Because of this it is likely that many managers in the future will encounter employees from China or go overseas on assignments, making this paper an important tool in understanding the Chinese culture within the workforce.

This paper will now look at the importance of teamwork with relation to Pizza Express.

The Importance of Teamwork

There are an increasing number of companies employing foreign workers and a survey carried out by the Japanese Institute of Labour indicated that the major concern for expatriates is their interaction with fellow colleagues (Peltokorpi 2005:103). Although this statement is directly linked to Japan, it is applicable to all expatriates. Chinese employees at the restaurant encounter many problems with the British culture, such as their dependency upon rules and their competitiveness, however the most vital problem for management is the different approaches to teamwork between the British and Chinese

Pizza Express have tried aiming for all employees to participate fully in teamwork, however according to Smith, the success rate has been well below 50% and around 70% of employees are generally not accomplishing much [personal communication 11 December 2006]. According to Dumaine (1994) this could be due to personality clash between the Chinese and British and their different ways of working. Mention and Jolly (1996) reported that the failure rate of teams can be as high as 55% in some cases. This is a growing problem for organisations as teamwork failure for managers means dealing with associated costs, such as team training, lag time during transition and temporarily lower productivity as supported by Swenson (1997:19). It is important for managers at Pizza Express to ensure that Chinese and British employees can work in harmony within the same team.

Teams are often handled as elements of modern management and leadership arrangements (Huusko 2006:5), this is supported by Yrle et al who suggest businesses have now entered a new generation, referred to as Generation X, and there is now a greater emphasis placed on teamwork (2005:188).

Pineda and Lerner define a team as a collection of individuals who are interdependent in the tasks they perform and who share responsibility for outcomes (2006:182). It has been suggested that the role of values on groups is important to study because teams are increasingly becoming central to organisations (Tjosvold et al 2003:244). This is supported by Erdem and Ozen who state that the use of teams has become the symbol of an ideal model of work and working behaviour for organisations to maximise synergy in the organisation (2003:131).

According to Tjosvold et al developing effective teamwork has proved difficult, these authors also point out that working in groups will achieve more tasks, than an individual working alone (2006:342). Tjosvold et als valuable statement was supported by authors from 1968 to 1982, although this is extremely dated, it is still true today. Working in teams will also ensure fewer mistakes are made within the restaurant and if uncertainty arises, colleagues have other members of the team to confer with. It is also vital for managers and employees to work as a successful team, this ensures that problems are resolved rapidly and it is clear what everyone should be doing.

Pizza Express is encouraging teamwork in order to accomplish productivity, creativity, innovation, gain greater competitor advantage and to build trust between employees (Moorhead and Griffin 2004:318-319 and Karia and Asaari 2006:31), however managers are finding it difficult to bridge the distance between the two cultures. Therefore the author believes that their different cultural dimensions could be a huge reason for their different attitudes towards teamwork, therefore making it imperative to talk about individualism and collectivism.

Many authors such as Trompenaars (1994), Hofstede (1980), Lewis (1999), Li and Scullion (2006) and Dickson and Zhang (2004) have documented on the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures, such as the importance to the Chinese of saving face, building relationships and taking their time to make decisions. This varies immensely from the individualist approach and it is difficult for British managers to understand these differences within the workplace. Pizza Express stress in their employee handbook all employees are equal and will be treated the same (Page 2002:9), how can employees be treated the same, when the Chinese and British culture are so different? It is important for management to understand the cultural differences and to make exceptions for the Chinese culture, if they do not then employees are likely to shy-away from their team, this is related to Coxs individual factors and the chart is displayed in appendix 1.

The Cox Model, regarding organisational culture is something that all management should be aware of. According to Sheridan, organisational culture has emerged as one of the dominant themes in management studies during the past decade (1992:1050), the advantage of this model is that it provides management with an insight into issues concerning the different cultures, which they may have overlooked previously. For example all managers should take into account the individual personalities of all employees in order to gain a productive workforce. The most important factor, related to this paper is the importance of group conflict and all managers should allow for cultural differences. Authors such as Kossek and Lobel (1996) and Amaladoss (1999) document the importance of cultural homogenisation; however these authors believes that not allowing for cultural differences will be the driver in the team failing as it would lead to conflict between team members and an unhappy workforce. Pizza Express homogenise by providing all employees with a uniform, this is enforcing a rule upon workers to be alike, however although this may be true with regards to the uniform, managers must be sure that they do not take this any further as these two cultures are very different.

Hofstede (1980) noted these vast differences between cultures and created the four dimensions of culture, consisting of:

  • Power Distance
  • Uncertainly Avoidance
  • Individualism Versus Collectivism
  • Masculinity Versus Femininity

Lu suggests that although this framework was originally developed in the West, it has been used as a universal mode of inquiry to distinguish one culture from another (1998:91).

Irwin (1996) expresses concern because Hofstedes study was undertaken in 1967 with IBM employees in 66 countries, China not included in those countries. This model is dated and it is unlikely that many businesses can still refer to this model, as many more people, than in the 60-s are going on expatriate assignments and are working in different counties, therefore accepting and adapting to different cultures. It can be said that these boundaries between cultural differences are moulding together, or as Zakaria states the world is getting smaller (2000:492).

It is important for all cross-cultural managers to be aware of these dimensions, however the most relevant dimension to this research it the differences between collectivist and individualistic cultures.

China is placed under the collectivist dimension, due to the fact that that they see themselves as part of a larger whole, and value friendships and harmony (Dickson and Zhang 2004 and Morris et al 1998). Collectivism is very strong in China. It originated in the early agrarian economies and is enhanced in the teachings of Confucius; it is not a product of communism, although the communist regime found it useful (Lewis 1999:383).

Cross-cultural studies undertaken by Kemmelmeier et al have shown that members of collectivist societies are more concerned about conforming to social norms than members of individualist societies (2003:306). According to Woo and Prud homme Chinese employees are expected to avoid conflict, and due to the collectivist approach are concerned with preserving face, status and friendship (1993:317).

In comparison, individualistic cultures, such as the UK are likely to be involved with conflicting ideas when engaging in business decisions and have a tendency to weigh individual goals more heavily than group goals (Lu 1998:91).

Tjosvold et al discovered through structural equation analysis that when working as part of a team, collectivist cultures such as China will reinforce cooperative goals and members of the team will participate in open-minded discussion. Due to their method of teamwork, this creates strong relationships among Chinese employees and productivity is high (2003:243). Tjosvold et als open minded discussion is critiqued by Tang and Ward (2003) who suggest that the Chinese avoid confrontation at all costs, suggesting that this avoidance of conflict is not leading the Chinese to express what they truly feel. Tjosvold et al (2003) also discovered that in the UK, due to their individualistic values, as supported by Trompenaars (1994), teamwork becomes a competition between its members, and all compete for goals and tend to participate in closed-minded discussion.

The differences between the two cultures are vast and this is also true with regards to the decision-making process between the two cultures. When it is time to make decisions the Chinese will take much longer than an individualistic culture. There is a strong emphasis to win everyone over as the Chinese do not like taking full responsibility (Li and Scullion 2006:79). This can be a long process and will often annoy the British culture, as their decision making process is very quick and simple. Voting is an extremely important aspect of British culture, and if groups of people can not make up a decision then a vote will be made and everyone will have an equal input. This would never happen in China and it is important for British managers to realise this so to not cause offence later on. The Chinese believe that voting will undermine those people who lose in the vote.

Many British workers know their managers outside of work and can relate to each other with no regards to the work environment. This is because work and private lives are sharply separated. This does not exist in China. A managers reputation will be the same at work and in his private life. If they are unapproachable at work due to their high status, they will certainly be unapproachable in their social life. The Chinese will use a number of methods whilst at work to avoid talking about any aspect of their personal lives. Due to this issue management and other employees within the organization may find it particularly challenging when getting to know their Chinese team members.

Pizza Express is constantly thinking of ways to bridge the distance between individualist and collectivist cultures, however all the methods have failed. Therefore it is important to discover authors who have identified the main problems encountered when dealing with multicultural teams and how these problems have been resolved in the past.

Analysing multicultural teams in relation to Pizza Express, Derby

Brett et al (2006:86) discovered that the barriers to a team’s success are:

  • direct versus indirect communication
  • trouble with accents and fluency
  • differing attitudes toward hierarchy and authority
  • conflicting norms for decision making

However Oertig and Buergi discovered that the key issues for managing teams successfully is an understanding of the people, managing language and cultural issues, managing the matrix and understanding the task (2006:23).

It is now vital to talk about these issues, in order for management to take these into consideration when forming a successful team. Brett et als barriers will be looked at, firstly addressing the first challenge of direct versus indirect communication problems.

Chinese and British cultures have very different ways of communicating. For British employees they are not aware, nor do they care for the underlying messages when communicating with the Chinese. Their approach is said to be cold and explicit, for example the British will ask direct questions, such as do you like option A? (Brett et al 2006:86), the Chinese, who do not value direct communication will avoid open confrontation and rather than saying no they will either say yes or avoid the subject completely. This angers the British immensely as it prolongs the decision making process. Differences such as this can cause serious problems within the team. It is sometimes difficult for those living in individualist cultures to grasp the values related to the collectivist culture, therefore misunderstandings can flow from failing to consider this difference when viewing Chinese practices from a western perspective (Tang and Ward 2003:10).

Trouble with accents and fluency was the second challenge encountered by Brett et al (2006). Many employees at the restaurant are students; therefore there are a variety of different accents. Not only is this problematic for communications within teams, but due the pace of speech and slang (Oertig and Buergi 2006:27), Chinese employees have difficulties in fully understanding orders. Because of these difficulties with fluency, many managers, as identified by Brett et al (2006) treat foreign workers like children, leading questions they way in which they want them to be answered. Due to this workers have little opportunity to express their opinions and because of this they feel that they are not intelligent. This can affect teams dramatically as Chinese will not give their suggestions for improvement and are not likely to discuss problems. The restaurant is fast-paced and requires quick communication, however due to the lack of fluency this can lead to personal conflicts between team members.

The third challenge was the differing attitudes towards hierarchy and authority, according to Clifford and Sohal significant changes have occurred within the travel and tourism industry over the last decade as organisations move away from traditional hierarchical pyramid structures to flatter, more responsive and leaner structures (1998:77). This is accepted by individualist cultures who like the independence to do their own thing and prefer working alone (Trompenaars 1994), however this structure is problematic for the Chinese culture. The Chinese culture are treated differently, in accordance to their status within the organisation and in their social lives, due to this the culture may feel particularly uncomfortable as they believe it is management who has the power to delegate tasks for employees, this is directly related to Hofstedes power distance dimension (1991).

The final challenge was the differences in decision making. Brett et all (2006), Trompenaars (1994) and Hofstede (1991) all discovered that both the Chinese and British differ immensely in their decision making, the British like to make business decisions quickly (Woo et al 2001:352), whereas the Chinese like to take their time to ensure that all their team members are happy with the decision before agreeing. For cultures to coexist happily within a team, the most suitable approach would be the Chinese, collectivist approach as they are truly working as part of a team.

These are the problems that occur, but how can they be overcome?

How management can overcome these challenges?

Brett et al discovered ways in which to overcome these challenges and suggested four methods, including:

  • Adaptation
  • Structural intervention
  • Managerial intervention
  • Exit

Adaptation can be achieved when management find ways to work around the cultural challenges within the team. However for this to happen, all team members must be willing to accept their cultural differences and work around these in a way that will suit everyone. Usually this works for teams who are creative and independent as it involves them thinking for themselves and finding methods which will suit them best. The second method is structural intervention; this involves management removing the source that is causing conflict within the team. This may include reducing the number of employees within a team to ensure that the Chinese do not feel threatened to express their opinions.

Managerial intervention according to Brett et al is when a manager behaves like an arbitrator or a judge, making a final decision without team involvement (2006:90). Chen and Tjosvold (2002) addressed conflict management and it is analysed that managerial intervention can be used at Pizza Express when the team cannot agree with an issue, and management make a decision. The author believes that if a team cannot agree, they generally should not be working together, however it is also unlikely that a team will ever agree on everything.

Brett et al suggested exit mainly for teams that are long term and permanent (2006:91). This is when team members clash and as a result of this an employee will leave the organisation. Face is important to the Chinese culture (Lewis 1999:383) and if Chinese employees lose too much face, they are likely to leave the organisation. this is unlikely to happen at Pizza Express as team members are constantly changing throughout the week, as shifts are not set and are constantly changing, this is positive in the fact that employees are able to work with others are this keeps the spotlight off getting too personal, however it is also negative in the sense that teams do not have enough chance to discover how other team members work, which can lead to problems for management.

The author identified that for many organisations cross-cultural training has also been extremely effective and will be discussed below.

Cross-cultural Training

Cross- cultural training is fast becoming a recognisably important component in the world of International business (Zakaria 2000:492), and it can improve communication and understanding between these two cultures and improve understanding, in regards to their approach to time or avoiding conflict. Cross-cultural training is needed at Pizza Express, and authors such as Hogan and Goodson report that 86 per cent of Japanese multinationals report a failure rate of less than 10 per cent for employees who have received training (1990). Implementing a successful training scheme will surely reduce their teamworks failure rate and help Chinese workers learn about and adjust to their new home (Zakaria 2000:492).

Many authors such as Black and Mendenhall (1990) and Lubin (1992) have pointed out that training will never totally eliminate the anxiety and stress associated with cultural contact; however it is clear that cross cultural training will certainly help to reduce the impact.

Zakaria (2000) stated that the need to train people is unquestionable, however there are many important aspects for the management to consider at Pizza Express, and these are the quality of the trainers. Pizza Express need to hire professionals to deal with the training sessions, as management clearly does not understand the cultural differences or there would be no problem with effective teamwork.

Studies undertaken by Black and Mendenhall (1990) show that due to overseas workers receiving little of no cross-cultural training, 16-40 per cent end their contract early because of poor performance or their inability to adjust to the foreign environment, and as high as 50 per cent of those who do not go home early function at a low level of effectiveness. These figures are worrying and managers everywhere should see the significant importance of training overseas workers. Figures, also collected by Black and Mendenhall (1990) found that only 30 per cent of expatriates receive cross-cultural training. This is a statement from sixteen years ago, and it is clear that people going overseas for work will have increased dramatically, therefore suggesting that this figure should be on this rise, however Zakaria (2000) are concerned as employees are still not receiving enough guidance. It is important to initiate training so that businesses will retain their employees and therefore will save money in the long run. However Black and Mendenhall reject this statement and they discovered that managers have a negative attitude towards cross-cultural training and state managers believe that if they are successful in the America, then they will be successful in Japan, attitudes such as this explain why expatriate failure is so high.

Conclusion

Although developing effective teamwork has proved difficult, it is important for managers to understand the differences between the British and Chinese culture and their teams by creating a team vision and mission that incorporate collectivist values (Tjosvold 2006:257). It is important that all team members develop goals that all employees can work towards and are suitable for all cultures, taking into account the individual personalities of all members and applying Coxs model wherever possible. Although homogenisation has been discussed by authors as being positive, the author believes that it would not be suitable for this situation and it is something that management should try to avoid as it is important to recognise and embrace cultural differences, as this will ultimately lead to a happy and productive workforce.

Trust is an important aspect within the Chinese culture and it takes a long time for the Chinese to place trust within the British culture. With relation to Brett et al (2006), it is important for management to discuss problems encountered within the team, to the team members first, before mentioning it to other colleagues. If this rule is not abided by, then the Chinese will be humiliated and trust will be lost between the managers and the employee.

Currently, Pizza Express have teams of ten, this could be a major factor in the failure of successful teamwork. Reducing the number of members within the team will enable the Chinese culture to input their ideas as they will feel less threatened. Communication will also be much quicker, if there is a need to communicate across teams, one person from each team should be selected to ensure that there is minimum confusion and jobs are only done once; this will also reduce the need for managerial intervention.

Brett et al also noticed that teams were less successful because of difficulties with accents and fluency, to work around this Pizza Express can ensure to place employees in the same teams as much as possible, this will ensure that employees get used to accents, if this fails and there is still difficulties, then team members should be moved around until communication is understood and is quick.

It is also important for management to assess when there are times when teamwork is not needed in order to appeal to individualist cultures, if tasks can be done by individuals, then teamwork can be avoided, this will ensure that employees are not becoming too dependant upon their colleagues.

It is vital for managers to understand these communication differences in order to avoid conflict and to ensure that both cultures can communicate in a successful and productive way that will benefit all involved. The most affective way of ensuring that these two cultures succeed in working together is by enforcing cross-cultural training, this has been well documented by many authors including Zakaria (2000) and Pizza Express should aim to introduce a successful programme that will bridge the cultural distances between all employees. Topics that can be covered could include bridging the underlying messages when the Chinese communicate, this will improve the British understanding and team members will learn to avoid asking personal and blunt questions. Although this may be an expensive task, management will save money in the long run as it aims to increase productivity amongst team members and reduce staff turnover.

Teamwork, when successful can raise morale and spur innovation, something that all managers should strive to work towards.

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