Culture in general is the sum of total learned behaviour of a group of people who are following certain traditions which are transmitted from generation to generation and distinguishes the members of one human group from other groups by those factors (Brown 1995). If people from different cultures and geographical areas come together, sometimes difficulties and misunderstandings can be encountered. In international negotiations, it is very important to adapt behaviour to the values and standards of the country and culture where the negotiation is going to be held. Negotiation is simply the communication between two or more parties in order to receive a positive outcome of the purpose people gathered to negotiate. This essay proposes that negotiation is influenced and augmented by an understanding of the home and other party (O.P) culture. This essay will provide advice to Russian negotiators when embarking on business negotiations in Switzerland.
Culture can be described in many ways because people have different opinions, experiences and their own definition. Russia and Switzerland have significant cultural differences and therefore Russian negotiators must amend their style as what works in Russia will not necessarily work in Switzerland. Russia is a high power distance culture with an estimated value score of 93 out of 100 (Hofstede 2009). Switzerland is rather a lower power distance culture with a score of 34 out of 100 (Hofstede 2009). This has big impacts on the negotiation process between these two cultures in terms of hierarchy aspects, as in Russia hierarchy reflects natural differences and in Switzerland hierarchy is rather for straightforwardness (Trompenaars & Hampden- Turner 1998). Switzerland also differs in uncertainty avoidance with a score of 58, whereas Russia has a high uncertainty avoidance based on an estimated score of 95 (Hofstede 2009).
The cultural aspects of Switzerland differ from those of Russia. Moreover, in the culture of Switzerland the male population is competitive and assertive to the female population which indicates the score of 70 (Hofstede 2009). Whereas, Russia has a score of 36 in the same value dimension which signify a work- to live lifestyle and for this reason Russians could get with different objectives in a negotiation with the Swiss (Hofstede 2009). Those mentioned issues and differences in Hofstede´s power distance and masculinity have the potential to cause problems in negotiations, as Russians executives expect to negotiate with senior managers and have different values, do not tolerate uncertainty and are less assertive then Swiss people. Switzerland´s culture pursues a distributive negotiation, where both parties reach a WIN-WIN situation, whereas Russians tend to bargain with an integrative negotiation with a WIN-LOSE outcome (Katz 2007).
Differences in the ‘Power Distance’ Dimension
The Russian culture differs from the culture of Switzerland in terms of the power distance. This is due to Russians having a very high power distance culture as businesses are highly centralised (Chhokar, Brodbeck & House 2007). Russia have a long history of centralization of authority and authoritarian leadership, tsar Peter the first established a table of ranks in 1722 which determined status and privileges in society accorded to 14 ranks. Later, under the communist regime with Lenin, Stalin and other politicians Russia remained a society with high centralised authority (Elenkov 1998). The hierarchical nature of this issue highlights that the vision of one person, for instance the general manager can radically influence the business operations of the entire company (Rosten 1991). The general manager in Russia is the leading person and hence linked to the fact of a high power distance culture; those people make all important decisions whereas the middle- management has lower chances of co- determination (Elenkov 1998).
Although it could be favourable to meet the executive of a company it is not fundamental for the success in any negotiation. Switzerland has different values in terms of power distance than Russia. It is shown that Switzerland has a low power distance culture, as the country obtained just 34 scores out of 100 in this cultural value dimension (Hofstede 2009). The reason therefore might be in the ‘Foundation of Switzerland’, the well- known legends of William Tell or the representatives of the Swiss cantons ‘Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden’, who were successfully rebelling against authority and violation of power (Chhokar, Brodbeck & House 2007). Among Swiss business people, decisions are made within the consensus of the whole group they affect (Katz 2007). Swiss people expect and agree that power should be equally shared which is caused by the early history of Switzerland when people revolted against particular people who have tried to monopolise power.