Cross-Cultural Management and Communication in Europe - Britain, Germany, France and Italy

Master's Thesis, 2002

59 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)




Chapter 1 ‘Theories on Cross-Cultural Management’
1.1 G. Hofstede
1.1.1 Individualism vs. Collectivism
1.1.2 Masculinity vs. Femininity
1.1.3 Power Distance
1.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance
1.2 F. Trompenaars & Ch. M. Hampden-Turner
1.2.1 Universalism vs. Particularism
1.2.2 Analysed Specifics vs. Integrated Wholes
1.2.3 Other dimensions

Chapter 2 ‘Doing Business in Britain, France, Germany & Italy’
2.1 Communication
2.1.1 Britain
2.1.2 Germany
2.1.3 France
2.1.4 Italy
2.2 Leadership
2.2.1 Britain
2.2.2 Germany
2.2.3 France
2.2.4 Italy
2.3 Meetings
2.3.1 Britain
2.3.2 Germany
2.3.3 France
2.3.4 Italy

Chapter 3 ‘Survey at American Express Central Site’
3.1 Design of Questionnaire
3.2 Data Analysis and Comparison to the Theory

Chapter 4 ‘Discussion & Conclusion’


Appendix 1: Survey Sample
Appendix 2: Analysis of Question 3 cont.
Appendix 3: Analysis of Question 4
Appendix 4: Analysis of Question 5 & 6
Appendix 5: Analysis of Question 7
Appendix 6: Languages
Appendix 7: Analysis of Question 10
Appendix 8: Analysis of Question 11 cont.
Appendix 9: Humour
Appendix 10: Transcripts of Question 13

List OF Figure

- Figure 1 : Analysis of Survey Question 1

- Figure 2 : Analysis of Survey Question 2

- Figure 3 : Analysis of Survey Question 3

- Figure 4 : Analysis of Survey Question 9

- Figure 5 : Analysis of Survey Question 3 cont.

- Figure 6 : Analysis of Survey Question 4

- Figure 7 : Analysis of Survey Question 6

- Figure 8 : Analysis of Survey Question 7

- Figure 9 : Analysis of Survey Question 10

List OF Table

- Table 1 : Analysis of Survey Question 11

- Table 2 : Analysis of Survey Question 5

- Table 3 : Analysis of Survey Question 8

Different mind-sets among EU member countries with regard to the organization’s processes led to the downfall of the Santer Commission ( the EU cabinet) in 1999, after a report on corrupt practices by commission members had been leaked to the EU parliament by a Dutch (!) whistle-blowing internal auditor. The commissioners most blamed were former prominent politicians from France and Spain; political mores that would bot have harmed their positions at home proved unacceptable in the international EU setting.’

(taken from: Hofstede, G. (2001:433)


The member countries of the European Union are becoming more and more integrated, but, as the above extract shows, cultural differences among the individual states still remain and can pose problems.

Effective cross-cultural management and communication between the countries is essential in order to work efficiently together and build a strong union. We encounter cross-cultural issues in all areas of our life, but in this dissertation I will concentrate on cross-cultural communication and management in a business context.

Today, numerous businesses operate on an international or European level, mergers between companies from different countries have become very common and for these businesses to work efficiently management and employees have to be aware of cultural differences and understand how to use them to their advantage, instead of seeing them as an obstacle.

Having worked in an international environment for several years, I have become aware of differences between nationalities and interested in exploring where these differences come from and how to accept and deal effectively with them.

Over the summer of 2001 I was working as a coach for several European teams within American Express Customer Relations and encountered difficulties with some of my trainees, which, as I realised later, were triggered by cultural differences.

In this paper I will attempt to give a brief overview of the work of three major theorists, who have researched cross-cultural management and communication.

In the second chapter I will outline the consequences cultural differences can have on the workings and organisation of business. Due to the parameters of this project I have chosen only three areas to look at – communication, leadership and meetings.

The next chapter will include details about a survey I conducted at American Express Customer Relations, the results of which I will critically evaluate and compare to the theories mentioned in Chapter 1.

During my research I was overwhelmed by the amount of information found in the topic area of cross-cultural management and communication and, with rising interest and fascination from my site, it was necessary for me to limit the aspects and theories looked at, due to the length of this work.

Nevertheless, I hope that awareness and interest will arise in the reader and perhaps even trigger further investigation into areas of interest.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

‘Theories on Cross-Cultural Management’

Cross-cultural issues, affecting the business environment, have already been explored by several theorists. G. Hofstede is the major author considered for this work, but a brief overview of the work by Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner will also be given and taken into consideration. Generally it is to be said that theories on cross-cultural management and communication in business describe tendencies within the different cultures. Each culture will inevitably display features of all cultural dimensions, but some will predominate. Individuals within each society have varying views and attitudes, but traditionally cultures show general tendencies towards certain behaviour, values, attitudes and beliefs.

1.1 G. Hofstede

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Geert Hofstede conducted a study on employees at IBM, a major international company. He questioned over 11,000 employees of the business in some 40 countries about their value orientation, which resulted in the categorisation of five different cultural dimensions (Cole, G.A., 1996: 117).

(Source of photo:

1.1.1 Individualism vs. Collectivism

‘… this dimension distinguishes individualism as a national attribute that favours people looking to themselves and their families as their first priority, and collectivism as an attribute that expects people to give loyalty to, and find protection in, the wider group.’

(Cole, G.A., 1996:117)

In a more individualistic society the individual is in the centre, it is important to go one’s own way and not to be influenced by other people.

According to S. Dahl (2000), Anglo-Saxon countries, including Britain, tend show more individualistic features. As an example he mentions the fact that individualistically oriented societies educate their people to independence. It is quite common for young people in Britain, for instance, to move out of the parents’ home when starting university, whereas in more collectivistically oriented cultures, for example in Italy, this is far more unlikely as the family plays an extremely important role here.

In collectivist societies group goals are far more important than the individual’s own interests. As S. Dahl (2000) mentioned, this is why Bonus Schemes in businesses in collectivist cultures tend to be less successful than in individualistic societies. Individuals do not want to stand out from the group and therefore will avoid achieving better goals, quality or effectiveness than the other group members.

American Express, which deals with numerous different cultures, has implemented a Bonus Scheme, which takes account of these differences. Not only is an individual bonus available, but also a team and a departmental bonus, thus encouraging also collectivist oriented individuals to give their best, in order to help the team and department to achieve their goals.

G. Hofstede (2001) examined further what influence individualism/ collectivism has in a business context. Individualistically oriented individuals will feel more comfortable in a job, which leaves enough time for family, friends and personal life. Personal accomplishments, challenge and high earnings are other features typically desired by people from individualistic countries.

In collectivist societies on the other hand, personal opinions rarely exist (G. Hofstede: 2001) and direct confrontation should be avoided.

1.1.2 Masculinity vs. Femininity

Countries and cultures can also be described as showing more masculine or feminine tendencies – again, this can affect how business is conducted in that country.

‘Masculinity stands for a society in which social gender roles are clearly distinct: Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life. Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap: Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.’

(Hofstede, G., 2001:297)

Feminine cultures, as they display more ‘feminine’ features, are said to be more tolerant cultures, concerned for the social well being and welfare of its citizens, whereas masculine cultures generally focus more on materialism, competition and success and are very career oriented societies (Dahl, S., 2000; Cole, G.A. 1996:117).

G. Hofstede (2001:281) mentions that advancement, earnings, training and up-to-dateness are important for men in their jobs. Women value a friendly atmosphere, position security and good physical conditions at work.

According to Hofstede (2001:285) German speaking countries (for example Germany) show more masculine tendencies, Anglo countries (for instance Britain) are just above average on the masculine site and the Latin (for example France) countries show more feminine features.

This dimension plays a more important role in connection with some of the other dimensions Hofstede mentions, as they can intensify the effects of masculine and feminine tendencies.

1.1.3 Power Distance

‘… this refers to the extent to which different cultures accept different distributions of power within the society; a high power distance society accepts wide differences of power between those at the top of society and those at the bottom; a low power distance society sees power as being shared much more equitably, leaving less of a power gap between the top and the bottom ranks.’

(Cole, G.A., 1996:117)

It is obvious from the above statement that this dimension does affect the world of business considerably. Hierarchies within companies do play a role in every European country, but are seen as less important (low power distance) in some cultures than in others (high power distance).

According to G. Hofstede (2001:431) a larger power distance usually also implies political centralisation and lack of co-operation between citizens and authorities.

These characteristics can be applied to business as well. In a society with a larger power distance, stricter hierarchies will exist – ‘superiors will be seen as superior persons.’ (Hofstede, G., 2001:97). Decision -making within a company will be centralised and subordinates will have less influence and participation, if any at all.

In low power distance countries on the other hand, business tends to be more participative. Individuals holding superior positions within a company will not mind mixing with their subordinates, hierarchies are flatter and are not seen to be as strict as in larger power distance countries.

Hofstede (2001:87) found in his studies at IBM that France and Italy have a relatively large power distance, whereas Britain and Germany have a lower one.

1.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance

‘This dimension refers to how comfortable people feel towards ambiguity. Cultures which ranked low (compared to other cultures), feel much more comfortable with the unkown. As a result, HIGH uncertainty avoidance cultures prefer formal rules and any uncertainty can express itself in higher anxiety than those from low uncertainty avoidance cultures.’

(Trillo, N.G., 1996)

Uncertainty is a feature of life we all have to deal with. Whilst some people, but also cultures, see it more as a threat and try to regulate and plan as much as possible ahead, others see it as an opportunity.

According to S. Dahl (2000) Britain is seen as a country for which risk is a challenge, not a threat. An example of this would be the education system (Dahl, S., 2000). In British universities you can study for whatever degree and still take a job, which does not relate to that degree in any way, whereas in Germany for instance, which is an uncertainty-avoiding country, your job is generally determined by which course of studies you take.

S. Dahl (2000) goes on to say that the title is another feature that plays an important role in uncertainty avoiding countries. Titles like Doctor and Professor have to be mentioned not only in written communication, but also if talked to, people want to be addressed as ‘Herr Doctor’ and ‘Herr Professor’ (Dahl, S., 2000).

American Express implemented a new letter system a couple of years ago. As it was supposed to save the company money and the employees’ time, the salutation read ‘Dear Cardmember’ for each letter. In the next few months the company received complaint letters from customers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as they wanted to be addressed with their title, but hardly any from British customers. This clearly supports the above theory.

‘The stronger a culture’s tendency to avoid uncertainty, the greater its needs for rules’ (Hofstede, G., 2001:147). G. Hofstede (2001:148) further states that the ‘three components of uncertainty avoidance (are): rule orientation, employment stability, and stress.’

In his work G. Hofstede (2001:151) found out that France is the most uncertainty-avoiding country – of the four countries looked at in this paper – followed by Italy, Germany and finally Britain.

1.2 F. Trompenaars & Ch. M. Hampden-Turner


Ch. Hampden-Turner and F. Trompenaars conducted a different study to that of G. Hofstede, looking at seven different dimensions and seven countries (Joynt, P., 1996: 81). Due to the length of this work only the two most important dimensions are explored and the others are described briefly under point 1.2.3.

1.2.1 Universalism vs. Particularism

This dimension is closely connected with G. Hofstede’s dimension of individualist and collectivist societies.

Universalist societies will stick strictly to laws and apply them universally (‘What is right for us, is right for everyone else!’). They believe in telling the truth always and everywhere.

Particularist countries on the other hand, will amend rules and laws according each situation and the group of people affected by it. Their conviction is that there is not one right version and that the existing version has to be adapted to the situation affected by it (Dahl, S., 2000).

S. Dahl (2000) goes on to explain that, in general, one can say that individualist countries (for example Britain) tend to show more universalist features, whereas more collectivist countries (for instance Italy) will show rather particularist features. This might be due to the fact that in collectivist societies relationships are extremely important within the family and also among friends and therefore it is commonly accepted in those societies to ‘bend the rules’ in order to prevent family and/or friends from being disadvantaged.

Another example S. Dahl (2000) mentions, is the teaching of Management Principles, especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries, but also Germany. These Management Principles are seen by those universalistic countries to be universally applicable, without any alterations or amendment to them. Effective management in the States, has to be effective anywhere else.

1.2.2 Analysed Specifics vs. Integrated Wholes

‘Are we more effective as managers when we analyse phenomena into specifics, i.e. parts, fact, targets… or when we integrate and configure such details into diffuse patterns, relationships and wider contexts? At stake here is the salience of analysed specifics vs. integrated wholes.

(Hampden-Turner, C.M. & Trompenaars, F., in: P. Joynt, 1996: 277)

Some cultures like to break down information, to consider details, while others prefer to see a process as a whole and take a more holistic view of a situation or problem.

This certainly can create conflicts in working environments if several different cultures are working together, as some people will concentrate on one specific problem or area whereas others will try to see everything in its context.

More specific cultures also strictly divide work and private life. If meeting your boss outside work for instance it is perfectly acceptable to talk to them or treat them like a friend. In cultures which show more wholist tendencies, the boss will be the boss also outside work and ‘a wife would be ‘Frau Professor’ even in the supermarket’ (Hampden-Turner, C.M. & Trompenaars, F., in: Joynt, P., 1996: 285).

According to F. Trompenaars (2002:91) diffuse cultures also ‘tend to have lower turnover and employee mobility because of the importance of ‘loyalty’ and the multiplicity of human bonds’, than specific societies. This is due to the fact that all areas of life penetrate each other, thus creating stronger ‘loyalty’. Specific incentives, as for instance high salaries, would not be enough to break the relationships in the current workplace.

1.2.3 Other Dimensions

Other dimensions by Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars include:

- Individualism vs. communitarianism
- Neutrality vs. affectivity
- Inner directed vs. outer directed
- Achieved status vs. ascribed status
- Sequential time vs. synchronic time

(University of Teeside, n.d.)

Individualism/communitarianism corresponds to Hofstede’s dimension of Indivisualism/collectivism (see above).

Neutrality/affectivity deals with the degree of emotions shown by a culture. Neutral cultures do not like to show emotions and can appear quite serious and restrained. Other cultures will naturally show feelings, even in a business context. ‘Loud laughter, banging your fist on the table or leaving a conference room in anger during a negotiation is all part of business.’ (HP Management Decisions Ltd, 2000). Southern European countries usually fall within the second category.

The next dimension describes how different cultures tend to deal with the environment. Inner-directed cultures will try to control their actions themselves, whereas outer-directed societies tend to adjust their actions to outside trends and demands (Hampden-Turner, C.M. & Trompenaars, F., in: Joynt, P., 1996: 277).

Achieved vs. ascribed status is self-explanatory, as in the first instance qualification and achievement will lead to status and promotion. In ascription cultures status and promotion will be based on relationships, the personality or other characteristics.

Last but not least, Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars differentiate between sequential vs. synchronic time. Sequential cultures plan their time very strictly, one activity or appointment following the other one. Punctuality is extremely important. For synchronic societies time does not play such an important role. Appointments and meetings often start late and usually do not finish on time (University of Teeside, n.d.).

In the next chapter we will look at what consequences these different cultural characteristics can have on cross-cultural business.


Excerpt out of 59 pages


Cross-Cultural Management and Communication in Europe - Britain, Germany, France and Italy
University of Brighton  (Management)
1 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
894 KB
Communication, Cross-Cultural, Europe, Management in Europe, Communication inn Europe, Business in Europe
Quote paper
Heidrun Farnell (Author), 2002, Cross-Cultural Management and Communication in Europe - Britain, Germany, France and Italy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Cross-Cultural Management and Communication in Europe - Britain, Germany, France and Italy

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free