Business Management: Culture


The business management course is designed to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of business management theories, as well as their ability to apply a range of tools and techniques. Students learn to analyse, discuss and evaluate business activities at local, national and international levels. The course covers a range of organizations from all sectors, as well as the socio-cultural and economic contexts in which those organizations operate.


The course covers the key characteristics of business organization and environment and the business functions of human resource management, finance and accounts, marketing and operations management. Links between the topics are central to the course. Through the exploration of six underpinning concepts (change, culture, ethics, globalization, innovation and strategy), the course allows students to develop a holistic understanding of today’s complex and dynamic business environment. The conceptual learning is firmly anchored in business management theories, tools and techniques and placed in the context of real world examples and case studies.


The course encourages the appreciation of ethical concerns at both a local and global level. It aims to develop relevant and transferable skills, including the ability to: think critically; make ethically sound and well-informed decisions; appreciate the pace, nature and significance of change; think strategically; and undertake long term planning, analysis and evaluation. The course also develops subject-specific skills, such as financial analysis.

(IB, n.d.)

Big Questions

Why is business needed? ie. What are the business drivers?

What do we hope to achieve? ie. What does success look like?

Who is affected by the business and in what way?

What are the restraining forces against the business?


Aspects of Business Culture

"Someone's cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values" (Collins, 2017). "Awareness that someone from a different culture gives a person a chance to adjust and adapt. Americans tend to operate at a fast pace, so they must often slow down and allow for informal interaction when dealing with people from parts of Europe" (, 2017).


Example: "In Italy, where relationships are highly valued, lunch, dinner or the simple pauses for coffee have a social connotation: people get together to talk and relax, and to get to know each other better. In the USA, where time is money, lunches can be part of closing a deal where people discuss the outcomes and sign a contract over coffee. Showing consideration for the cultural norms of others makes a person more hospitable in a home country and better-equipped to fit in when travelling abroad" (Quappe & Cantatore, 2007).

"Cultural bias involves a prejudice or highlighted distinction in viewpoint that suggests a preference of one culture over another. Cultural bias can be described as discriminative. There is a lack of group integration of social values, beliefs, and rules of conduct. Cultural bias introduces one group’s accepted behaviour as valued and distinguishable from another lesser valued societal group."

(Yingst, 2011)

"In a workplace, diversity is an opportunity and a challenge. Different perspectives allow work teams to discuss more options to achieve better results. However, employees must be sensitive to the influence of culture on communication and etiquette. Regular eye contact is a sign of engagement when talking or listening in the United States. However, it is sometimes viewed as domineering and disrespectful in Japan. Therefore, moderating eye contact may help Americans in building rapport and mutual respect with people of a different cultural background."

(, 2017)

"Cultural imprinting [begins] at a very early age. And while some of culture’s knowledge, rules, beliefs, values, phobias and anxieties are taught explicitly, most is absorbed subconsciously” (Kinsey Goman, 2011). "During the intensive learning phase in childhood, primary culture imprints the human being with certain rules, norms and desired ways of behaviour to which the members of the group adhere. Secondary cultural imprint happens if the child adapts to other cultures that cover but not substitute the primary cultural imprint" (Heimgärtner, 2012).


Example: "Dr. Rapaille’s research (2007) examines the cultural imprinting of the word “work” in France and then contrasts it with the United States. For the French, work associated with keeping France strong or supporting God’s work has positive value. All other work has different levels of association with the word “vulgar.” For this reason, when French strangers meet at social gatherings, the question “tell me about yourself?” is likely to elicit non-work responses. In the United States, the emotional imprinting of the word “work” is “who I am.” When U.S. strangers meet at social gatherings, the response to “tell me about yourself?” is likely to be a job title" (Stybel & Peabody, 2017).

"An ethnocentric person measures other cultures against his own, which he sees as the ideal. In business, ethnocentrism is the extension of ethnocentric beliefs to products from particular countries or cultures. For example, in a highly-ethnocentric country, consumers will be more likely to purchase domestic products or products from culturally similar countries than from a culture that is perceived as inferior.


Ethnocentrism can benefit domestic companies because ethnocentric consumers will be more likely to purchase domestically-produced products and less likely to purchase foreign-manufactured products. This can have the effect of keeping foreign companies out of the market, which allows domestic companies to avoid competition from low-cost foreign producers. This allows domestic companies to protect their market and maintain low levels of competition.


While ethnocentrism can aid a company domestically, it can cause problems for a company when going abroad. Just as it allows domestic companies to protect their market, it can prevent a company from entering a foreign market. For example, an American company will have difficulties entering a foreign country if the country is highly ethnocentric and does not look at American companies favourably."

(Scilly, 2017)

"In international business practices, reason and emotion both play a role. Which of these dominates depends upon whether we are affective (readily showing emotions) or emotionally neutral in our approach. Members of neutral cultures do not telegraph their feelings, but keep them carefully controlled and subdued. In cultures with high affect, people show their feelings plainly by laughing, smiling, grimacing, scowling, and sometimes crying, shouting, or walking out of the room.


This doesn't mean that people in neutral cultures are cold or unfeeling, but in the course of normal business activities, neutral cultures are more careful to monitor the amount of emotion they display. Emotional reactions were found to be least acceptable in Japan, Indonesia, the U.K., Norway, and the Netherlands and most accepted in Italy, France, the U.S., and Singapore.


Reason and emotion are part of all human communication. When expressing ourselves, we look to others for confirmation of our ideas and feelings. If our approach is highly emotional, we are seeking a direct emotional response: 'I feel the same way.' If our approach is highly neutral, we want an indirect response: 'I agree with your thoughts on this.' "

(Kinsey Goman, 2011)

"Expected behaviours and expectations for individual actions within society, group, or class" (Business Dictionary, 2017). "Within a place of business, it involves treating co-workers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone. With regard to meetings, business etiquette includes punctuality and preparedness, wearing professional attire, offering an appropriate handshake or greeting, politeness and/or diplomacy, being attentive, and following up on the meeting" (Sheahan, 2017).

"Rituals are traditions or ceremonies that occur on a regular basis. Quite often, organizations miss opportunities to use rituals to improve morale. Simple events such as honoring birthdays, anniversaries, important successes, or positive announcements all serve as occasions for the company to say, 'We value you and we want to honor or acknowledge you and your accomplishments.' These events can be inexpensively acknowledged with lunches, cakes, coffee or cards. There are many low-cost methods (expensive ones, too!) of telling employees how important they are. The results can be very powerful!"

(Javitch, 2010)

"Symbols are crucial icons or signs that tell the observer, visitor, and even the employees something about the organisation. Nameplates and logos on doors, windows, walls, and stationery tell every person seeing them something about the company. These symbols can be as concrete as a name and as abstract as cleanliness, high tech, modernity, or quality. They reveal to all a measure of the company story. Something as simple as names on cubicles says that even though we may be cubby-holed, the company believes that people are important" (Javitch, 2010). "At the level of organisational culture, symbols include abbreviations, slang, modes of address, dress codes and status symbols" (Hofstede, 1994).

"A company’s values are the core of its culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviours and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. McKinsey & Company, for example, has a clearly articulated set of values that are prominently communicated to all employees and involve the way that firm vows to serve clients, treat colleagues, and uphold professional standards. Google’s values might be best articulated by their famous phrase, 'Don’t be evil.' But they are also enshrined in their 'ten things we know to be true.' And while many companies find their values revolve around a few simple topics (employees, clients, professionalism, etc.), the originality of those values is less important than their authenticity" (Coleman, 2013).


"When values succeed, the daily behaviours of your people will embody the core values you set forth. When they fall flat, as Patrick M. Lencioni wrote in his Harvard Business Review article on the topic, 'Empty values statements create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility.' When your culture and values don’t align, your employees, customers and bottom-line business performance may suffer" (Cancialosi, 2015).

"Some cultures think of time sequentially, as a linear commodity to "spend," "save," or "waste". Other cultures view time synchronically, as a constant flow to be experienced in the moment, and as a force that cannot be contained or controlled.


In sequential cultures (like North American, English, German, Swedish, and Dutch), businesspeople give full attention to one agenda item after another. In synchronic cultures (including South America, southern Europe and Asia) the flow of time is viewed as a sort of circle, with the past, present, and future all interrelated. This viewpoint influences how organizations in those cultures approach deadlines, strategic thinking, investments, developing talent from within, and the concept of "long-term" planning.


Orientation to the past, present, and future is another aspect of time in which cultures differ. Americans believe that the individual can influence the future by personal effort, but since there are too many variables in the distant future, we favor a short-term view. Synchronistic cultures’ context is to understand the present and prepare for the future. Any important relationship is a durable bond that goes back and forward in time, and it is often viewed as grossly disloyal not to favor friends and relatives in business dealings."

(Kinsey Goman, 2011)

"Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples. In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy. Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

Linear Time

In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast ... and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it. Americans also talk about wasting, spending, budgeting and saving time. The Americans are not the only ones who sanctify timekeeping, for it is practically a religion in Switzerland and Germany, too. These countries, along with Britain, the Anglo-Saxon world in general, the Netherlands, Austria and Scandinavia, have a linear vision of time and action. They suspect, like the Americans, that time is passing (being wasted) without decisions being made or actions being performed. These groups are also monochronic; that is, they prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule. They think that in this way they get more things done — and more efficiently.

Multi-Active Time

Southern Europeans are multi-active, rather than linear-active. The more things they can do at the same time, the happier and the more fulfilled they feel. They organise their time (and lives) in an entirely different way from Americans, Germans and the Swiss. Multi-active peoples are not very interested in schedules or punctuality. They pretend to observe them, especially if a linear-active partner or colleague insists on it, but they consider the present reality to be more important than appointments. In their ordering of things, priority is given to the relative thrill or significance of each meeting. Spaniards, Italians and Arabs will ignore the passing of time if it means that conversations will be left unfinished. For them, completing a human transaction is the best way they can invest their time. The meeting is what counts.

Cyclic Time

In some Eastern cultures, however, the adaptation of humans to time is seen as a viable alternative. In these cultures, time is viewed neither as linear nor event–relationship related, but as cyclic. Cyclical time is not a scarce commodity. Westerners often expect an Asian to make a quick decision or to treat a current deal on its present merits, irrespective of what has happened in the past. Asians cannot do this. The past formulates the contextual background to the present decision. Asians do not see time as racing away unutilised in a linear future, but coming around again in a circle, where the same opportunities, risks and dangers will re- present themselves when people are so many days, weeks or months wiser."

(Lewis, 2014)

"You have a particular style of communicating, of course, but do you know what it is, including its strengths and weaknesses, and how it compares to the styles of others? Over the past two decades of research, my team and I have found that there are four fundamental communication styles: Analytical, Intuitive, Functional and Personal. Two major philosophical differences that separate the four communication styles are the extent to which you communicate with emotions or with data, and the extent to which you communicate in a linear way.


As an analytical communicator, you like hard data, real numbers, and you tend to be suspicious of people who aren’t in command of the facts and data. You typically like very specific language and have little patience for lots of feeling and emotional words.


As an intuitive communicator, you like the big picture, you avoid getting bogged down in details, and you cut right to the chase. You don’t need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that lets you easily skip right to the end point.


As a functional communicator, you like process, detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. You like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion so nothing gets missed.


As a personal communicator, you value emotional language and connection, and use that as your mode of discovering what others are really thinking. You find value in assessing not just how people think, but how they feel. You tend to be a good listener and diplomat, you can smooth over conflicts, and you’re typically concerned with the health of your numerous relationships."

(Murphy, 2015)

"All international communication is influenced by cultural differences. Even the choice of communication medium can have cultural overtones. The determining factor may not be the degree of industrialization, but rather whether the country falls into a high-context or low-context culture.


High-context cultures (Mediterranean, Slav, Central European, Latin American, African, Arab, Asian, American-Indian) leave much of the message unspecified, to be understood through context, nonverbal cues, and between-the-lines interpretation of what is actually said. By contrast, low-context cultures (most Germanic and English-speaking countries) expect messages to be explicit and specific."

(Kinsey Goman, 2011)

"Culture directly affects business communication, both verbal and nonverbal. Some cultures, including Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, place high significance to the words actually spoken. Other cultures, including Japan and Arab cultures, still place significance on the spoken word, but also place great significance on the context of the conversation. Silence carries significance in all cultures, and this might be interpreted in different ways during cross-cultural business meetings."

(Rush, 2017)

"In virtually every business culture, hierarchies determine one’s rank and position in an organisation. The way people react to theses hierarchies though, differs dramatically depending on if you work in a formal or informal business culture.


Formal business cultures are found in India, China and most of Asia, the Middle East, and in varying degrees Latin America, Eastern Europe, most of Africa and Southern Europe. These hierarchies are pyramidal in shape: mirroring status levels in their societies. The essentials of formal business cultures are respect, saving face, honor, dignity and notions of expected behaviour and politeness. Great deference is shown regarding a person’s age, status, and position, family reputation and other indicators of social rank. A larger 'space bubble,' for example, is frequently a cultural status marker; lowering the eyes in the presence of elders and those of higher status is a sign of reverence. Indeed, if the status difference is great, it is a faux pas ― or worse, an insult ― to initiate eye contact if you are the one with the lower status. Language style changes dramatically according to status. The higher your counterpart in the hierarchy, the more formal, circumspect and polite your style. Indeed, superiors are rarely or even never spoken to directly; it is unthinkable to contradict them and virtually impossible to say 'No!' to them. If an employee feels that it is necessary to indicate a 'No!' it is signaled through a complex weave of gestures, tone of voice, eye contact, hesitations and posture. The language used is so indirect that 'Yes!' very often signifies 'No!' " (Browne, 2016).


"Informal business cultures are egalitarian: from boss to receptionist, communication might be open with apparently little concern about status, job title or hierarchical position. The boss may present her/himself as your 'friend.' Eye contact is usually direct, as is language where the use of 'No!' is valued for its clarity and simplicity. Furthermore, employees feel a strong personal responsibility for their tasks and the company´s objectives. Used to defining their own priorities, their decision making scope is broad" (Browne, 2016).


"Nepotism is a specific form of favoritism in which a business leader prioritises hiring a family member over a non-family member. While it is certainly a controversial topic in business ethics, it isn't inherently unethical to employ family members. The nature of your business, standards for employment and consistency in policies affect the ethical nature of nepotism. The basic concern about nepotism in business is that it contradicts typical customs in employment to hire and promote the most qualified candidate for a job. While a son, daughter or nephew may be the most capable employee, nepotism sometimes leads to relatives getting jobs when other candidates have stronger education and work experience" (Kokemuller, 2017).


Examples: "In India, nepotism is a way of life [and reinforces the divide between classes]. Politics, business, mainstream cinema and other occupations where talent is subordinate to lineage are dominated by family cartels" (Joseph, 2012). "In Latin American countries, companies generally recruit new workers through their current employees and employees’ family members and close relatives. This guarantees the trust, loyalty and sense of responsibility that are important to keeping the organisation together" (Dávila & Elvira, 2005).

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