In the modern days of the 21st Century our lives are evolved around businesses. One key for success is recruiting the right people for the right job in the right place. From the smallest businesses on the corners of the streets to the largest corporations such as Microsoft, businesses are created by people to fulfil human needs, wants and objectives. The subject which is currently part of our curriculum is Organisational behaviour (OB), a subject which tries increases our understanding on how the human factor of a business works and affects the business an organisation as a whole.
In this essay, a group of four students will be investigating and trying to understand how diversity and cultural differences impact a business’s organisation. The group investigating these issues consists of four members which have a wide range of different cultural background. Hanne Matthijs is originally Dutch, but has spent numerous years in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia she was able to experience the culture of a work environment during an internship. Sebastian Luedke is originally from Germany and has experience in employment in Thailand as well as in Spain.
Sebastian therefore has a wide range of experience from different countries and cultures and can give us an inside on how different businesses operate in different parts of the world. Kaissa Karhu is partially American born with culturally diverse roots from Japan, Finland, and The Caribbean. Kaissa has knowledge of different cultures, and work experience from within the UK, as she has been involved with Abercrombie & Fitch a clothing company as well as Japanese retail stores. Vlad Coman-Enescu is originally born in Romania but has lived most of his life in The Netherlands.
He therefore has vast knowledge of two very different cultures. Diversity is an important factor in organisational behaviour and the culture of the workplace. Diversity includes the differences between people; including race, gender and disability. Race and gender diversity is apparent in our group, with an equal proportion of females to males, and with all of us having different racial backgrounds. During our group discussions, we reviewed cases involving diversity issues within organisations to examine the organisational behaviour concerned. One case we discussed was the employment policies of the retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.
The issue of employment in this company relates to diversity as, in the recent past, this type of store would only hire a certain race of people, mainly being Caucasians. Additionally they would also hire workers on the basis of the looks and appearance. [i] The racial and cultural diversity of the group affected the discussions and opinions made from each person upon Abercrombie and Fitches decisions. Kaissa, originating form a very mixed background, both culturally and racially, felt disgraced about this limitation of diversity within the workforce.
She strongly believed this type of recruitment and selection was unacceptable in today’s business environment as stores sell to a range of races and cultures, and also trade with a variety of other countries. Hanne and Sebastian also thought of such selective recruitment as unjustifiable discrimination. Moreover highlighting the point of recruiting on the basis of looks was unnecessary and unfair, and believed that workers should be hired on the basis of their experience and business knowledge to benefit the organisation as a whole.
Vlad on the other hand argued that it was the business’ prerogative to recruit by whatever methods they choose, and in particularly in the fashion industry where perhaps the appearance of workers can create a certain desirable essence to the organisation and help generate sales. Vlad was very relaxed when it came to this topic as in his home country, Romania, such discussions do not take place and companies do not have to justify their decisions in terms of recruitment. Considering the general public reaction on this issue, strong parallels towards Hanne’s and Sebastian’s attitude can be found.
The British Retail Consortium for instance, strongly advises A&F to focus on qualifications such as communication, numeracy and customer service skills. [ii] Furthermore, the settlement of the Discrimination Lawsuit against A&F from 2005 ‘requires the company to institute a range of policies and programs to promote diversity among its workforce and to prevent discrimination based on race or gender. ’[iii] As we discussed the problem we finally drew the conclusion, that the diversity of our social background played an important role in forming the foundations of our views and judgements.
The opinions of the group were therefore all affected by diversity of each member. Perhaps being female, Kaissa and Hanne feel that being judged on appearance when applying for a job is unjustifiable and inappropriate as it means you are being hired for the wrong reasons. The discussion of diversity raised awareness of the differences and effects of diversity within our group. It particular highlights the differences of thoughts and opinions based on the gender of the group members, as gender is an important part of business culture and has long been seen as a disadvantage to.
Moreover, Hanne’s experience of the discrimination towards women in Saudi Arabia, and Kaissa’s experience of the challenge for women to succeed and reach high levels of management and authority in Japan, makes them more against any discrimination that may limit women to achieve. This also influenced the group discussions that took place, with Hanne making her voice heard to get her own opinions across. The other issue that we are covering is organisational culture.
Organisational culture can be defined as the values, beliefs, policies and traditions which create the atmosphere and way of doing things within a company[iv]. For our discussion we discussed two articles in which two entirely different cultures were portrayed. One article was based upon the culture within the British army, where concern was raised regarding to bullying as having become a characteristic of their corporate culture. They now have to face severe consequences upon young teenage boys who were unable to handle such high pressure[v].
The second article raised an issue upon H&M clothing company raising an only female clothing store within Saudi Arabia. This is because in the general economic environment there are strict regulations prohibiting the interaction between men and women in Saudi Arabia[vi]. The corporate cultures within businesses are therefore restricted in many ways due to the restriction of the interaction between sexes. The issue that was additionally introduced along side of the second article, relating to women’s restrictions in Saudi Arabia, was the boycott of Saudi women buying lingerie from male sales persons.
Women would fly out to neighbouring countries such as the United Arab Emirates in order to complete their lingerie shopping[vii]. The culture that was created within the work environment of the male dominated lingerie shops was simply unbearable. For a female asking a random male sales person for bra and thong sizes was just completely paradoxical and very uncomfortable for Saudi women. Another example that portrays this viewpoint is from Moddie Batterjee, a Saudi woman.
She released the following statement concerning a friend of hers; ‘her husband fled a lingerie store because he could not bear to hear her explain to a salesman that she wanted high-waisted underwear to hold in her tummy after their daughter’s birth. ’[viii] The culture that has been created within the work environment has been due to the religious purposes of the Islam. However as a consequence of implementing such rules, women have to suffer whilst shopping. From our discussion we concluded that all over the world the corporate cultures differ to such great extends depending on the types of origin of businesses.
As we have all had some work experience we were able to contribute to this discussion of varying corporate cultures around the world, and the issue was raised upon Hanne’s own work experience in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country where strangely enough the religion has formed some sense of the corporate culture within firms as can be supported by the examples given. Women are not allowed or supposed to be allocated to work in the same environment as men, thus a special ‘ladies office’ was created in the office that Hanne worked.
This was in line with the Saudi Government concerning the minimal interaction between males and females[ix]. This issue opened quite some thoughts of the fellow group members, and the experience of their work experience was related to Hanne’s. Sebastian had quite some criticism on the cultural view as he gained work experience in Barcelona as a bar tender, where female workers were very important for business culture. The bar would never have been so successful if there would not have been any ladies, nor would the work environment have been so clean, relaxed and organised.
He said that the input of women was definitely necessary to keep up the culture within the bar, and to keep the organization up and running, referring to image as well as the revenue aspect. Kaissa on the other hand felt somewhat disgraced. She raised the issue that due to the restriction of mixing sexes, she would not want to apply for career nor internship in Saudi Arabia. As it is quite a hassle to set up an independent ladies office for female workers to be employed, it is quite an extraordinary division for companies to have.
This majorly restricts the female workforce of Saudi Arabia to make efficient use of their education within the economy. This initiates the question whether the economy as a whole is restricted due to the corporate culture created through a religion. Firms within Saudi Arabia could be working much more efficiently if the skills, beliefs, ideas of the women could be implemented. Women buying lingerie would be able to shop in comfort asking advice from the same sex, and sales might even increase as now women would not have the need to visit neighbouring countries in order for them to shop in a comfortable manner.
If recruiting women it would alter the culture within firms, and provide a broader state of mind, as the workforce culture could be enriched with the female touch it has never been in contact with previously. Secondly international talent might have been restricted in previous occasions as employees would not want to work within corporate cultures that exist within Saudi Arabia. In conclusion to the evaluation of our discussions about Organisational Structure and Diversity in terms of how the group members interacted with each other, some interesting points should be highlighted.
The diversity within our group was really helpful to explore different views on topics. The range of cultural influences brought to the group discussions mad the conversations interesting, bringing different ideas and thoughts of how things are done in each of our cultures allowing us to learn from each other and find out about everyone’s history and culture. We all agreed on the point that discussing problems or topics in a group of culturally diverse people can widen the horizon and help to find the best possible solution or decision.