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Reconciling Ethics and Values of Different Countries for Business Interactions

Updated on November 12, 2014

Introduction

Many marketers may understand business ethical standards existing their own countries. However, such a standard may lead to an ethical conflict when such marketers venture into foreign markets. As these marketers enter other foreign markets, the potential for ethical conflicts rises. Reducing such a potential necessitates knowledge. An understanding of the history and nature of other cultures is essential in providing an insight regarding the the basis of their ethical systems. The expectations and ethics within cultures influence most business transactions. It is a crucial aspect for marketers to understand the expectations and ethics within cultures that may influence their business transactions. An understanding of the cultural basis for ethical behaviour in various countries may arm marketers with the necessary knowledge required in succeeding across the multi cultural businesses. Implementation of such knowledge with a clear sequence of managerial guidelines may actualise the value of such an understanding (Fisher, 2013, 2).

In essence, culture is one of the factors that influence the ethics of a business. According to the Random House Dictionary, ethics refers to the rules of conduct that are identified in relation to a specific class of human actions for a specific culture, or group. Different cultures have different rules of conduct. The essence of this paper is to examine how different ethics and values can be reconciled when doing business across different cultures. Our goal is not to identify the ethical or unethical practices. Rather, the objective is to understand these variations and outline a way of how to reconcile them for effective performance. What is significant is that some cultures may view such practices with different levels of condemnation. This presents a problem for managers who are engaged in cross-cultural transactions. Such managers have to anticipate and manage such variations in an ethical behavior that is grounded on the cultural differences (Armstrong and Sweeney, 1994, 34). The purpose of this paper is to identity how different ethics and values can be reconciled when doing business across different cultures.

Cultural Conflicts

Media today is awash with stories that highlight domestic and international unethical behaviors of managers. Such behavior may include bribery, illegal contributions, sale of defective products, hiding information and other vices. These incidences are a representation of personal or organizational misconduct and portray an ignorance or violation of an ethical framework. The more serious problems is concerned on two different ethical standards which happen to meet in a business transaction. Such a situation is considered as a cultural conflict. Even in developed countries, ethical variations can result in contrasting business practices. U.S companies for instance are forbidden in their worldwide operations from engaging in illegal activities. Also in U.S bribery in business related activity is highly forbidden and company officers involved in the vice are strictly punished (Honeycutt et al, 1995, 235).

In some other countries, the situation may be different and bribery may be part of life. In such situations, no business may be transacted without the use of bribery. Failure to know who to pay in order to grease the wheel, organizations may meet frustrations and failure. If an American family has to resort to bribery, it will face great strains in hiding it, including hiding in it in financial statements. Contrastingly, other nations are more pragmatic or tolerant towards the view of bribery. For instance, German can be a good case in point where bribes are explicitly tax-deductible business operations (Jackson, and Artola, 1997, 1164).

Resolving Ethical Conflicts

Relevant differences between the different cultures have the potential for conflicts and misunderstanding. Buller and Kohls (1994) postulate some pragramatic strategies in resolving ethical differences. These authors note that the strategies were not meant to be mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. However, they do provide a useful range of possible options, which organization leaders could employ in avoiding the problems. In essence, cross-cultural conflicts have been happening in business or work contexts since time immemorial. Among the most essential strategies for conflict management, include avoidance, compromise and confrontation, forcing, education and persuasion, accommodation and infiltration. These strategies are discussed below.

Avoidance

Avoidance is offered as one of the responses on cross cultural ethical differences. Avoidance has been used in many different cultural contexts and not simply in the realm of ethics. For instance, avoidance has in most cases used in many business and family contexts. In this situation, partners may decide to ignore the problem with the hope that it will fade away. However, in most instances, the problem may persist until it s disclosed. Avoidance may be a significant instrument especially for a stronger party. It is particularly useful when the cost of confrontation appears to be high. For instance, a business leader may prefer the status quo. He or she may also decide to ignore requests or complaints related to pay improvements, benefits, working conditions or any other changes that proves to be costly. Power may enable him to maintain a status quo (Jeurissen, and Luijk, 1998, 995).

In across cultural business relationship, avoidance is in many instances used when one party is stronger than the other is. An agent or supplier may be involved in an unethical conduct, but confronting such, an activity may lead to a loss market share or sales. Therefore, the cost of confrontation may be higher than the benefits. It may therefore be necessary to avoid results in a kind of “do not ask” do not tell posture (Kluckhohn, and Strodtbeck, 1961, 2).

Forcing

Forcing is another strategy that can be used in ethical resolution. Forcing means that a particular party forces its will on another party. Similar with avoiding, power is essential for this strategy. A stronger party will always demand its way. For instance, importers who have controlled access to domestic markets may always demand concession on particular behavior of their suppliers. In some countries, markets have been closed to outside firms. In the past, it has been almost impossible for American organizations to establish business operations in such countries as Japan, if they do not have a strong business partner in the country. This situation has manifested itself through the massive number of joint ventures that are currently in Japan. For these kinds of relationships, the Japanese partner may demand that some activities be done in a specific way, which might be in conflict for U.S practices (Buller, 1994, 13).

Persuasion and Education

Use of education and persuasion is another significant strategy that may be employed in resolving the conflict. U.S corporations that operate in international markets may have the opportunity of communicating the benefits of such aspects as human resources, employee safety and management policy to their host partners. One advantage of this strategy is that it has the potential of gaining from the communication (Muller, 1993, 6).

Use of Infiltration

Infiltration is another strategy on this list. It refers to the spread of a particular principle in the society, marketing ideas such as consumer orientation or a focus on the quality of the products. These ideas may be transferred from one country into several other cultures. For instance, such ideas as consumer orientation focus on the product quality and marketing ideas have been introduced from U.S into other cultures (Bacal, 2004, 2).

Use of Compromise and Negotiation

Compromise and negotiation is a strategy that is somewhat related to persuasion and education. The strategy is based on communication and results to some type of settlement. However, in this situation, both parties are expected to give up on something, compromise. This process may in either one party or both parties feeling dissatisfied with the resulting outcome. It is important for managers to have a negotiation and confrontation skills to enable them handle cross-cultural conflicts effectively. This owes to the fact that ethical conflicts may be harmful to the business if not managed effectively (Goodman, 2001, 56). Many organizational leaders have to adapt a compromise and negotiation strategy as an attempt of avoiding harming the other party or make them act or feel impolite. Through reaching compromise and negotiation, conflicting parties can be able to analyze, confront and settle the issues they may be facing. Additionally, the parties are allowed to generate ideas, and views that can assist them to realize a clear settlement. Leaving these aside, negotiating and trying to reach a compromise instead of ignoring the problems may create a feeling that both sides are willing to resolve the matter by hearing the concerns of the other. Face to face interactions also exhibits openness, respect and commitment (DeTurk, 2002, 240).

The negotiation and compromise strategy, which leads to the win/win strategy, appears to be the most effective style of managing cross-cultural conflicts. This is because in most instances, this strategy leads to the most favorable outcome for the involved parties. With this type of strategy, a solution is realized and the parties concerned are satisfied with the resolutions made. Although the parties may not be able to obtain what they may have initially intended to gain, both parties at least be able to realize some parts of their objectives. Since both parties are expected to gain something beneficial from the disagreement, friendship is created. Moreover, both have a like likelihood of participating in implementing the resolutions, which they agreed on (Bizman, and Yinon, 2004, 115).

Accommodation

Accommodation is another strategy, which results when one party decides to adapting or accommodating the ethics and values of another. For instance, a foreign organization may decide to adopt on the ethical views of the host country, otherwise, the business may not be possible. In simple terms, accommodation is resolving conflicts through placement of the other party’s concerns over one’s own. These kind of responses are considered fit especially when the stakes are relatively low, for long-term relations and for mutual relations (Bordia et al, 2003, 301).

Collaboration and problem solving

The strategy of problem solving and collaboration, which is the last may, led to a better outcome. Under problem solving and collaboration, both parties are expected to work together in reaching a mutually beneficial and acceptable solution. This strategy offers the highest potential of bridging the ethical variation between two parties (Fine, 1995, 45). For example, a U.S organization may agree with another organization from China and agree on collaboration and problem solving. In essence, problem solving and collaboration looks similar in many ways to compromise and negotiations. The emphasis is more placed on uncovering problems in an ethical relationship as well as solving such problems for mutual satisfaction. Problem solving and collaboration lays the foundation for creating a relationship of trust between the two partners (Engemann, and Miller, 2004, 355).

Conclusion

Culture is the basis of ethical behavior and is the determinant of what is ethical and unethical. Different countries have different business ethical cultures. This difference may include content orientation verses and the content. Within such contexts are series of expectations and a degree of trust. The different in cultural ethics may instigate ethical conflicts, which need to be managed effectively for an efficient business operation. The various strategies that have been outlined in this paper may be used by organizational leaders as strategic alternatives in dealing with the ethical conflicts. Kohls and Buller (1994) have pointed out that there is no single conflict reduction. Each of them may fit in a particular situation.

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