Culture and Commitment
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Human Resource Management in a Business Context

Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 3rd edition
by Alan Price
 Human Resource Management in a Business Context provides an international focus on the theory and practice of people management. A thorough and comprehensive overview of all the key aspects of HRM, including articles from HRM Guide and other sources, key concepts, review questions and case studies for discussion and analysis.
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Review Questions

This website should be useful to anyone interested in HRM but it is also an electronic companion to the book: Human Resource Management in a Business Context. The book is used as a basic textbook for part-time and distance-learning courses in a number of countries throughout the world. Pages 153-4 of the book includes 11 review questions focusing on the issues discussed in this section. The questions are not shown here (you need the book) The following hints and signposts are provided to help readers without regular tutor contact answer the questions for themselves.

General notes One of the best ways of starting any answer is to define the key terms in the question. This is helpful to you and to anyone who reads your answer. It is worth remembering also that - legislative aspects excepted - HRM is very much a matter of opinion. It is often useful to deal with questions by forming an argument which presents two or more contrasting viewpoints. You could do this by investigating the views of different theorists, comparing alternative models, or contrasting practice in one organization (or country) with another.

Try to avoid a one-sided answer, even if it draws on your own experience and you are totally convinced that you are right. Finish off your answer by summarising the keypoints of each point of view and give your balanced opinion. This should be based clearly on the weight of evidence. Be sure to ground your answer in research evidence or views expressed in the literature (books, journals, etc.).

Dealing with individual questions on pages 153-4   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11  
1. You could answer this question at a theoretical level, making use of Hofstede's work or by contrasting two or more national cultures and demonstrating how they affect business organizations in individual countries. See national and organizational cultures (pages 133-138). The concept of 'strong' culture is important at both national and organizational levels. You could argue that an organization with a strong corporate culture is less likely to be heavily influenced by national culture than an organization with a less well-defined culture of its own. But remember that Hofstede concluded that there were great differences between national offices of IBM - a company often quoted as having a strong culture.

It would be a good idea to explore aspects of national culture, such as individualism versus collectivism. Arguably a national culture with an individualism orientation may have less effect on an organization than one with a collectivist culture. But then again, individualistic staff will be less influenced by corporate culture than collectively minded people who may be compliant and accepting of an organization's ways.
2. The 'in-group' concept (see cultures and standards) is explored in several parts of Human Resource Management in a Business Context, especially in relation to 'cloning' and the management of diversity (pages 256 and 261). In-groups are protective cliques which defend their own interests and attitudes to the exclusion of non-standard employees. The 'old-boy' networks which act in the interests of men and against women could be quoted.
3. This is a question which needs careful debate but the answer probably has to be 'no'. Certainly most of the theoretical work quoted in this chapter and elsewhere rest heavily on stereotypes. Any attempt to define a national culture is bound to make broad generalizations and assumptions that do not apply to everyone within that culture. The 'typology' approaches are particularly prone to this accusation.
4. These terms are explained on pages 134-138 under national and organizational cultures. Try to give a critical view of the terms - don't simply accept them as fact.
5. The material for this can be found in the perception of time (pages 126-127). Read the whole passage and make notes of the key points. Then consider how much of what you have read is opinion or theory as opposed to verifiable fact. How could you check out the validity of these ideas?
6. You are asked to compare what you have read under corporate culture (pages 138-144) with the concepts you came across in chapter 4 (structure). The first part of the question is much easier than the second since it merely depends on a comparison of your own short definitions of structure and culture. However, both parts of the question require you to separate out the socio-psychological aspects of organization (the 'people' bits) from the physical, geographical, departmental, technological, financial and so on.

It should become clear to you that certain kinds of organizational structure fit more easily with some cultural characteristics than others. For example, rigid functional or departmental structures would be preferred by an authoritarian culture and a distributed, virtual organization might work better in an individualistic than a collective culture. Try exploring some of Hofstede's dimensions in relation to the different types of structure.
7Commitment is dealt with in pages 144 onwards. You can explore this in relation to a variety of HR topics, for example performance management. However, you should make a point of noting that it is one of the four 'Cs' of the influential Harvard model of HRM.
8. Read commitment and culture (pages 147-148) and justifying commitment (pages 151-152). The essential point is that Japanese 'commitment' is culturally determined whereas commitment in other countries depends on a variety of psychological factors and managerial strategies such as performance-related pay. In other words, Japanese-style commitment can not be reproduced in most other cultures. You could use Hofstede's dimensions to strengthen your argument.
9. This question follows on from the last by asking you to get to grips with the essential nature of commitment. Read the same material, together with committed to what? (pages 152-153). It would be useful to make two lists or a table with attainable and non-attainable aspects of commitment. Make your decision by comparing the two. Probably, you will conclude that true 'hearts and mind' commitment is extremely difficult (impossible?) to achieve for most people in most real organizations. So, to some extent, it is rhetoric but that does not mean that it is not worthwhile for organizations to try and achieve maximum employee commitment..
10. The concepts of strong culture and commitment overlap to a considerable degree. Perhaps the first term is more sociological and the second more psychological in emphasis but both refer to an ideal leading to '110% performance' from the perspective of the management theorist. Of course, both concepts are flawed in that they are apparently simple but dissolve into complex and sometimes contradictory elements when they are examined in detail. For example, employees may be committed - but not to the same thing (the manager, the job, the organization, etc.) - and, equally, some people may be affected by some aspects of corporate culture but not others.
11. Paradoxically, the answer is yes - it is possible to obtain commitment in a situation where redundancies are inevitable. Obviously, it is more difficult to do so than in a thriving organization and fewer employees are likely to display commitment characteristics. How do you think this could be done? Try brainstorming some ways in which commitment could be obtained. Don't forget also that commitment comes from within and people may remain loyal to a struggling company or want to maintain their own standards of work through pride.

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