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Empirical analysis of 'level of comfort' among international workers at multinational firms/ Analise empirica do "nivel de conforto" em trabalhadores internacionais nas empresas multinacionais.


In 20th century term 'culture' emerged as central theme of 'anthropology', usually referring to a range of human phenomenon that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. For example Hoebel (1966) described culture as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristics of members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance. Nine Curt (1984) defines culture as, "The bearer of human wisdom that includes wealth of human behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, values and experiences of immense worth" (p.3). Culture is also defined as, "an integrated pattern of human behavior including thoughts, communication, ways of interacting, roles and relationships, and expected behaviors, beliefs, values, practices and customs"(Taylor 1997, cited in Denboba et al. 1998: S-47). According to Chamberlain (2005), culture refers to "the values, norms and traditions that affect how individuals of a particular group perceive, think, behave and make judgment about the world around them" (p.197). In addition, the concept of 'culture' also carries attributes which are most 'dear' or which are most 'offensive' to a member of a culture. These attributes too could be different for different cultures across the world.

Cultural ethos and preferences varies a lot not only among continents but also among countries. This brings us to the concept of 'national culture' (Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 1984). National culture has to do with differences among national cultural background of individuals in their societal or business environment. The concept has also to do with the way those manifested differences may influence business decisions at the international level. National culture can be interpreted as "a common frame of reference or logic by which members of a society view organizations, the environment, and their relations to one another" (Geletkanycz 1997, p. 617). According to most authors of cultural studies, these differences emerges from several factors such as ethnical differences, ethical differences, geographical differences, moral differences, historical differences, political differences, linguistic differences and religious differences (Matondo, JPM, 2012).

In business environment, during communication between persons of different national cultural backgrounds, such differences can play an important role which may manifest into certain degree of friction, discomfort and inability to appreciate 'these differences and different ways of thinking of persons of foreign cultures' (Shenkar and Zeira, 1992, p. 55-75), potentially affecting the performance of the project teams (Shenkar, 2001, p. 519), leading us to study of a phenomenon, we describe in this paper as 'level of comfort' which signify a continuum of 'intercultural comfort' to 'intercultural discomfort' among workers with different national background. Within this continuum a value is associated, which quantifies the so called 'level of comfort'. Therefore, a lower value of 'preference score' signifies a higher 'level of comfort' between two specific team members coming from two specific national origins and signifying different cultural background.

In both profit and non-profit organizations while operating globally these cultural differences are prominently visible and have to be dealt with care. But besides being an important concept in what comes to dealing with people from different firms, operating in different cultural backgrounds, the concept of 'level of comfort' is also important for managing multicultural teams. In fact, managing employees of different national cultural backgrounds, due to the discomfort that it might cause, poses major challenge for team leaders (Kayworth, Timothy and Leidner, 2000).

On the basis of the concept of national cultures and therefore about the 'level of comfort', it is possible to study workplace cultural differences (in terms of 'level of comfort') with more clarity. Therefore, study of variations of 'level of comfort' among team members of different national cultural background can be very useful to manage diversity in both societal as well as organizational contexts. Currently, organizations are harvesting strategic advantages from cultural diversity in project teams (Love, 2010). These strategic advantages, either to profit and non-profit organizations may include improved human resource management, enriched team performance, better change management, better 'headquarter - subsidiaries' relations, and better talent management, among others. Study of differences in 'level of comfort' arising out of these cultural differences can also be very useful, for instance, in protecting international students and/or immigrants, who are more likely to experience frequent cultural shocks when working or studying in a country which is distinct in culture from their own native country and its specific culture. Studies related to the study of variations of 'level of comfort' among team members of different cultural background, can be used to train them to adapt to host cultures, appreciate them and blend with them, instead of living with fear, hate, complex, or living by adoption of bicultural identities. As for business concerns, international managers would also benefit from prevention from these risks, what would end-up in being very good for the sake of overall international business performance.

This study tried to find out if 'level of comfort' differences, among team members of multicultural teams at multinational workplaces, as an independent cultural dimension is unique to different national cultures or conversely there exists a commonality of differences in preferences of 'local culture employees' with 'foreign culture colleagues' among responses coming from MNE employees of different national background. Such outcomes of cultural behavior can be distinctive to national cultures and generalization can be useful for this purpose, if done in international context when comparisons among countries are useful (Hofstede, 1991). Therefore, using an empirical comparative cross cultural study, it may be possible to map the 'variable propensity' of 'level of comfort' among team members, coming from different national cultural backgrounds, for example, among one pair of employees with two specific national cultures and therefore we may be able to designate rankings to the most preferred national cultures from the 'destination' regions.

However, it would require a large amount of resources and time for cross cultural researchers to map all such cultural pairs globally. In this study we have attempted to perform some of these comparisons with a limited set of cultural pairs, using respondent data from a set of MNE employees from 14 different national cultures. Therefore the scope of this study is limited to studying the 'level of comfort' among team members at multinational workplaces only. Therefore, 'level of comfort' herein refers to the 'intercultural comfort' among a pair of employees from two specific national cultural backgrounds.

It should be noted there that 'level of comfort' is often confused with different cultural concepts like 'cultural competence' or 'cultural distance'. In addition, there are several cultural dimensions suggested in different comparative cultural studies which may seem to explain the phenomenon of 'intercultural comfort'. However, none of these researches have been able to clearly define phenomenon of 'level of comfort' at multinational work teams from the 'culture to culture' perspective i.e. among cultural pairs. Some of these studies and models do explain, somewhat indirectly, the reaction of persons of local culture to their interaction with persons of foreign cultural background. However, such explanations are not complete, qualitative in nature, explain general reactions only and do not touch upon the concept of 'level of comfort' among a specific national culture to another specific culture at multinational workplaces. This research article tries to explain such differences in 'level of comfort' more directly, discretely, quantitatively and among selected cultural pairs. Hence, the objective of this research is to map the 'level of comfort' of a selected set of MNE employees working with multinational enterprises (MNEs) from 'respondent' nations with other teammates coming from different cultural backgrounds from a selected set of 'destination' nations or regions of the world. For example, with the proposed approach we have quantified the 'level of comfort' of Italian MNE employees with colleagues coming from, say a North American country or from a Middle Eastern country. We can also compare, for instance, the varying 'level of comfort' of Australian MNE employees with colleagues coming from African nations, South Asia or Central Asia on 'pair' basis. In other words, in the current study, we have tried to find the dynamics of this intercultural comfort among different MNE employees coming from a combination of different cultural backgrounds. Following literature review should help us in understanding the concept of 'level of comfort 'and its foundation in more detail.


Comparative international studies to record cultural differences are broadly based on certain popular cultural models, so called 'onion models' (Schein, 2010) or 'multi-layered models' (Homburg, et al., 2000) or 'multi-dimensional models' (Houkamau, et al., 2010). Most popular among these are those suggested by Hofstede (1980, 1991), Fons Trompenaars (1997), Shalom Schwartz (1994, 2006), GLOBE study (House, et al., 2001), Smith (1995), Inglehart (1997) and others. More recently several authors of cultural research have also suggested the concept of 'cultural competence' which seems to have come closer to explaining the reaction of local cultures with foreign cultures during their different set of encounters including workplace encounters and therefore touches upon the phenomenon of 'level of comfort' somewhat indirectly. Some of these classical studies on national cultural differences are discussed in the following paragraphs for more clarity on the central construct of this research article.

2.1 Cultural Dimensions and Cultural Differences

One of the most important and earliest studies in modern times, done to understand cultural differences among international cultures, is the 'five dimensions model' of cultural differences as suggested by Hofstede (1980, 1982, and 1986).In 1980, Geert Hofstede published 'Culture's Consequences', a monumental work that represented more than a decade of research. In this book, along with subsequent editions, Hofstede established that 'people carry mental programs that are developed in the family in early childhood and which are reinforced in schools and organizations', assuming that 'these mental programs contain a component of national culture' (Hofstede, 2001, p. xix). He categorized the differences in mental programming by identifying initially four cultural dimensions. Hofstede and Bond (1984) later identified a fifth dimension after research on behaviors of Chinese professionals. These five cultural dimensions have contributed enormously to a deeper understanding of the theories and dynamics of cross cultural management based on different categories of mental programming. The variables identified in these researches assumed that all reactions in working relationship or production of behavior, thereof, will be reflected at a workplace assimilating the social, organizational and personal 'values and beliefs'.

The reason Hofstede focused on individual countries for his study was his belief that differences and similarities in cultural patterns were easily identifiable and meaningful at the nation-state level. He attributed the cultures measured in each nation-state to 'historical roots' and certain 'mechanisms in societies that permit the maintenance of stability in cultural patterns across generations' (Hofstede 2001, p.11). Hofstede continues by declaring that institutions 'reinforce the societal norms and the ecological conditions that led to their establishment' (2001, p.11). Hofstede (2001) also offers his judgment on how host societies react to the arrival of foreigners. According to the author, the reaction is assessed in three steps. Step (1): the locals are curious about how different the foreigners are (i.e., the 'zoo' effect). Step (2): Ethnocentrism, its occurrence leads to the locals perceiving their cultures as superior to those of the foreigners; and step (3), which takes the longer than the others to be reached--and which, in fact, may never be reached in some societies--is 'polycentrism', where locals evaluate the foreigner as having different standards because they are different. In this last step, there is no judgment on the part of the locals whether the foreigners' standards are better or worse than their own; it is merely inferred that they are different. Since the last step takes longer to emerge if at all it emerges, we claim that the concept of 'level of comfort' becomes significant and is manifested in the working relationship among team members in multicultural international teams.

In an open-market economy, businesses are expected to assume a polycentric view to best serve local and foreign customers, thus enabling them to adapt their products and services to the needs of cross cultural customers. This could allow them to gain a competitive advantage in saturated local markets. The above accounts of Hofstede give a new perspective of the intercultural interaction and were discussed in detail before the development of the questionnaire by the expert team which participated in the Delphi sessions for the purpose.

Trompenaar's (1997) seven dimensions model of national cultural differences, specifies more layers to explain national cultural differences--Universalism vs. particularism (What is more important, rules or relationships?); Individualism vs. collectivism (communitarianism) (Do we function in a group or as individuals?); Neutral vs. emotional (Do we display our emotions?); Specific vs. diffuse (How separate we keep our private and working lives); Achievement vs. ascription (Do we have to prove ourselves to receive status or is it given to us?); Sequential vs. synchronic (Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?); Internal vs. external control (Do we control our environment or are we controlled by it?). The work on this model is based on 1000 + corporate training programs done by the author. Here, Trompenaars (1997) tried to understand whether the management concepts as taught in American business schools can be used as they are, to train people of different European countries. The author of that study indicates from his experience that the concepts vary from country to country. Therefore international managers need to work on several premises. These premises emanates from local sensitivities which vary from one country to another. The author concludes there are visible and invisible ways in which local culture impacts the organization. When you compare same global organization within several countries you will visibly find the organization across nations are not different and therefore 'local culture' free. But when you go deeper you find that is not true. There are invisible factors that differentiate same organization in one country to another due to the impact of local cultures. These suggestions by the author hint at the enquiry of cross cultural group interaction process in multicultural teams, especially in terms of 'level of comfort' to enquire about those invisible factors.

GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) study empirically established nine cultural dimensions that make it possible to capture the similarities and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs -and practices--among societies. These layers are--1) Power Distance: The degree to which members of a society expect power to be distributed equally; 2) Uncertainty Avoidance: The extent to which a society, organization, or group relies on social norms, rules, and procedures to alleviate unpredictability of future events.; 3) Humane Orientation: The degree to which a collective encourages and rewards individuals for being fair, altruistic, generous, caring, and kind to others.; 4) Collectivism I: (Institutional) The degree to which organizational and societal institutional practices encourage and reward collective distribution of resources and collective action.; 5) Collectivism II: (In-Group) The degree to which individuals express pride, loyalty, and cohesiveness in their organizations or families.; 6) Assertiveness: The degree to which individuals are assertive, confrontational, and aggressive in their relationships with others.; 7) Gender Egalitarianism: The degree to which a collective minimizes gender Inequality; 8) Future Orientation: The extent to which individuals engage in future-oriented behaviors such as delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future.; 9) Performance Orientation: The degree to which a collective encourages and rewards group members for performance improvement and excellence (House, et al., 2001). Using these cultural dimensions, in the ways similar to the work of Hofstede (1980, 1991), GLOBE study also identified different cultural groups across the world, which may likely to show similar cultures.

GLOBE also studied the preferred leadership styles in different cultural clusters and concluded studies on six styles of leaders who are the preferred by each cluster group but the level of preference of the leader style vary from cluster to cluster. For example 'performance oriented leader style' is highly preferred in Anglo and Germanic cultures, while 'self or group--protective leader style' is least preferred in these cultures. These differences in preferred leadership styles across cultures further reinforce the need to study intercultural comfort among multicultural team members at workplaces in terms of the concept of 'level of comfort' as defined above. This study also gives new insights into the way forward for the current study with respect to the development of the questionnaire and selection of respondent and destination cultures, using methods described in detail in next section.

2.2 Cultural competence

One of the concepts of cross cultural management which is closely related to the concept of 'level of comfort', is 'intercultural competence'. Cultural competence refers to the ability of individuals to interact effectively with persons of different cultures. Such abilities can be developed through broadening one's worldview, knowledge of other cultures, cross cultural training, developing right attitude towards cultural differences. Developing cultural competency can result into improving the ability to interact, understand, and communicate effectively with people across cultures (Campinha-Bacote, 1991). The discomfort among employees of different cultural backgrounds may also be the result of differences in terms of 'cultural competence' of a person of one culture to understand an alien culture. According to Cross et al. (1989), basic requirement of desired cultural competence has five dimensions to it--1) Level of empathy to other cultures, 2) Knowledge of other cultures, 3) Self-confidence (knowledge of one's own desires, expectations, strengths and weaknesses), 4) Cultural Identity (Knowledge of one's own culture), 5) Emotional Stability. Due to obvious variations in these five elements from one culture to another culture, propensity to feel comfort with a person of a foreign cultural background may vary from one culture to another and among different pairs of cultures. The level of such comfort of one culture with another can also emerge from individual traits like--being cultural savvy, astuteness, appreciation, literacy level, adaptability, terrain, expertise, competency, awareness, intelligence and understanding (Selmeski, 2007). The concept gives new insights into the current enquiry on the concept of 'level of comfort' and provides a strong foundation to the methodology we are going to use in the current study.

Based on the discussion made above, it seems that 'level of comfort' of employees among different combinations of 'culture to culture' pairs may vary due to possible seasoning of minds of these employees from childhood to their present age, and due to the specific societal environment they grew in. Hofstede (2001, p11) has also suggested the 'cultural consequences' being the result of things like outside influence, societal norms and origins of the persons. Therefore it is prudent to investigate if the 'level of comfort' among MNE employees varies based on different combinations of cultural backgrounds.

Therefore we suggest our hypothesis as follows:
   h1: 'Level of comfort' (defined as above) among
   MNE employees of different pairs of national
   cultural background vary among different
   combinations of national background.

This paper has tested above hypothesis on the data collected from MNE employees who are working or have worked in international project teams, and coming from a set of different 'respondent' national cultures with a set of such employee coming from another set of 'destination' regions/countries. Countries included in the respondent set were based on the convenience sampling. We collected data from several countries and we included only those respondent countries from where we were able to collect reasonable amount of responses. Countries/regions included in the destination set were based a perception scaling and consultative exercise involving a five-stage iteration based on Delphi technique described in next section.


Our enquiry of intercultural variation in terms of 'level of comfort' among different combinations of cultural pairs involves certain questions, the answers to which are to be found. These questions refer to things like why and how do people of one culture may feel more comfortable to another culture but not so comfortable to yet another culture and other similar questions as described in Table 1. These questions were the result of a brain storming session with a team of experts as described later in this section. To answer these questions we conducted an exploratory research. In it, we resorted to a quantitative analysis involving use of Likert scale to map the responses in terms of degree of agreement to different questions and corresponding to different destination cultures.

Using a survey approach, we tried to answer the research questions based on the Likert scale in order to understand the phenomenon of variations in 'level of comfort' among cultural pairs as discussed earlier. The choice of these variables and corresponding questions was based on the method described in the next paragraph.

There can be several conceivable variables which can define 'level of comfort'. The approaches to defining these variables can be different. Current study took into consideration a 'perception scaling and consultative' method to devise survey questions using Delphi technique with the help of a set of 100 cross cultural experts and students of cross cultural studies. Several rounds of Delphi sessions were conducted among the volunteers to understand what variables constitute the central construct i.e. 'Level of comfort' (Harold et al, 1975). Questions which emerged as explaining variables to the enquiry are given in Table 1. These questions formed the part of the survey questionnaire. The choices of these questions were based on testing the cultural preferences of the respondents in different situations and purposes. Respondent were the MNE employees from different 'source' countries.

Against the questions discussed in Table 1, respondent MNE employees were given choices of a set of 14 countries / regions of the world to choose their level of preferences of the country / region on a 5 point Likert scale (as already explained above). These destination countries/ regions were--North America, Middle America, South America, Europe (West), Europe (East), Central Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, Africa, Middle East.

Based on this questionnaire, respondent's data was collected and collated online. The data was based on convenience sampling using approximately 650 responses from employees of multinational firms, working in multi-cultural teams on international projects, located in more than 15 source countries. On review of the online data collected from these countries, it was found that in case of one country, number of respondents were too less to be considered. On final review it was observed that valid and sufficient numbers of responses were available from 14 respondent countries as given in Table 2.

Before using the questionnaire and data, the survey instrument was tested for repeatability and reliability. For repeatability test, in particular, 50 respondents were used in order to assess the repeatability. These respondents completed the questionnaire two times. Between the two measurements there was a period of three to four days. The repeatability of questionnaire was also evaluated by using McDonald Omega which is a measure of generalizability of the test items. It varies between 0 to 1. Omega can be interpreted as the square of the correlation between the scale score and the latent variable common to all the indicators in the infinite universe of indicators of which the scale indicators are a subset (McDonald, 1999, page 89). Evaluation of the internal consistency of the observed variables of the CFC questionnaire was carried out by calculating the Standardized Cronbach Alpha coefficient and calculating reliability estimates.

According to Hair et al (1998), it is generally agreed upon to be 0.7, the lower limit of .05 as proposed by Nunnally (1978). Large Cronbach Alpha values indicate a high consistency of the questions of which the sub-scale is consisted. The 'Cronbach Alpha if item deleted' index was used to see if there were questions that reduced the internal consistency of the questionnaire and therefore may have to be excluded. The results of all these tests were favorable and valid.

The sample was spread to several companies and several verticals within organizations to avoid polarization of the same cultural group while responding to questions. The validity was established on entire set of 556 responses from 14 countries. This sample of 556 responses became the basis for the study as described in Table 2.

As described above, the respondent MNE employees were asked to respond to the questions on a 5-point Likert's scale, higher score indicating 'lower level of comfort' of respondents with a specific geographically alien culture (referred to as the 'destination' culture). All the responses to the questionnaire were added to a single input sheet into SPSS program and 'mean scores' were compared for several questions with respect to corresponding destinations, with the independent variable as the 'respondent country MNE employees'. The 'mean scores' were also compared for each question with respect to 14 'destination countries MNE employees'.

For example question related to respondent's preference of employees of a particular cultural origin, as an employer, were compared and tabulated (like for an example as described in Table 3). All questions indicated the level of preference among respondents from a single respondent country and are given in rows in each table for each respondent country. The average mean scores were tabulated in different tables. These questions were used as the different scales to understand the overall 'level of comfort' of respondent with a particular 'destination' region. These scales were as per the questionnaire structure, as discussed above.


Based on the above clustering of the items (questions) in the questionnaire, following insights were obtained with respect to comfort scales of questionnaire using the final primary data from 556 respondents across 14 countries. Mean scores of preferences with respect to 'level of comfort' of MNE employees of respondent countries were recorded for all the 14 respondent countries. As an example, process of calculating the mean score of preference of Italian MNE employees is given below (2).

4.1 Level of comfort of Italian MNE employees

Cultural preferences of Italian MNE employees vary across 14 regions of the world. Table 3 gives a visual representation based on responses from Italy.

As can be seen in Table 2, if they were themselves employers, Italians MNE employees, would have been most comfortable with persons from Japan and least comfortable with people from Middle Eastern countries, to hire as 'employees'. As 'residents', Italian MNE employees are likely to most prefer West Europeans and least prefer people of Middle East origin as 'neighbors'. As 'subordinates', Italian MNE employees are likely to most prefer a West European and least prefer a Chinese as their 'boss'. As 'employees' Italian MNE employees are likely to most prefer an Australian Company and least prefer an African company to work with. Italian MNE employees are most willing to migrate to West European destination and least willing to migrate to Middle Eastern region. If they were businessmen, Italian MNE employees would have been least likely to be 'partner' in business with Africans and most likely to be 'partner' with West Europeans. Italian MNE employees are most willing to visit Australia and least willing to visit South Korea as 'tourists'. Overall, it appears that Italian MNE employees are most comfortable with West European cultures and least comfortable South Korean culture.

In the same way mean preference scores of other respondent (source) countries were calculated and tabulate but could not be included in the text of this article as explained above. Based on these average mean scores, rankings of the countries were done as explained below.

4.2 Ranking of respondent countries on their overall level of comfort with specific regions

In line with above observations a ranking of MNE employee's preferences of the 'respondent countries' is done based on 'average preference scores'. The overall 'mean' preference scores 'based on all questions in the questionnaire are tabulated in Table 4. The final notional overall ranking of the 'destination countries/region' based on the overall comfort level of MNE employees from respondent countries as analyzed by above tabular analysis appears to be as in Table 5.

Figure 1 below depicts the common continuum of 'level of comfort' of MNE employees irrespective of their own cultural origin.

Table 6 below gives the extreme preferences of MNE employees from individual country background.

A visual investigation of the extreme ends of the preferences as given in table above indicates somewhat common pattern among MNE employees of source countries preferences. In other words we notice that MNE employees of most respondent countries find themselves most comfortable with colleagues coming from US and / or West Europe background while find it comparatively least comfortable with colleagues with Middle East or African background.


From the above analysis it can be concluded that the 'level of intercultural comfort' among different MNE employees of different local cultures varies from one 'destination country or region' to another. However there is a common pattern across source cultures which indicate clear commonality in differences of preferences of MNE employees of their colleague's cultural origins. Among the countries studied it is seems there are local cultures among MNE employees which are more comfortable to foreign colleagues and therefore foreign cultures of specific geographical region than others. It may be noted that among the countries studied Middle Eastern countries ranks most unfavorably and there could be strong cultural differences which make most MNE employees of most respondent cultures comparatively less comfortable to this region. At the same time there is a definite level of comfort of all the MNE employees of respondent countries with colleagues of North American and West European origins. Therefore our alternative hypothesis that level of comfort among 'cultural pairs' vary is accepted.

Another important observations from the results indicate that irrespective of Hofstede's topology or GLOBE cultural cluster differences or low-high context topology and time sensitivity of cultures, there exists a commonality of 'level of comfort' in the pattern of preferences as described in earlier sections. Therefore it can be inferred that when it comes to MNE workplaces and the 'level of comfort' among pairs of members of multicultural teams, there is common pattern of preferences of intercultural comfort while individual preferences among cultural pairs does vary.

It may be noted that above study is based on a limited data and may be treated as indicative of the phenomenon. However the study gives an insight into the global trends on 'multilateral' intercultural comfort levels among MNE employees of 'source--destination' countries pairs across the globe. Above study also gives an insight into the nature of comfort level, 'question wise'. It should be noted that question of choice of region as a tourist destination, indicate quite distinct scores. It appears that this particular variable is most unrelated to other variables describing 'level of comfort' level phenomenon. A detailed study from a psychological perspective into the choice of respondent country's choice of tourist destination should give new insights into this phenomenon.

One important theoretical finding of this study is that at the least in the MNE workplaces, we find that cultural origins of employees plays a significant role in there being comfortable or not so comfortable with colleagues of different cultural background, necessitating right intercultural training for its employees. This finding reinforces the conclusions of the 'culture at work' report of IPSOS and British Council (2013) that explains the importance and value of intercultural skills at workplaces. In addition the construct of this research study gives insights into what constitute the so called 'level of comfort' which is manifested in the answer to specific questions taken up in the research methodology of this study. The novelty of this study is that it provides a model for assessing the intercultural comfort among colleagues with different cultural backgrounds in MNE workplaces. This model constitutes a few important questions which form the building blocks of this study and as explained in the construct of this research. The results and methodology of this study can be used and replicated to study similar intercultural comfort in situations other than MNE workplaces, for example, to study the intercultural equations among local and migrant population in a city, or among students with different nationality in international universities and other similar situations.

Moreover, this research itself being a good indicator of the 'level of comfort' between 'culture to culture' in MNE workplaces, more data should be collected to further review the results of this study. This may be important to understand variations of results emerging from for example within different industrial sectors which these MNEs belong to or size of MNEs or other categories of multinational corporations.


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* Shenkar, O. &Zeira, Y. (1992). Role conflict and role ambiguity of CEO's in international joint ventures'. Journal of International Business Studies, 23 (1), p.55-75.

* Shenker, O. (2001). Cultural distance revisited: Towards a more rigorous conceptualization and measurement of Cultural Differences., Journal of International Business Studies; Third Quarter; 32, 3; ABI/INFORM Global, p. 519

* Smith, PB and Peterson, MF (1995). "Beyond Value Comparisons: Sources Used to Give Meaning to Management Work Events in Twenty-Nine Countries." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Vancouver, Canada.

* Trompenaars F., and Hampden-Turner, C. (1997). Riding the waves of culture: Understanding diversity in global business (2nd Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

* Witte, A. (2012). "Making the Case for a Post-National Cultural Analysis of Organizations," Journal of Management Inquiry 21:141. Originally published online on 13 September 2011.

* Yeager, KL & Fredrick, MN (2012). Developing diverse teams to improve performance in the organizational setting, European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 36 No. 4, 2012, pp. 388-408.

* Vijesh Jain is PhD in Marketing (University of Mysore, Mysore, India). Professor and Chiarperson (Economics Department) at Institute of Technolology and Science, Ghaziabad, India. Researcher in the field of Cross Cultural Management, International Cultures, International Business. E-mail:

* Susana Costa e Silva is PhD in Marketing (University College Dublin, Ireland). Lecturer at Catolica Porto Business School, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal. Researcher in the fields of Strategic Marketing International Marketing and Social Marketing. E-mail:

Vijesh Jain (1A) and Susana Costa e Silva (B)

(A) Institute of Technology and Science, Ghaziabad, India

(B) Catolica Porto Business School, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal

(1) Correspondent author:

(2) Due to paucity of the article space, other tables indicating the similar responses from other 13 countries are not included in this article.


Caption: Fig. 1 Common continuum of 'level of comfort' of MNE employees
Questions/items included in the survey instrument *

Question                            Purpose of the question

If you were an employer yourself,   How the national origin of
and If you happen to choose from    potential candidate affect
among a set of candidates with      respondent's decision to hire
similar skills and requisites, if   someone for respondent's own
you will be thinking of their       business, can give strong
country of origin as a factor of    indication of your cultural
choice, please mention your order   preferences and therefore
of preference of the hires.         respondent's comfort level with
                                    different alien cultures.

As a resident in your city /        How the national origin of
country, if you happen to choose    potential neighbor affect
a new house having neighbor of a    respondent's decision to live
foreign origin, is it likely that   along side can give strong
your choice of housing unit will    indication of respondent's
be influenced by the country of     cultural preferences and therefore
origin of your neighbor. If you     respondent's comfort level with
will be thinking of their country   different alien cultures.
of origin as a factor of choice,
please mention you order of
preference of your neighbor's
country origins.

As an employee if you happen to     How the national origin of the
choose from among a set of job      potential employer affect
offers with similar potential and   respondent's decision to 'work
remuneration, you may be thinking   for' can give strong indication of
of the country of origin of your    respondent's cultural preferences
boss. If you will be thinking of    and therefore respondent's comfort
their country of origin as a        level with different alien
factor of choice, please mention    cultures.
you order of preference.

As an employee if you happen to     Respondent's choice of employer
choose from among a set of          based on the country to work in
multinational company (MNE) with    can give strong indication of
similar prospects to work abroad.   respondent's cultural preferences
If you will be thinking of their    and therefore respondent's comfort
country of origin as a factor of    level with different alien
choice, please mention you order    cultures.
of preference.

As a potential migrant to a         Respondent's choice of country to
foreign country getting a new job   'work in' can give strong
from several choices of             indication of respondent's
countries, you may be thinking of   cultural preferences and therefore
the country as a factor of choice   respondent's comfort level with
of your new job. If you will be     different alien cultures.
thinking of their country of
origin as a factor of choice,
please mention you order of

If you were yourself a              Respondent's choice of a business
businessman and you had to choose   partner based on his or her
a global business partner. If you   national origin, can give strong
will be thinking of their country   indication of respondent's
of origin as a factor of choice,    cultural preferences and therefore
please mention your order of        respondent's comfort level with
preference of your partner's        different alien cultures.
country of origin.

If you would think of spending      Respondent's choice of a holiday
your holidays in near future you    destination based on the place
would prefer to go which of the     location in a particular country,
following destinations? List the    can give strong indication of
destinations in order of your       respondent's cultural preferences
preferred choices.                  and therefore respondent's comfort
                                    level with different alien

Source: Delphi sessions as described

Tab. 2
Sample structure for the cross cultural study

Name of the    Sample   No of Males     No of
country         Size                   Females

Italy            84      40 (48%)     44 (52%)
Argentina        31      10 (32%)     21 (68%)
Australia        32      12 (37%)     20 (63%)
Canada           32      11 (34%)     21 (66%)
China            40      25 (63%)     15 (37%)
Germany          38      13 (34%)     25 (66%)
Japan            32      15 (47%)     17 (53%)
Nigeria          32      20 (63%)     12 (27%)
Pakistan         35      28 (80%)      7 (20%)
Saudi Arabia     35      27 (77%)      8 (23%)
U.K.             45      20 (44%)     25 (56%)
USA              34      14 (41%)     20 (59%)
India            54      30 (55%)     24 (45%)
Portugal         32      15 (47%)     17 (53%)
Total           556      280 (50%)    276 (50%)

Source: Elaborated by the authors.

Tab. 3
Mean scores of preferences of Italian MNE employees.

ITALY                Pref. as   Pref. as   Pref. of MNE
                     Employer   Resident    as Employee

North America          2.07       2.02         1.88
Central America        2.48       2.27         2.21
South America          2.67       2.39         2.30
West Europe            1.94       1.88         1.81
East Europe            2.48       2.65         2.56
Central Asia           2.54       2.58         2.67
South Asia             2.52       2.55         2.65
South East Asia        2.46       2.56         2.68
China                  2.43       2.83         2.81
Japan                  1.88       2.12         2.27
S. Korea               2.30       2.39         2.54
Australia              2.07       1.95         1.94
Africa                 2.65       2.65         2.60
Middle East            2.77       2.90         2.70
Mean scale scores      2.38       2.41          2.4

ITALY                Pref. of country    Pref. as    Pref. as
                        as Employee      Migrant    Businessman

North America              2.04            1.89        1.99
Central America            2.36            2.30        2.40
South America              2.43            2.35        2.57
West Europe                2.01            1.75        1.95
East Europe                2.58            2.76        2.62
Central Asia               2.67            2.95        2.60
South Asia                 2.68            2.93        2.57
South East Asia            2.71            2.90        2.46
China                      2.56            2.86        2.36
Japan                      2.14            2.19        2.02
S. Korea                   2.55            2.83        2.39
Australia                  1.99            1.89        2.06
Africa                     2.79            2.86        2.79
Middle East                2.67            3.02        2.56
Mean scale scores          2.44            2.53        2.38

ITALY                Pref. as   Mean

North America          1.76     1.95
Central America        1.79     2.26
South America          1.63     2.33
West Europe            1.79     1.88
East Europe            2.17     2.55
Central Asia           2.30     2.61
South Asia             2.19     2.59
South East Asia        2.19     2.57
China                  2.30     2.59
Japan                  1.93     2.08
S. Korea               2.63     2.52
Australia              1.58     1.93
Africa                 1.89     2.60
Middle East            2.45     2.73
Mean scale scores      2.04

Source: Elaborated by the authors.

Tab. 4
Mean preference scores and ranking scores based on respondent MNE

Country / Rank   Nam    Cam    Sam    WEur   EEur   CAsia   SAsia

Italy            1.95   2.26   2.33   1.88   2.55   2.61    2.59
                  3      5      6      1      8      13      10
India            2.04   2.36   2.44   2.06   2.29   2.32    2.39
                  1      7      10     2      4       5       8
Germany          2.32   2.51   2.62   2.24   2.41   2.56    2.61
                  3      7      11     1      5       8      10
USA              2.31   2.74   2.68   2.36   2.67   2.70    2.64
                  1      11     8      2      7       9       6
China            1.82   2.26   2.48   1.93   2.46   2.48    2.66
                  1      3      9      2      7      10      12
Saudi Arabia     2.16   2.53   2.65   2.06   2.42   2.81    2.60
                  2      7      10     1      6      13       9
Pak              2.45   2.90   2.70   2.47   2.69   2.73    2.24
                  3      13     8      4      7       9       1
Nigeria          1.97   2.81   2.64   2.22   2.33   2.57    2.42
                  1      12     9      2      4       7       6
UK               2.12   2.68   2.62   1.97   2.27   2.56    2.68
                  2      10     8      1      4       7      11
Argentina        1.90   2.85   3.01   2.01   2.60   2.95    2.85
                  2      9      12     3      5      11      10
Canada           2.15   2.58   2.44   1.92   2.23   2.68    2.78
                  2      7      6      1      3       9      10
Japan            2.22   2.55   2.55   2.30   2.36   2.54    2.57
                  1      8      9      2      4       7      10
Portugal         1.99   2.69   2.81   2.27   2.45   2.90    2.60
                  2      9      11     4      5      12       8
Australia        2.38   2.50   2.78   2.49   2.59   2.64    2.74
                  2      4      11     3      6       7      10
Score Average    2.13   2.59   2.63   2.16   2.45   2.65    2.60
Rank Average     1.86   8.00   9.14   2.07   5.36   9.07    8.64

Country / Rank   SE Asia   China   Japan   S. Korea   Aust.   Africa

Italy             2.57     2.59    2.08      2.52     1.93     2.60
                    9       11       4        7         2       12
India             2.33     2.66    2.28      2.65     2.41     2.84
                    6       12       3        11        9       13
Germany           2.47     2.61    2.31      2.68     2.40     2.80
                    6        9       2        12        4       13
USA               2.54     2.72    2.42      2.75     2.48     2.86
                    5       10       3        12        4       13
China             2.47     2.30    2.35      2.64     2.33     2.79
                    8        4       6        11        5       13
Saudi Arabia      2.27     2.77    2.39      2.53     2.22     2.95
                    4       12       5        8         3       14
Pak               2.38     2.75    2.62      2.79     2.62     2.79
                    2       10       5        11        5       11
Nigeria           2.36     2.67    2.27      2.75     2.59     3.07
                    5       10       3        11        8       14
UK                2.49     2.69    2.28      2.64     2.25     3.03
                    6       12       5        9         3       14
Argentina         2.65     2.81    1.82      2.69     2.19     3.32
                    6        8       1        7         4       13
Canada            2.59     2.94    2.42      3.04     2.28     2.99
                    8       11       5        13        4       12
Japan             2.35     2.75    2.46      2.67     2.47     2.84
                    3       12       5        11        6       13
Portugal          2.70     2.91    1.71      2.53     2.04     2.55
                   10       13       1        6         3       7
Australia         2.71     2.67    2.55      2.79     2.33     2.83
                    9        8       5        12        1       13
Score Average     2.49     2.70    2.28      2.69     2.32     2.88
Rank Average      6.21     10.14   3.79     10.07     4.36    12.50

Country / Rank   M. East

Italy             2.73
India             2.87
Germany           3.03
USA               3.00
China             2.99
Saudi Arabia      2.77
Pak               3.10
Nigeria           2.88
UK                2.97
Argentina         3.42
Canada            3.44
Japan             3.08
Portugal          3.55
Australia         2.99
Score Average     3.06
Rank Average      13.64

Abbreviations: NAm--North America; Cam--Central America; Sam--South
America; WEur--West Europe; EEur--East Europe; CAsia -Central Asia;
SAsia--South Asia; SEAsia--South East Asia; Aust--Australia; M. East-
-Middle East

Tab. 5
Common ranking based on level of comfort of MNE
employees from different respondent countries

Destination Country/Region   Rank *

North America                  1
West Europe                    2
Japan                          3
Australia                      4
East Europe                    5
South East Asia                6
Central America                7
South Asia                     8
South America                  9
Central Asia                   10
S. Korea                       11
China                          12
Africa                         13
Middle East                    14

Source: Elaborated by the authors.

Tab. 6
Extreme ends of the preferences of MNE employees from respondent

Respondent     Most comfort with     Least comfort
Country          colleagues of     with colleagues of

Italy             West Europe         South Korea
India           US/West Europe        Middle East
Germany           West Europe         Middle East
US              US/West Europe        Middle East
China                 US              Middle East
Saudi Arabia      West Europe            Africa
Pakistan          South Asia          Middle East
Nigeria               US                 Africa
UK                West Europe            Africa
Argentina             US              Middle East
Canada            West Europe         Middle East
Japan                 US              Middle East
Portugal              US              Middle East
Australia             US              Middle East

Source: Elaborated by the authors.
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Author:Jain, Vijesh; Silva, Susana Costa e.
Publication:InternexT: Revista Eletronica de Negocios Internacionais da ESPM
Date:May 1, 2017
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