Culture-Bound Syndrome

Culture-Bound Syndrome

Historically, culture produced a profound impact on the relationship of people. The modern society is particularly susceptible to the impact of cultural diversity on the functioning of organizations and interaction between people within communities because the modern world tends to a closer integration and cooperation between countries in all spheres grows stronger. In this respect, business and the relationship between a leader and employees are particularly affected by the cultural background of a leader and employees. In fact, the cultural background of a leader, to a significant, defines his or her management style and, in such a way, his or relationships with employees, which, in their turn, may have absolutely different cultural background. As a result, this difference in cultural background and his or her subordinates and employees may lead to the miscomprehension and problems in their relationships. The situation in the organization, where the cultural diversity is significant, deteriorates consistently if the leader tends to exaggerate traits, characteristics and management style which are traditional in his or her own culture. In such a situation, conflicts between the manager and his or her subordinates are practically inevitable and the case of Meindle and Zelte USA perfectly illustrates the correctness of this idea. This is why it is extremely to analyze in details the major problems and drawbacks in the management style of Meindle in order to identify the ways to increase the effectiveness of his relationship with his subordinates and improve the organizational culture and atmosphere within Zelte USA.
First of all, it should be said that Meindle, being a legitimate leader of Zelte USA, attempts to emphasize his authority and power in the organization. In actuality, this is one of the major reasons why he tends to use an authoritative approach to the management of the organization. Obviously, he wants to dominate, he attempts to show his professionalism and ability to solve all the problems without any assistance from the part of his subordinates. Therefore, he does not think he needs to treat his subordinates as equal and involve them in the process of taking decisions. Instead, he is an authoritative leader, who takes decisions independently and he is not interested in the position of his subordinates. In such a context, it is possible to define his management style as task behavior. This management style is based on the use of “one-way communication, spelling out duties, and telling followers what to do and where, when and how to do it” (Learning Effectively Foundations, p.211). Naturally, in such a situation subordinates have little opportunities to influence decisions taken by the leader. At the same time, the major problem of Meindle is apparently the problem in communication because the one-way communication is apparently absolutely ineffective, especially in the context of the American culture where individualism, liberalism and democratic management style are traditionally highly valued.
Moreover, Meindle, being of a German origin, tends to favoritism, especially in relation to his countrymen. In fact, he actually closes the access to the top level of the management to non-German managers. His favoritism may be easily traced even through his communication with his subordinates. For instance, he prefers to use German in communication with his subordinates even if there are subordinates who do not speak nor understand German. In such a way, the non-German subordinates feel their exclusion and inferiority in relation to Meindle and his countrymen.
Obviously, Meindle fails to establish effective relationships with his subordinates and his management style is doomed to failure. Instead, he should take into consideration the fact that a professional and successful manager should be able to communicate effectively with employees and subordinates and this is the key to success. The effective communication implies that a manager should develop effective skills and knowledge sufficient to develop normal contacts with employees and maintain. It is obvious that if a manager fails to establish proper communication channels between him/her and his/her workers, the main function of management – to manage people - will not be fulfilled. On the other hand, it is necessary to remember that through the communication a manager can achieve positive results and improve the company’s performance through the effective use of communication in his/her relationship with employees that will make them work more effectively and all the steps taken by the company’s administration will be more understandable for employees.
In fact, it should be said that communication plays a very important role in the modern world that inevitably effects the functioning of companies. Basically, communication was always an essential part of the functioning of companies but, in the present era, it has become even more significant because the role of employees has increased consistently. What is meant here is the fact that in the post-industrial epoch the role of human knowledge and information is one of the key elements in the positive results of functioning of a company. This means that the knowledge and creative skills of employees may be determinant factors in the progress of a company.
Consequently, one of the major tasks of a manager is to make employees work really effectively and fully reveal their potential that will lead to more effective and productive work of employees and naturally will produce a positive impact on the development of a company. In such a situation, communication may become an effective tool that can contribute to the improvement of relationships of managers and employees. This means that communication can create a positive atmosphere within a company and improve its performance.
In actuality, it should be pointed out that communication is probably the most important but not the only problem of Meidnle. He tends to misuse his legitimate power and his authority, imposing his decisions on subordinates and employees. In addition he lacks the basic traits of a successful manager (Leading Effectively Foundations, p.216): intelligence, maturity and breadth, achievement drive, and integrity. Naturally, it is difficult to estimate that the level of intelligence of Meindle is consistently lower than his subordinates, but he deprives them of the opportunity to show their intelligence and realize their intellectual potential imposing his authoritarian, task-based management style. Obviously, he lacks maturity and breadth because he is unable to overcome boundaries of his cultural traditions. In fact, his management style could have been effective in the German culture environment but it does not work in the US, though Meindle cannot understand or change it. As for achievement drive, Meindle cannot really encourage his subordinates to achieve certain successes because they do not accept his management style and, actually, do not perceive him as a leader of the organization and his power and authority is purely formal. Finally, integrity is an unattainable goal at the moment because Meindle creates unsurpassable barriers between him and his subordinates as well as between German and non-German managers and employees.
Obviously, he could improve the situation through changing his management style and more effective use of power, which could achieved through the development of a two-way communication which could help maintain normal relations in Zelte USA. It is worthy of mention that often communication can provide significant opportunities for the development of mutual trust and reliability of work of employees. To put it more precisely, nowadays, many multinational companies cannot provide a centralized control over the personnel of a company situated in different parts of the world. As a result, such companies often need that its units situated in different countries could work autonomously that means the effective communication between all the units of such companies can provide ample opportunities to share the achievements of each unit within the company and contribute to the effective work of the personnel without the necessity of a permanent control over employees from the part of administration.
Obviously, communication is very important but this also means that the problems that appear in communication may deteriorate the functioning of a company as well. In this respect it should be said that problems may appear in relationships of managers with employees when there is the problem of leadership. To put it more precisely, the combination of managerial and leadership qualities are of a paramount importance for the general success of a manager’s work. However, there are situations when the manager’s leadership may be argued or challenged by an subordinated employee who possesses certain qualities and characteristics of a leader. In fact, such an employee can gain a substantial degree of authority to the extent that his/her opinion and point of view will be as significant and important for other employees as that of the manager. Potentially, it creates conditions for the development of conflicts within the organization because the manager, being nominally a leader, can face the opposition of the actual leader which, being formally subordinated to the manager, can play the role of the leader for other employees. This may result in the conflict of interest between the manager as a formal leader and the informal leader of employees. However, it is worthy of mention that such a situation may be to a significant extent determined by the problems in communication.
In fact, it proves beyond a doubt that such conflicts result from the gaps or problems in communication because if there is a conflict between a manager and employees or between a manager and an informal leader of employees, than there is some misunderstanding between both parties. This means that a manager has failed to explain clearly the position of the administration of a company and convey it to employees. Such problems are particularly serious when large companies operating in different countries of the world are involved, such as Zelte USA. In fact, Meindle failed to develop effective communication and his subordinates had to accept and obey to his decisions.
On analyzing the causes of such a problem, it should be said that the major problem was the communication gaps, which in their turn were determined by a huge cultural difference between Meindle and his non-German subordinates. In fact, American subordinates get used to a two-way communication and they cannot accept his task-based management style. In such a situation, the leadership of Meindle is ineffective. Instead, American subordinates would more readily accept charismatic leadership, for instance, which implies the influence of a leader on followers “primarily through developing their emotional commitment to a vision and set of shared values” (Leadership and Team Behaviors, p.250). However, Meindle tends to transactional leadership and he does not really take into consideration the specificity of the cultural background of employees and, what is more, he enlarges the gap heavily relying on German subordinates.
The situation discussed above perfectly reveals the importance of effective communication of manager with employees. In fact, the effective communication implies that managers and employees are able to communicate with each other freely. This means that the policy and strategic development of the company is clearly conveyed to employees by employees but it does not necessarily mean that mangers should dominate and oppress their employees, preventing any initiatives of the employees and just get them acquainted with the strategy and possible changes the administration decides to implement. In stark contrast, the major goal of communication is the maintenance of dialogue between managers and employees, i.e. employees should not only perceive essential information about the upcoming changes or policy of the company but they should also be able to influence decisions taken by the company. In this respect, it is through communication they can define their own position and attitude to the policy of the company and convey it to managers.
Obviously, if the interests of both managers and employees coincide there are no contradictions and, naturally, there is no opposition within a company. As soon as the views of managers and employees differ or, when there are some gaps in communication leading to the lack of information or misunderstanding between managers and employees, the conflicts are inevitable. In this respect, the role of communication is getting to be particularly important because it is due to the communicative skills a manager can gain the support and understanding of employees.
At the same time, effective communication leads to the stable and effective work of employees because they know what they are actually working for and what the policy of a company actually is. Moreover, the effective communication provides essential flexibility and diversity of management because it prevents internal opposition from the part of employees and engenders trust of employees in relation to the administration of the company. Otherwise, managers have little opportunities to improve the situation as it was in the case of Meindle who avoided the communication with employees and managers, preferring one-side way of communication and management. As a rule, in such a situation managers had either to oppress employees or instead to develop more effective communication to overcome the opposition of employees.
Before taking any steps, it is necessary to analyze the situation more carefully, and maybe more options will appear in future. Efficiency of a manager is usually estimated by means of his/her ability to influence productivity of the work force, which results from his/her education and work experience. According to J.L. Heart, one of main tasks of a manager is “to create vision of the company, to inspire and control, to direct the action of the workforce by using personal qualities, such as the ability to influence people, charisma, enthusiasm and others” (124). Obviously, these qualities can contribute to the effective communication improving the attitude of employees to managers. The latter receive an excellent chance to involve employees in the process of development of plans of a company through a permanent communication and, in such a way, management becomes more diverse and flexible since managers take into consideration the position of employees and, therefore, they are able to take decisions or implement changes in accordance with the current needs of a company and employees without harm to strategic goals of the company. However, Meindle basically fails to create such a vision and inspire his employees and subordinates.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that cultural background plays a very important role in the effective management and leadership. In fact, the cultural difference affect above all the communication of a leader and employees. In such a situation, the example of Zelte USA demonstrates that quite extreme leadership style, reveals the fact that Meindle, the leader of the organization, tends to culture-bound syndrome since he is entirely focused on German culture as he applies management and leadership style which is basically oriented on German employees. Moreover, his favoritism in relation to German subordinates proves his culture-bound syndrome, which eventually creates a huge gap between the leader and his subordinates. In this respect, the leader proves to be unable to manage the organization effectively and the communication gap between the leader and subordinates becomes enormous and produces a destructive effect on the performance of the organization and relationships between the leader and subordinates.

References:
Bovee, C.L., Thill, J.V. (2005). Excellence in Business Communication. New York: Prentice Hall.
Hart, J.L. (2004). “Organizational Communication in an Age of Globalization: Issues, Reflections. Practices”. Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 67.
Chapter 8: Leading Effectively Foundations.
Chapter 9: Leadership and Team Behaviors.
Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1999). The Experience Economy, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Peters, T. J. (2007). In search of excellence: Lessons from America's best-run companies. New York: Harper & Row.
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