Globalization has seen the entrance of new and necessary business adjustments. The expansion of giant corporations across the borders coupled with increased labor mobility has caused the influx of foreign laborers and managers into various countries. The cross-cultural business relations have led to the growth of multi-cultural supervision. Foreign companies prefer to send a few of their local managers to oversee the take-off and running of their projects in the new business landscape.
This is not without challenges and interesting experiences that have been the subject of modern management and sociological studies (Sinha, 2008). Supervision is defined as the act of assigning roles, judging performance and taking appropriate measures. They typically work in direct contact with the labor force and ensure that they are well trained and equipped so as to work efficiently. They therefore assign the resources in use to the various employees, and ensure that the target output is achieved.
Due to the multi-faceted aspect of humans, it is already complicated enough without throwing in the multicultural dimension. This creates the need for culturally sensitive supervision, defined as the creation of a suitable environment and provision of suitable resources so as to allow enough space and room for the employees to reach their maximum output potential. In this respect the managers and supervisors serve the employees, not vice-versa.
If properly managed, the diversity can bring about astounding results due to the wide range of skills and talents to be harnessed. However, if not tapped properly, the result could be financially and motivationally degrading (McNamara, 2008). So how is this achieved? The first step is to train the supervisors in multicultural sensitivity and literacy. As Fine (1995), states, the supervisory team must first learn the culture of the supervised so as to effectively bring out their potential. This is generally the biggest rule of multicultural supervision.
The culture of a worker defines how they work and perceive the various reactions toward them. In Japan, for example, it is rude to speak in a loud assertive voice to your superiors, a trait that may be misinterpreted in the West as being shy and unassertive. Different groups have different requirements. However, the professional needs are largely the same. It is important to have the employees motivated to improve themselves meaningfully so as to insure them against professional stagnation.
If the employee senses that the management or supervisors are blocking his professional ascension, the employee will become despondent and disillusioned, regardless of racial and gender background. As shown by Fine (1995), the need for professional progress is very important. However, the traits for these are determined by the supervisors. If the corporate traits are set by one cultural rule, then either the other cultures are broken to accommodate this rule of measure or the persons affected simply are overlooked.
Hence in a multi-cultural setting, rewarding can become tricky. The socio-business environment of an individual determines how they perceive certain actions and thus determine who is eligible for promotion. Therefore the more related they are in culture, the easier the conformity. This is not good for the other cultures. Another issue is the style of supervision to be put in place. It is well known that the cultural differences determine how much the individual person is involved or involves themselves in the participation with others in company affairs.
In cultures where personal space is important, conflict resolution and teamwork are handled distinctively differently as opposed to cultures where the opposite is emphasized. An example is found in the Dancom case study where a Danish company had set up an operation center in Russia. The Russian culture of individual problem solving as opposed to the Danish emphasis on teamwork brought a cultural clash in the workplace. The Russians still insisted on being heard out but viewed discussion as time wasting. They insisted that it was not profitable as it led to lengthy discussions with no end result.
In the end, the decision took long and market opportunities and adjustments were not taken advantage of. Instead, the individual would set out to accomplish the task on his or her own so as to avoid the complications of dialogue. The Danes on the other hand, prided themselves in the use of dialogue and still thought that their decision making process was quick and flexible. This conflict was a source of mistrust of the Danish superiors by the Russians. They saw this handling as meddlesome and interfering (Gooderham & Nordhaug, 163-168).