Business ethics in a cross cultural perspective

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Business ethics in a cross cultural perspective

Abstract

 

This assignment will be focusing on the research on the journal paper, A cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong and the United States, to talk about the business ethics in a cross cultural perspective. The study will careful review of the journal paper in order to have a background understanding of the paper and analyze the contradictions and confirmations between the proposed assumptions and the existing knowledge followed by summary of some of the lessons and techniques learnt from the paper.

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Abstract………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

Table of Contents…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

List of f tables…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4

1.0            Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………….. 5

1.1           Objectives of report………………………………………………………………………. 5

1.1.1     To have careful review of the journal paper in order to have a background understanding of the paper   5

1.1.2     To analyze the contradictions and confirmations between the proposed assumptions and the existing knowledge……………………………………………………………………………. 5

1.1.3     To critically find out the inadequacies of the paper……………………… 5

1.1.4     To summarize some of the lessons and techniques learnt from the paper      5

2.     Summary of the literature…………………………………………………………………………… 5

3.     Analysis………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 10

3.1           Contradictions and confirmations between the proposed assumptions and the existing knowledge     10

3.1.1     Effectiveness of business ethics education: Changes of individual business ethics from school to work place………………………………………………………………………………………. 10

3.1.2     Correlation between increase of individualism (IDV) and increase of wealth     12

3.1.3     Correlation between increase of wealth and decrease of long-term orientation index (LTO)   12

3.2           Inadequacies of the paper…………………………………………………………….. 13

3.2.1     Obscure definition selection of “business ethics”………………………. 13

3.2.2     Timing issues of the references and historical research resources…. 14

3.2.3     Bad timing of the questionnaire………………………………………………. 14

3.2.4     Using business students to represent business leaders………………… 15

4.     Conclusion: Statement of findings…………………………………………………………….. 15

5.     Learning outcome……………………………………………………………………………………. 16

5.1           Important role of female in moral development of the society…………… 16

5.2           Long term monitoring is needed for a safer conclusion…………………….. 16

Appendix. Business Ethics: A cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong and the United States       17

List of References………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18


List of f tables

Table 1 Findings of the study in Hoftede Index and Clark Index compared with previous studies  7

Table 2 Results of this study compared to Hofstede (1980)’s and Gniewosz (2005)’s findings  8

 

 

 

1.0            Introduction

 

1.0  Introduction

 

Ethics exist in different forms such as religious ethics, social ethics and business ethics, and ethics norms could be very different in different cultural system and countries. This assignment will try to access the ethics in different cultural system to see whether there would be significant differences in business ethics in different cultural background with the majority of the source of data and facts coming from a journal paper, namely, “Business Ethics: A cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong and the United States”, written by Danon – Leva, E. Cavico, F. J. and Mujtaba, B. G. from two universities in the United States.

 

1.1    Objectives of report

 

1.1.1            To have careful review of the journal paper in order to have a background understanding of the paper

 

1.1.2            To analyze the contradictions and confirmations between the proposed assumptions and the existing knowledge

 

1.1.3            To critically find out the inadequacies of the paper

 

1.1.4            To summarize some of the lessons and techniques learnt from the paper

 

2.        Summary of the literature

 

In the introduction part of the paper, first the paper describes several definitions of business ethics, such as Cavico and Mujtaba (2009)’s definition that business ethics should be treated as “applied ethics” and used to decide “a specialized study of moral right and wrong”, this definition focuses on the usage of business ethics in a practical way to address real life ethics problems; Enderle (1999)’s suggestions that stakeholders’ interests have to be taken into account in order to better understand business ethics. Then the paper continues to introduce that business ethics could be understood in a marketing view or through a philosophical view. And also ethics problems could be divided into five major types according to a number of researchers[1]:  (1) coercion and control, (2) conflict of interest, (3) the physical environment, (4) paternalism, and (5) personal integrity. Following, the authors review a research done by Preble and Rachel (1988) with the initiative to provide evident to support the hypothesis that students from Israelis would be more idealistic than those from the United States eventually find out that the future business leaders from these two countries were actually similar to each other as no significant differences were found. While other studies on the cross cultural ethics study are also mentioned, one focus point that the paper has is on the Hofstede (1980, 1991)’s five Cultural Dimensions which include Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism (IDV), Masculinity (MAS), Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and Long-Term Orientation (LTO), this model was proposed under Greet Hofstede, who had done surveys to the IBM employees from 72 countries during the term from 1968 to 1972 and based on which he developed these five basic components on which cultures can be distinguished (Landy and Conte 2010, p.37). The cultural dimensions would be applied widely in the major content of the paper as an important analytical tool. Another important tool which would also be used in the paper is a survey questionnaire developed by John Clark and it includes two major parts: Personal Business Ethics Score (PBES) which is used to access the individual’s personal morality and Social Responsibility Scale (SRS) which is sued to access the individual’s level of responsibilities held.

 

In the next section, the methodology identification, the paper described how the study will be carried out in term of target universities (three from US and three from HK), data volume (250 per country), data collection (self administered questionnaire survey) and language used (English). Then the paper introduced the major content of the survey questionnaire that would be utilized as a major first hand source of the paper. The three parts of the questionnaire are listed below:

 

l  Background information questions

 

l  Structured questions using Clark’s Personal Business Ethics score

 

l  Structured questions using Hofstede (1980)’s five Cultural Dimensions model

 

Then the paper listed out the six assumptions the paper would focus:

 

n  No significant relationship between the cultural dimension of Masculinity (MAS) and the scores of Clark’s Personal Business Ethics exists in the business students from the United States and Hong Kong.

 

Positive correlation relationship between the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and the scores of Clark’s Personal Business Ethics exists in the business students from the United States and Hong Kong.

 

n  Negative correlation relationship between the Individualism (IDV) and the scores of Clark’s Personal Business Ethics exists in the business students from the United States and Hong Kong.

 

n  Positive correlation relationship between the Power Distance Index (PDI) and the scores of Clark’s Personal Business Ethics exists in the business students from the United States and Hong Kong.

 

n  No significant relationship between the Long-Term Orientation (LTO) and the scores of Clark’s Personal Business Ethics exists in the business students from the United States and Hong Kong.

 

n  Hong Kong business students have a better performance in business ethics than their counterparts from the United States.

 


Table 1 Findings of the study in Hoftede Index and Clark Index compared with previous studies

Source: Danon – Leva, E. Cavico, F. J. and Mujtaba, B. G. (2010)

 

In the analysis part, first the paper performed a check on the results in the Hoftede Index in term of the performance in the five cultural dimensions in comparison with the previous studies, i.e. the Hofstede (1980) and Clark (1966) studies. In term of the Individualism (IDV), with increases found in students from both countries in this dimensions, the paper tried to rationalize it by attributing the change to the effects such as increased globalization and wide usage of internet that instantly communicate everyone to the different ideas and opinions. Changes in the other four dimensions scores were also analyzed with possible reasons with the help from other studies and references stated to try to rationalize the changes. In term of Masculinity (MAS) the scores obtained from students from both countries show that both countries are making substantial progress while MAS of the United States is reduced from 62 to 46 while that of Hong Kong is from 57 to 36, the paper tries to rationalize Hong Kong’s better performance by suggesting that the 50.8% of the surveyed candidates are women. In term of uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) which deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, the growth of Hong Kong’s UAI is significant (from 29 to 61) compared to that of the US (from 46 to 44) was explained by the journal paper as the results by Hong Kong’s efforts to enhance the awareness of ethical practices and integrate the ethics into the social and cultural systems which is expected to regulate the social and business behaviors and thus reduces the overall uncertainty avoidance index (UAI).


Table 2 Results of this study compared to Hofstede (1980)’s and Gniewosz (2005)’s findings

Source: Danon – Leva, E. Cavico, F. J. and Mujtaba, B. G. (2010)

 

In the next functional part, findings and implications, the paper makes comparisons between the results of the study and the previous Hofstede (1980)’s and Gniewosz (2005)’s findings under the same five dimensional culture analysis and access some claims shared by Gniewwosz (2005) and Hofstede (1980). Comparisons and discussions are also done with other assumptions and studies. Then the paper looks back on the propositions that he had proposed and evaluate them one by one using the findings through the studies. In the end of the study, the paper also provides implications and suggestions to the business firms to improve their future developments.

 

3.        Analysis

 

3.1    Contradictions and confirmations between the proposed assumptions and the existing knowledge

 

3.1.1            Effectiveness of business ethics education: Changes of individual business ethics from school to work place

 

One of the most fundamental hypnosis underlines this journal paper is that the business ethics values held by the business students in the universities would not change significantly when they leave the school and take responsibilities in the positions in the companies, this make the paper more meaningful and could bring useful and practical guidelines to the business practices. As the study is about business ethics in different cultural systems (Hong Kong and United States) and the paper only did analysis and research on the business school students with the assumption that these students would go the work place soon with the taught business ethics values and knowledge.

 

According to a study by Arlow and Ulrich (1988, p.299), the business school graduates feel that the school and university training after graduation becomes less important in affecting ethical conduct in term of the extent to which business graduates’ ethics decision making is impacted. The study found out that, impacts from the formal school education on the ethics making was ranked as the one with least impact on the business ethics decision making while the industry practices played a critical role in forming the behavior and institutional ethical values and practices. Regarding the reasons of such ineffectiveness of the formal ethics training in schools and universities, Seleshi Sisaye (2001, p.282) proposed that it is the lack of external relevance of classroom ethics training and also the short-lived nature of ethics education is due to the weaknesses in the teaching methodologies and methods. For example, a large part of case studies done by the students and taught by the school teachers are actually hypothetical scenarios which are not made in real business and working environment. And even such case studies could be from real business scenarios, the current teaching methodology that the teachers could teach the students to do the correct ethical reasoning but such reasoning is still not effective if the link between the classroom reasoning and real life business practices has not been established through one’s own observation and decision makings.

 

In my own view, industrial practices are really playing significant role in impacting the practical ethics behaviors and minimize the effectiveness of the ethics training that the employees and managers have previously received while they are still students in the classroom. Take the corruption as an example, assume that in societies where corruption is widespread it is easy, but morally wrong, to think that since so many others are paying bribes, one is justified in doing so oneself, and that since everyone is going to engage in corruption anyway, one’s own example will have little harmful effect on others. In addition, self interest can influence one’s own decision and determination and also result in that one would morally wrongly determinate that a relatively minor inconvenience constitutes a substantial injury (Brenkert and Beauchamp 2010, p.490). In many extreme cases in which everyone is engaging morally wrong doings, according to my understanding acting morally and against the group norms and industrial practices would equal to quitting the jobs, since the serious consequences that unemployment could have suggested, it is reasonable to understand that one could not easily maintain the ethical behaviors at work after leaving the schools and universities; in another word the effectiveness of the school teaching of the business ethics would not always be maintained when it comes to the real working environment with many more factors to be taken into account. Hence, regarding the appropriateness of the journal paper in term of using the business student ethics decisions to represent those of the business leaders and managers, I would say it is not very appropriate though some correlation and coherency relationship could have existed between these groups in term of ethics behaviors.

 

3.1.2            Correlation between increase of individualism (IDV) and increase of wealth

 

As speculated by Geert H. Hofstede (1984), based on his study which collected the data from 1968 to 1973 he assumed that there is strong association between IDV and national wealth. And so long as the wealth of nations increases, the individualism of the citizens will increase. Hofstede also commented that the consequences for individualism of a leveling off into zero growth are more difficult to forecast but he claimed that it is also possible that it will stabilizes after reaching a certain level (Hofstede 1984, p.249). According to the study in the journal paper, Hong Kong’s IDV had increased from 25 (1980), 72 (2005) to 80 as concluded in this paper and United States’ IDV increased from 91 (2005) to 106 as concluded in this paper, the study provide independent confirmation to the positive correlation between increase of individualism (IDV) and increase of wealth of the nation (during the term the both two economies of the two countries were growing). But still we can not see the stabilization of the individualism (IDV) which is most expected to be seen in the United States.

 

 

3.1.3            Correlation between increase of wealth and decrease of long-term orientation index (LTO)

 

According to Gniewosz (2005)’s revisit of Hofstede (1980)’s study, it supportive with the increase of the social wealth theory there would be a decrease of long-term orientation index (LTO) in the cultural systems, but while compared to the economic date in Hofstede (1980) the economy in 2010 is still better in 1980 or 2005; but the result that the long-term orientation index (LTO) increased from 29 to 66, it seems to be in contradiction with the existing knowledge and understanding that Correlation between increase of wealth and decrease of long-term orientation index (LTO). In my own view, the changes of the long-term orientation index (LTO) is not necessarily tied with the increases or decreases of the national wealth but it may be involved with the distance between the national average wealth level with the world average age. In another word, if one particular economy slows down the growth while the world average is still increasing, the particular economy would be having a longer long-term orientation index (LTO).

 

3.2    Inadequacies of the paper

 

3.2.1            Obscure definition selection of “business ethics”

 

In the introduction section, the journal paper did mentioned a number of definition identified by previous studies, and also the authors suggested that the paper will put concentration on the discipline of ethics rather than defining the term as a movement. But when it comes to the selection of the various definitions, the paper neither identified which one would be used nor did it provided the definition proposed by the authors of their own. With a significantly obscure choose of the definition about what is business ethics in this paper, it actually increases the difficulty for the users to understand the intention of the authors and the studies outcome that they tried to demonstrate.

 

3.2.2            Timing issues of the references and historical research resources

 

In the introduction part, the paper has come to a conclusion that based on the findings done by Hofstede in 1993, similar situations could be found in other references and research resources regarding the some studies outcome and experiment results, in my understanding, unlike definitions which could be used in a long period of time, experiments on the subjects that tend to change over time could have different results as time passes. Take the mentioned conclusion that Hong Kong and the mainland of China share the similar cultural dimensions as an example, with the rapid civilization, modernization and capitalization, the mainland of China has been going through in term of business practices, cultures and values which also include beliefs held in term of business ethics, based on these changes it would be insecure to reach such a fast conclusion without taking the changes into account.

 

3.2.3            Bad timing of the questionnaire

 

One finding demonstrated by the study makes me feel that the timing of the questionnaire was wrong is that according to the new study using the Hofstede (1980)’s five Cultural Dimensions, in the Long-Term Orientation (LTO) dimension, the outcome of the study shows that the Long-Term Orientation (LTO) of the United States students increases from 29 to 66 while that of the Hong Kong students decreases from 96 to 50. Leaving the changes of the indicator among the Hong Kong students alone, we focus on the change in the US students, based on the fact that when the research was done in 2009 to 2010, the US economy was severely impacted by the after waves of the US led world financial crisis. As proposed by Bryan Hopkins (2009, p.43) that as the economic crisis of 2008 has shown, the failure to think carefully about the unforeseeable influences can lead to disaster in the longer term future does inevitably arrive, as the United States people including the students in the country have just witnessed one of the largest economic and financial crisis in their life, it is logical to understand that many of them would actually fall into fear and would think negatively about the future which make them plan more for the future rather than the near term arrangements. Hence, it could be a bad timing for the questionnaire to collect data that could just has been impacted largely by the recent external environments.

 

3.2.4            Using business students to represent business leaders

 

As analyzed above, the study carried out in the journal paper is about business ethics in different cultural systems (Hong Kong and United States) and the paper only did analysis and research on the business school students with the assumption that these students would go the work place soon with the taught business ethics values and knowledge. And because of the difficulties as mentioned above in keeping one’s high standard ethical behaviors due to there are a lot more factors to be taken into account in a practical business environment, the effectiveness of school teaching of business ethics using hypothetical cases could be reduced when the graduates come to the various positions. As a result, using business students to represent business leaders could an inappropriate decision made by the journal paper.

 

4.        Conclusion: Statement of findings

 

In conclusion, we have found in this study that it is in accordance with many previous and similar studies as it supports a number of famous assumptions such as the assumptions that there is a positive correlation between Individualism (IDV) and business ethics scores or national wealth level. But there are deficiencies with the study that make the paper less useful than it should have been; such deficiencies include using business students to represent business leaders, choosing a bad timing of the questionnaire and provision of obscure definition selection of “business ethics”. But still we can learn a lot of new knowledge and techniques for research doing, some of them of discussed below.

 

5.        Learning outcome

 

5.1    Important role of female in moral development of the society

 

Because the study supports the previous assumptions that females were better performing in term of PBES than that of the male counterpart and another view shared by many studies and researchers that there is a more important role of female in moral development of the society, I have learnt that it is critical to integrate the gender balance in the work place in order to achieve a more balance moral development of the society. This learning outcome is probably right because female employees or managers tend to be considered as more considerate and relationship orientation practices.

 

5.2    Long term monitoring is needed for a safer conclusion

Another lesson I have learn is from one of the study’s deficiencies that the timing of the questionnaire and data collection could be wrongly because of in 2009 or 2010 the US economy is still under impact of the financial crisis and the failure of the US people to think carefully about the unforeseeable influences can lead to disaster in the longer term future does inevitably arrive and thus makes that conclusion insecure. Based on this, I have learnt that long term monitoring is needed for a safer conclusion for any key scenarios.

 

 

Appendix. Business Ethics: A cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong and the United States

 

 

List of References    

 

Arlow, P. and Ulrich, T. A. (1988). A longitudinal survey of business school graduates’ assessments of business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 7(4). 295-302

 

Brenkert, G. G. and Beauchamp, T. L. (2010), The Oxford handbook of business ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.490

 

Brenkert, G. (2008). Marketing ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.

 

Cavico, F. J. and Mujtaba, B. G. (2009). Business ethics: The moral foundation of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship. (2nd edition). Boston, United States: Pearson Custom Publications.

 

Danon – Leva, E. Cavico, F. J. and Mujtaba, B. G. (2010) Business Ethics: A cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong and the United States. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly. 2010, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 1 – 20

 

Gattorna, J. (2003). Gower handbook of supply chain management. Hants GU: Gower Publishing.

 

Gniewosz, G. (2005), Cultural values in a changed world: a test of Hofstede’s predictions, paper resented at annual conference of the Academy of International Business (AIB) in Quebec City. Session: 1.3.12, Tract 8.

 

Hopkins, B. (2009) Cultural Differences and Improving Performance: How Values and Beliefs Influence Organizational Performance. Surrey: Gower Publishing Company. p.43

 

Hofstede, G. H. (1980). Culture’s Consequences. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

 

Hofstede, G. H. (1984), Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values. London: SAGE Publications, Inc. p.249

 

Hofstede, G. H. (1991). Cultures and Organizations, UK: McGraw- Hill

 

Landy, F. J. and Conte, J. M. 2010, Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 3rd edition, California: Wiley- Blackwell, p.37

 

Murphy, K. R. (1993). Honest in the work place. Michigan: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.,

 

Preble, J. F. and Rachel, A. (1988). Attitudes toward business ethics of future managers in the United States and Israel. Journal of business ethics, 7(12), 941 – 949

 

Sisaye, S. (2001) Organizational change and development in management control systems: process innovation for internal auditing and management accounting. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. p.282



[1] Fritzsche and Becker, 1983 and 1984; Lysonski and Gaidis, 1991

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