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Culturally Based Value Systems

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1) Discuss the stages in the negotiation process and how culturally based value systems influence these stages. Specifically,

Explain the role and relative importance of relationship building in different countries

Discuss the various styles and tactics that can be involved in exchanging task-related information

Describe differences in culturally based styles of persuasion

Discuss the kinds of concession strategies a negotiator might anticipate in various countries

There are five stages in the negotiation process:

a) preparation- Research must be done to develop a profile of the other collaborator in order to understand their culture and to also allow for any variables that might be encountered such as the other side’s conception of risk-taking and decision making. Such information as the demands being made as well as the composition of the other team have to be ascertained beforehand.

b) relationship building- Americans don’t place the great importance as do other cultures, particularly Asian ones, on the building of relationships in the negotiating process. Other cultures value trust whereas Americans value time and money. Other nations such as China and Mexico place more value than do Americans on personal rather than contractual ties. It is recommended that managers learn patience in the negotiating process, which may involve much ceremony and socializing before real negotiating can begin. Intermediaries familiar to and trusted by the foreign contingent may be necessary to facilitate meetings. Our culture has to learn that terms such as compromise have different connotations in other nations. Posturing, or setting the tone of negotiations is important in other cultures.

c) the exchange of task-related information- The process of negotiating where exchange of information takes place is situational from culture to culture. Americans have come to realize that their straightforward, pragmatic approach is not necessarily the one favored by other nations. Indirect, ambiguous, protocol-conscious, and contentious describe the modus operandi of Mexico, China, Russia and France respectively in the art of negotiating. Mexicans distrust directness, the Chinese ask many questions, Russians are thoroughly prepared to deal with top executives only, and the French want to debate issues as a matter of course during negotiations.

d) persuasion- During the bargaining phase of negotiations, cultures use different degrees of verbal and non-verbal tactics. Whereas countries such as Brazil promise less and command more, Americans or Japanese offer more promises and more threats.

Far Eastern cultures do much behind the scenes in the negotiation process. Tactics such as offering misinformation or being ambiguous about who is in charge are not considered “dirty tricks” by foreign negotiators. Certain countries actually begin negotiations with misinformation. Rough tactics such as uncomfortable physical settings, threats, delays and histrionics such as shouting and desk-pounding are simply the way of negotiations in other countries and are sometimes employed by Americans as well. Non-verbal tactics employed by non-Western societies are subtle and culturally ingrained. These include facial gazing, touching, silent periods and interruptions. Studies have been done to help American negotiators become aware of and in tune with such behaviors and to recognize our own idiosyncrasies, some of which we share with others.

e) concessions and agreement- Americans are apt to treat negotiations as they do time, in a linear fashion, starting with an extreme position and at strategic intervals, revealing pertinent information to strengthen their position and move closer to their predetermined outcome. However, in other cultures such as in the Far East, negotiating is done in a more holistic manner whereby the deal is made at the end rather than incrementally. And where Americans value a contract, the Japanese, for instance, consider it to be insulting and prefer to operate on the basis of understanding and social trust.

2) Discuss the relative use of nonverbal behaviors, such as silent periods, interruptions, facial glazing, and touching by people from various cultural backgrounds. How does this behavior affect the negotiation process in a cross-cultural context?

The philosophies of people determine their outlook and behavior at the negotiating table. The Japanese way is diametrically opposed to the impatience and directness of Americans. The Japanese culture of politeness dictates that time during negotiation be spent doing non-task sounding which involves polite conversation and informal communication. Their use of silent periods would seem unusual to someone from Brazil who would be animated during negotiations, spontaneous and talkative and interrupting. Whereas the Brazilian would use much touching and facial gazing, Americans and Japanese aver these tactics.

4) What are some of the differences in risk tolerance around the world? What is the role of risk propensity in the decision-making process?

A higher tolerance for risk taking exists in cultures such as America in which decisions are made quickly, and where decision making is more centralized. Because Americans are future oriented rather than dependent on past decisions, such as in Europe, they are more willing to take risks and see what will happen rather than what has happened before. Because Americans are more individualistic in their approach to decision making, this also would make them better risk takers than people of collectivist societies who defer to one another for the good of the group and are afraid of insulting anyone by going out on a limb. Reliance on consensus would necessarily slow down the process and this would not be consonant with risk taking. Societies who are more fatalistic in their approach would not take risks and go against fate. Westerners are goal oriented and thus more willing to take risks than non-Westerners, who value relationships, peace, and harmony or social traditions over taking risks to reach material goals.

5) Explain how objective versus subjective perspectives influences the decision-making process. What role do you think this variable has played in all of the negotiations and decisions between Iraq and the United Nations?

Western cultures believe in taking an objective, rational approach to decision making. They use objective facts to consider alternative approaches to problems. Other cultures, including those of Latin America, are more emotional, thus subjective in their approach. Americans, then, would be more utilitarian and conscious of the bottom line than managers in China, in which the subjectivity of moral idealism rules decision making. The personalized, collectivist nature of decision-making by non-Western peoples would necessarily be more subjective than in cultures which consider empirical data such as time and cost in their decisions rather than the feelings and consensus of others.

6) Explain differences in culturally based value systems relative to the amount of control a person feels he or she has over future outcomes? How does this belief influence the decision-making process?

Whether the locus of control, which is an important variable of the decision-making process is external or internal is culturally determined. Some managers believe they have control over the direction and outcome of decisions they make. Managers of other cultures leave the outcomes of decisions to forces outside themselves, whether it be God or fate. Where American managers are self-reliant in decision-making processes, those of other societies, the Far East in particular, are resigned in their approach, feeling there is nothing they can do to change matters. These differences in values mean that Americans are more apt to consider alternative solutions to problems and to be better at crisis management in comparison to managers who think that problems will work themselves out according to a higher plan out of their control. Americans would be more likely to act quickly to fix perceived problems. Those same situations might not even be considered to be problems for Asians, who believe in accepting whatever hand is dealt by fate.

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