Probably you’ll have noticed a logical sequence in our previous newsletters about what international negotiation and culture means and how these two concepts are related. But does that mean that culture and international negotiation cannot exist without each other? Whoa, hold your horses! It is not that simple.
Culture is a learning process that starts in our childhood and is not related directly to individual personality. It is important to emphasize that human beings inherit different personalities, some more alike than others, that are not tied to group behavior. We can be impulsive and extroverted, and a person born in another country can share similar behavior traits. Therefore, culture is our behavior in society, it is our conduct within a group, and it can be different from our individual personality. It is right to say that we can behave differently in a group than when we are alone. This happens because culture is a principle, it is universally applicable, yet it is not the same worldwide.
To answer the previous question, we can say that culture exists by itself; however, international negotiation could not exist without an understanding of different cultures. Why is that? It is because if we do not learn about other cultures, we will not be able to communicate effectively and we will miss the goal, which is to achieve an agreement. Learning about other cultures will foster our ability to establish effective communication, which is one of the pillars of a successful negotiation.
Remember that culture is a collective programming of the mind, and we can learn it! We have plenty of empirical data that helps us to understand other cultures: Geert Hofstede, Robert House, Soon Ang, among other scholars, dedicated decades of analysis to bring us the knowledge that we need to succeed in international business and life negotiations.
The ethic corner
Multinationals are making considerable efforts to manage organizational ethics. More than being meritorious, it is morally obligatory. However, the belief that ethics are the same across cultures is an erroneous assumption. Multinationals adopting home-country ethical practices may fail in achieving their goals if they are transposed to other countries without consideration for cultural norms.
Poor ethics interpretation jeopardizes the firm’s integrity, generating hostility for and rejection of these managerial practices. (Weaver, 2001) – Journal of Business Ethics 30