Define the Problem:
What went wrong during Ms. Myers tenure from your point of view? Ms. Myers was a smart individual that got caught up in the hype of a new and promising job. Like many people these days the sound of an executive position is tempting and wanted by many, however most do not have the skills or the knowledge needed to survive and be a part of that new environment. It is great to want to invent the wheel again, but it’s not great to step on toes while trying be inventive.
Ms. Myers started out good but failed in what her objective was. “When Linda Myers accepted a human resources position at SK Telecom in South Korea, she thought it was the opportunity she’d long been working toward. Not only would she break ground as one of the first American female executives at a Korean company, she would also lead an initiative to make the organization more global. For someone who’d spent years consulting on expatriate transitions, this seemed like a dream job.” Green 2011. If she had made a few changes, her objective would have been achieved, making a stand for women around the world and getting a foot hold for Asian women in Korea.
Analyze the Cause:
Explain the problem Ms. Myers is encountering using Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture to compare Korean and American assumptions about interpersonal relationships and management.
1. Power/Distance (PD) – This refers to the degree of inequality that exists – and is accepted – among people with and without power. On the ground in Seoul, Myers quickly realized just how far she was from her native Baltimore. One early shock was the homogeneity of not only her office but also the city: Government estimates indicate that foreigners account for 2.4% of the population.
That’s compared with just over 18% for Singapore and 27% for New York and London, according to the Migration Policy Institute. (Green) Because Mrs. Myers was used to being in the states and was not acclimated to the Asian environment, she felt that she was far from comfort. Also, early on, she asked employees to dispense with calling her “Sang Mu Linda,” her title at the company, and to use Linda, the norm in a U.S. company, to create a less formal environment.
“But by removing the label, I plummeted in their eyes,” she recalls. What she regarded as a “participative leadership style” looked wishy-washy to the people at SK. (Green) Power can be seen as a position that you have gained by promotion. Because she was already in a position of management, she had the power over many people. How she used that power was her downfall. In the Korean environment she was the “Sang Mu” which was a management position. Once she tried to associate with the workers as equals she fell from that role in the eyes of the workers.
2. Individualism (IDV) – The degree to which individuals are integrated into groups”. In individualistic societies, the stress is put on personal achievements and individual rights. People are expected to stand up for themselves and their immediate family, and to choose their own affiliations. In contrast, in collectivist societies, individuals act predominantly as members of a lifelong and cohesive group or organization. People have large extended families, which are used as a protection in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
3. Masculinity (MAS) – This refers to how much a society sticks with, and values, traditional male and female roles. Myers was constantly aware of being female. Aside from secretaries, she was almost always the only woman in the room. She was also unprepared for the company’s rigid hierarchy. But as Myers saw it, “there were basically four levels: VP, director, manager, and worker bee. You only talked to people at your level.” (Green) Not all societies have equalized the field of female and male relationships. In the Asian cultures the roles of male being dominate and Females are the lesser of human social role.
4. Uncertainty/Avoidance Index (UAI) – This relates to the degree of anxiety society members feel when in uncertain or unknown situations. Her lack of Korean turned out to be a vexing problem. She recalls having to ask for an interpreter at her first meetings at SK. And even with an assistant and colleagues who spoke English, she found it difficult to get the information she needed. “Asking questions was the only way I knew to learn,” she explains. “But it was not always productive.” As she saw it, even diplomatic inquiries could be construed as confrontational and critical. (Green) When the Higher CEOs and upper management felt that they were being stepped on by her way management they started to ostersize her and shield her from information
5. Long Term Orientation (LTO) ) – This refers to how much society values long-standing – as opposed to short term – traditions and values.
Propose a Solution:
Five key issues
1. Creating a climate for change
In terms of creating a climate for change, culture is only effective if it is applied to the relevant area needing change or is tied to some organizational issue.
2. Employee engagement and empowerment
Employee engagement and empowerment is crucial to ensure that the culture is effectively managed and aligned with the cultural assumptions of the organization as a whole.
3. Team orientation
Team work is a common feature in most organizations, in terms of crossing existing barriers and as a useful means of promoting and disseminating new cultural traits. In terms of individual and organizational development, teams are seen as a way of investing in talent development.
4. Tracking cultural change
Tracking cultural change is important in terms of assessing whether the culture has become misaligned in terms of subgroup cultures’ practices, or whether there are issues or challenges to be addressed which could undermine the cultural ethos and underlying assumptions of the organization.
5. Training, rewards and recognition
Training in terms of culture awareness is viewed differently in various
organizations. Culture is an aspect of general management training in some organizations. In other organizations, it is deemed appropriate to learn from leaders and managers about the prevalent cultural norms and assumptions. Rewards and recognition is given when individuals or teams step outside the box and rise above the norm. It is an acknowledgment that there has been a significant change and/or a new operating standard has been started.
From reviewing Green’s fictional case study, (Green, 2011), the author acknowledges some good points for consideration when one has to determine how much a culture and environment will affect institutions and their management. In this review, Green explores the challenges faced by Ms. Linda Myers when she accepted a job as a VP in a Seoul, South Korea with SK Telecom.
Ms. Myers had what seemed to be all of the right credentials on paper that would make her the ideal candidate for a foreign assignment, except one, she was female. Although she had realized that later, being a female would be overbearing for her and she was not able to hang-on to the position due to many cultural factors, discussed earlier. (Green, 2011). When analyzing this case in depth and reviewing the entire tenure of Ms. Myers time with SK Telecom in Seoul, important issues surfaced, which caused this job scenario to go terribly wrong for Ms. Myers.
This understanding in relation to effectively managing culture in public sector organizations and also to provide lessons from initiatives implemented to date in both the public and private sectors. The importance of managing and manipulating culture in public sector organizations cannot be misjudged in terms of its impact on the innovation outline. Developing appropriate measures to address cultural issues in organizations in terms of increasing structural capability and performance is an important issue that should be addressed unilaterally. While the implications of such approaches are wide-ranging, fundamentally the key to effective culture management is leadership.
Leadership must be committed to managing culture in terms of developing and sustaining organizational performance, while managers throughout the organization are responsible for its effective development.
There is much that remains to be done to address the gap between the influence of cultural issues and the approaches adopted by managers, approaches which are elementary in many public sector organizations. The organizations provide useful examples of how organizations can effectively manage organization culture as an integral part of both corporate strategies and organizational change measures to enhance performance and innovation. This case study contributes to the awareness and understanding of culture management in public sector organizations.
One of the first clues that things were going wrong in South Korea was that Ms. Myers should have realized occurred long before her accepting the job in South Korea and she choose to ignore it. That clue being the preliminary assumption by the agency sent to recruit a VP that she was male, not female, as mentioned earlier. The second red flag that should have been raised by Ms. Myers occurred when she contacted the Society of Human Resources and asked them to put her into contact with a female executive who had worked in South Korea to help her prepare for her assignment. The basis of ethical or moral decision-making involves choice and balance; it is a guide to discard bad choices in favor of good ones.
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