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Ethnocentrism: Major Effect On Organizational Behavior

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Ethnocentrism: Major Effects on Organizational Behavior


This research paper defines the term ethnocentrism as a means to make assumptions or judgments about other cultures from one’s own point of view. This paper details the various problems that an ethnocentric view presents when dealing with different cultures. The effects of cultural diversity on organizational behavior are complex and powerful. This paper will also explain that a diverse workforce, which represents a changing world and marketplace, is important to organizations in the creation of competitive environment and an enhancement of work productivity. Increasingly, more and more large corporations are implementing diversity training programs to educate employees and managers alike as to the advantages and benefits of a diverse workforce.

The Definition of Ethnocentrism

Encyclopedia Britannica (2000) states that Ethnocentrism derives from the Greek word Ethnos meaning race, people or cultural group, and Kentrikos meaning concentrated about or directed to a center is a word that greatly describes many cultures. Ethnocentrism is a controversial issue which has been present for millennia. It has occurred all over the world, and has taken many different forms. Ethnocentrism is generally defined as the popular belief that the ethnicity of a person is superior (or more central to the Human Race as a whole) than any other ethnicity. Ethnocentrism keeps us from learning more about other cultures as well as learning more about ourselves. We as humans are ethnocentric. We make false assumptions based on our limited experiences. If our own experience is the only “reality” we have, then it is normal to assume it is the “natural” basis or reality as we believe our own ways work for us. This research paper will discuss cultural ethnocentrism, the negative effects of ethnocentrism, culture and cultural differences, ethnocentrism and globalization, cross cultural communication and managing and valuing diversity in the workplace.

Understanding Culture

Culture in general is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups. Broadly and simply put, “culture” refers to a group or community with which you share common experiences that shape the way you understand the world (Hofstede, 1980). On the other hand Maehr (1974) acknowledges that, even with rigorous study, we can only make statements about elements of culture, not culture in its entirety. The approach which Maehr recommends for inquiring about culture is an iterative, clinical approach, similar to a therapeutic relationship between a psychologist and a patient. Maehr’s disciplined approach to culture stands in contrast to the way in which culture is referred to in some of the popular management magazines.

The need to understand cultural differences is obvious today. Many societies are multicultural, and many people and organizations collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries. Although it is typical for people to see themselves as unique (Reed, 1986) and to be somewhat ethnocentric, ethnocentrism is not a good strategy for the future. According to Adler (1997) “ethnocentrism is assuming that they ways of your culture are the best ways of doing things. A person with ethnocentric perspective neither recognizes other people’s different ways of living and working nor appreciates that such differences have serious consequences.”

Today we live in a world that is somehow smaller than it used to be. New communication technology (e.g. email and the WWW) has made it easier to a certain extent to cross previous boundaries and communicate across time and space. However, the new technology does not necessarily make it easier to collaborate and communicate inter culturally. To effectively collaborate and communicate we have to share meanings. This often requires that we understand cultural differences and share cultural information.

Positive and Negative Traits of Ethnocentrism

Although ethnocentrism is generally thought to be a negative trait, Sharma, Shimp, and Shin (1995) argue that ethnocentrism fosters in вЂ" group survival, solidarity, conformity, cooperation, loyalty, and effectiveness. In Sharma, Shimp, and Shin (1995), Shimp argued that

“ethnocentrism is said to be a manifestation of authoritarianism, and that authoritarianism

is a personality defect, based on pervasive and rigid in вЂ" group вЂ" out вЂ" group distinction;

it involves stereotyped negative imagery, and hostile attitudes regarding out вЂ" group’s,

stereotyped positive imagery and submissive attitudes regarding in вЂ" groups, and a

hierarchical, authoritarian view of group interaction in which in вЂ" groups are rightly

dominant, out вЂ" groups are subordinate.”

In related research, Taylor and Jaggi (1974) introduced a phenomenon called ethnocentric attributional bias. According to Taylor and Jaggi (1974), ethnocentric construct internal attributions for a positive behavior of in вЂ" group members while making external attributions for their negative behavior. For example, if in вЂ" group members perform well on some task, the attribution is that they possess the essential ingredients to accomplish such a task (e.g., “they’re smart,” “they’re hard workers,” etc.). Yet, if in вЂ" group members perform marginally on some task, the fault lies elsewhere (e.g., “trick questions,” “bad call by the umpire,” etc.). On the contrary, external attributions are made for the positive behavior of out- group members (e.g., “they got lucky”) while internal attributions are made for their negative behavior (e.g., “they’re born liars.”)

Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences

Culture in general is concerned with beliefs and values


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