When and why do we deliberate improvement?
Fortunately, there are countless cultures and belief systems in the world to consider when our own culture and belief system fails us in some way. As an example of failure experienced by our own society – white privilege had been defined as “a right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities,” and “a special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc” (Clark, 2008). Thus, white privilege translates into racism, which is a belief system claiming that individuals can be superior to others on the basis of race. Whereas white privilege is most often discussed with reference to white-black relations in the United States in addition to the colonial era, the theory of racism has led to much violence and genocide in the world. It was racism that led the Nazis to slaughter the Jews. What is more, the theory of racism seems to have been applied everywhere in the world, even though universal values inform us that people who are superior are only those who do good in this world.
Universal values may be learned through religion. But, if these values are not applied, for example, if whites continue to believe that blacks are inferior, civil disturbance must be one of the consequences confronted by society. Because everybody faces a loss in this scenario, that is, children cannot go to school and businesses cannot function due to racial riots – society is forced to rethink. In this case, the whites would have to ask themselves: shall we continue to despise the blacks, and if so, what shall we gain through this attitude?
On a similar note, the global organization must respect all of its international stakeholders, as well as employees. An organization with a culture of hate is most likely to fail in the global marketplace, given that it would not be able to value the different cultures and peoples that it intends to conduct business with. The psychology is simple: an organization that hates a particular culture and all of its representatives, including its own employees in the global workplace, would fail to satisfy the needs of its global consumers belonging to that particular culture. If it was possible for this organization to continue to conduct business with the cultures it hates, there would be no need to consider diversity management.
Because racism translates into bad business, a company that intends to internationalize its operations must learn to respect the cultures of its employees from diverse backgrounds. Diversity must be an asset to the global organization, seeing that employees from various cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds may possess special abilities in handling the company’s foreign associates (“The Business Case for Diversity Management”). A Chinese employee in the global workplace, for instance, would be especially useful in communicating with the global company’s Chinese subsidiary. It is important, therefore, for the company to value its Chinese employee and all other cultures represented by its employees. After all, employees from diverse backgrounds add special value to the global workplace and the organization as a whole. If the organization were to show prejudice or discriminate against these employees, it may very well lose a significant portion of its global market share.
Diversity in the global workplace is expected to facilitate the exchange of new ideas, making the organization more creative in its thinking; improve the problem solving abilities of the global workplace with an invitation for diverse ideas; and establish a respectful as well as tolerant and accepting workplace (Reichenberg, 2001). The global workplace that values diversity among its employees will have an organizational culture that stakeholders around the world may admire and respect. An organization that does not value diversity in the workplace, however, would reflect the negative attitude and discrimination toward diverse groups in its organizational personality. Most importantly, the global workplace that reflects prejudice and discrimination in its organizational culture would not be able to convince its international stakeholders of allowing it to remain in the global marketplace, seeing as it is impossible to satisfy the needs of those that the global organization despises.
A personal experience
We have determined that rethinking is necessary when things go bad. But, it is also possible to challenge our beliefs because somebody’s advice makes more sense than our present thinking on any given subject. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the concept of multicultural marketing with an uncle who owns a family business going online mainly for customers in Asia. Although his business plan appeared sound, there was one problem we had to put our heads together for: he wanted the Christian sign of the cross on all of his web pages and products to be sold to customers in Asia. According to him, he wanted to please God this way.
He agreed with me on the fact that all organizations desirous of selling their products or services in the global marketplace must be acquainted with the cultures of the nations that they interact with for the purpose of business. Culture determines people’s tastes in products and services that they would eventually pay for. Vast differences in beliefs as well as values give birth to diverse cultural segments. This diversity is not only visible in the global workplace or a nation, as in the case of America’s ‘melting pot,’ but also across nations. Moreover, companies that intend to sell their goods and services abroad have to learn the strategies of multicultural marketing. This form of marketing entails communication with diverse cultures or market segments.
Even though my uncle understood that he must respect the Asian cultures that his business intends to reach out to, it was not easy for me to explain to him why using the cross on his website and products for Asian customers would be unwise. I did not disrespect my uncle’s religious sentiments, and neither did I wish for his business to disrespect the religious sentiments of Asian customers. Hence, I conducted a literature search to better explain myself to him. My uncle does not enjoy reading. So, I found him a brief article to shed light on the subject at hand.
Indeed, the literature search removed our doubts about whether it would be wise to market products with a cross. We learned that international businesses selling to cultures beyond their own must adapt to those cultures if they must successfully market and sell their products in other countries. Businesses, unlike nations and invaders, do not have to debate the question of whether to respect or disrespect other cultures or the sociopolitical environments of other countries. Rather, business means business – international businesses are out to sell their goods and/or services instead of trying to change the politics, cultures or religions of the nations they have opted to sell to (Reid, 2005).
In this way, international businesses act as some of the best ambassadors of the nations they are based in. As an example, for the reason that China is a non-democratic country, Microsoft had to ban the words, “democracy” and “freedom” from its Chinese bloggers’ website (Reid). After all, the organization desired to go on marketing its products in Chinese markets without hurting Chinese political sentiments.
Is there is a “trade-off” in this process (Reid)? I do not suppose it is necessary for Microsoft and other organizations adapting to different cultures to believe in this trade-off. Microsoft and other international businesses desire to market their goods abroad. Promotion of democracy in foreign countries is not a part of their mission statements in any case. In other words, there is a difference between business and politics or business and religion. If international businesses were to try to change cultures of other countries, they would be altogether banned from functioning in those countries. Nobody likes invaders. But, if an American company includes in its marketing campaign in a foreign nation an American value that may significantly improve the physical health of foreigners, I do not believe that foreigners would mind. Inclusion of alien political and/or religious values in marketing campaigns works differently. After all, American consumers would not appreciate if Chinese companies try to sell the opposites of democracy as well as freedom with their products in the American market.
My uncle agreed with Reid’s writing on the subject. As we were finishing our discussion, he stated that even God does not want us to be pushy in preaching religion. Then again, I wondered whether his business would attract as many Asian customers with the cross as it would without one. I reasoned that if the products are excellent, the cross would not hurt anybody’s religious sentiments. But, what if the products are excellent and customers refuse to buy them because of the cross? In the end, the wisest option seemed to be the one already described. There is no cross on his website and products today.
Clark, K. (2008). Defining “White Privilege.” Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from
Reichenberg, N. E. (2001, May 3-4). Best Practices in Diversity Management. United Nations.
Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan000715.pdf.
Reid, D. M. (2005, Jun 19). Business is Business. USA Today. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from
The Business Case for Diversity Management: An Introduction. Australian Center for
International Business. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www.managementmarketing.unimelb.edu.au/mcib/include/diversity/Business%20Case%20-%20An%20Introduction.pdf.