In his classic study of bureaucracy, French sociologist Michael Crozier observed long ago that while managers have long understood that organization structures, attitudes, and behaviors differ across cultures, “social scientists have seldom been concerned with such comparisons” (1964, p. 210). Unfortunately, many organizational researches continue to share this view today and all too frequently assume explicitly or implicitly – and in both cases, incorrectly – that relationships found between variables in one culture will likely transcend others.
This viewpoint is easily understood. Culture is a difficult variable to define or measure. Data collection is often difficult and expensive. Translation problems complicate both measurement and analysis. Personal biases, however unintentional, frequently cloud both the choice and location of a research topic and the interpretation of results. Causal relationships are problematic. Intercultural sensitivities often impose self-censorship on dialog and debate. And everything takes more time than originally planned. As a result, serious study of the relationship between culture and behavior presents researchers with a complex puzzle that is not easily understood. Even so, being difficult, expensive, complex, imprecise, sensitive, time-consuming, and risky does not excuse or justify ignoring what is clearly one of the most important variables in the study of human behavior in organizations: culture.
Fortunately, the omission of cultural perspectives in organizational research has been increasingly redressed in recent years such that there is now a reasonably solid body of research focusing on various aspects of organizations and management practice as they relate to employee motivation and work behavior (Latham and Pinder, 2005; Porter, Bigley, and Steers, 2003; Erez, Kleinbeck, and thierry, 2001; Leung et al., 2005; Bhagat et al., 2007).