Being able to manage across different cultures is a key skill for working in a globalised economy, but is our knowledge about cross-cultural management adequate and relevant? The bulk of the knowledge we have on cross-cultural management comes from American academics, writing for an American audience. Mainstream cross-cultural management research—illustrated by the landmark work of Hofstede (1980)—is routinely criticised for two reasons: 1) it is built and developed from an almost exclusive and exclusionary North-American standpoint; and 2) it is underpinned by a paradigm that embeds a simplistic conception of culture.
Critics believe that cross-cultural management, rather than serving the noble task of genuinely enhancing and enabling a better understanding across cultures, serves instead as a tool to reinforce the hegemony of the North-American way of doing business. In recent years, different perspectives have been used to challenge this state. With businesses having increasingly to deal with the ‘shock’ of cultures, whether our knowledge is adequate or not is an important question to explore.
A literature review on this topic will pay attention to the most recent developments in cross-cultural management. This could include postcolonial analyses of cross-cultural management, which question the implicit imposition of a Western norm as normality (Kwek, 2003) and the power imbalances reproduced by management theories (e.g. Westwood, 2006). It could also include less obvious perspectives, such as Feminist analyses of cross-cultural management, which challenge the marginalization of women’s experience (e.g. Calás, 1992) from theories of cross-cultural management.