Situating culture in cross-culture IT management

June 9, 2003 by Jeany Llorente NMSU News Center

When it comes to managing an information technology firm with employees of different cultures, managers need to understand how different cultural assumptions play out in a particular local context, said New Mexico State University associate professor Judith Y. Weisinger.

“Managers and IT (information technology) firms need to understand the more subtle aspects of culture,” she said. “People tend to rely on what they see … but they need to look at other factors that can affect cross cultural interactions in a particular context.”

Some subtle aspects that managers need to look at more closely are unstated assumptions, values and norms, as well as the history of cross-cultural relationships at a firm and how these more implicit aspects of culture affect work relations.

Weisinger and Eileen M. Trauth, professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Pennsylvania State University, have researched the importance of situating culture in cross-cultural information technology management.

Their research was published in the April issue of IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management’s “Special Issue on Cultural Issues and IT Management.”

Their article, “The Importance of Situating Culture in Cross-Cultural IT Management,” discusses how IT firms often overlook workplace culture and find themselves with unhappy employees.

Their research reviewed articles involving various cross-cultural IT management studies to illustrate the complexity of local contexts — a particular group of people working in a particular place at a particular time — when it comes to culture.

“Situating culture can help IT managers because it helps them to understand that the workplace culture of any particular site of a firm has features that are unique to it,” Trauth said. “It encourages managers to take each worker at face value rather than to see her or him through the lens of cultural stereotypes. It also benefits IT managers because it encourages them to appreciate the influence of the local culture. Managers who do not situate culture run the risk of making cultural mistakes that might de-motivate workers.”

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