Archives for cultural influences

Clarks Shoes UK

Business Ethics Reflective Learning Log

– Marketing and Selling the “Ethical” Shoes –

 

“Being good is good business”

Anita Roddick. The Body Shop

 

For me, the concept of ethics starts with the understanding of morality. Something is ethical if it is moral and good. Now, morality is about right or wrong but the perception of this concept will vary across a spectrum of cultures and individuals.

I am aware of the syntax “business ethics”. To me, it refers to a firm acting morally correct beyond its main goal of making profits.

From personal observations, it is certain that ethics becomes more and more important in the business world. I am still debating to understand if the increased awareness of companies (particularly multinationals) regarding ethical issues come from their inner desire of doing good or because they are concerned with protecting their brand image and/ or are responding to media and pressure groups that are constantly following and exposing the “bad” companies.

I deeply admire firms that are able to create successful businesses based on moral principles, act ethically and be lucrative at the same time. Unfortunately, there are too many companies compromising on stakeholders (the community, customers, employees) when persistently seeking profits for their shareholders.

While it is true that companies such as “The Body Shop” have their whole business model build on ethical principles, there are companies (i.e. in Retail industry, Tabaco industry) that besides their central focus on consumerism and clear profit orientation or simply negative existence, are trying to compensate, engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility activities. Is, thus, CSR: altruism, trend or a long term investment?

Businesses are run by people and therefore they will merely depend (at least at top-management level) of correctness of the individuals involved. I understand that ethics goes beyond law and norms, and that people are found in situations where they need to take difficult decisions. 

***

Log entry 2 – Ethical theories

“Ethical theories are the rules and principles that determine 

right and wrong for any given situation”

Crane and Matten (2010, p.92)

I believe it would be easier if the business world would be governed by moral absolutism and “universal notions of right or wrong”. However, studying different philosophical theories, I convinced myself once again that “notions of right or wrong depend on the circumstances” and the people involved. For instance, the case study “Producing Toys – Child’s Play” (Crane and Matten, 2007, cited in Long, 2011) puts the western reader into an unfamiliar context and makes her/ him almost immediately jump and condemn the working conditions of the Thai manufacturer. Further, after accepting that in those particular circumstances it is a normal business practice, the reader moves into discussing the morality (or better said immorality) of the western product manager.

To understand and to logically explain the above example I looked through the lenses of consequentialism and non-consequentialism theories. I believe, initially, I was unintentionally blinded by the western perceptions. In my eyes, while I was entirely aware Thailand has its own culture and pace in the development process, I still took it out of its actual context and mentally placed it somewhere in Europe. Therefore, my (ethnocentric) view was non-consequentialist as I was convinced that the underlying motives of accepting the two-year supply contract are wrong and my argument flown directly to “Universal human/ child rights”.  At the same time, analysing the Thai environment, and considering that the family got the desired outcomes, the situation could be seen as being morally right – would argue consequentialist theories. Now, the so-called “universal” rights appear controversial and maybe not applicable.

Conversely, deontological theory argues that “right and wrong are determined by the motive/ action not outcome” and Kant adds that “the essence of morality is found in human reason as the arbiter of truth”. According to this approach, using children in toys manufacturing will go against Kant’s principles of reversibility and universality. It is true that in Thailand children work together with their parents. On the other hand, the product manager cannot imagine a similar situation happening with his family. Therefore, the principle of reversibility – “do unto others as you would have them expected to do unto you” – fails.

Another noble teaching of Kant, but difficult to find in modern societies, is the “categorical imperative”. It regards consistency, human dignity, and universality but one cannot treat all people equally because life is multifaceted.  Moreover, because the environment is competitive, a person’s desire or pursue of self-interest can be seen as morally right according to Adam Smith which “treats self-interest as the foundation of morality”. Here the simple egoism is enlarged and “include others in the group”: the deal will be sealed as it is seen being beneficial to the whole company. It is true that in any case, if this particular firm will renounce to the partnership with the Thai producer, another one, less or more unscrupulous, will take its place. Yet, not only the current western company will have to lose, also those Thai families will be devoid of their stable income. In this situation, agreeing with utilitarianism it can be said that  action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people affected by the action” (Crane and Matten, 2010) and “an ethical decision should maximise benefits to the society and minimise harm” (Trevino and Nelson, 2007, p.96).

In the Business Ethics lecture we were presented two views regarding principles of equal human value or worth, as follow:

“Everybody to count as one, nobody to count as more than one” (Bentham, cited by Long, 2011)

“The good of any one individual is of no more importance…than the good of any other” (Sidgwick, cited by Long, 2011)

The two quotations above, in its pure form, has little appliance in today’s business world as the stakeholders’ spectrum has enlarged and it is difficult to satisfy equally all of them.

Moreover, in the case with the toy manufacturer we have apparently a win-win situation if the manager completes the deal. However, “the good” gained by both parties is not equal (or is it?). The product manager family “counts more than one” as it has the advantage of the developed countries, where Thai families are in the situation of accepting “the best worst” of the third world countries. It is a required stage in the development process for a country such as Thailand. This comes in opposition with Kant’s teaching about universality and reversibility as, most probably, the product manager would not want to be on the other side of the story, nor would Kant accept sacrificing Thai children for the (group) self-interest of the family.  Still, let’s bear in mind that “pain and pleasure” is perceived differently by different people and cultures. Also, I agree with the Rule Utilitarianism, in the long run it “produces more pleasure than pain for society”.

I believe a person moral standards will influence ones choice not only in his/ her personal life but also will transfer into professional life. However, people as individuals can be good, but they might be influenced by the working environment. From a personal experience I can say that there is might be danger of people compromising their moral standards in order to complete the job or satisfy the manager.

***

Log entry 3 – Critical Incident

– marketing and selling the “ethical” shoes –

I worked for Clarks Shoes as a Sales Assistant for two years.  The company is the leading footwear retailer in the United Kingdom with 550 branches. The company has remained family owned throughout its history, establishing a strong reputation for comfortable adults’ and children’s shoes, and accessories. In addition to selling high quality shoes, Clarks claims to provide exceptional customer service.

Many loyal customers have grown with Clarks shoes themselves, and are now bringing their children for a shoe fit. When entering the children section, it can be observed that the servicescape is carefully organised and various colourful posters are present. Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano are popular characters that can be found in Clarks kids YoToy shoe range (i.e. mini toys hidden in the heel of the shoes, imprinted on the shoes, or simply as a sticker sheet) (Figure 1). In addition, the company developed free interactive, engaging and educational online games (Figure 2).

At first, it appears to be a smart method of providing “comfort and fun” as the company states itself (Clarks Shoes Website, 2012). However, is this strategy a way of delivering more to kids or receiving the most out of their innocence?

I remember a particular situation when I helped a 10 years old girl to find a pair of school shoes. She had clear preference for a pair of shoes with a toy. After 20 minutes of trying several pairs (with and without toys) in the search for the right fit, I could see that the girl would refuse to accept any of the shoes but the one with the Daisy Explorer toy. Initially, the mother was not very excited about the toy shoes and their slightly higher price, but she was influenced by her daughter’s pleading (nagging), and was ready to give in and buy the shoes her daughter desired. In the end, I recommended the “second best fit” with a toy as “the best fit” that corresponded with the requirements of the young customer, and because the mother was inclined to buy something that her daughter will be happy to wear.

That was the moment when I started questioning the ethical aspect of such marketing techniques and wonder whether they could be justified or criticised.

Figure 1: Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano – Clarks Kids YoToy shoes

 

Figure 2: Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano Kids website

 

From my personal perspective, I acknowledged the influence marketing had on the child but could not express my revelation with the family since I was there in the employee role. I did not lie but I did not say the whole truth either. No one got hurt, but it felt wrong to me. At this point Kant would argue that my action was wrong as my underlying motives were wrong because I recognised the situation as being marketing to children which is declared to be unethical due to the involvement of a vulnerable target.

From the sales assistant position, it felt I took the right decision in that particular circumstance. I listened carefully to the customer’s request, was obliged to follow the rules of the training received, and favoured all possible ways of sealing the deal and contributing to company profit. As a result, I pleased the family and contributed to the daily sales targets. The utilitarianism would say I acted morally right because the outcome satisfied all parties involved: the family, the company, and myself.  It is possible that I might be rationalising an unethical behaviour in the name of the “job role”, but in this case I believe that marketers should be made responsible for their actions.

Milton Friedman (1970, cited in Bowie and Duska, 1990, p.23) would argue that:

“there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits as long as it stays within the rule of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception and fraud”.

Accordingly, Clarks – a private company – has the unique aim to seek profits. Now marketer’s role, of developing creative ways of promotion that will encourage sales and rise profits of the company, could be seen as morally justified (Camenisch, 1998). This implies I should have played correctly. Not if I listen to Carr who regards business as a “game” governed by its own rules rather than those of “society” (Ferrell and Fraedric, 1997). Thus, Clarks is entitled to pursue profit making, especially because the mother was the one purchasing the product.

On one hand, the utilitarian argument supporting the company would suggest that promotion of the YoToY range to the kids market might generate utility for the company as well as for its customers: offering quality and comfort of the traditional kids shoes, with the added value of fun. On the other hand, it is possible that the final results do not comply with J. S. Mill’s focus on creating “the greatest good for the greatest number” (cited in Kline, 2005, p. 9), since kids’ cognitive capacities are not fully developed and cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality which makes it easy for marketers to unfairly benefit “of this vulnerability to satisfy their own needs” (Crane and Matten, 2010).

Although it can be claimed that the parents are the ultimate decision makers, I realised that the “advertisers seek to encourage and take advantage of the “pest power” that children have towards their parents” (Crane and Matten, 2010, p. 360). At this instant, agreeing with non-consequentialism theories, it appears that Clarks abuses children’s vulnerability because the underlying motives – exploiting the lack of cognitive skills of a child – are wrong. But how can we make a company responsible if it is not a person and lucks moral traits (The Corporation, 2006)?

Considering that the business and marketing decisions are made by people who possess moral attributes, issues such as fairness and honesty should be brought into discussion.

„Honesty refers to truthfulness, integrity and trustworthiness; fairness in the quality of being just, equitable, and impartial” (Ferrell and Fraedric, 1997, p. 31).

People might be guided by fairness and honesty in their personal life, but does it mean they should renounce on these qualities when crossing into the professional space?  Although Adam Smith and Carr would support those people that in business act in their own self-interest, Ferrell and Fraedric (1997) argue that “ethical business relations should be grounded on fairness, justice and trust”. Besides, it is important not to forget that deontological Kantianism, as well as the theory of Virtues and Justice would not tolerate immoral intentions. Furthermore, DeGeorge (1978, in Chryssides and Kaler, n.d.) teaching demonstrates that business is part of the society and does not support shifting ones moral behaviours.

Ultimately Crane and Matten (2010) argue that the innate duty of a company is to “respect the interest of the customer, as well as” its own interest (p. 360). Advertising and promotion try to persuade people, which agreeing with Mélé (2009) is not wrong, but “under certain circumstances” it can be manipulative “especially when targeting vulnerable audiences” (p.294) – a 10 years old girl, in this case.

If I was to encounter once more a similar situation, I believe my behaviour would be the same, with the exception that I would try not to take into consideration child’s preference for the toy, and explain to the parent the importance of the best fit over fun. From my personal experience, I can say, parents avoid to buy shoes their children do not love as they know the kids will not wear them. In this situation, I tend to agree that:

“If someone chooses to use a product it is because they consider it to be in their own interests. A marketer can no more be held responsible for the aggregate decisions of their actions […]” (Crane and Matten, 2010).

***

Log entry 3 – Reflection

 –

Being a third year Business and Marketing student, and particularly interested in “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), I demonstrated in my first log that I had a good knowledge of the concept of morality, and was familiar with the syntax “Business Ethics” (BE) from the beginning of this module. Yet, I did not have a well-defined understanding of the differences and overlaps between CSR and BE.

I launched the question – is CSR altruism, trend or a long term investment? The answer depends on circumstances and requires a deep analysis to comprehensively answer this question. Still, I would tend to think it is a mixture of those elements. First, it is visibly a trend as one of the main changes in modern marketing is the appearance of Freeman’s stakeholders approach (mentioned in in Kline, 2005, p.14), which must be a responsible one. Second, it is altruism because companies are run by people who are, deep down, no matter what, human beings. Finally, although there is not a clear way of measuring the return on investment (ROI) on CSR, in the long-term, and with the appropriate PR activities, I believe a company could build a strong positive image as a responsible citizen and therefore attract customers, employees and investors.

As the course progressed, I start realising that both – CSR and BE – search for values, goals, and choices beyond Friedman’s argument of sole profit making/ maximisation. More exactly, it can be said that CSR concerns with company’s accountability for all its stakeholders, not only shareholders, while Ethics is looking at moral principles when determining if an actions is right or wrong. Therefore, while Clarks Company is obviously engaging in CSR actions (Clarks Shoes Website, 2012) such as cause-related “Race for Life”, “Soul of Africa”, social marketing “Unicef”, it does not necessarily mean it acts morally right at all times.

Moreover, I was pondering on the underlying reasons which determine a profit seeking company to act ethically, and even to develop CSR programs. As I learnt through the course and developed in my second log, it can be said that I was inclined towards non-consequentialism views, looking for the motives that would justify or criticise the perceived ethical or unethical actions of (multinational) companies.

Additionally, in my second entry, I looked closely at the ethical theories in order to discover relevant arguments for or against the behaviours encountered in the case study “Producing Toys – Child’s Play”, and also within my personal work experience.

Lastly, in my third log, I considered a real life ethical incident. The dilemma I faced rose from C&J Clark’s marketing decision of targeting a vulnerable customer group – children. In that instance I seriously questioned the morality of such strategies and decided to adopt what I perceived as being a fair behaviour for all parties involved. In other words, I took a utilitarian attitude. However, I concluded later that in the eventuality of a similar incident even thought I would follow the pattern, I would improve the information offered to the parent.

Analysing the Clarks ethical dilemma, I discovered my actions could be easily described following the Ethical Decision-Making Process framework offered by Rost (1986, cited in Crane and Matten, 2010) presented in the Figure 3 below:

Figure 3: Ethical Decision-Making Process. Source: Rost, 1986, cited in Crane and Matten, 2010p. 143.

 

1.      First, I presented a real work-related situation in which I found myself while working for Clarks as a sale assistant. I identified the moral issue – marketing to children.

2.      Next, I questioned the morality of using powerful marketing tools on young targets and offered arguments for and against company’s decision.

3.      Following, I found the most reasonable decision – J. S. Mill’s utilitarianism.

4.      Finally, I demonstrated a utilitarian moral behaviour. Also, agreeing with Mélé (2009) I could say it is true that as a sales assistant I felt a tension between the loyalty to my employer and the family I was serving when engaged in the moral behaviour. 

Furthermore, I am wondering if I could use the same framework to identify and examine Clarks ethical decision-making process used in creating marketing strategies.  I tend to ask once again how can we make a company responsible if it is not a person and lucks moral traits, and the most plausible argument would mention (Kline, 2005, p.14) “actors that possess a capability to act”, in other words – company’s employees/ marketers who engaged (or trapped?) the young customers into a fun and learning process aiming to create preferences.

Moreover, I would entirely support Ferrell and Fraedric’ view (1997) that while personal ethics is imperative, it is not enough for a good understanding of organizational situations, because it is also important to recognize the relationship between legal and ethical decisions in business.

Then again, I would like to believe that more and more companies would acknowledge the importance of embedding ethics in the company’s culture starting with the board of directors until the front-line employees (or brand ambassadors).  However, it is naive to expect that the business world could be governed by the moral absolutism and the “universal notions of right or wrong”, due to the extremely diverse social and cultural contexts. Also, I demonstrated (in my second log) that a person’ personal background, perceptions about the world, and ethnocentrism could influence the judgments he/ she makes regarding a specific situation.

At the end of this learning journey, I would like to emphasise that throughout the module of Business Ethics I learnt to identify ethical issues and recognize the approaches available to interpret them. I find these philosophical schemas useful in juggling real world ethical difficulties, as well as an interesting way of comprehending our multifaceted lifes (personal, familial, work, etc). 

***

 

 

References

Achbarm, M., and Abbott, J. (Directors) (2003). The Corporation. [Film] Canada: Big Picture Media Corporation.

Bowie, N. E. and Duska, R. F. (1990). Business Ethics. 2nd ed. USA: Prentice Hall.

Camenisch, P. F. (1998). Marketing Ethics: Some Dimensions of the Challenge. In: Pincus Hartman, L. editor. Perspectives in Business Ethics. Singapore: McGraw-Hill International Editions, pp. 492-496.

Carr, A (1968) „Is Business Bluffing Ethical?”, in An introduction to business ethics Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., editor (n.d.), pp.50-118. Available from: Blackboard. N.d.:Chapman.

Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., (n.d). An introduction to business ethics. s.l.:Chapman.

Clarks Shoes Website (2012). [Online] Available at: www.clarks.co.uk [Accessed 5th April 2012].

Crane A. and Matten D. (2007). “Producing Toys – Child’s Play”, Business Ethics, 2nd ed., p92. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2010). Business Ethics. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

DeGeorge, R. T. (1978). „Moral Issues in Business”, in An introduction to business ethics Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., editor (n.d.), pp.37-49. Available from: Blackboard. N.d.:Chapman.

Ferrell, O. and Fraedric, J. (1997). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. 3rd ed. USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Klebe Treviño, L. and Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics : straight talk about how to do it right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Klebe Treviño, L., and Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics: straight talk about how to do it right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Kline, J. M. (2005). Ethics for International Business: Decision Making in a Global Political Economy. Great Britain: Routledge.

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Consequentialist Theories: Utilitarianism and Egoism, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 17th October 2012. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Mélé, D. (2009). Business Ethics Action: Seeking Human Excellence in Organizations. Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Selective Bibliography

Graham, G. (2004). Eight Theories of Ethics. Great Britain: Routledge.

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Consequentialist Theories: Utilitarianism and Egoism, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 17th October 2012. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Deontology, the Ethics of Duty, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 10th October 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Virtues and Justice, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 28th November 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Defining Business Ethics: Identifying and Analysing Ethical Arguments, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 3rd October 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 6th January 2012].

Michalos, A. C. (1995). A pragmatic Approach to Business ethics. USA: Sage Publications.

Pincus Hartman, L. editor. (1998). Perspectives in Business Ethics. Singapore: McGraw-Hill International Editions.

Discovering Morocco

The Cultural Influences on Communication,

Particularly on Recruitment Process

Part one: THE JOB                                                  

Job advert

 

Scenario

As a Romanian “Business and Marketing” graduate in Great Britain, passionate about marketing, branding, and corporate identity, I decided to apply for a job in Morocco to further explore my fascination for cultural diversity and nation branding. I have lived in 3 different countries and I believe I have developed cultural sensitivity which is an important ingredient for this particular job application. Having successfully accomplished the assessment group in Bucharest, I am preparing for the final interview in Rabat, Morocco.

The Aesthetics Elucidated

  • Advertising space: To call native Romanian speakers, it was decided to place the job advert into the local Romanian marketing and communication magazines (i.e. Campaign, Marketing Week, The Marketer, etc.).
  • Language: The advert was written in off-shore English language to confer a universal business perspective for all parties involved, especially to attract fluent English speakers.
  • Colour: It was observed that, as well as at home, in all its international markets and collaborations, SIVECO Romania prefers to keep and standardize its brand identity elements. Therefore, the colour used for the advert is green, similar to the one used in company’s logo.
  • Graphics: Simplicity and minimalistic style of the graphics are probably the main key words describing SIVECO’s online presence. Since there was no evidence of company’s print materials, it was assumed that the online layout can translate very well into the offline one. As a consequence, the framed advert will be minimalistic to represent company’s style, but attractive enough to engage the reader.
  • Symbols: Green colour was found to represent the symbol of Islam and is also used in Moroccan flag. Consequently, it is believed to convey implicit cultural meaning for candidates and positive perceptions for Moroccan partner. On the other hand, in Romania green symbolises hope, force, youth, and sincerity. 

Both the employer and its partner’s logos are included in the print advert with the intention to highlight the strong cobranded partnership, which shows the high status and prestige of the job offered.

***

Part two: SIVECO Romania and its Approach to Employment

 However objective and uniform we try to make organisations, they will not have

 the same meaning for individuals from different cultures.

(Frons Trompeanaars, cited in Neuliep, 2006)

 

Company Profile

SIVECO is the leading Romanian software house and one of the most successful software integrators in Central and Eastern Europe. For the near future, the company aims at growing to the status of regional leader and to continue its international expansion. It has already proven expertise in developing and exporting software products and consultancy projects to countries within the European Community, The Middle East, North of Africa, and CIS area. The company was founded in 1992 and in 2011 recorded a 67 million euro turnover (SIVECO website, 2012).

The attention of this paper is SIVECO’s partnership with the National Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Morocco. It started in 2009 when SIVECO won the biggest IT project in the field of education in Morocco, for providing and implementing integrated IT solution (eLearning) to the entire Moroccan educational system.

National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc) is a public institution which has gone lately through a large reform of its educational system in the framework of its “Emergency Program” (National Ministry of Education of Morocco, 2012).

Approach to employment

The candidate for the “Marketing and Communication Assistant” position is employed by SIVECO Romania in order to support its local partnership with Moroccan Ministry of Education. Therefore, the advert was created by SIVECO Romania’s HR department. However, due to the private-public nature of the partnership, adding the French bureaucratic style of the Moroccan institution, the advert was reviewed and approved by the Moroccan HR department. For instance, the requirement to provide copies of the relevant documents in the initial stage of the recruitment process is a Moroccan classic requirement (especially for a public institution). For the current position, the potential candidate will follow the four stages of the recruitment process, as presented below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The recruitment Process

SIVECO adopted the Western style and dedicates to Careers an entire section of its websitewww.seveco.ro (Figure 2) – where it clearly states the type of people it wants to employ (“who want to evolve, that are creative, and willing to change things for the better”), it also stresses on “team work”, and proudly states that it “offers a motivating working environment through proper training, ensuring the conditions for professional and career development, recognition of each member’s contribution to the success of the company” (SIVECO, 2012). 

Figure 2: SIVECO Romania Careers page (screen-dump)

The lines above express Romanians’ faith in an ultimate positive result if working hard. In addition, Strǎuţ (p.213) mentions that ”Most Romanians believe in God and the supremacy of good over evil, even if their history of hardship has made them very patient and enduring while expecting a final positive outcome”.

On the other hand, National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc), does not provide any information regarding job/ career opportunities within the institution. The website – www.men.gov.ma (Figure 3) – is translated in English, French and Arabic, and looks formal, over simplistic, with an old fashioned interface. It give an impression of a slow changing bureaucratic institution.

Figure 3: National Ministry of Education of Morocco home page (screen-dump)

The partnership SIVECO Romania – Ministry of Education Morocco is a reality of today’s globalised world, where organisations and their employees interact more often with people and companies in other countries, and Carte and Fox (2010, p.1) argue that “the more national borders their companies cross, the greater the scoop for misunderstanding and conflict”. Thus, the awareness and respect for cultural differences while projecting our own culture in an appropriate manner is tremendously necessary.

Furthermore, according to Neuliep (2006) a company is similar to a culture: it possesses its own values, internal formal and informal norms, operate in a particular environment, develop its own perception views, engage in verbal and nonverbal communication, and build socio-relations. In other words, it develops a personal organisational culture. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that when interacting with other organisational cultures its business customs will be understood in exactly the same way. Figure 4 (one page 7) highlights six key areas that influence organisational cultures across globe (Neuliep, 2006, p.379).

Figure 4: Organisational Culture. Sourse: Neuliep, 2006, p.379

Discovering Morocco: a Cross-Cultural Analysis

In comparing Morocco with Romania, the Organisational Culture Framework will be used, with particular focus on the Cultural Context and the Verbal and Nonverbal Codes (discussed in part three). This comparison will take an etic approach (“what is general in cultures”, Mooij, 2010, p. 61), and does not pretend to be exhaustive or completely free of ethnocentrism.

Cultural Context

Cultural Context refers to “an accumulated pattern of values, beliefs, and behaviours held by an identifiable group of people with a common verbal and nonverbal symbol system” (Neuliep, 2006, p. 411). Morocco is considered to be part of the Arabic cluster (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002) and its dominant religion is Islam. Therefore, its main Arabic cultural traits and Islamic religion impact on countries’ social values and practices. More, French and Spanish influences can be observed. On the other hand, Romania is part of the Latin cluster and its population practice Orthodox and Catholic Christianism.

It is common that a company’s culture will emulate after its country’s culture. Many studies (Bass and Burger; Alder, Campbll, and Laurent, cited in Neuliep, 2006) reveal that managers’ leadership style and business strategies are influenced by the cultural context and its values. 

Further, the following areas will be examined:

    • Individualism/ Collectivism
    • High/ Low Power Distance
    • Uncertainty Avoidance
    • Value Orientations (discussed in par three of this portfolio)
    • High/ Low Context (discussed in par three of this portfolio)

In addition (but with caution) Geert Hofstede’s research (Figure 2) will be used to explore Moroccan culture in contrast with the Romanian one, through the 5-Dimensions Model. The researcher argues that it can provide us with “a good overview of the deep drivers of Moroccan culture relative to other world cultures” (Geert Hofstede, 2012).

Figure 5: Hofstede, 5-D Model. Source: Geert Hofstede, 2012, [online]

Individualism/ Collectivism

Analysing the nature of the relationship between an individual and its society or group would place Morocco and Romania under the collectivistic wing.

Collectivism’s most relevant characteristics for this paper refer to (Triandis, 1995, in Dainton and Zelley, 2005):

1. group needs, views, and goals prevail over the individual ones;

2. the self is defined in relation to the group: “Knowing a person’s connections enables a stranger to place that person into particular group; knowing where the person comes from is the same as knowing who that person is”( p.77).

Additionally, Hofstede’s findings (Figure 5, on page 8) show that both countries score relatively low on individuality (IDV).

Underlying motives:

  • Morocco: family and in-group relationships are at the heart of the society.
  • Romania: shaped by a collectivistic communist past.

 

High/ Low Power Distance

The Kingdom of Morocco is run by constitutional monarchy, and it is also a hierarchical society where people from lower status perceive inequalities as normal and acceptable. More, according to Carte and Fox (2010) in Arabic cultures “power in companies is held by a few people at the top” that give directives.

Hofstede and GLOBE 61 study (in Kabasakal et al, 2002) come to support Morocco’s high ranking on this dimension. Similarly, but with lower score in Hofstede’s research, is placed Romania. For instance, in both countries, people address to each other relative to their social and professional status usually with Mr. and Mrs., and the polite form of “you” are used (Dumneavoastra in Romania and Vous in Morocco). However, superior might address with a more direct form. Between friends and family personal approaches are common (Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012).

It can be said that high power distance cultures tend to be collectivistic (Schmidt et al, 2007).

Uncertainty Avoidance

Belief in absolute truth, strict code of behaviour, structure, rules, precision and punctuality are some characteristics of the high uncertainty avoidance (UAI) cultures (Dainton and Zelley, 2005). According to Hofstede (Figure 2), Morocco score high and Romania extremely high at this dimension.

Masculinity/ Femininity

 Morocco, although less preeminent comparing to other Muslim countries, is defined by the “roles men and women fulfil and create a masculine society”, where men are prevailing in many aspects of life (Kabasakal et al, 2002, p.48). Besides the clear separations of the male – female roles within the household, in the workplace, female started to gain space and head to equality once the new democratic King arrived in 1999.

Somehow less rigid, but still remaining a relative strong masculine society is Romania.

Hofstede findings (Figure 5) demonstrate a medium high masculinity (MAS) for both countries which goes against sex role stereotype at least for Morocco which is remaining a strong masculine society where men are preferred over women in all spheres of life (GLOBE in Kabasakal et al, 2002).

Ultimately, according to Edwards’ study (2007) in its intent to transfer similar employment practices abroad, SIVECO Romania, will face cultural barriers which could influence or even alter the process. The same author adds: “culturalism argues that MNCs bear the legacy of the values and attitudes characteristic of the home country; transfer is shaped by this and by host country cultures” (p.202). This is also very well encompassed by the quotation bellow:

 “There is no culture-free theory of management. Managing other people is the responsibility of people who, like everyone else, have been encculturated and socialized into a cultural set of values and beliefs that governs their thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Like communication, management is culture bond. Moreover, managerial perceptions regarding the factors that lead to organizational success vary across cultures” (Neuliep, 2006, p.377)

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Part three: THE ‘DO’S’ AND ‘DONT’S’ OF AN INTERVIEW IN MOROCCO

Every road has two directions.

               Moroccan proverb

 Value Orientations in Morocco

  • Religion: a vast majority (98%) of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims and Islam has an enormous impact on social values and practices (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002).
  • Family and Personal Relationships: According to Kabasakal and Bodur (2002, p.47) “Islam promotes and maintains family and kinship relationships, creating a highly collectivistic society”. Therefore, family and long-term in-group relationships are extremely important in Moroccan social and business culture.
  • Respect: Dignity and self-worth are especially importance so Moroccan’s take notice of how others perceive them. Shame is to be avoided at all costs, so Moroccans will often do as much as possible to win the respect of others and to avoid arguments and confrontation. Moroccans are conscious of their reputation and will do whatever it takes to ensure it is not damaged and to avoid shaming their family.

 

The Interview

Board

The interview will take place in Rabat, Morocco, at the premises of the Ministry of Education Marketing Department meeting room. The board of the interviewers will be mixed and will include:

  • Maria Minulescu: the Romanian HR Manager, SIVECO Romania, Romania.
  • Andrei Lazarescu: the Romanian Marketing Manager, SIVECO Romania, Morocco. He was relocated 2 years ago especially for this partnership.
  • Touria Al Hassani: the Moroccan Marketing Director, Ministry of Education, Morocco.
  • Saleh Bouchtat: the Moroccan HR Manager, Ministry of Education, Morocco.

 

Language

The French language is primarily spoken in the business world in Morocco, yet it is a secondary criterion for the current job due to the fact that the two parties maintain their relationship using English (i.e. at the “eduVision 2020”, Bucharest, September 2011; and at the “The African Education Summit”, Rabat, Morocco, July 2011). Furthermore, “the demand for English is growing as Moroccans realise that while French will enable them to study in France, English will present them with increased opportunities” (British Council, 2007). Thus, the interview will be held in English.

As a pre-requisite, the candidate must be a native Romanian speaker as the job role requests an impeccable understanding and communication with the Romanian team.

Room Settings

It can be observed that the Moroccan representatives prefer closeness and are sitting next to each other. They are known to be oral people and therefore are not noticed to take many notes during the interview. On the other hand, the two Romanian delegates are very carefully taking notes, not only to equally evaluate each candidate, but also to prepare reports for their superior as Romania is far more hierarchical than Morocco. Everyone is served tea or coffee as an expression of friendship or esteem.

Figure 6: Room settings

  • DO: try to use the right hand only, as the left hand is considered unclean.
  • DON’T: decline the offer of drink, as it is considered discourteous.

Conduct and Etiquette

Dress Code

Although as a woman in an Arab country it is important to cover up, the business fashion of men and women in Moroccan urban areas are extremely influenced by western style of dressing (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002; Carte and Fox, 2010). However, if visiting rural areas it is recommended to comply with more reserved traditional style and cover “from the knee (shorts or skirt) to the elbow (short-sleeved T-shirts)” (Morocco Explored, 2012).

  • DO: dress appropriate business style to establish your status. Yet, a more sober style would be appreciated.
  • DON’T: use to many accessories (Morocco Explored, 2012).

Time

In the Arab world the relationships prevail over time and agendas (Carte and Fox, 2010; Usunier and Lee, 2009; and Schmidt et al., 2007), and Al-Omari adds that “it is timing rather than the time that is important”, in other words, “you follow the mood rather than the schedule” (in Carte and Fox, 2010, p.15).

In Morocco the time is polychronic and it is seen as flexible and cyclical, and often people “attempt to perform multiple task simultaneously” (Liu et al., p.110). It appears that the religion impacted on the perception of time as Moroccans are not worried about delays using habitually the phrase: “if God wills it” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251) or inshallah.

  • DO: be prepared to be kept waiting. Use the time to small talk to anyone you meet as you could discover important or interesting things.
  • DO: take time to know the people in the interview board before starting the serious matters.
  • DO: take time to prepare your audience, find the right moment, and soften a bad news or answer.
  • DON’T: rush! It will undermine your position as “anyone in a hurry is viewed with suspicious and with distrust” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251).
  • DON’T: panic if Moroccans will often repeat inshallah.
  • DON’T: look at a watch or clock during the meeting.
  • Romania’s relationship with time is somewhere in the middle.

Relationships

 

According to Carte and Fox (2010, p. 177) Morocco is a “relative truth culture” which indicates that “the circumstances indicates the way you behave”. The authors continue “your loyalty is more to your group (eg family, clan, friends and company) than to a set of abstract rules”

Schwartz’s values approach describes on one hand the Eastern European nations are “high in harmony, conservatism, and intermediate in hierarchy/egalitarianism” and other hand, Islamic countries are “high in hierarchy, conservatism, intermediate in mastery/harmony” (Guirdham, 2005, pp. 57-58).

  • DO: pay attention on creating and developing relationships and trust.
  • DO: accept or offer small or symbolic gifts
  • DON’T: criticise as it might not be taken light.

 

 Business Cards Etiquette

  • DO: prepare to exchange business cards.
  • DO: make sure one of the sides is translated in Arabic or French it shows respect.

 

A few last thoughts…

This portfolio tried to collect useful insights about the cultures in question. However, it has to be mentioned that it is impossible not to generalise or assign stereotypes as each individual, group and society is very divers. In addition, it is important not to forget that today’s corporates leaders have accomplished their studies in many western countries and are very likely to bring back home certain views and values, which consequently will affect the manner in which they interact with other people or companies.

After enriching my cultural knowledge and awareness, I have decided to apply the SOPHOP approach proposed by Carte and Fox (2010). The approach acronym stands for “be soft on people, hard on points” which means that a person should “be able to nurture the relationship, while still ensuring that you give no ground on the commercial issues” (Carte and Fox, 2010, p.131). This strategy moulds very well into the Moroccan context as for them the personal and business areas are interrelated (relationship-oriented will take attacks personally). Therefore, as suggested by Carte and Fox (2010) I should try to control the way I express myself. Considering the fact that I lived in the UK for the last 3.5 years, I believe I have internalised the specific diplomatic British way of communication.
 

***

 

REFERENCES

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Carte, P. and Fox, C. (2008) “Bridging the Cultural Gap: A practical Guide to International Business Communication”, 2nd edition. Great Britain: Kogan Page Limited.

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ma (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ro (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Ciolacu, F. (2011). “National Case Study: Maroc. New perspectives for the Moroccan Education System”, Bucharest eduVision 2020.  [Online video] Available at: http://eduvision.ro/2011/media.html (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Dainton, M. and Zelley, E. D. (2005) “Applying communication Theory for Professional Life: A practical Introduction” UK: Sage Publications.

Edwards, T., Colling, T. and Ferner, A. (2007), “Conceptual approaches to the transfer of employment practices in multinational companies: an integrated approach”. Human Resource Management Journal, 17: 201–217. [Online] Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1748-8583.2007.00042.x/pdf (Last accessed on: 18th March 2012).

Guirdham, M. (1999) “Communicating across Cultures”, London: Palgrave.

Kabasakal, H. and Bodur, M. (2002) “Arabic Cluster: a bridge between East and West”, Journal of World Business, 31, pp. 40-54. Turkey: Elsevier Science Inc. [Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951601000736 (Last accessed on: 10th March 2012).

Liu, S., Volcic, Z. and Gallois, C. (2011) “Introducing Intercultural Communication: Global Cultures and Contexts”. Great Britain: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Manea, I. (2011). “New e-Learning concepts for Knowledgebase Society. Development within education” SIVECO Romania at The African Education Summit. Rabat. [Online video] Available at: http://africanbrains.net/our-events/mr-iulian-manea-%E2%80%93-deputy-vice-president-siveco-romania/ (Last accessed 20 March 2012).

Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc Website (2012). Home. [Online] Available at: http://www.men.gov.ma/sites/fr/English/default.aspx (Last accessed 20 March 12).

Mooji, M. (2010) “Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Morocco Explored Website (2012) “Clothing” [Online] Available at:  http://www.moroccoexplored.com/4-about2.html  (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Neuliep, J. W. (2006) “Intercultural Communication: A contextual approach”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Schmidt, W. V., Conaway, R. N., Easton, S. S. and Wardrope, W. J. (2007) “Communicating Globally: Intercultural Communication and International Business”, USA: Sage Publications.

SIVECO Romania Website (2012). The largest project of introducing IT into the education system in Morocco will be developed by Romanians. [Online] Available at: http://www.siveco.ro/content.jsp?page=3691&language=2 (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Usunier, J-C. & J.A. Lee (2009) “Marketing across Cultures”, 5th edition, Pearson Education Ltd.

 

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