Cultural Shock & Lack of Awareness about the Foreign Culture
Culture could be known as a learned norm based on values, attitudes and beliefs of a group of people, and it is learned, shared, transmitted from one generation to another. The scholar Geert Hofstede and defined culture as “the collective programming of human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another”. CITATION Hof l 1033 (Hofstede, n.d.
) The scholar Hofstede has looked through a different aspect to define the term culture. However, the scholar Campbell has defined culture as “a complex web of information that a person learns and which guides each person’s actions, experiences, and perceptions.” CITATION Cam l 1033 (Campbell, n.d.)Most significant fact about culture of a group of people is that it is most often unique from another culture of another group of people. Culture will influence people to behave in a certain way which affects immensely in a business context. Because if the product or service which the business produces are against the cultural values, the demand of the product or service in the subject culture will tend to decrease.
In order to be a successful business in a new culture, the business should be able to adapt to the new culture. The movie Outsourced which was directed by John Jeffcoat depicts the challenges faced by the character Todd (Josh Hamilton) when he runs the operations of a call-centre in a foreign culture.The cultures of India and USA differ from one another. Indian cultural values are a lot similar to most of the Asian countries like; Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh etc. They tend to have a collectivist and masculine cultures. On the other hand, American cultural values are more individualistic but also a masculine culture. Both of the countries are driven by success and competition.
Hence, they are masculine. The differences between the cultures of India and America have made the character Todd falls down in cultural shock. The term cultural shock could be defined as “a state of anxiety and frustration resulting from the immersion in a culture distinctly different from one’s own.”The term basically means the feeling of confusion and distress experienced by a person who is exposed to a foreign culture. This was shown mentally as well as physically from Todd from the moment he stepped on to India. Everything about India was new to Todd. From the moment, he first stepped in to India, he had difficulties.
The language, transportation, food etc. This was mainly because of the cultural shock and that made Todd feel stressed, disoriented and discouraged. First, how the pick-up driver misspelled his name has led him to hire a taxi for himself and get to his destination, Gharapuri. Next, being invited by many taxi drivers and facing an uncomfortable situation. However, when he chooses the taxi, it turns out not to be taxi that he wanted to get in has also increased the shock and the confusion he’s facing in this foreign culture. Finally, the moment where Todd had to chase the train and jumped in to the train and he was offered a seat by a little boy but the little boy then sat on Todd’s leg makes him more uncomfortable. The above-mentioned situations reflect the cultural shock that Todd was facing when he came to India.
When Todd started the operations on the call centre at Gharapuri, he faced a lot challenges because of the cultural differences of the employees that had to work with. Main issue he had to face was the accent of these employees which was a lot different to the American accent. Since American citizens were against the concept of outsourcing Todd had to ask these employees to deceive the customers by saying the call centre is situated in Chicago. For this, he had to make the accents of these employees to be more like the accents of the American customers. Todd advised them to listen carefully how the customers pronounce words and learn from them to learn about America. Todd had small sessions after work for the employees to improve their accents to be more alike the American accent. Even though, majority of the employees didn’t have a problem with this situation the character Asha was against of deceiving the customers by lying to them about the location.
This was another additional challenge that Todd had to face in the call centre.The main target Todd was given is to reduce the average talk time per customer to 6 minutes. When Todd started the operations, the average time was more than 12 minutes, he had to achieve the objective of reducing it into 6 minutes in order to go back to his home country, USA. Todd was pretty upset about how the operations were going since the average time was more than 12 minutes. He yelled at Purohit (Puro) about the operations. But what Todd didn’t know was it was 14 minutes before Todd had arrived. Todd didn’t appreciate what Puro had done but instead he just yelled at him for what’s happening currently.
This would de-motivate the employee but as a solution what Todd implied was, he pushed Puro to achieve the target by mentioning his life goals that he wanted to achieve by getting the new job as the manager of the call center.Since the cultural differences of these two countries, Todd had to explain some of these items that they are selling. As a manager which supervises employees of a different country, it’s very important for the manager to be well aware of the culture of the employees. However, in this situation Todd was not aware of the cultural values of this foreign country, he only had the idea that it was completely different from his home culture. So, when he was explaining some of these products that they are selling it shocked some of the employees. Cow is considered to be a sacred animal in India because they believe that cow is the god’s animal. Todd had to explain a product that they were selling which is been used to stamp the owners name into the cow.
It is hard for an employee to promote and sell products that are against your personal and cultural values. In this case, Todd wasn’t aware of the cultural values of the country and it was suggested to Todd by Asha that he should be aware of the cultural values of the country.This movie could be further analyzed according to the cultural dimensions which were introduced by the scholar Hofstede. Hofstede described cultural dimensions in mainly four contexts, which are power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism and masculinity/femininity.First, the masculinity and femininity dimension focuses on how extent to which society stress achievement or nurture. As mentioned above, both India and USA have masculine cultures. Both the countries prefer men in leadership roles and women as inferior.
CITATION Wor16 l 1033 (WordPress, 2016) However, it should be mentioned that comparatively Indian women are treated more inferior than the American women. Women in western countries most often encourage the women to get education and work later in their lives. It is not the same with Indian women. They are expected to wives that look after their children and household work, they are expected not to work nor to get education. This was depicted in the movie where “Todd was given Asha responsibility to carry on the operations and Puro was doubting that Asha could do it” CITATION Joh06 l 1033 m Joh06 (Outsourced, 2006) . It depicts that Indian culture often believe that it’s men’s role to be the leader and not women.Individualism and collectivism is another dimension Hofstede explained which could relate to this movie.
This dimension basically could be described as the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. CITATION Wor16 l 1033 (WordPress, 2016) America is a country which is more towards individualism. For an example, the superiors of Todd’s company were not concerned about the loss of worker jobs their main focus was to maximize their profits by shifting the call center to a place where it would cost them the least. On the other hand, India is more of a collective culture. One of the most interesting part was how Todd learnt to give the leftover food to the disadvantaged Indian families on the other side of the wall. This depicts interdependency as well as the how the collective culture is comparatively morally better.Power distance represents the degree of power each person exerts or can exert over other persons.
CITATION Wor16 l 1033 (WordPress, 2016) The term power can be basically defined as a person’s ability to influence another person’s ideas and behavior. From the start, the power distance dimension was depicted since it’s a movie mainly related to a work place. Authorities that was possessed by the superiors use them to influence the employees in a work place context. For an example when Todd’s manager first asked Todd to take operations in India he did not want to move, he was trying to negotiate with the manager. However, with the power the manager possessed he forced Todd to move there and take control over the operations.Uncertainty avoidance is the extent to which people feel threatened by ambiguous situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid such situations. This was directly depicted in the movie when “Todd announced the Indian employees that their jobs were going to outsourced to China”.
CITATION Joh06 l 1033 (Outsourced, 2006) Surprisingly, after hearing the bad news employees were not upset but happy because of the extra pay and the vacation they got. The employees believed that the god had brought an end in order to create room for a new beginning. The movie depicts the belief system that this foreign culture used as the mechanism to cope up with these uncertainties they face.From the day Todd stepped into India he faced lots of challenges but the main challenge he got was to reduce the average talk time per customer to under 6 minutes. By the time he first visited the call center, it was an impossible task. It was more than 12 minutes at the beginning. Todd wanted results in order to get back to his home country.
Todd tried to teach new words to the employees, tried to improve their accents but nothing seemed to work until the suggestion was brought to him by Asha. Asha taught Todd a very valuable lesson of how to make the operations of the call center more efficient by giving help for those who needed and also making the employees feel part of the team. In order to achieve these objectives, Todd followed several steps. One is, he admitted to the staff that he was wrong by trying to the operations like an American company. As a good leader, he got suggestions from the employees to make their workday more positive experience. Allowing to wear any clothes that they want, allowing to bring them anything that they want to keep with them at work hours (allowing Sanjeev to bring his family pictures to keep on his desk) are some of the steps Todd took. From a question arose while these suggestions were brought up, Todd realized that he found a new market for the products that their company is selling.
Employee motivation is crucial for the success of a business organization. Mainly because if the employees of an organization are demotivated or dissatisfied with their work it’ll directly affect the success of the subject organization. After discovering the high demand for the products that the company sells, Todd informed the employees that whoever improves their average talk time per customer in a given day the employee gets the chance to pick a product from the most popular products in their catalog. This depicts how Todd had the presence of mind and how he got the advantage of the discovery.Todd was able to get results in a quick time by letting them feel more comfortable in their workplace. But average time was yet to be reduced by more than 1 minute. Todd further had sessions to the operators and taught them the little tricks that would help them to reduce the talk times.
For an example, Todd taught about the reductions which the Americans use in their sentences. Also, he was much more aware of the culture than before. In one of those sessions, Todd even danced into an Indian song. He was able to maintain a closer relationship with their employees which would help Todd to reach his final objective.Finally, after taking all the actions Todd was able to reduce the average talk time to 6 minutes. However, when Todd’s manager visited the office was filled with water and operations was paused and the talk time has again gone to more than 12 minutes. Todd didn’t stop, he suggested to carry on the operations on the roof stop.
Todd’s manager thought it was an impossible task. But it should be mentioned that it would seem difficult for the manager because of the cultural differences of the two countries. Indian collective culture would assist this kind of a scenario better than the American individualistic culture. To be well aware of that difference depicts how Todd has improved his knowledge about this foreign culture has helped him to get the maximum advantage from the knowledge.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Campbell, n.d. [Online] Available at: http://writingpad.
org/?tag=culture-defined-by-various-authorsHofstede, G., n.d. [Online] Available at: http://writingpad.org/?tag=culture-defined-by-various-authorsOberg, K., n.d.
[Online].Outsourced. 2006. [Film] Directed by John Jeffcoat. s.l.: s.
n.WordPress, 2016. [Online] Available at: https://h00251921.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/culture-clash-2/