The increasing globalization of business has led to increasing demand for executives who can function in cultural milieus different from their own. This demand has been exacerbated by the fact that globalization has not led to cultural homogenization and hence, for good or bad, executives are not able to universally apply the home country's conceptualizations of rights, responsibilities and duties and must operate within the constraints of host country's cultural environments. Hence, business scholars and global executives increasingly need to reflect on the conceptualization of rights, responsibilities and duties; understand the historical context which has led to different conceptualizations across geographies and appreciate and harness these differences for improving business effectiveness. This paper helps in this endeavor by explaining the differences and similarities that exists between the Indian and Western cultures regarding the concepts of roles, responsibilities and duties. This exposition will help multinational organizations improve their internal practices and employee training methods.
This study attempts to trace the differences and similarities in the conceptualization of rights, duties and responsibilities between the Western tradition and the Indic tradition by literature review. The Indic tradition refers to the broad cultural paradigm that shapes the thinking of the people of Indian subcontinent. The prominent sources of the Indic tradition include Hinduism and Buddhism. India was a British colony for two hundred years and is home to one of world's largest English-speaking population. There are more Muslims in the Indian subcontinent than in the Middle East (Grim and Karim, 2011). Hence, the Indic tradition has also been substantially influenced by the Western and Islamic traditions.
The paper argues that Westerners and Indians have different conceptualization of rights, duties and responsibilities and their relative importance. Broadly speaking, Indian ethos focuses on context-specific responsibilities while the Western attitude focuses on universal rights. These differing conceptualizations have been shaped by the cultural history of the two regions and are manifested in the decision-making styles, levels of individual autonomy and views on the ethicality of actions. There is a need to train expatriate Western and Indian managers on these issues to enable smooth functioning.
The cross-cultural literature has tended to lump together all non-Western civilizations under the category of East thereby ignoring significant differences between them. The Far-East countries of China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan have been highly influenced by the Confucian ethics. India-specific social systems like the caste system, division of human life span into stages with specific responsibilities, enduring worship of nature and Western influence through colonization have been absent in these countries or much less marked. The paper aims to bring forward the distinguishing features in Indian thought that contributes to its distinctive attitude toward rights, responsibilities and duties; contrast it with the Western views on rights and duties and identify the relevance of the discussion to the business context.
The cross-cultural training needs to emphasize both conflict resolution and behavioral aspects. For example, the conflict resolution process in Western countries can be more algorithmic with conflicts being rationally determined by consistent application as well-defined rules (as nature of duties is more universal in Western tradition). On the other hand, conflict resolution practices in India need to be contextual and may require appeals to higher ideals (as nature of duties is more contextual and idealistic in Eastern tradition).
The differences in attitudes regarding rights, responsibility and duties between the West and India suggest the need for cross-cultural training of managers and contextual conflict resolution techniques. The need is exacerbated by the increase in the number of multinational corporations (MNCs). Earlier, most MNCs were headquartered in the West and hence cross-cultural training was primarily geared to help Western expatriates fit into the host country culture (Nam et al., 2014). The growth of Asian MNCs has increased the need of cross-cultural training for Asian expatriates (Nam et al., 2014).
The training processes can be customized to supplement cultural strengths and promote behaviors that are culturally inhibited. Employees in India can be trained to emphasize the value of assertiveness in communication, the need to articulate one's personal success and appreciate the rigid nature of rules in Western contexts. Similarly, Westerners can be trained to emphasize the importance of context in business interactions, the need to forge personal relations for business success and the importance of paternalistic behavior in securing employees commitment.
Parida, B., Sunand Dash, S. and Sharma, D. (2021), "Role of culture-specific rights, responsibilities and duties in industry 4.0: comparing Indic and Western perspectives", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 1543-1557. https://doi.org/10.1108/BIJ-05-2020-0257
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