Advances in International Comparative Management

David Pollard (Dundee Graduate School of Management, Dundee, UK)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Pollard, D. (2000), "Advances in International Comparative Management", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 60-70.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

This is the twelfth volume in a series that commenced in 1984, the volume for 1998 being the first under the auspices of the current editorial team. One immediate innovation introduced in this volume is the devotion of the first section to the work of one particular scholar in the general field of cross‐national organisation and management studies, in this instance Harry Triandis, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. The section opens with a brief introduction and a fairly flat and unrevealing interview by one of the editors, followed by an invited paper.

In this, Triandis presents a conceptualisation of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Following a short general discussion of cultural aspects, the author explores horizontal and vertical elements of both individualism and collectivism, together with some general tendencies in areas such as situation‐disposition interaction and social exchanges as well as in job‐related influences in areas such as employee selection, leadership and training. One argument is that increasing affluence has the effect of increasing individualism in erstwhile collectivist societies, citing Singapore as an example. In setting out the theoretical basis for his discussion, the author utilises both his own and others’ work and concludes with suggestions for further research.

There follows a discussion of Triandis’ work through the medium of short papers by various authors. Wayne Cascio discusses the implications for international human resource management (HRM), P. Christopher Early discusses applications in organisational face theory, Peter Dorfman examines the implications for leadership and also discusses aspects of the GLOBE project and Karlene Roberts considers implications for the design of organisations and systems. The section concludes with a summary by Traindis, linking elements of his research with the foregoing commentaries.

This editorial innovation has the advantage of both recognising particular achievement and presenting a focused discussion on a relevant area of research. It is all rather cosy, however, an invited critique would perhaps bring out not only research possibilities but also attendant problems and multiple perspectives of scholars in the field.

The second section consists of six articles chosen by the editorial board from 51 submissions. Four papers are generally concerned with HRM issues, with one each on corporate governance and risk management respectively. The section opens with a discussion by Alice Stewart and Mona Makhija of organisational risk‐taking behaviour in differing international environments, in this case the USA and the Czech Republic. The authors suggest organisational forms and processes differ between national contexts and affect managers’ approaches to decision making and risk taking and hypothesise that differences exist within aspects of control, decision making, risk propensity and risk‐taking behaviour between free‐market and centrally‐planned contexts. The institutional context of the paper is particularly interesting although the data are now rather old in transformation economy terms (being gathered in 1992). The commentary on implications and discussion for further research is comprehensive and relevant. One avenue of research might be to return to the managers involved in the study and apply tests for longitudinal changes.

A paper entitled “Research on corporate governance: a comparison of Germany, Japan and the United States”, by Buhner et al., provides comparative discussion on the role of equity markets and banks, legislation and government regulation, aspects of boards of directors and governance and corporate strategy. The authors conclude that there exists more similarity in governance practices between Japan and Germany than between them and the USA and present propositions concerning future development in the area, the impact of concentration and dispersion of ownership and the importance of stakeholder groups.

John Milliman et al. examine the impact of national culture on HRM practice, in this instance the issue of performance appraisal is discussed. The authors suggest that there is currently a lack of comparative research in this field. They explore the way national culture can affect the preparation, conduct and content phases of performance appraisals and discuss implications for practice and theory development in the area.

In a comparative study of Chinese and US distributive justice values, goals and allocative behaviours utilising a simulation exercise, Miller et al. underline the more collective approach of Chinese firms as opposed to the more individualistic behaviour of US firms. However, the selection of Chinese managers from a relatively narrow set (all employed in Shanghai and personally known to one of the researchers) could be criticised, although to be fair these shortcomings are explored in some detail in the paper. The paper ends with a discussion of issues such as pay differentials and the implications for foreign joint ventures.

Taylor et al.’s paper, entitled “A partial test of a model of strategic international human resource management”, sets out a quantitatively‐based discussion of the impact of HRM on international competitiveness through a study of HRM practices in Japanese and US firms. Like Millman et al., the authors suggest that HRM has an important impact on the competitiveness of the multinational and examine management perceptions of HRM competence at both headquarters’ and subsidiary level. Although this is only a partial test of international HRM and deals mainly with HRM competence, the authors identify a number of useful discussion points, notably the relationship between HRM competence and the adoption of common HRM systems. They also suggest that greater research attention should be paid to the similarity or otherwise of local firms compared with local MNCs.

In the final chapter, David C. Thomas discusses the expatriate experience through a review of the literature and an examination of a number of paradoxes that emanate from this area and that make theory‐building problematic. Thomas examines the role of expatriates, their selection and training, issues of success and failure, expatriate adjustment, performance issues, gender issues and repatriation and critically reviews each of these areas in the context of the main studies in the literature. The following section – the main thrust of the paper – is a clear and well‐argued discussion of generalisations and contradictions at the individual, organisation and environmental level. Some intriguing examples involve gender issues and the importance of the international experience to the individual (but this experience may not be utilised by the organisation) and cultural conflicts which may cause adjustment problems, yet paradoxically cultural novelty might in fact help with adjustment. The discussion ends with an examination of a possible conceptual framework and an overview of some research agendas and methodological difficulties. The table of references is in itself an extremely useful guide for anyone interested in the area.

To summarise, this book is a useful addition to the literature and deserves a wide audience in the general field of comparative management and particularly with those interested in International HRM issues. The editors could have made the first section more interesting if a more critical approach had been taken with the invited paper, however their innovation of an expanded discussion on a particular area of research is welcome. Some editorial comment on the papers in the second section would have also been useful to help draw out some of the main issues discussed in the six papers. The authors are to be congratulated on a work that contains new research in a number of interesting areas.

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