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The hidden side of cross cultural management

This research project aims to investigate the limitations voiced by critical, post-colonial and gender/power perspectives against cross-cultural management research and education, in order to constructively contribute to further developments. This will lead for example, to improve training in cross-cultural management and leadership.

Cross-cultural management investigates the influence of culture on management across countries. The discipline is well established; cross-cultural management is a mandatory topic for elite students in Europe’s top business schools, and large organisations are appointing “diversity managers”. However, in this successful development, it seems that only a certain range of perspectives were taken into consideration, and this is now viewed by some as a lethal limitation.

Cross-cultural management is accused by critical and post-colonial researchers of setting, in disguise, western norms as the normality, leading to normative solutions. In practice, cross-cultural management is said to implicitly favour western perspectives, leading to reproduce the power inequalities between for example, developed and developing countries.
But there is more to this. We believe that cross-cultural management tends to marginalise the impact of gender/power relations in organisations. Thereby it can involuntarily reproduce inequalities, and especially between women and men. In cross-cultural management, employees are foremost considered for their cultural background. It is generally “forgotten” that the employees are gendered, and thus, they are implicitly talked about as men. When gender is addressed, it is often seen as “a problem”, for example, in the cases of female expatriates sent to an Islamist country.

We will apply a critical management research agenda and pay attention to the social construction and reproduction of the reality of cross-cultural management. For example, how are categories such as “culture” (“race”), “management” and “leadership” constructed? Why is gender an absent category in cross-cultural management dominant discourse?

An expected contribution from this new research project is for example, the anchoring of gender/power perspectives in cross-cultural leadership. Although leadership is studied both in critical management and in feminist research, these views have not hitherto been applied to cross-cultural leadership. Leadership or female managers are certainly investigated across countries; yet, this is very different from a gender/power perspective on cross-cultural leadership. We propose to do so by centring on discourse analysis, and by challenging the orthodoxy and its reproduction of social dominance.

Project leader:
Laurence Romani

Research team:
Laurence Romani Charlotte Holgersson and Pia Höök (KTH)

Started in 2010, financed by Vetenskapsrådet till December 2013.
Sample Publications

Primecz, Henriett, Romani, Laurence and Sackmann, Sonja (2009), “Multiple perspectives in Cross-Cultural Management”, International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 9, 3, 267-274.

Romani, Laurence (2010) Culture in IHRM: three perspectives, in Ann-Wil Harzing (Ed.) International Human resource Management (3rd Ed.) London: Sage, pp. 79-118.

Laurence Romani and Pia Höök, (2010), “The hidden side of cross-cultural management:A study agenda on absent perspectives in cross-cultural management research, education and management training”, International Association of Cross Cultural Competence and Management, 2010 conference proceedings (online).

Henriett Primecz, Laurence Romani and Sonja Sackmann (Eds.), (2011), Cross-Cultural Management in practice: culture and negotiated meanings, Edward Elgar.
Romani, L & Szkudlarek, B (2013) The struggles of the Interculturalists: professional ethical identity and early stages of code of ethics development. Journal of Business Ethics. Online first
Szkudlarek, B, McNett, J.; Romani, L and Lane, H. (2013) The past, present and future of cross-cultural management education: the educators’ perspectives, Academy of Management Learning and Education, special issue on cross-cultural management. Online first

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