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CRITIQUE OF THE ARTICLE: the local selves of global workers: the social construction of national identity in the face of organizational globalization written by Galit AilonSouday and Gideon Kunda


INTRODUCTION According to Hogg and Abrams, 1988, the study of cultural identity is most often based on social identity and group relationships. Connections and attachments with a particular national group provide individuals with a sense of belonging which is held in high esteem. National identity is a key factor in cultural identity (Gordon Matthews) and defines differences between various individuals which affect aspects of our lives including business. As much as cross-cultural studies improve our understanding of the importance of culture in multinational organizations, they are often tainted with methodological and theoretical flaws (Cavusgil and Das, 1997). This paper therefore seeks to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the study performed by Ailon Souday and Kunda. SUMMARY In their paper, the authors present the findings of a yearlong field study on a merger between an Israeli high-tech company and an American company, which was conducted to support their view that national identity is a social construct which can be mobilized to face threats of globalization. In that context, they reject the prevailing view that identity-based cultural systems manifest themselves in organizations through stubbornly distinctive behavioral patterns (Thomas etal 1996), and rather emphasize that the flexibility of identity makes it possible for an individual to construct a national identity to face certain challenges. In this case the challenge to be addressed was organizational globalization. They therefore report on ethnographical findings of this study to support this view point.

STRENGTHS In the analysis presented in the paper, the authors did not resort to cultural dimensions to explain their findings. Unlike what most cross-cultural researchers do, which often diminishes the accuracy of the study (Tayeb 2001), the authors used the social constructivist perspective and therefore managed to address the relations between the individuals and their culture by revealing how the Israelis interpret and construct their culture. This can be linked to the epistemological position of the authors as they view culture as a continuous and ongoing Interpretation process rather than a stable structure of values and norms (Vaara 2000) that can be modified by individuals to suit particular circumstances. This view clearly presents significant discoveries which attaches importance to the ways by which the actors interpret the cultural differences they experience (Kleppestoe 1998). The paper can therefore have very efficient implications for managing cultural differences by scientifically supporting the view of cultural differences as mental constructions that can be managed and exploited. With reference to other research articles, it is observable that the findings of this study are reproducible and have been supported by research in similar fields. A typical example is a study which was conducted on eight mergers and acquisitions between Finnish and Swedish companies (Eero Vaara 2000). Vaara equally emphasized that these identity mishaps are heightened when the Where the beliefs and values of the members of the new incorporation are conflicting the most problems surface. According to Cartwright and Cooper, 1992 this is referred to as the cultural fit or cultural compatibility perspective. Most importantly, this study also identified the meanings that were attributed to the findings of the work of Ailon Souday and Kunda: the willingness for the actors to preserve their own

culture thus leading them to set boundaries and reject the culture of their counterparts, and the struggle for power. WEAKNESSES The exclusion of a comparative analysis of both cultures to enable the researchers to assess the similarities and differences in their reactions is a limiting factor in this research. According to Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember, ethnography is essential for the development of cross-cultural studies. Nevertheless without a cross-cultural comparison, there is the inability to write about what may be universal about human cultures. Performing this study by taking only the view point of the Israelis into consideration does not guarantee that similar reactions will be observed in other societies. This can be linked with the issue of a limited sample size, which limits the comparisons which would enable the findings to be generalized to all types of societies. The one-company approach and the use of only two cultures is a practice which is common among most cross-cultural researchers (Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember 2004) fails to address ethnical diversity (Matsumoto and Juang 2008) which is essential in providing scientific evidence to support the study. Hempel 1965 and Nagel 1961 also indicate that most scientists agree that it is necessary to elucidate reliable and supported explanations of any research issue. Thus the authors proposition of the two underlying factors explaining the positions of the Israelis as the struggle for local separateness and power was in line with this, however there is the question of whether these factors are exhaustive. It would have been interesting if these major factors were linked to the other innate struggles to explain the why behind their need to use their nationality as a boundary. Various researches which have delved into the areas of cultural conflicts in mergers and acquisitions agree it is very difficult for

members to adjust (Mirvis and Marks, 1992) due to the gravity of these organizational changes. Similar research in this area (for example studies by Eero Vaara, 2000) have aligned these to trust and uncertainty issue. Where trust for the new team members is minimal (Mirvis and Marks, 1992), the perception of the us against them paradigm emerges. This has been seen to draw reactions (Mayer et al, 1995) in the counterparts as well; however Ailon- Souday and Kundas study was one-sided and focused only on the Israelis reactions towards the merger. CONCLUSION This cross-cultural organizational study can be seen as a contribution to already existing research on culture as a constructible tool. Although the constructionist perspectives are still scarce (Kleppesto, 1993, 1998; Gertsen and Soderberg, 1998) this can be seen as a contribution to the existing research on cross-border mergers, from which managers can continue to learn how to manage culture in their organizations. This realistic perspective has made an attempt to address the view of cultural learning (Vaara 2000) as an analysis of the real sentiments experienced by actors , and how these affects their reactions, however the absence of viewing the reactions of the counterpart Americans is a very important limitation to this research. Never-the-less one cannot understate the role of the conception presented in identifying some of the underlying problems which impede the success of mergers and acquisitions. The more the cultural contrasts (Gertsen and Soderberg, 1998) the greater the clashes which often stem from xenophobic interpretations of national juxtaposition (Vaara 2000) and reinforces the resistance to understanding the other party even when more often than not, due to geographical distance, the actors may often have only a relatively superficial understanding of the beliefs and practices of the other side. Thus truly, the conceptions of cultural differences adopted by

individuals do reflect existent cultural differences but beyond that, they are also very capable of constructing these identities through complex cognitive, emotional and political sense making processes within the organization (Vaara 2000).

REFERENCES Kleppest, Stein , 1998. A Quest for Social IdentityThe Pragmatics of Communication in Mergers and Acquisitions, in Martine C. Gertsen, Anne-Marie Sderberg, and Jens E. Torp (Eds.), Cultural Dimensionsof International Mergers and Acquisitions, Berlin: de Gruyter, 147-168 Gertsen, Martine C.,Anne-Marie Sderberg,and Jens E. Torp 1998Different Approaches to Understandingof Culture in Mergers and Acquisitions,in Martine C. Gertsen, AnneMarieSderberg, and Jens E. Torp (Eds.),Cultural Dimensions of InternationalMergers and Acquisitions, Berlin: deGruyter, 17-38. Vaara, Eero, 2000. Constructions of Cultural Differences in Post-Merger Change Processes: A Sensemaking Perspective on Finnish-Swedish Cases. Management papers volume 3. No. 3. Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, School of International Business. Parker, Martin, 2000. The organizational culture and identity: Unity and division at work. Sage publications limited, London. Mohibullah. Impact of culture on mergers and acquisitions: a theoretical framework, viewed 30th November 2011, <http://www.wbiconpro.com/Management/401-%20Mohibullah.pdf> Skelton Tracey, Allen Tim, 1999. Culture and global change, Routledge, London. Gnter K. Stahl, Mark E. Mendenhall, 2005. Mergers and Acquisitions: Managing culture and human resources, Stanford University Press, California.

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