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Module 4 – Home
LEGAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CROSS-CULTURAL LEADERSHIP
Modular Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this module, the student will be able to satisfy the following outcomes:
Evaluate the cross-cultural experience on terms of developing cultural intelligence.
Assess your role as a leader in making ethical decisions.
Debate ethical choices as depicted in popular films.
Questions of right action can become particularly difficult for leaders in cross-cultural or international situations. Questions of the morality of doing business or forming alliances with countries where political repression or violation of civil rights is common are troublesome. How should a leader deal with expectations of bribery? What if the other country violates U.S. environmental or health laws? Does one live by the home-country rules or adopt an attitude of When in Rome ?
Without shared moral values or common laws, the choice of actions that should be taken constitute a real conundrum. How to resolve these matters? What tools exist to help the leader choose the ethical course?
To date, leaders cannot rely on international law related to ethical conduct, but there are some guidelines. An organization’s company code is the first place to start. These codes set guidelines for employees to operate across borders. They may expressly forbid the taking of bribes, for example, or entering into agreements or joint ventures that violate U.S. law. These codes have both proactive and reactive advantages: helping uncertain leaders respond to murky situations in a foreign environmentwhile at the same time attracting highly ethical leaders who want to be part of a socially responsible organization.
There also exist international standards and codes of conduct such as the United Nations Global Compact and the Consumer Charter for Global Business. There are more targeted codes of conduct such as the ILO Conventions, and OECD Guidelines. These standards do not have the teeth that international law would have, but they can help leaders determine what the best course of action is.
While business standards and codes can be helpful to leaders, they do not help to develop a fundamental understanding of what drives ethical dilemmas in a cross-cultural environment or how leaders should respond to them. Indeed, in a cross-cultural study of business managers, participants ranked the importance of factors that lead to unethical behavior. Surprisingly, social norms of morality and personal advantage or gain were not even ranked. Instead, the single most important factor was the attitudes and behaviors of their leaders. (Dolcheck & Dolcheck (1987). In this module, we will be looking at three major topics that will lead to a broad perspective on how attitudes and behaviors affect ethical leadership.
Module 4 – Background
LEGAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CROSS-CULTURAL LEADERSHIP
Universalism vs. Particularism
In Ethics 501, you learned several different approaches to thinking about and analyzing ethical issues. The models you were exposed to reflect, by and large, a Western approach to ethics. A more multicultural model can be found in considering the difference between Universalist and Particularist approaches to ethics. This typology was developed by Fons Trompenaars and considers the ethical question, What is more importantrules or relationships? Read the following synopsis of these two perspectives. As you read, note how these approaches mirror the qualities of individualism/collectivism, high/low context, and monochromic/polychromic time orientations discussed in Modules 2 and 3.
Universalism versus Particularism. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.via-web.de/universalism-versus-particularism/
Differences in the Concept of Social Responsibility
At the very heart of any discussion of social responsibility is the question of why the organization exists. Is it to maximize the financial return to the owners, as many Western business schools teachor is it to promote the well-being of society, a perspective reflected in the mission statements of many Japanese companies?
In the following essay, Kidus Mehalu of Ethiopia considers the role that leaders of multinational corporations might play in balancing the profit motive with the need for addressing worldwide social and economic problems.
Mehalu, K. G. (2011). Social responsibility and managerial ethics: A focus on MNCs, 3rd Global Drucker Forum, Vienna. Retrieved from http://essay.druckerchallenge.org/fileadmin/user_upload/essays_pdf/kidusmehalu.pdf
Making Ethical Choices
Though any ethical dilemma can present a leader with difficult choices, resolving cross-cultural ethical dilemmas can seem downright impossible because the moral beliefs and values concerning what is right and wrong may not be the same in both cultures. The question then arises, do we take the position of ethical relativism (deciding what is right or wrong depending on the ethical norms and standards of the culture where the action takes place) or risk being complicit in cultural imperialism (imposing the ethical standards of ones own society on another which has made different judgments in accordance with the morality of their own culture).
To understand more about the relative nature of moral practices across and between cultures, read:
Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, S. J., & Myer, M. J. (2014). Ethical relativism. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/ethicalrelativism.html#sthash.FeFJwTIQ.dpbs
Are there any ethical standards that cut across all cultures and help leaders make the right choice when societal moral codes conflict? Marc Hauser, a Harvard psychologist, argues for the existence of a moral code that is shared among all human beings, regardless of nationality, political affiliation, religion, race, age, or gender. This does not mean that all humans respond to moral situations in the same way. They will respond within the guidelines of their own social norms. But it does suggest that we will respond to certain moral imperatives following universal underlying principlessuch as killing is wrongthough the application of that principle may vary from society to society (for example, laws about death penalties or assisted suicides).
Lets look at an example we are all familiar withSouth Africa under apartheid. Many international companies conducted business in South Africa during the apartheid. Most were headquartered in countries that did not tolerate racial discrimination. It is interesting to compare the different strategies employed by these companies when deciding how to interact with a culture where the social discrimination would be considered to be ethically wrong in their own countries.
Strategy Approach Examples of Companies
Individually refuse to abide by apartheid Refuse to follow rules of apartheid (e.g., integrate factory washrooms) Polaroid, GM
Collectively refuse to abide by apartheid Sign a promise to adhere to the Sullivan Principles*
Fortune 500 Companies
Comply with apartheid Play by the rules Citibank
Forced withdrawal Economic sanctions 89 U.S. firms including IBM, GM, P&G
Stand fast Protect investment in South Africa Multiple European firms
Invest Buy up companies at bargain prices Asian firms
*Companies that signed the Sullivan Principles pledged to:
Express their support for universal human rights, especially for their employees, the communities in which they operate and for the parties with whom they do business.
Promote equal opportunity for their employees at all levels of their company with respect to issues such as color, race, gender, age, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. Also they would not operate with worker treatment that exploits children, includes physical punishment, abuses females, imposes involuntary servitude or incorporates other forms of abuse.
Respect their employees voluntary freedom of association.
Compensate their employees enough to enable them to meet their basic needs and provide the opportunity to improve their skill and capability in order to raise their social and economic opportunities.
Provide a safe and healthy workplace, protect human health and the environment and promote sustainable development.
Promote fair competition including respect for intellectual and other property rights and not offer, pay, or accept bribes.
Work with governments and the communities in which the company does business to improve the quality of life in those communities, including their educational, cultural, economic and social well-being. They would also seek to provide training and opportunities for workers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Promote the application of the Principles by those with whom the company does business.
As this case illustrates, arriving at a common approach to dealing with cross-cultural ethical problems is hard to achieve.
Stages of Moral Development
There are four common rationalizations leaders use to justify unethical behavior.
It is not really immoral/illegal.
I am acting in the best interests of the individual or organization.
It will never be discovered or publicized.
My actions help the organization and therefore the ends justify the means.
These rationalizations stem from Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development. Kohlberg theorized that individuals progress through various stages of moral development ranging from an immature basis for deciding what is the right thing to do out of a fear of punishment to a fully self-actualized code of ethics based on internalized principles of justice. There is a link to an article on Kohlbergs model under Optional Reading if you care to know more about this model.
Some scholars argue that organizations can be characterized by a similar stage model and they make ethical decisions according to the stage of development they have achieved. Read the following article that explains these stages and gives examples of real organizational responses to ethical dilemmas.
Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1991). A conceptual model of corporate moral development. Journal of Business Ethics, 10(4), 273.
In order for leaders to set the proper guidelines for making ethical decisions within their organizations, leaders must engage their subordinates in open discussion, without fear of punishment or reprisal. These discussions should be informed by the levels of moral development described in the article above, with the goal of making decisions at the highest level of moral reasoning possible.
As stated by INSEAD professor Henri-Claude de Bettignies:
The purpose of these discussions and debates is not to impose values or give solutions, but to enhance awareness, to provide frames of reference, to give analytical tools to explore in-depth tradeoffs among short and long-term alternative decisions, to involve individual managers in assessing their own values and paradigms in order to be more lucid and responsible in their own choices.
Application: Ethics and Negotiation
An effective way to initiate a discussion at this level is to consider an application of the ethical frameworks we have been considering to a practical activity like negotiation. For an in-depth study of how cross-cultural differences can effect ethical action in negotiations, read the following research article. When reading this article, focus on the Introduction and Conceptual Framework, skim the Research Methods and Results, and focus again on the Discussion and Conclusion.
Ma, Z. (2010). The SINS in Business Negotiations: Explore the Cross-Cultural Differences in Business Ethics Between Canada and China. Journal Of Business Ethics, 91, 123135.
There may be certain ethical principles that are universal, as some experts claim. These could include such principles as honesty, integrity, and protection of society. Others are decidedly culture-specific, such as whistle-blowing, bribery and kickbacks, profiteering, social welfare, patent protection, etc. The challenge is to recognize similarities and differences and identify the underlying rationalization (protection of group or protection of the individual). The leader needs to help his or her followers look for ways to resolve the differences through a shared sense of common human values.
In the end, the resolution of ethical dilemmas is likely to be culturally determined. Individualist cultures will evaluate moral decisions based on a personal ability to live with the consequences; collectivist cultures will look at whether or not the group can live with them. Low-context cultures will seek to codify legal rulesor at least written ones; high-context cultures will adopt tacit standards shared by members of the society. And universalist cultures will expect ethical standards to apply equally to all; particularist cultures will apply standards depending on who or what is involved.
And so we find ourselves coming full circle, wondering if it is ever possible to find a set of ethical principles that will apply to cross-cultural situations where each party operates under different values and assumptions about what is right and what is wrong.
An example of a typical analytical tool used to facilitate ethical decision making is described in the following article:
Bagley, C. E. (2003). The ethical leaders decision tree. Harvard Business Review 81(2), 18.
Dolcheck, M. M & Dolcheck, C. C. (1987). Business ethics: A comparison of attitudes of managers in Hong Kong and the United States, The Hong Kong Manager. (AprilMay) 2843.
McLeod, S. A. (2011). Kohlberg. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/kohlberg.html
Stewart, J. B. (2011). Amandla! The Sullivan principles and the battle to end apartheid in South Africa, 19751987. Journal Of African American History, 96(1), 6289.
Module 4 – Case
LEGAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CROSS-CULTURAL LEADERSHIP
In this module, you will be completing a post-experience write-up. This paper should be about 6 pages long. The purpose of this write-up is to reflect on the experience as specifically related to the concepts in this course: CQ, the components of CQ, and CQ development. It is important to fully describe both your successes and failures at building CQ capacity. The ability to recognize failure can provide valuable insights and growth. If developing one component of CQ is more difficult for you than others, it is not unusual. For example, you may understand cultural differences (cognitive) and be highly motivated to learn to lead in cross-cultural environments (motivation), but find yourself unable to change your leadership style to fit the cultural circumstances (action). Perfection is not the goal of this coursethat can take years of practice. What is a more realistic goal is to become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses and make progress toward becoming more culturally competent by building on your strengths and shoring up your weaknesses.
Your post-experience write-up should include the following:
Assess the quality of the cultural experience as related to the assignment expectations (see Module 2)
Provide a rich qualitative description of the cultural experience.
Clearly and accurately relate your experience to the key concepts of the course:
Cognitive (CQ Knowledge): awareness, self-awareness, knowledge
Motivation (CQ Drive): perseverance related to cultural interaction
Metacognitive (CQ Strategy): active control over thinking and using cultural knowledge (e.g., questioning assumptions and/or stereotypes)
Action (CQ Action): ability to adjust or adapt behavior
Assess your effectiveness in personally applying CQ concepts (honest and critical analysis of your strengths and weaknesses, successes and difficulties).
Describe how what you learned through this exercise can improve your performance as a leader.
Use professional-quality writing.
Module 4 – SLP
LEGAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CROSS-CULTURAL LEADERSHIP
The SLP for this module involves a self-assessment on ethics. Begin by completing What’s Your Ethics IQ? Then, in your weekly journal, reflect on the following questions:
What was your score on this assessment?
What did the feedback following the assessment reveal about your patterns of ethical decision making?
How is this instrument culture bound? How would the answers be different in a particularist culture?
What other insights have you gained about your role as a leader in making ethical decisions in a cross-cultural situation?
SLP Assignment Expectations
The journal is a cumulative documentyou turn in all previous entries with each module.
Include the results from the assessment in your journal.
Each module should add 23 pages to the journal.
The journal should be thoughtful and insightful, integrating learnings from the assessment with other activities in the module and course.
The format for the journal is less formal than academic papers (e.g., you can use the first person), but you should use headings to organize your thoughts and guide the reader and cite any sources where you are using information, data, or text from an outside source.
Any references should be prepared in APA format in a combined reference list at the end of the journal.
Your journal should be edited and error-free.
Submit your finished paper to TLC by the assignment due date.
Discussion: Ethical Issues in International Situations
Several recent American films have dealt with ethical issues in international situations and raise thorny questions for students of leadership ethics. One such film is Zero Dark Thirty. If you have not seen the film, you will probably want to watch it, but you can also get a synopsis of the plot on IMDb if you dont mind spoilers. http://www.imdb.com/
There is only one thread for both weeks in this discussion, but be sure you participate at least twice, once to post your own thoughts and once to respond to other students. Of course, if someone engages with you, you should also post a return response. Remember that ethical issues can raise conflicting points of view. It is fine to disagree with a postwe want to generate discussionbut always be respectful.
Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty is a fictional account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and presents us with important ethical questions regarding the morality of torture (enhanced interrogation techniques) and the responsibilities of filmmakers to represent the truth.
Please post your thoughts on the ethical issues raised by this film by responding to one or more of these questions:
Ethical Issues and Discussion Questions
1. Did Zero Dark Thirty change your perceptions about “enhanced interrogation techniques”? If so, how did they change?
2. Regardless of the semantic question of whether waterboarding is a form of torture, the fact remains that its use presents us with serious ethical dilemmas. Is it ever morally acceptable to subject a prisoner to pain, duress, or humiliation? If so, what circumstances call for such drastic means?
3. Moreover, if coercive modes of interrogation are ever permissible, where should we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable interrogation methods, and what criteria should we use to establish that line? Who should have final say?
4. Do filmmakers have a moral responsibility not to misinform their audiences about important issues, or do their artistic licenses trump such concerns?
5. The film’s conflict is resolved by the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Should the U.S. government have done more to capture him alive? If avoidable, was this killingand indeed, the creation of a “Kill List” of terroristsethical?
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