Business and Culture Complement Each Other – Typical Mutualism!

Business is an integral part of the society; and it influences other elements of the social system, which in turn affect business. The entire sphere of business activities are influenced by the social structure and culture of a society. The social system is influenced by the way the business functions, innovations, transmission and diffusion of information and new ideas etc. Business activities have greatly influenced social attitudes, values, outlooks, customs and traits. However, it is very difficult and, in some cases, almost impossible to change many elements of the social environment in the short run. Hence, a business may have to anticipate and adapt to these uncontrollable external environments.

Socio-cultural environment refers to the influence exercised by certain social factors, which are “beyond the company’s gate”. This includes attitude of people towards

  • Work
  • Wealth
  • Knowledge
  • Family
  • Marriage
  • Religion
  • Education
  • Ethics and social responsibility of business.

Culture is something that is evolved in a society over a long period and it represents the unified belief system of a large group of people. An organization can be distinguished from another by way of its culture, since organizational culture is unique in its perspective and methodology. When people from different social backgrounds are made to work under the same roof, a corporate organization acquires a distinct culture. Culture conveys a sense of identity for the organization. It facilitates the generation of commitment to do something noble than one’s own self-interest.

As business go international, the need for understanding and appreciating cultural differences across countries is essential. Any move from one country to another will create a certain amount of confusion, disorientation and emotional upheaval. Especially, people form Asian countries that migrate to the west are subjected to what is called a “culture shock”, in terms of attitude, working style, language, way of life, dress codes and negotiating styles. Freshers may adapt to these changes quickly, since they are raw and easy to be trained. The problem arises with individuals who had been working under a totally different cultural setup from that of the new cultural environment; they will have to undergo the process of ‘unlearning’, which is more like swapping old ideas for new ideas. This change process is what both the employees and the management find challenging; but ultimately what needs to be done has to be done.

Multi national and Trans national companies, which have business establishments in different parts of the world, must be prepared to cope with the culture shock. Since huge investments go into their projects, they have to think and analyze about all cultural and social aspects that have a definite impact on the working of organisations. For example, the work attitude of employees in the west might lay emphasis on services and results, oriented towards self-improvement; while that of the Asian counterparts may be patience and sacrifice rooted in emotions and loyalty.

Business can be considered as a large social network serving to satisfy economic and social interests; culture acts as the social glue that helps hold the organization together by providing appropriate standards for the behavior of organization members.