In this document we will look at a cultural conflict that arose between the two parties of a French and Swedish merger. This case was presented by Philippe d'Iribarne who is a French author and works at the LISE which is a research center that studies the interdisciplinary laboratory for economic sociology. By studying this particular case of conflict, we understand the difficulties that arise during the multicultural encounter of two companies of different nationalities in a merger. This is a case where the realization of a project proved to be extremely difficult due to the difficulty they faced with communication.
The meeting of the French and the Swedes occurred as a result of a merger that required the professionals of a French company to work closely with the professionals of a Swedish company. Their project was to design a fusion platform for high-end products. The Franco-Swedish meeting quickly saw the formation of two strong opposing opinions. This can be explained by using Hofstede's power distance index:
- France leans toward the establishment of a higher authority i.e. they often have a hierarchy in place.
- Sweden, follows the democratic values that are characteristic of the countries in northern Europe.
The strong difference in opinion between these two parties goes beyond an organizational issue. To begin with, there was a difference in the way both the groups looked at different issues, for example, the concept of the individual in a society or communication values.
Period of observation and mutual incomprehension:
The discrepancy in the perception of the individual and the values related to communication was first generated during the phase of mutual observation between the two groups.
Tags: Philippe d'Iribarne, French,Swedes, Franco-Swede cultural confrontation
[...] In summary, the beginning of the reconciliation began with the Swedes attempting to try, to a certain extent, the French approach. This led to the dominance of the French approach. The second step consisted of the incorporation of the Swedes' ideas as they aggressively campaigned for each point and pointed out the discrepancies it the earlier decisions. It is this that led to ta common ground of agreement and eventually the creation of a new negotiating process. This resulted in the progress of the project and a system of communication was set up based on sound cooperation. [...]
[...] - When they made the decision to accept some of the French practices, they did not intend to reach this position of being dominated. This was completely against their values and they felt that it was “important not to be dominated" - In response to the domination, the Swedes took on a more aggressive approach in their relations with the French as they felt that they had "been had." They began insisting on certain ideas that they had agreed upon among themselves (decided by consensus by their method of taking the general consensus) because these ideas were essential for them to defend important technical points. [...]
[...] This opposition did not fluctuate and led to the stagnation of the project. Everyone was working separately and in different ways and reporting to different groups, at the end of the day, no decisions were made. This problem made things even worse when the sharing of ideas (or of anything else) between the two teams, stopped. There was a kind of laissez-faire that revealed a certain detachment from decision-making and there was also a growing detachment from the project. The project was now completely stagnant. [...]
[...] In fact, it was through the process of defending their own cultural models that actually led to the consensus. The Swedes democratically decided to make certain compromises and the French paid attention when the Swedes put forward their ideas firmly. Each culture managed to impose its own requirements. Thus, after observing and understanding the values of the other's culture both partners have reached an agreement that is based on both the attitude of the French and the Swedes. Thus, each party took used their final "weapons" on the other in order to impose its own values of work: At the end, the Swedes were unable to resign themselves to accept the chosen solution and so turned to confrontation. [...]
[...] This loss of time proved to be fatal as it resulted in the death of the project itself. The merger failed. This case study helps us understand that multiculturalism in the workplace can cause substantial problems could lead to the obstruction of the progress of projects. The inability of leaders to cooperate and change is baffling but there is no definite solution to this problem, which leads us to wonder if it is possible to effectively solve the problem of cultural confrontations. [...]
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