Rewarding Performance Globally: A Cross-cultural Approach


Organizations operating globally must manage diverse workforces. Even if they do not take operations “there” talent will come “here.” Managing cultural differences presents challenges that are daunting. Reconciling policies and practices with diverse beliefs, values and priorities is a competence that must be developed.

Cultural orientation at the individual level acts as a filter that determines how individuals view the world. What one learned from parents, peers and societal influences becomes deeply imbedded in their psyche. Assuming everyone will accept being treated the same will result in disappointment on the part of those managing an organization.

The book “Rewarding Performance Globally” provides insights into the dimensions that form cultural perspectives. It explores the impact of cultural diversity on how employees will be predisposed to react to strategies for defining, measuring, managing and rewarding performance. The dimensions of culture are defined and their implications for global managers presented.

The cultural dimensions are based on models resulting from cultural anthropology and confirmed by extensive research. Prior publications authored by authors Trompenaars and Greene have discussed the theory and empirical research underlying cultural diversity. “Rewarding Performance Globally” uses a case to illustrate the practical implications.

Future posts will highlight the implications of several of the cultural dimensions, focusing on performance and rewards management.

The dimensions to be discussed include:

  • Individualistic vs. Collectivist perspective
  • Universalistic vs. Particularistic perspective
  • Hierarchical vs. Egalitarian perspective
  • Internal vs. External Control perspective
  • High context vs. Low context perspective
  • Long-term vs. Short-term perspective
  • Past, Present or Future perspective

It is necessary that those dealing with cultural differences do not fall into the trap of stereotyping. Some Frenchman will behave more like some Germans than many Germans. The other danger is labeling one pole of a dimension’s continuum as “good” and the other “bad.” They are just different and each has its own logic and promotes a different perspective. But people tend to see their own beliefs as “good” and often demonize the beliefs of those having very different perspectives. The fact that cultural orientation is so deeply imbedded makes it difficult to people to know where others are coming from when there are disagreements. An employee with a collectivist perspective may expect that a team incentive award will be shared in an egalitarian manner (it took all of our efforts to succeed) while another with an individualistic perspective believes individual contributions should be measured and rewarded in proportion to their value. When the manager of the team finds that not everyone feels whatever approach is adopted is appropriate the rubber meets the road. And there seems to be no apparent resolution.

National/ethnic differences have been measured by research studies and tendencies for different groups to believe differently identified. But it has also been found that variances within cultures can be as great as those across cultures. Diversity can also be caused by occupational and age differences, making it even more difficult to anticipate what the cultural profile of any individual might be. But familiarity with the research identifying tendencies can greatly enhance the manager’s chances of anticipating what they are and successfully navigating the whitewater that cross-cultural management is.