On Trial Critical Analysis of Communication Breakdown and Cultural Disconnect

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On Trial: Critical Analysis of Communication Breakdown and Cultural Disconnect
Learner Name
Kaplan University
GM501-01: Management Theories and Practices II
Dr. Carrie A. O’Hare
December 14, 2017
On Trial: Critical Analysis of Communication Breakdown and Cultural Disconnect
Three possible solutions.
Best possible solution.
Implementation plan.
Daft, R. L. (2014). Management (11th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
DeForest, M. E. (1994). Thinking of a plant in Mexico? Academy of Management Executive,
8(1), 33-40.
GM501: Grading Rubric
Unit 3 Assignment: On Trial
Areas to be evaluated
Title Page
– A broad stroke review of the problem
and the pending decision/action
-WHAT is the ONE problem you will
address for this organization simply
-WHY does the organization have this
ONE problem and how are these
causes related?
– What are some POSSIBLE solutions—
more than one!
-What ONE solution is best and why?
Demonstrate some critical thinking to
evidence subject mastery.
-How should your ONE best
recommended solution be
implemented? Provide possible steps.
-Summarize what you have learned
from this unit/assignment that you will
use in your professional/personal life
next week
References Page
-cite at least 2 peer reviewed, academic
journal articles outside our course
-citation and reference per APA 6th edition
Paper Length: Write 4 pages, double
spaced, not including the title page and
reference page
Writing: Spelling, Grammar, Organization,
and APA 6th Edition Format & Style,
Paragraph Construction
Originality: More than 15% of the paper
being direct quotation
Total Points Earned
I Academy of Management Executive, 1994 Vol. 8 No. 1
Thinking of a plant in Mexico?
Mariah E. de Forest
Executive Overview
With the tripartite U.SJCanada/Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) now signed hy the principals and approved by Congress, it will be of
interest to see whether the dire prophecies about the impact ol this treaty will
come true. For example, it has been predicted that U.S. manufacturers will take
advantage of low Mexican wage rates and move their operations wholesale to
Mexico, and that Mexican industries such as textiles, paper, lurniture,
petrochemicals and auto parts will take a beating because of a flood of
better-engineered American products coming to Mexico without tariHs.
While we may reasonably expect that both predictions will come true to some
degree, the important point is that many U.S. executives will not be considering
a plant in Mexico. For efficient and profitable operations in Mexico, a U.S.
company must work within Mexican behavioral expectations and avoid
overbearing superiority. Only about ten percent of American maquiladoras’ are
actually efficient and profitable by U.S. standards, according to Banco de
Mexico. Many of the other maquiladoras manage to get by only because of low
wage rates. In my view, maquiladora success and profitability would be more
widespread if their parent companies and plant managers took Mexican values
into consideration and were more sensitive to Mexican mores.
Mexican workers and
managers welcome
their exposure to
American business
methods, and are
eager to adapt when
given ihe opportunity.
The opportunities for American business in Mexico are great.^ But the actual job
of managing a Mexican fabricating or assembly plant is a challenge for even
the best of managers—because not only must the production get out on
schedule, there is the added twist of dealing with a different culture and
language. For example, believing that a good grievance system was the ticket
to preventing labor problems from blowing up in his face, one American
manager in a steel conveyor plant in Puebla^ installed a three-stage system in
which complaints would go first to the immediate supervisor, then up the chain
of command, with strict time limits and the guarantee of prompt management
response. Since no grievances had ever arisen from the floor through this new
grievance process, the manager was astonished one day when the entire plant
walked out. Unlike their more assertive neighbors to the north, Mexican workers
typically avoid directly confronting their superiors with complaints because
such behavior is considered seriously antisocial in the context of a basically
authoritarian society.
In comparison with U.S. workers, Mexican workers may not follow through on
tasks, they tend to be activity oriented rather than problem solvers and appear
to assume that companies exist to provide jobs rather than to make a profit. In
Academy of Management Executive
most instances, however, these behaviors are simply the result of the Frenchstyle, rote-learning Mexican educational system, as well as years of economic
protectionism, rather than fatal flaws in the Mexican character. Having grasped
this fact, it is a small step to undertake training of Mexican managers and
employees specifically designed to teach goal-oriented work, problem-solving
skills and the importance of initiative and profitability. Mexican workers and
managers welcome their exposure to American business methods, and are
eager to adapt when given the opportunity. It is only when Mexicans are asked
to adapt to values that conflict with local beliefs, customs, norms of respectable
behavior, and views of the proper role of authority that problems inevitably
Job Expectations
Mexican firms have tended to reflect the same traditional structure as the
government, the church and Mexican society itself. Most have a rigid hierarchy,
with power vested in the person at the top, a position often inherited, or
acquired through friendships and mutual favors. Most top managers balance
competing interests through consensus rather than engaging in open
competition. Mexican firms tend to reward submission, direction, and loyal
personal service—remember, personal service—to the person in authority.
Stepping out onto the
typical Mexican plant
floor, a visitor is
impressed by the
cordial and good
natured atmosphere.
This impression is
not misleading—
characteristically, the
Mexican desire is for
harmony rather than
After the Mexican Revolution put an end to the old patron system of haciendas
and peons in 1922, Mexican labor law endeavored to modernize the old feudal
relationship by outlining mutual obligations of employers and workers. Under
current law, employers have significant responsibility for the conduct and
improvement of workers’ lives, assuring their “life, health, dignity and liberty.”
Moreover, a job is more than just an exchange of money for labor—it is also a
social right, just as being an employer is a social and economic obligation.*
It is the interrelation of “paternalistic” employer obligations toward workers,
together with workers’ duties to the employer—rather than a simple economic
exchange—that underlie the unspoken expectations in today’s Mexican
workplace. When Americans accept that Mexican employees, by law, can and
do expect from their jobs something other than just a paycheck or a chance to
get ahead, and when Americans respect the employer’s admittedly paternalistic
social obligation, then good labor and community relations, and efficient
operations, follow much more easily.
Seeking Harmony in the Workplace
In the Mexican mind, the sense that “all is well” occurs when every rank, from
the top down, is in its place, working harmoniously. Stepping out onto the
typical Mexican plant floor, a visitor is immediately impressed by the cordial
and good natured atmosphere. This impression is not misleading—
characteristically, the Mexican desire is for harmony rather than conflict.
Compared to the U.S., there is low tolerance for adversarial relations or friction
at work. When selecting among job applicants, Mexican employers typically
look for a work history that demonstrates ability to work harmoniously with
others and cooperatively with authority. Mexican employers tend to seek
workers who are agreeable, respectful, and obedient rather than innovative and
United States business embodies such traditional American values as
individualism, self-determination, achievement, future orientation, optimism,
curiosity, problem solving, and doing more than expected. But traditional
de Forest
Mexican ideals stress employee/employer interdependence, mutual
responsibilities and loyalty between boss and worker; age, sex and position
ranking orders in the organization; collectivism and continuity rather than
individualism and change; belongingness and cooperation rather than
competition; and not exceeding the boundaries of doing what you’re told.
Mexican employers tend to reject workers prone to criticize, who take their
complaints to a higher authority, who exhibit competitiveness—because these
traits disturb harmonious relations, the social fabric.
Equality in union/management relations is valued by employees, management
and the union. This norm is sometimes difficult to understand for Americans
who are accustomed to union and management often being adversaries. But
under Mexican labor law, union and management roles are often
complementary and parallel: both strive to maintain a “fountain of
employment,” one accountable for workers, the other directing the business
—although day-to-day relations often fall short of this ideal. Direct management
communications to the workforce are welcomed by unions as a way to cement
good relations, and management solicitation of grievances is encouraged. The
union cooperates in disciplining workers; management’s role is to discipline
supervisors. As long as wages do not fall below the legal minimum, supervisors
act reasonably and sports or other social activities are available, Mexican
employees view peaceful relations between the union and management as
normal and desirable, rather than as being coopted.
Ideal Working Conditions
Mexican workers generally do not place a priority on working conditions where
self-expression, wide latitude of action, and independent responsibility are
encouraged. Rather, Mexicans value working conditions where supervisors are
understanding (comprensivo), keep their distance and address workers formally,
patiently demonstrate a job, yet are flexible enough to lend a hand once in a
while. Mexican workers, looking upward from the lower levels of the
organization, respond warmly to formal and dignified treatment—in other
words, they appreciate it when authority is not abused. Their paradigm of ideal
working conditions is the family model: everyone working together, doing their
share, according to their designated roles.
Teamwork and cooperation are compelling ideals in the Mexican workplace, but
difficult to achieve in reality. Often there are strong allegiances to fellow
workers who may be family members, compadres, or neighbors. Nevertheless,
Mexican workers respond best emotionally to management exhortations to
improve group efficiency or group output, rather than to programs which stress
competition with other workers. In practice, Mexican workers often excel when
rewarded individually with incentive bonuses.
Minding One’s Manners
Behavior that is literally counterproductive results from Mexican supervisors’
social instincts to mind their manners and preserve the appearance of harmony.
For example, maquiladora supervisors may scrap or hide defective work from
the preceding department, rather than have to confront another supervisor or
report the problem to a manager. Many simply prefer not to get involved. For
U.S.-trained maquiladora managers, it goes without saying that relaying
information and problem solving are two of the major responsibilities of a
supervisor. But failure on the part of American managers to verbalize these
priorities often leads to misunderstanding about the supervisor’s role.^
Academy of Management Executive
Social manners in Mexico also tend to be more formal and private. An American
manager in Nogales kept inviting other Mexican managers and their spouses to
dinner at his home on the Arizona side of the border, but they continued to find
excuses for not attending. The Mexican managers reported that they resented
being invited to admire the American’s home and belongings. This was the only
explanation they could think of for the invitations. In Mexico, business
associates traditionally entertain at restaurants, reserving their homes only for
close friends.
The Face of Honor
The public image, the face of honor, is carefully observed in Mexico. Putting on
a good appearance is tremendously important at all levels of society. A child
may quit school because his or her family can’t afford good shoes; a new
salesman’s first purchase is often a proper-looking gold watch. Employees will
quit in outrage if criticized in public by their bosses.
Keeping face and minding that of others is one of the reasons for what appears
to be excessive flattery, flowery language and other obsequious sounding
reference in Spanish conversation. Similarly, status considerations lie behind
the pervasive custom of calling people by their titles, rather than by their
surnames—much less their first names. Thus, showing respect in a business
setting involves keeping a proper distance; that is, being formal rather than
friendly, casual and intimate.
Whether janitor,
hopper-feeder or
union leader, one’s
role must be respected
as a legitimate and
honorable endeavor.
Unfortunately, Americans in Mexico are generally oblivious to this daily drama
of Latin honor and the sensitivity of Mexicans toward anything that calls their
honor into question. The need to save face is what makes it so difficult for
Mexicans at all levels to accept criticism and to change; many find it
humiliating to acknowledge having made a mistake. Maquiladora management
staff meetings can founder for the same reasons—in a Mexican firm, staff
meetings often serve as a forum for people to receive orders, rather than to
report, discuss and problem solve among managers.^
Role, Place and Status
Octavio Paz, the Nobel prize-winning Mexican author and intellectual, pointed
out twenty years ago that Mexican thinking is medieval rather than modern;
hierarchical and dogmatic rather than pragmatic and open; and ceremonial,
formal and ritualized, rather than spontaneous or purposeful. While much has
changed since then, it is still often the case that in Mexico’s relatively fixed
social order people have a particular status and value its observance. Laborers,
supervisors, managers, and union officials all honor each other’s roles and their
relative status or place. Recognizing another’s place through symbolic
formalities or a bit of flattery is the bedrock of human relations. Whether
janitor, hopper-feeder or union leader, one’s role must be respected as a
legitimate and honorable endeavor. For example, a union president in a Piedras
Negras maquiladora was deeply insulted when an American plant manager
failed to introduce him to visitors from the home office. The plant manager
regarded him as just another worker, whereas the union leader’s place was that
of commander of the entire labor force, and, under labor law, possessed equai
status with the employer!
In another case, an American manager in a casting plant in Chihuahua
habitually wore jeans and rumpled sports shirts, insisted that everyone call him
de Forest
Jim, and addressed all the Mexican managers by their first names. Because he
felt he was doing a good job of reducing the visible economic and status gap
between himself and the Mexicans, he was amazed to hear through the
grapevine that the local employees and staff considered him uncultured and
boorish. In Mexico, one’s level in the management hierarchy is reflected in
appropriate appearance—the higher in the hierarchy, the more formal the
attire, the fancier the wristwatch, the shinier the shoes.
Americans often note that Mexican managers, usually in business attire, seem
to be afraid to get their hands dirty, staying away from the factory floor and
sending subordinates instead. American managers, on the other hand, find it
more natural to mingle and joke with factory employees, and to attend company
functions that include workers. In Mexico, American managers run the risk of
being criticized at being too familiar. Nevertheless, we have found that
maquiladora workers will respond eagerly to any management actions that
communicate real interest and respect for them. Workers find acceptable a
manager’s mingling with them in the local May Day (Mexican Labor Day)
parade, occasionally appearing in the company cafeteria or personally visiting
the plant floor from time to time. Such activities, if not overdone, can break
down the onerous status distinctions and at the same time correspond to the
ideal of harmonious relations in the workplace.
Exercising Authority
Mexican workers respond to a person, rather than to any abstract set of work
rules, or the exchange of labor for a paycheck. Since workers’ lives often
amount to being ordered about by people in authority, the desire is that
authority be wielded in a kind and sensitive way. Mexican workers typically
want to be closely supervised, rather than left alone. If told exactly what to do,
they try hard to do it. They, more than their U.S. counterparts, accept their
unequal status, simply asking that authority look out for their interests, provide
clear instructions and correct them in a civil manner.
Maquiladora workers tend to regard their loyalty bonds with superiors as the
key element in job security, rather than any seniority system. These personal
bonds are what really determine whether or not workers come to work every
day, are willing to work overtime, or work industriously when they are at work.
Maquiladora supervisors are as proud to be working for an American company
as is the workforce, and this attitude forms a very positive foundation for
management-supervisory relations. Supervisors are called empieados de
confianza (confidential employees), which refers to the personal relationship
between them and their superiors, rather than to a specific job function. The
Mexican supervisor’s role is to exercise authority within the hierarchical system
of loyalties, and that power is exercised personally.
A supervisor
explains why
something is to be
done or even how it
should be done.
In the Mexican experience, power flows down from above; so, whatever other
duties a job may entail, what the supervisors actually do tends to be what has
been specifically authorized by the boss. It is confusing to maquiladora
supervisors if American managers insist that supervisors earn authority and
respect from the workers, or show initiative in solving problems. A supervisor’s
authority cannot be shared (or earned either)—because he or she serves at the
pleasure of someone else, whose power flows through them from above. This is
what de confianza (of trust) really means.
Academy of Management Executive
Supervisors see their role as strictly following orders to the best of their ability,
neither questioning nor taking matters into their own hands, and this is exactly
how they view the proper role of their subordinates. The Mexican supervisor’s
style is to supervise closely, and look for willing obedience. Opinions expressed
by employees are often regarded as back talk. Likewise, supervisors generally
find it unnecessary and even a sign of weakness to explain themselves or their
orders. To explain is not to have the right to give orders, to not be the …
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