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Culture, Human Resources, Leadership

A Leader/Follower Dyadic Perspective Summary of Organizational and Individual Acculturation

This post will explore the relationships between organizational and individual culture from a leader and follower point of view.  I guess that makes this paper a “quadratic perspective”.  My main focus is the importance of organizational culture in establishing, maintaining, and improving leadership and followership, and how an individual participates in the effectiveness of this organizational culture during initial acculturation (i.e. the change in both the organizational culture and the individual’s beliefs during the new-hire orientation process).  I will resist the temptation to expand the scope to include the acculturation of two groups of people, as in a merger or acquisition (see Seo & Hill, 2005), because I want to focus on the person-organization fit issues, since I have recently personally experienced what one could call a “failure to integrate” into a new job.

We are social beings.   Daniel Goleman, in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships (2006) notes that our brains are designed to interact with each other and several neural and chemical changes occur in our body in response to our interactions with others.  When we engage in our professional life, this comes with us.  So, acculturation within the work environment is a result of the organization’s culture merging with the individuals’ culture, i.e. how the individual socially interacts with other individuals during this process.

How a newly hired person acculturates into an existing professional culture is vitally important from several perspectives.  One, assuming the organization is content with its culture, the vast variety of new individuals’ cultures must not dilute the company culture.  Or, if the company wants to change its culture by hiring “new blood” into the mix, it will want to insure that the new hire will not conform too completely.  Secondly, as McMillan and Lopez (2001) quoted from the 1998 Council of Economic Advisors for the President’s Initiative on Race, our country is experiencing a rapid increase in racial diversity, with a balance between Caucasian and other races predicted to occur by 2050.  Integration of national cultures into our professional organizations is an important aspect of management because many of the value frameworks congealed in national cultures (Pierce & Newstrom, 2011, p.215-218) melt into dimensions defining a professional culture (Yan & Hunt, 2005).  Thirdly, and most non-obviously, in an increasing desire to encourage leadership at all levels in an organization, managers need to understand the probable complex relationships between recognition-based perception of effective leadership and cultural integration of a new leader, and between cultural assimilation and a new follower (McMillan & Lopez, 2001).

Pierce and Newstrom (2011) summarize Hofstede’s (2001) five value frameworks of cultures to be individualism-collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity-femininity, and time orientation.  Yan and Hunt (2005) exam the first four of these value frameworks, plus fatalism, or locus of control (Aycan et al., 2000) and relate them to the concepts of recognition-based (actions) versus inference-based (results) leadership perceptions.  Basically, they conclude that collectivism, high power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, and high fatalism promote a recognition-based process of leadership perception among followers.

So, if a company wants to promote an inference-based process of leadership perception (i.e. a “results oriented” or “performance oriented” culture), the management should work toward promoting the value frameworks of individualism, flat power structures, high masculinity, and belief that people can make a difference by their own efforts (perhaps autonomous or entrepreneurial management styles).  It should be clarified here that high masculinity refers to “an emphasis on assertiveness and the acquisition of money and material objects, coupled with a de-emphasis on caring for others,“ (Pierce & Newstrom, 2011, p.217) whereas low masculinity places “an emphasis upon personal relationships, a concern for others, and a high quality of life.”(p.217)

So, if a new leader is effectively acculturated into a collectivist, high power distant, uncertainty-avoiding, non-assertive, and fatalistic culture, he/she should realize that there is likely to be a recognition-based leadership expectation.  The behaviors that will allow him to be more accepted as an effective leader would need to focus on teamwork, pursuing the reduction of risks, making clear rules and processes, and the soft side of interpersonal relationships with the employees.

What acculturation strategy is most effective for this new leader depends on whether the company wants to move its culture toward a “results-oriented” or “performance” culture.  If it does, then the new leader should probably use an integration, or even separation, strategy of integrating individualistic, risk taking, assertive values into the company culture (McMillan & Lopez, 2001).  If a new member of the professional organization is expected to be a good follower, perhaps assimilation is the best integration strategy.

In addition to the individual’s approach to acculturation, the organization itself should consider its part in the orientation of the new employee.  How it approaches this function can encourage or discourage certain acculturation strategies, thereby encouraging or discouraging specific changes in the company culture.  McMillan and Lopez (2001) discuss the context, content, and social aspects of both individual and institutionalized approaches to new-hire orientation, and their effect on maintaining or changing company culture.  The delivery of cultural information to the new-hire (the context) is either collective or individual.  The content of cultural information includes the specificity of personal growth paths.  Social aspects of integration include whether the new employee is mentored and the degree to which he/she is expected to assimilate the existing culture (i.e. pressure to conform).

The best choices present in all of these issues depend on the company’s goals regarding the value frameworks of its organization – where it is now, where it wants to be, and what are the beliefs of the individuals coming into the organization.



Aycan, Z., Kanungo, R.N., Mendonca, M., Yu, K., Deller, J., Stahl, G. and Khursid, A. (2000) “Impact of culture on human resource management practices: A ten-country comparison,” Applied Psychology: An International Review 49(1):192-220.

Goleman, D. (2006). Social intelligence: The new science of human relationships. New York: Bantom Dell (Random House).

Hofstede, G. (2001) Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McMillan, A., and Lopez, T.B. (2001). “Socialization and acculturation: Organizational and individual strategies toward achieving P-O fit in a culturally diverse society,” The Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business, 37(1), p.19-34.

Pierce, J.L., and Newstrom, J.W. (2011). Leaders and the leadership process: Readings, self-assessments and applications (6th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Seo, M-G., and Hill, N.S. (2005). Understanding the human side of merger and acquisition: An integrated framework,” The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(4), p.422-443.

Yan, J., and Hunt, J.G. (2005). “A cross cultural perspective on perceived leadership effectiveness,” International Journal of Cross Cultural Management 5(1), pp. 49-66.

A Leader/Follower Dyadic Perspective Summary of Organizational and Individual Acculturation by

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