May  2022, 2(2): 96-120. doi: 10.3934/steme.2022008

How power distance affect motivation in cross-cultural environment: Findings from Chinese companies in Europe

1. 

Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland; shuowangpsy@gmail.com

2. 

School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland; franti@cs.ue.fi

*Correspondence: Email: franti@cs.uef.fi

Academic Editor: William Guo

Received  March 2022 Accepted  May 2022 Published  June 2022

Motivation is a key factor for success in education and modern working life. Cross-cultural environment is a challenge to it and, if not taken into account, it can impair learning outcome and lead to high turnover rates in companies. We performed an ethnographic study in two Chinese companies expanded to Europe and observed what problems the organizations faced. Our finding is that main problems originate from cultural differences between Chinese and Western organizations, and that they are mostly explained by the different power distance in the two cultures. The host company has a steep hierarchy of the organization, and it did not delegate the decision making to the locals. This led to frustration, loss of motivation, and high turnover rate.

Citation: Shuo Wang, Pasi Fränti. How power distance affect motivation in cross-cultural environment: Findings from Chinese companies in Europe. STEM Education, 2022, 2 (2) : 96-120. doi: 10.3934/steme.2022008
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Figure 1.  Themes of disempowerment in the perceptions of local employees
Figure 2.  Power distance index adapted from [42]
Figure 3.  Themes of closed communication in the perceptions of local employees
Table 1.  A profile of Chinese multinationals chosen in the study
Entry mode Founded Location Employees Parent company
Industry Employees Founded
Greenfield 2000s Scandinavia > 20 Communication > 80, 000 1980s
Greenfield 2000s Germany > 200 Machinery > 60, 000 1980s
Entry mode Founded Location Employees Parent company
Industry Employees Founded
Greenfield 2000s Scandinavia > 20 Communication > 80, 000 1980s
Greenfield 2000s Germany > 200 Machinery > 60, 000 1980s
Table 2.  Characteristics of the participants and example of the coding process in the data analysis
Dimension Theme Code Original data
Power distance Limited decision making Not able to make decision Somehow as a Scandinavian, I think I am not regarded as a person; we are not able to make decisions.
Framework vs. Detail The Western leadership is only a general leadership, only the concept, the boss doesn′t get details. The Chinese boss wants to know everything, and he is the one who knows everything.
Hierarchy Militarystyle A typical Chinese leadership is based on more centralized thinking and in this way is more like the military style of leadership.
Follow the order Never ask Never ask, I don′t know why, but never ask.
No discussion
No explanation
No one has discussion with the employees, like whether or not we should do something. No thoughts around it, no communication to the employees.
Dimension Theme Code Original data
Power distance Limited decision making Not able to make decision Somehow as a Scandinavian, I think I am not regarded as a person; we are not able to make decisions.
Framework vs. Detail The Western leadership is only a general leadership, only the concept, the boss doesn′t get details. The Chinese boss wants to know everything, and he is the one who knows everything.
Hierarchy Militarystyle A typical Chinese leadership is based on more centralized thinking and in this way is more like the military style of leadership.
Follow the order Never ask Never ask, I don′t know why, but never ask.
No discussion
No explanation
No one has discussion with the employees, like whether or not we should do something. No thoughts around it, no communication to the employees.
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