Corporate culture as normative control: A study of Hong Kong employees in a team-based organisation
|dc.contributor.author||Lo, Wattle C W||en_NZ|
|dc.identifier.citation||Lo, W. C. W. (2000). Corporate culture as normative control: A study of Hong Kong employees in a team-based organisation (Dissertation, Bachelor of Commerce with Honours). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10523/1213||en|
|dc.description.abstract||Corporate culture is a form of normative control (Fleming & Stablein, 1999; Kunda, 1992). Normative control can be described as a system of control that "works internally by engendering people with subjective attributes and dispositions, which are compatible with the maintenance of certain types of work organisation" (Fleming & Stablein, 1999:3). Since the early period of capitalist mode of production, corporate managers have been searching for effective techniques to control their workplace activities. Over the past two centuries, corporate control strategy had been changing according to economic conditions, technology, culture, and business nature. Edwards (1979) in his book Contested Terrain suggested that many large corporations had shifted their strategy from the simple forms of control to technical, and gradually bureaucratic administration, as a result of the growing need for efficiency and productivity (Barley & Kunda, 1992; Edwards, 1979). The use of assembly lines, cost accounting systems, and bureaucratic rules — in short, the utilitarian forms of control — were the key principles of organising production from 1900 to the 1930 (Barley & Kunda, 1992). Culture as a form of control strategy remained unfamiliar to many management scholars and practitioners until the late 1970s. Influenced by anthropology and sociology, corporate culture came to prominence in 1980, and entered into managerial discourse (Barley & Kunda, 1992). Thereafter, managerial interest in building corporate cultures caused a proliferation of organisation literature ranging broadly from popular business magazines to commercial management books (Barley & Kunda, 1992). Famous writers, such as Peters and Waterman (1982), Deal and Kennedy (1982), and Ouchi (1981), excitedly urged business managers to cultivate strong corporate cultures that harness loyal, committed, and hardworking employees (Barley & Kunda, 1992). They criticised that traditional forms of corporate control will eventually eliminate certain human attributes – for example, commitment, flexibility, creativity etc. – that are crucial for enhancing business performance in a fast-changing environment (Barley & Kunda, 1992). In In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman advised, "all that stuff you have been dismissing for so long as the intractable, irrational, intuitive, informal organisation can be managed" (Peters & Waterman, 1981:11). They argued that corporate cultures, which centre on principles such as cultivating workplace values, employee motivation, autonomy, organisational commitment, and team building, are the key to success in contemporary business (Peters & Waterman, 1982). Corporate culture is increasingly recognised as an important means of controlling workplace activities. The gain in popularity of cultural management' in recent decades has marked the point of departure from classical to contemporary management philosophy. As a novice researcher, my interest in corporate culture stems from two propositions. First, corporate culture as a form of normative control is amazingly effective for promoting teamwork2 in organisations. Proponents argue that culture building cultivates a shared meaning and purpose among team members (Fleming & Stablein, 1999), harnessing their commitment and energy towards efficiency and productivity. As a result, members are more willing to share their experience and knowledge with their counterparts, facilitating cooperation and mutual accountability (Cadwell, 1997). Promoting teamwork requires the manipulation of team values, norms, and beliefs, so that members become much more loyal and devoted to the team and organisation (Fleming & Stablein, 1999). This manipulation is achieved through designing workplace activities, ranging from daily communications to corporate meetings, training sessions, and peer gatherings. Managers design the ways in which these activities are performed and employees are responsible for the maintenance of those activities (Cadwell, 1997). They learn about team values through their participation in socialising with others. Once members have internalised these values, they come to discipline themselves in teams without the need for managerial control. Second, my interest in corporate culture also lies in the premise that this form of control is not as perfect as it has been generally envisaged. Although corporate culture is effective in fostering team spirit in organisations, members nonetheless experience intense peer pressure among themselves (Ezzamel & Willmott, 1998). Not only are members under constant supervision by their counterparts, but also are required to actively monitor their own team performance (Ezzamel & Willmott, 1998). Peer competition is intense. Some opponents, such as Kunda (1992) and Casey (1995), argued that team members, in fact, do not gain a sense of empowerment, ownership, and participation. Rather, they often experience negative emotions such as ambivalence, anxiety, fear, and pressure (Kunda, 1992; Casey, 1995). Further, employees' resistance to managerial practices of team building is a common phenomenon in the contemporary workplace (Collinson, 1994). Depending on different situations, the intensity of their resistance can range from a simple tactic of indifference to an active endeavour of manipulating critical information (Collinson, 1994). These issues challenge the utopian presuppositions of a team culture, and raise doubts about its effectiveness as a form of normative control. The two stories above have evoked my desire for thinking about team building in the context of Hong Kong — a place in which I grew up. As most current research on team culture is primarily conducted in large corporations in the U.S., such bias further stimulates my interest in finding out how Western knowledge may be applied to understanding Hong Kong people in the workplace. This is perhaps also due to the fact that I, as a research student from Hong Kong, recognise some irreducible differences between Western and Chinese cultures. Of course, these cultural differences cannot be simply reduced to a simple distinction between East and West. As it is well known, Hong Kong was a British colony with strong Chinese characteristics (which I will discuss in the second chapter). This uniqueness of Hong Kong raises questions about the typical Western view on the implications of a team culture for the employee. It forces me to ask: if Hong Kong is presumably neither a Western nor Chinese city, what are the likely problems when trying to make sense of the employee based on Western assumptions? Does a team culture have the same effects on the Hong Kong employee as those on the American? Is Western management knowledge universally applicable to every culture context? I attempt to address these questions by studying one of the branch offices of a leading British Insurance company in Hong Kong. My research study specifically focuses on both Quality Assurance and Corporate Culture as Normative Control Human Resource departments. The Quality Assurance department has a particular emphasis on teamwork, and is run by four Hong Kong staff. Three other employees of the Human Resource department are included in my study. They are the people who actively promote teamwork in the organisation. For convenience, I will call the Hong Kong branch office "ABI", the Quality Assurance department "QA", and the Human Resource department "HR".||en_NZ|
|dc.subject||British Insurance company||en_NZ|
|dc.subject||Control Human Resource departments||en_NZ|
|dc.subject.lcsh||HD28 Management. Industrial Management||en_NZ|
|dc.subject.lcsh||H Social Sciences (General)||en_NZ|
|dc.subject.lcsh||HD Industries. Land use. Labor||en_NZ|
|dc.subject.lcsh||HD28 Management. Industrial Management||en_NZ|
|dc.subject.lcsh||HD61 Risk Management||en_NZ|
|dc.title||Corporate culture as normative control: A study of Hong Kong employees in a team-based organisation||en_NZ|
|thesis.degree.name||Bachelor of Commerce with Honours|
|thesis.degree.grantor||University of Otago||en_NZ|
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