Research Archive

Culture, Norms, and Obligations: Cross-National Differences in Patterns of Interpersonal Norms and Felt Obligations Toward Coworkers

Michael Morris, Joel Podolny, Sheira Ariel

Publication type: Chapter

Research Archive Topic: Operations, Organizations, World Business

Abstract

This chapter reviews theory and evidence on cross-national differences in the dynamics of interpersonal obligation in the workplace. We propose that national culture shapes the normative systems that guide interaction in the workplace, and thereby moderates the salience of different sources of obligation. Drawing on past analyses of culture in terms of norms, we develop hypotheses about the dominant orientation of employee obligation in American, Chinese, German, and Spanish settings. We review evidence from a survey of employees in American, Chinese, German, and Spanish operations of a multinational retail bank because the formal structure of the organization is held constant across national operations, but the sourcing of employees is local, these sites provide a natural experiment to test how culture shapes employees' informal interactions and feelings of obligation. Predictions about differences in norms were supported by descriptive evidence from measures of employees' subjective attitudes and relationship patterns. Also, the determinants of employees' obligation differed in ways predicted from these larger normative systems.
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Citation

Morris, Michael, Joel Podolny, and Sheira Ariel. "Culture, Norms, and Obligations: Cross-National Differences in Patterns of Interpersonal Norms and Felt Obligations Toward Coworkers." In The Practice of Social Influence in Multiple Cultures, 97-123. Ed. W. Wosinska, D. Barrett, R. Cialdini, and J. Reykowski. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.


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