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CASE 2.2. Culture conflict south of the border, down Mexico way Jim Sanders, a distribution manager for a U.S. kitchen appliance manufacturer, has recently been assigned to work in Guadalajara, Mexico, at the regional manufacturing and distributions operation His boss, regional manager Carlos Puente, also located in Guadalajara, is Mexican, as are most of his peers and all of his subordinates. Jim has been in Guadalajara for only a few months but already has major concerns. He remembers that upon his arrival he was very excited and optimistic about his working opportunity in Mexico, feeling like he could have taken on the world and won. Now Jim wonders if he can have any success at all. Jim came to Mexico feeling confident that the management style that brought him so much success in the United States would propel him to similar high performance in Mexico. He was a problem solver and loved to dive in and attack problems openly and directly. Also, based on his past success with work groups in the United States, he reasoned that by involving all Mexican sales staff in the process of determining how to best sell their kitchen appliances, the company could attain double-digit growth easily Certainly the local sales staff would be in the best position to know how to grow the business in their respective sales districts. Therefore, in the first meeting with his sales staff, rather than telling them what he thought needed to be done, he posed the question to the group for open discussion. Only then did Jim realize how quiet his Mexican employees could be. After some time, Jim felt he needed to jump-start the discussion and tossed out his idea of using more billboard advertising. The group suddenly came alive and enthusiastically supported the idea as a fine one. Then the deafening silence returned once more. This process repeated itself a few more times until Jim decided to terminate the meeting, and he slunk away to his office in frustration. How unfortunate he felt to be stuck in this assignment with a bunch of lazy employees with no initiative, or who were incompetent and unable to make useful suggestions, or both! But Jim’s employees were not his only worry. His boss, Carlos, seemed to be cold and brusque with him lately-certainly not the warm, hospitable person he remembered from their first interactions. Maybe this change in Carlos’s demeanor began a few weeks ago at a regional management team meeting, where Jim teased (out of actual feelings of frustration in not getting started on time) other Mexican managers for arriving ten to fifteen minutes late. Or perhaps he was correct in sensing a bit of tension in that meeting, conducted by Carlos as the senior manager, when Jim brought up several ideas for improving the various functional areas (including those not hy SWIMC of the regional But Jim’s employees were not his only worry. His boss, Carlos, seemed to be cold and brusque with him lately-certainly not the warm, hospitable person he remembered from their first interactions. Maybe this change in Carlos’s demeanor began a few weeks ago at a regional management team meeting, where Jim teased (out of actual feelings of frustration in not getting started on time) other Mexican managers for arriving ten to fifteen minutes late. Or perhaps he was correct in sensing a bit of tension in that meeting, conducted by Carlos as the senior manager, when Jim brought up several ideas for improving the various functional areas (including those not directly in his own team) of the regional operations in Mexico-ideas that he knew worked well in the United States. Despite making what he thought were insightful suggestions time after time in subsequent meetings, Jim’s relationship with his boss seemed to grow colder. Jim began fearing the company’s Mexican operations were doomed due to failure in a culture where indolence, incompetence, and bureaucracy prevailed. But as he monitored actual performance of the operation, he was amazed that this part of the company was showing strong profits and growth. Jim thought that perhaps there was something wrong with him, and that he was not cut out for an international assignment after all. Jim saw his two- or three-year assignment in Mexico stretching before him as an eternity of potential failure. Worse yet, he wondered how his impending failure with this important international assignment might damage his future opportunities with the firm. Source: Adapted from D. Rutherford, “Who’s in Charge? Business Mexico 15 (2) (2005): 36-37. QUESTIONS FOR CASE ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION 1. What particular dimension or dimensions of culture seem to be most central to the problems that Jim is experiencing? QUESTIONS FOR CASE ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION 1. What particular dimension or dimensions of culture seem to be most central to the problems that Jim is experiencing?
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