There were three primary problems (or are these symptoms of problems? ) that Johnson identified: ? Expatriate manager turnover was beginning to become problematic. In the past two years, the resort had hired and then failed to retain three expatriate Waterfront Directors and three expatriate Food and Beverage Directors. ? During the same two-year period, the resort experienced an increase in guest complaints from ten per week to over thirty per week. The problem may actually be even greater than this increase represents because the resort is not using a formal complaint process.
Instead, guests are giving the complaints to the front desk staff. The complaints centered on a deteriorating level of service provided by local British Virgin Islands’ employees with many repeat guests claiming that “the staff just doesn’t seem as motivated as it used to be. ” There appeared to be an increasing level of tension between expatriate and local staff members. Whereas in the past, expatriates and locals seemingly found it natural to work side by side, now there was a noticeable gap between these groups that appeared to be growing.
But the root question here is “What are the underlying causes of these problems/symptoms? ” Students will likely comment that each of the three problems/symptoms stem at least partly (if not chiefly) from the cultural differences between expatriate managers and local BVI employees. The resulting tensions make guests’ stays at the resort less than ideal. 2. How might an understanding of the influence that culture has on the behaviors of expatriates and the local BVI employees aid Jim Johnson and his staff in resolving the resort’s problems?
The case clearly describes the difference between the U. S. workers, Dowd and Pickering, and the local employees in the Water Sports Department. The U. S. workers are motivated by the prospect of earning tips from guests while the locals do not seem motivated by tips. This topic will likely precipitate a rich debate among class members regarding the differences in how people from different cultures are motivated. ? The individualistic nature of the U. S. workers makes it acceptable within their culture to work hard and to stand out amongst one’s co-workers.
? The collectivist nature of the BVI workers makes them not want to work harder than their co-workers for fear of standing out. As such, BVI employees are only expected to work at the same level as their other co-workers and often look to the most senior co-workers for cues as to how hard they should be working.
Therefore, it is very important that workers with more seniority work to the level at which the organization expects from them. U. S. culture makes being aggressive and assertive in the workplace acceptable behaviors, so U.S. workers are likely to go beyond what might be expected in order to earn a tip.
The BVI culture makes aggressive and assertive behaviors less acceptable. Instead, relationship building at work is more important and workers will focus on this. ? Finally, these two cultures differ greatly on uncertainty avoidance. The low uncertainty avoidance characteristic of U. S. workers makes them more willing to engage in activities and provide service levels beyond what they have been instructed in order to earn a tip.
Moreover, they are more apt to engage in providing this extra level of service without being sure that it will result in earning a tip from the guest. On the other hand, BVI employees are characterized as being high in uncertainty avoidance. As such, they are not likely to engage in activities or provide extra services that have not been part of their training or instructions that they have received. Student suggestions might center on the notion of managing teams rather than managing individuals in cultures such as in the BVI.
For example, expatriate managers in the Caribbean might want to consider providing team incentives to whole departments based on their performance rather than providing individual rewards. This avoids singling out individual employees, which is uncomfortable for members of a collective culture. In addition, this might make employees more apt to engage in more aggressive and assertive behaviors if they know that their co-workers are doing the same and that they will all be rewarded as a group.
To address uncertainty avoidance issues in the BVI, managers might want to conduct more extensive training with local staff. Such training would help locals understand the full range of services that can be provided to a guest rather than the bare minimum. Given the characteristics of the BVI culture, with any of these tactics it will be extremely important to get employees with more seniority to buy in. These employees are the informal leaders in the organization and will set the standards for less senior members of the staff.