Generational Shifts in Managerial Values and the Coming of a Unified Business Culture: A Cross-National Analysis Using European Social Survey Data

Journal of Business Ethics 155 (2):547-566 (2019)
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Abstract

In a globalizing world, cross-national differences in values and business culture and understanding these differences become increasingly central to a range of organizational issues and ethical questions. However, various concerns have been raised about extant empirical research on cross-national dissimilarities in the cultural values of managers and the development of a unified business culture. This paper seeks to address three such concerns with the literature on convergence versus divergence of cultural values. It develops an empirical approach to the study of changing business cultures that revolves around birth cohorts and intergenerational values shifts and aims to advance empirical knowledge of the dynamics of cross-national differences in the cultural values of managers. We use time-series data covering 68,708 managers and are able to consider a sample of 32 countries that represent more than half of the cultural clusters recognized in the literature. Results reveal diverse shifts in managerial values across birth cohorts with cross-national dissimilarities waning for some basic cultural dimensions, remaining stable for other dimensions, and becoming more pronounced for other dimensions still. Moving beyond the standard convergence/divergence taxonomy, we conclude that a full-fledged convergence–stability–divarication perspective provides the best basis for thinking about the subtle ways in which business cultures are changing.

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