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This is the age of globalization. All across the world boundaries of culture, class, and country are traversed like so many steps taken to one’s mailbox. In this essay there will be discussion of one company, namely Microsoft, and the subsequent issues it faced in light of being a global organization. In addition, there will also be discussion of what a business can do to maintain ethical and social responsibility not only at home but abroad.
“With the increasing globalization of business, more managers are finding themselves in an international environment full of ethical challenges. If managing for ethics and social responsibility is a challenge in one’s own culture, imagine how the difficulties multiply when the culture and language are foreign, the manager is under increased stress, and the number of stakeholders grows enormously” (Trevino, 2011). By 1995 Microsoft was a juggernaut in the global economy. The term windows was synonymous for personal and business computers the world over. Money was being raked in by the handfuls and had been so doing for many years. But as stated above, when dealing with different cultures, one miss-step can set you back a mile or millions, as it were.
“When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds. ‘It cost millions,’ Edwards said” (Best, 2013). This is one example of cultural ineptitude that cost Microsoft millions; however, this wasn’t the only time they were caught with their pants down, so to speak.
“Another social blunder from Microsoft saw chanting of the Koran used as a soundtrack for a computer game and led to great offence to the Saudi Arabia government. The company later issued a new version of the game without the chanting, while keeping the previous editions in circulation because U.S. staff thought the slip wouldn’t be spotted, but the Saudi government banned the game and demanded an apology” (Best, 2013). These are two concrete examples where Microsoft inadvertently made decisions based upon a limited cultural perspective while simultaneously trying to conduct business with the offended culture. Errors like this can be avoided but first one must understand the cultural issues at stake.
In both of the aforementioned examples the underlying cultural issue was lack of information about the culture in which Microsoft was doing business. Rather than attempting to best understand the culture in which they were pedaling their product they simply, shot from the hip so to speak, and as can be seen, the results were dire. While this misunderstanding was a result not fully understanding the culture, ultimately, Microsoft is still responsible for the affronts made to those. The essence of social responsibility is to seek every opportunity to avoid situations like the above and ignorance is no excuse; or if it is an excuse, it is the poorest of them all. The following paragraphs will discuss remedies to avoid pitfalls such as Microsoft experienced.
As mentioned already, the first and most valuable way to avoid problems at the point where cultures collide is to arm oneself with information about that culture. The more one knows about the beliefs and practices within that culture the less likely one will be to make grievous errors. Furthermore, when one does err, as is likely to happen no matter how well informed and culturally fluent, the respect generated by taking the time to know these individuals will likely make them far more forgiving of the mistake. “Beyond general training in the culture, training with respect to business ethics beliefs and practices is essential.
First, the expatriate manager must be prepared to recognize the ethical issues likely to arise in a particular business setting” (Trevino, 2011). Thus the first step is to discover the culture via study and the second step is to understand the ethical situations that will naturally arise from dealings with such a culture. Ethical situations that will no doubt arise based upon no other reason than the difference between us and them. The business that prepares and plans ahead of time for such situations is more apt to navigate smoothly through such turbulent waters without sinking the proverbial ship.
In conclusion, Microsoft made more than one tragic blunder when navigating the globally marketplace, however, their dominance within the global economy shows that they have corrected their approach to include consideration such as were listed here. Any company looking to expand past their borders would do well to learn from Microsoft’s error as well as their success.