Culture and Negotiated Meanings
Edited by Henriett Primecz, Laurence Romani and Sonja Sackmann
Chapter 5: The Intercultural Challenges in the Transfer of Codes of Conduct from the US to Europe
5. The intercultural challenges in the transfer of codes of conduct from the US to Europe Christoph I. Barmeyer and Eric Davoine INTRODUCTION In the process of internationalization, multinational companies (MNCs) are confronted with the challenge of harmonizing corporate culture throughout their subsidiaries, following the widely held idea that a strong global corporate culture will strengthen the company’s identity and image and reduce transaction costs within the MNC. Codes of conduct can be defined as instruments to implement a normative ‘global organizational culture’, proposing orientations for action in order to control and to regulate the employee behaviours and practices in every subsidiary. Previous studies underlined the US-American tradition of codes of conduct and showed a certain resistance in some European countries towards this kind of normative instrument. Nevertheless, more and more European companies have adopted – and adapted – codes of conduct or ethical codes. We use a case study of a US-based MNC to show how complex the intercultural challenges of the implementation of codes of conduct in European subsidiaries are. Our case study in different French and German subsidiaries of the same US company, through in-depth interviews with managers from different professional sub-groups and sub-cultures, shows a very divergent picture of this resistance. CASE PRESENTATION Codes of Conduct: An Instrument of North American Origin Corporate codes of conduct or ethical codes set out a formalization of detailed rules that aim to guide the employee in their decisions and daily behaviour in and outside the company (Gauthier, 2000; Mercier, 2001). The...
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