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Merging Without Alienating: Interventions Promoting Cross-Cultural Organizational Integration and Their Limitations

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Foreign direct investment, particularly cross-border mergers and acquisitions can spawn a range of individual-level outcomes from cross-cultural adjustment and synergistic learning, on the positive side, to work alienation, on the negative. Unsuccessful navigation of these individual-level outcomes leads to failed integration that can seriously affect the realization of desired organizational outcomes such as successful technology transfer, knowledge-sharing, and the general realization of global growth. By means of an iterative between-methods triangulation, the study surfaces cross-cultural work alienation as a phenomenon that can limit the overall success of such ventures, and identifies interventions that help to promote successful post-merger integration. Journal of International Business Studies (2009) 40, 468–489. doi:10.1057/jibs.2008.80
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Merging without alienating: interventions
promoting cross-cultural organizational
integration and their limitations
Mary Yoko Brannen
1,2
and
Mark F Peterson
3
1
San Jose
´State University, San Jose, USA;
2
INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France;
3
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, USA
Correspondence: MY Brannen, Lucas
Graduate School of Business, San Jose
´State
University, One Washington Square, San
Jose, CA 95192-0070, USA.
Tel: þ1 408 924 3580;
Fax: þ1 408 924 3555;
E-mails: mary-yoko.brannen@insead.edu,
brannen_m@cob.sjsu.edu
Received: 30 August 2004
Revised: 21 March 2008
Accepted: 25 March 2008
Online publication date: 30 October 2008
Abstract
Foreign direct investment, particularly cross-border mergers and acquisitions
can spawn a range of individual-level outcomes from cross-cultural adjustment
and synergistic learning, on the positive side, to work alienation, on the
negative. Unsuccessful navigation of these individual-level outcomes leads to
failed integration that can seriously affect the realization of desired organiza-
tional outcomes such as successful technology transfer, knowledge-sharing,
and the general realization of global growth. By means of an iterative between-
methods triangulation, the study surfaces cross-cultural work alienation as a
phenomenon that can limit the overall success of such ventures, and identifies
interventions that help to promote successful post-merger integration.
Journal of International Business Studies (2009) 40, 468–489.
doi:10.1057/jibs.2008.80
Keywords: post-merger integration; cross-cultural work alienation; bicultural
organizations; international organizational behavior; foreign direct investment
INTRODUCTION
As multinational firms race for the future while racing for the
world, motivated by the promise of scale economies in globalizing
industries, they are doing so increasingly by means of cross-border
mergers and acquisitions (M&As) (Shimizu, Hitt, Vaidyanath, &
Pisano, 2004; Stahl, Mendenhall, Pablo, & Javidan, 2005). Tech-
nological advancement, knowledge-scanning opportunities,
and competitive pressures to consolidate industries and regions
have all contributed to a recent surge in worldwide M&As
(Hitt, Harrison, & Ireland, 2001a; Hitt, Ireland, Camp, & Sexton,
2001b; Vermeulen & Barkema, 2001). Of the different forms of
foreign direct investment (FDI) throughout the world, Japanese
investment in the United States has been among the most
substantial (JETRO, 2007), even despite the Asian financial
crisis. New Japanese FDI (with M&A being the main entry mode)
has been in the range of $7 billion–$14 billion per year, and
has been showing an increasing trend since the latter half of
2003. Cumulatively, over the last two decades, Japanese-owned
investment in the United States has grown to reach a total of
$148 billion.
Whereas there has been a significant amount of research on the
economic motivations for and entry modes of Japanese FDI in the
Journal of International Business Studies (2009) 40, 468–489
&
2009 Academy of International Business All rights reserved 0047-2506
www.jibs.net
United States, the social, intraorganizational
aspects of Japanese or any other incoming FDI has
been inadequately studied (Bhagat, Kedia, Harvest-
on, & Triandis, 2002; Hitt et al., 2001a, b). On the
other hand, there have been many compelling yet
unsubstantiated accounts of working for foreign-
owned firms (especially Japanese-owned ones) in
the popular literature. While a few of these
accounts are favorable, in particular those that
report bottom-line profitability turnarounds in
M&As, the majority tell of a darker social side to
working for foreign-owned firms (Thiederman,
2003). For example, the 1990s surge in Japanese
FDI spawned notorious reports of working for
‘Japan, Inc.’’ in the popular business press, news
media, and film – the satirical comedy Gung Ho
being a poignant case in point. Chinese-owned FDI
has come under similar scrutiny, with reports of
unfavorable hiring biases, limited promotion
opportunities, and the like (Wong, 1990; Yeung,
2000). Despite the negative press in regard to
careers in foreign-owned companies, with very
few exceptions (Brannen, 1994; Kleinberg, 1989;
Peterson, Peng, & Smith, 1999), academic studies
have not assessed individual-level outcomes of FDI.
US academe has been criticized for being sluggish in
paying attention to even the most pressing domes-
tic US cross-cultural issues such as cultural diversity,
let alone to cross-cultural interactions between
United States and foreign parties (Adler, 1983;
Boyacigiller & Adler, 1991; Gelfand, Erez, & Aycan,
2007).
Given that the failure rates of international M&A
are between 50 and 83% (Lee, 2003; Stahl et al.,
2005), that cultural distance is the often attributed
yet unsubstantiated cause of failure (Uhlenbruck,
2004), and that recent literature suggests that inte-
gration is the critical link in realizing M&A success
(Bijlsma-Frankema & Costa, 2005; Schweiger &
Lippert, 2005), there is a pressing need to respond
to this research lacuna. By combining qualitative
and quantitative methods this study makes a strong
empirical contribution towards understanding both
the potential individual-level outcomes from the
fallout of poorly managed cross-cultural integration
and the intraorganizational mechanisms by which
successful integration can be achieved in cross-
border M&As.
Indeed, the potentially alienating stressors of FDI
in the United States, including but not solely
associated with Japanese investors, continues not
only to be reflected in the subjective accounts of
the popular press, but also to be objectively
documented in the large number of labor-related
judgments against foreign-owned as compared with
domestically owned firms in the United States
(Mezias, 2002; Very, Lubatkin, Calori, & Veiga,
1997). These include ongoing litigation in regard to
individual-level grievances, such as sexual harass-
ment (Mitsubishi in rural Illinois), ethnocentric
favoritism in promotion (‘‘rice-paper ceiling’’ at
Daiwa Bank in New York – both reported in Kopp,
1994), and perceived entitlement to ‘‘lifetime
employment’’ in Japanese-owned concerns in the
United States that have continued since the late
1970s to the staggering costs of over $5 million a
claim (cf. Marubeni Corporation of America –
reported in Glater, 2005).
In sum, while FDI, especially in the form of
M&As, in the United States and throughout the
industrial world continues to grow, the academic
research – especially in regard to individual-level
outcomes of such strategic activity – has not been
forthcoming. Whereas there has been some impor-
tant research on firm-level issues and there is recent
movement toward understanding post-merger inte-
gration processes in cross-border M&As (Child,
Falkner, & Pitkethy, 2001; Shimizu et al., 2004),
the work is fragmented across various disciplines
and belies a paucity of research on individual-level
outcomes. Further, despite contradictory empirical
findings, the conceptual research on FDI largely
focuses on the effect of cross-cultural issues such as
cultural distance on performance (cf. Datta & Puia,
1995; Kanter & Corn, 1994; Markides & Ittner,
1994; Morosini, Shane, & Singh, 1998). The con-
sulting literature echoes this focus. According to a
telling KPMG study, ‘‘83% of all cross-border M&As
failed to produce any benefit for the shareholders
and over 50% actually destroyed value,’’ and inter-
views with over 100 senior executives involved in
700 cross-border M&A deals over a 2-year period
disclosed that the single biggest perceived cause for
failure was cultural differences (cited in Lee, 2003).
The problems that expatriate decision-makers
face when managing host-country employees need
to be elaborated beyond a general nod toward
cross-cultural differences or cultural distance, and
distinguished from general post-acquisition chal-
lenges. While there is much popular business press
and some academic support for national cultural
differences in M&A producing increased stress,
negative attitudes toward the merger, less coopera-
tion, lower commitment, and executives with
negative experiences quitting their jobs (Krug &
Hegarty, 2001; Very, Lubatkin, Calori, & Veiga,
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
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Journal of International Business Studies
1996; Weber, Shenkar, & Raveh, 1996), there has
been no in-depth academic study that fleshes out
the nature and parameters of such negative indivi-
dual-level outcomes, or assesses possible integrative
interventions in cross-border M&As. In cases such
as this, where there are unsubstantiated supposi-
tions and few or no studies of a newly emerging
organizational phenomenon, in-depth, single-site
studies are useful to advance theory (Eisenhardt,
1991). By combining qualitative findings from a
larger, 5-year ethnographic study of one such
occurrence of cross-border M&A with a quantitative
triangulation of the results, this paper takes a
significant step towards filling this individual-level
research gap in the FDI literature, distinguishing
between cross-cultural and general post-acquisition
issues, and providing direction for future research.
In this study we first use the results of the
ethnography to trace and examine the process of
post-acquisition integration. We then employ the
constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss,
1967) to surface and develop in-depth understand-
ing of the salient issues that emerged, particularly
feelings of cross-cultural work alienation. Aliena-
tion emerged as a central and much talked-about
concern early on in the post-acquisition period as a
condition of malaise that employees felt owing to a
sense of not feeling integrated into the dominant
culture of the post-merger organization that echoed
the popular cultural reports of negative individual-
level outcomes associated with working in foreign-
owned concerns. We then used a quantitative
triangulation and ongoing qualitative follow-up
interviews to check and counter-check the conclu-
sions drawn in the initial ethnographic fieldwork.
Since alienation is a multifaceted concept, we
selected established organizational behavioral con-
structs to represent its various facets, and designed
other new measures to reflect aspects that the
ethnography suggested were particularly important
at the field site.
Such between- and within-methods triangula-
tions are critical to ascertain whether seemingly
‘big,’’ vocal, and emotional issues such as aliena-
tion are indeed representative of the general
population, or whether they are eclipsing other
intraorganizational outcomes from coming into
clear view. As we show in this paper, our triangula-
tion served various research objectives: to discon-
firm cross-cultural work alienation as the general
state of the post-acquisition organization; to con-
firm the substantial success of particular interven-
tions that management implemented to promote
cross-cultural integration; to refine our understand-
ing of cross-cultural work alienation at the plant as
particular hierarchical and functional area ‘‘pock-
ets’’ of alienation that emerged over time; and to
provide a framework for selecting and developing a
set of measures that cover a broad range of cross-
cultural work alienation indicators for future
studies of post-M&A integration.
CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND AND
THEORETICAL OVERVIEW
Part of the significance of this particular analysis
lies in its position as an in-depth study of
individual-level outcomes, especially of Japanese
M&A in the United States and more broadly of the
social side of FDI in general. The basic idea of work
alienation comes from the recognition that separ-
ating the doing of work by less powerful parties
from the control of work by more powerful parties
can generate a host of attitudinal and social
dysfunctions (e.g., Blauner, 1960; Durkheim,
1933). Similarly, cross-cultural work alienation,
the central post-acquisition intraorganizational
issue that emerged in the ethnographic study, has
been known to arise when the power to influence
an organization’s culture is distributed (oftentimes
unequally) between two distinct cultural groups
(Middleton, 1963; Zurcher, Meadow, & Zurcher,
1965), in this case American and Japanese. In
Japanese-owned FDI concerns, Japanese are for-
mally empowered by their role as owners, and
whereas the Americans at the plant have ‘‘field
power,’’ in that the FDI operates within the legal
and social context of the United States, the foreign
ownership has intraorganizational ‘‘arena’’ power
and thereby provides the possibility for a sense of
loss of control and alienation (Brannen & Fruin,
1999).
Alienation Theory
The idea of cross-cultural work alienation draws
from a long tradition of alienation research and
theory. Karl Marx (1897) viewed work alienation as
an objective condition of late 18th- and 19th-
century industrial practices that separated the
laborer from the ownership of the means and fruits
of production. Marx refers to the emotional and
collective behavioral reactions of laborers to aliena-
tion by using ideas that suggest excessive routine
and lack of control. However, he did not have
available the sort of organizational behavior con-
structs that we can use to understand work
alienation today. Emile Durkheim’s (1933) view of
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
470
Journal of International Business Studies
work alienation places greater stress on individuals’
subjective experience of alienation than does
Marx’s view. He treats it as a subjective condition
of modern urbanization in which the laborer
experiences psychological separation because of
detachment between the self and work. Again, his
work suggests ideas later included in organizational
behavior theories about job design, autonomy, and
control, yet such theories rarely acknowledge a
Durkheim heritage.
Seeman (1959), one of the first organizational
alienation scholars who focused on individual-level
issues, exposed the complexity and multidimen-
sional nature of work alienation in a comprehen-
sive discussion that was then built upon by Blauner
(1964). Blauner (1964) outlined four facets of this
complex condition:
(1) impotence – lack of control over pace, methods,
and content of work;
(2) disconnectedness – not understanding how one’s
own work is linked to organizational processes;
(3) social isolation – lack of integration in the work
community; and
(4) self-estrangement – viewing work as a means to
an end rather than a self-fulfilling end.
As we will explain, we found Blauner’s four facets
of alienation to provide a particularly useful way to
frame alienation issues for application to interna-
tional M&As.
Aiken and Hage (1966) discovered alienation in
welfare agencies, hospitals and schools. Most
importantly, their study suggested that organiza-
tions were not inherently alienating, but that they
could be structured and managed to either exacer-
bate or ameliorate alienation. They supported the
significance of two of Blauner’s (1964) facets of
alienation by finding that work alienation and
alienation from expressive relations are distinct
forms of alienation that are common in highly
centralized and formalized organizational struc-
tures. They therefore began to link alienation to
organizational behavior issues by showing that
participation in decision-making (an aspect of
decentralization) and a high degree of job codifica-
tion and rule observation (aspects of formalization)
have strong, independent effects on the degree of
work alienation.
Thus research and theory about alienation,
particularly the four facets identified by Blauner
(1964) and the relationships to organizational
behavioral variables noted by Aiken and Hage
(1966), strongly suggest that FDIs have a potential
to create work alienation among employees.
Working for an owner from a culturally and
geographically distant society has the potential to
make the objective separation of laborers from
owners particularly salient to employees (Kopp,
1994). Managers who represent headquarters in the
overseas facility face problems of stereotyping and
potentially a stigma of being foreign in the eyes of
local employees (Harvey, Novicevic, Buckley, &
Fung, 2005). Management and human resources
practices by owners who have very different under-
standings and expectations of how things should
be done in organizations from US organizational
culture norms are thus likely to have many of the
qualities that Aiken and Hage (1966) and their
successors suggest will create the experience of
work alienation to which Blauner (1964) drew
attention. Gardberg and Fombrun (2006) explain
that organizations working across boundaries
between nations showing substantial institutional
difference should create programs to promote
citizenship that balance the legitimacy of the
overseas partner with the need for localization.
Their conceptualization of citizenship is in many
respects successful integration, and the converse of
the sorts of work alienation issues to which
international M&As are particularly susceptible,
and which became evident in the present study of
a Japanese acquisition in the United States.
Post-Merger Integration Challenges in Cross-
Border M&As
Successful integration is essential to realize the
business potential of acquisitions, whether domes-
tic or cross-border (Child et al., 2001). Scholars have
identified three integration challenges:
(1) national and organizational cultural differen-
ces between acquired and acquiring firms
(Chaterjee, Lubatkin, Schweiger, & Weber, 1992;
Nahavandi & Malekzadeh, 1988; Shimizu et al.,
2004);
(2) managers from different countries who are
accustomed to different control systems (Barke-
ma, Bell, & Pennings, 1996; Calori, Lubatkin, &
Very, 1994); and
(3) acquirer’s nationality effects on the integration
procedures introduced in the acquired firm
(Barkema et al., 1996).
Further, in domestic M&As, organizational cul-
tural differences have been shown to substantially
affect stress, attitudes, behavior, and turnover
(Marks, 1982; Marks & Mirvis, 1985). Although
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
471
Journal of International Business Studies
most of the research on cultural differences in
M&As refers to organizational rather than national
culture, this research identifies multiple facets of
cultural integration in M&A contexts. Weber et al.
(1996) found that negative individual-level out-
comes are particularly prevalent in the employees
and managers of acquired companies in both
domestic and international M&As. Very et al.
(1996) found an outcome with much in common
with the current study’s notion of cross-cultural
work alienation termed ‘‘acculturative stress.’’ They
found that this type of intraculturally generated
stress was even more likely to occur in cross-border
acquisitions than in domestic acquisitions. Such
acculturative stress was associated with lower
commitment and cooperation on the part of the
acquired firm employees, thereby increasing turn-
over.
In regard to cross-cultural differences in the social
construction of control, Calori et al. (1994) showed
that French acquiring firms rely more on manage-
rial transfer and use more strategic control than do
British firms. Child et al. (2001) call American
acquirers ‘‘absorbers,’’ Japanese acquirers ‘‘preser-
vers,’’ and French acquirers ‘‘colonialists.’’ Success-
fully implementing cross-culturally distinct
controls relies heavily on the way that the control
systems are managed (Child et al., 2001; Larsson &
Lubatkin, 2001), communicated (cf. Xu & Van de
Vliert, 2004; Zhu, May, & Rosenfeld, 2004) and, in
sum, mindfully integrated into the newly formed
organization.
THE SETTING AND ETHNOGRAPHIC
BACKGROUND
Ethnography – comprising two essential elements,
fieldwork and participant observation – is the
method of choice for gaining insights into micro-
level, intraorganizational, multifaceted cultural
phenomena, especially in cases where little is
known about the research phenomenon (Van
Maanen, 1992). The ethnographer combined focus
group interviews, in-depth structured and informal
interviews, and participant observation at the US
facility and in Japan at both the home office and
Japanese plant locations. A detailed methodology
of the ethnography is provided elsewhere (Brannen,
1994, 1996). The following is a summary of the
ethnographic setting of the research presented
here.
During the zenith of Japanese FDI in the United
States, in December 1986, a western Massachusetts
paper-converting plant was acquired by Japanese
management. The original US plant was founded in
1916. The plant was run like a family business, with
benevolent yet authoritative leaders. For example,
employees enjoyed a Christmas party, a spring
‘thawing-out’’ party and a summer barbecue each
year. As a result of mergers during the mid-1950s, a
new corporation was formed with a total of six
manufacturing plants. Between 1954 and the mid-
1970s the plant experienced much growth, but
then it began to decline in productivity. It was the
town’s second largest employer, and in 1979 it
grossed $20 million dollars in sales. By then
corporate headquarters operated the facility on an
extremely tight budget, ‘‘only spending money on
equipment if it was broken.’
From 1981 on there were no social gatherings,
hourly workers were regularly laid off, and many of
the office staff members were terminated. The
management was characterized by a hierarchical
structure, with senior and middle managers super-
vising a unionized workforce made up of 120
second- and third-generation workers of mostly
Polish or French-Canadian ancestry. The most
common metaphor used by the hourly workers to
describe the American management style was
‘hammer and sickle.’’ The management – union
relationship had deteriorated: grievances were up to
an average of 12 per month, ultimately leading to a
strike vote that closed the plant for 6 weeks.
In 1983 the plant was sold to a holding company.
From 1983 until the Tomioka Paper Company’s
(TPC – a pseudonym for the Japanese company that
acquired the plant) acquisition of the plant in 1986,
the predominant concern of the employees was job
security. During these 3 years the plant was
operated on an intermittent 3-days-a-week sche-
dule, hourly workers were laid off for an average of
12 weeks per year, and more office workers were
terminated. Management continued its notoriously
bad relationship with the United Paper Makers’
Union, as indicated by a reported average of three
formal grievances a month. When the sale was
final, the new Japanese management rehired
approximately 170 of the 216 blue- and white-
collar workers from the previous company (the
remaining 36 employees were transferred by choice
as an entire division to another plant of the former
owner). At the time of the acquisition, there were
271 US employees at the plant: 122 office workers
and 149 hourly workers. There were nine Japanese
employees, three of whom were in top plant
management positions.
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
472
Journal of International Business Studies
The new management’s main reason for purchas-
ing the plant was the pre-existing equipment (albeit
in much need of adjustment) and the already
trained workforce. A greenfield venture would have
cost much more than the acquisition price, and it
would have taken up to 2 years longer to get a new
plant operating smoothly.
TPC took special care to gain the goodwill of both
the community and the employees during this
changeover time, many of whom were World War II
veterans or had relatives who had lost their jobs to
‘oriental labor’’ when whole local industries went
bankrupt owing to foreign wage competition. The
summer before the takeover, TPC hosted a ‘‘Get
Acquainted’’ picnic in the parking lot of the factory
for the community. The new president personally
introduced himself to each employee with a
handshake and a word of goodwill. The only
setback during the takeover was the collective
bargaining agreement outcome with the union.
Hourly workers were embittered because they each
lost an average of two weeks of paid vacation leave
as well as the portability of their pension plan.
After the acquisition, the new Japanese manage-
ment replaced the former leadership while retain-
ing the middle management and hourly workers.
Three years after the acquisition, the plant was
operating 7 days a week, there had been no layoffs
or terminations of employees, and grievances were
down to an unprecedented two in all of 1989. In
addition, the plant underwent a $40 million
expansion to house a state-of-the-art thermal coat-
ing machine, which increased total plant capacity
by more than 200% and provided approximately
100 new jobs.
CONSTRUCTS AND HYPOTHESES
A number of locally significant aspects of cross-
cultural work alienation were induced from the
ethnography. Several issues related to alienation
theory surfaced early on and throughout the
ethnography that are commonly represented in
organizational behavior survey research. A theme
that integrates the four facets of alienation that
Blauner identifies – impotence, disconnectedness,
social isolation, and self-estrangement – is the issue
of separation. The ethnographic data suggested that
some plant employees experienced what Blauner
called impotence and disconnectedness in that the
outcome of meetings was seemingly mysteriously
settled among the Japanese managers in advance,
and the employees’ participation was not really
valued. The ethnography also suggested that social
isolation was experienced by some, in that Japanese
work-related values were very different from the
personal values of the predominantly French-
Canadian and Polish-American employees at the
plant, and that supervisors did not accept them as
genuinely important organization members. These
particular individual-level alienation outcomes
resulted directly from cross-cultural differences in
expectations of the way meetings are conducted
and how participation is valued. Whereas in US
organizations meetings are typically forums to
make decisions, in Japanese organizations formal
meetings are typically called to confirm and
consensually acknowledge that a decision has been
made (Lebra, 1976; Rohlen, 1974). Individual input
into decisions is generally gathered informally on a
one-on-one basis in order to save face and limit
interpersonal conflict (Doi, 1971; Ohnuki-Tierney,
1984). The common practice of Japanese managers
conducting side-bar conversations in Japanese
during meetings was also prevalent at the plant,
and this only added to their alienating capability,
especially among monolingual employees. Interest-
ingly, employees who grew up in bilingual
households (some of the French-Canadians and
Polish-Americans) were less likely to take issue
with this.
Blauner’s idea of self-estrangement is the opposite
of commitment in the OB literature – the sharing of
values, a heart-felt effort to contribute, and an
interest in remaining a part of an organization.
Work satisfaction and life satisfaction are related
constructs. In addition, a significant characteristic
of alienation theory is that pay attitudes are
theoretically distinct from other work attitudes. In
fact, staying in an organization simply for reasons
of satisfactory pay can be an element in a larger
syndrome of alienation. That is, given a lack of
viable options, employees sometimes stay in an
alienating job only for financial reasons. Work
alienation is then evident when the other measures
that we use to represent Blauner’s aspects of
alienation outcomes decline without a decline in
pay satisfaction.
The ethnographic analysis suggested several addi-
tional measures and hypotheses to quantitatively
evaluate the prevalence of cross-cultural work
alienation that some employees had expressed.
Engaging in an FDI reflects an expectation by the
acquiring managers that the acquisition itself will
promote the success of the acquired plant. Simi-
larly, the specific steps that management takes to
promote an acquisition’s acceptance by employees
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
473
Journal of International Business Studies
reflect a management prediction that these steps
will limit the alienating conditions of impo-
tence, disconnectedness, social isolation, and self-
estrangement. These managerial expectations
require empirical testing. However, the alternative
hypothesis also needs to be considered based on the
ethnographic analysis summarized below, which
showed signs of cross-cultural work alienation.
Hypothesis 1a: Owing to employee dissatisfac-
tion with the state of affairs prior to the acquisi-
tion and the interventions that the new
management took to promote the acquisition’s
success, work alienation will decrease over time
on average for employees.
Hypothesis 1b: Work alienation will be shown by
a decrease in positive attitudes that employees
report between the pre-acquisition and the later
acquisition periods.
The unique characteristics of the particular inter-
ventions as they unfolded also resulted in observa-
tions that required additional quantitative research.
Cross-cultural work alienation emerged early in
the research process as an issue that at least some
employees, particularly middle managers, found
personally salient. The Japanese management, in a
purposeful gesture to build trust in the workforce
and community, rehired all the employees who had
worked under the previous management. New
management teams frequently ‘‘clean house’’ by
not hiring or terminating employees with low
performance records. Instead, TPC management
dealt with poor performers in a typically ‘‘Japanese’
fashion by relocating them to new positions within
the plant – a practice referred to as creating a
madogiwazoku (by-the-window tribe), meaning the
workers sent there would have nothing better to do
than look out the window. This practice is both
consistent with Japanese ‘‘lifetime employment’
principles (Rohlen, 1974) and TPC management’s
desire to harbor goodwill. All those who were
relocated had been shopfloor supervisors in the
functional areas of key strategic concern to the
acquisition, thermal paper coating. In interviews of
non-management employees, these managers were
described as behaving in stereotypic Theory X
terms (McGregor, 1960). For example, they treated
their subordinates as if they were lazy, irresponsible
and needing coercion to perform. These managers
(five in all) were given positions where they super-
vised special projects in such areas as environmental
concerns, expansion planning, and technical sup-
port to sales. In all five cases the manager’s span of
control was trimmed down to zero. While this
practice is consistent with Japanese management
norms, and would have been appreciated and seen
as a benevolent gesture in Japan (Lincoln &
Kalleberg, 1990), in the US context this practice
produced feelings of alienation consistent with
negative individual-level outcomes associated with
feelings of disempowerment (Spreitzer, 1996).
Indeed, some research points out the vulnerabil-
ity of middle managers to work alienation even in
monocultural settings. Spreitzer (1996) relates
social-cultural characteristics of work units to
individual-level perceptions of role ambiguity, span
of control, socio-political support, and access to
information and resources, as well as to work unit
climates that make the manager feeling increas-
ingly disempowered. Downsizing that leaves mid-
dle managers having to do more with substantially
fewer resources can also produce a feeling of
disempowerment (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2003;
Holden & Roberts, 2004). Organizational anthro-
pology evidence documents the alienating effects
of globalization on MNE middle managers as
more and more of their work is done virtually
over distance (Hassard, McCann, & Morris, 2007;
Peltonen, 2007).
Although work alienation appeared to be acute in
the five cases mentioned above, interviews showed
that certain symptoms of this condition were more
widely spread among other middle managers not
put into by-the-window positions. Early indicators
of other types of cross-cultural work alienation
included the following:
(1) One middle manager who had worked at the
plant for 10 years quit his job in frustration
because he felt he was being discriminated
against by having reduced influence in deci-
sion-making and a smaller span of control.
(2) An article in Business Month (September 1988)
on similar Japanese FDI-related cross-cultural
work alienation experiences entitled ‘‘A matter
of control’’ was sent anonymously to the
ethnographer. Certain managers had taken to
whiting out the names in the original article
and substituting their own in a non-too-subtle
act of victim identification.
(3) Informants told the ethnographer that certain
middle managers were ‘‘acting differently –
bored, ythey say they have nothing to do
now.’
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Journal of International Business Studies
(4) Two managers in the finance area complained
that no matter how early they came nor how
late they left, their Japanese boss was always
there and that this made them feel hopeless, as
though they just could not compete.
(5) A significant group of middle managers, already
flagged in the ethnographic study as cross-
culturally alienated, refused to go to the com-
pany Christmas party, citing excuses such as
‘what do Japanese know about Christmas?’’ and
‘It just seems weird to celebrate with people
who don’t give a _______ about you.’’
(6) A high frequency of verbal indicators of cross-
cultural work alienation came up in the
ongoing content analyses of interview tran-
scripts. The following flag-words were used to
code the condition: impotent, eunuch, go fish,
fishing expedition, by-the-window tribe, use-
less, bored, and gaijin (foreigner, a Japanese
word used ironically by Americans to describe
their feelings of being outcasts on their own
home ground). Each of these accounts also
found support during participant observation
and ongoing within-methods triangulation of
interview data during the 5-year time period
over which the ethnography was conducted.
These expressions of cross-cultural work aliena-
tion occurred in the context of an overall response
of the workforce to the new management that
appeared on the surface to be quite favorable. The
Japanese management, after all, turned around a
severely faltering plant. The question remained,
though, of which sentiment was more widespread
did expressions of cross-cultural work alienation by a
few reflect the hidden sentiments of many, or were those
who expressed such alienation an outspoken minority?
Consequently, the quantitative portion of the
project was conducted to clearly identify the
portions of the workforce that reacted positively
to the Japanese acquisition, as distinct from the
portions that experienced cross-cultural work alie-
nation. The qualitative work suggested that aliena-
tion was more likely among middle managers than
among lower-level workers, and that they were
generally managers in production areas directly
related to the strategic focus of the new manage-
ment.
Hypothesis 2: Middle managers will be more
prone to experience alienation than will lower-
level employees.
Larsson and Lubatkin (2001) provide evidence
that an acquiring company’s use of several social
control practices tends to promote successful
acculturation in international M&As. Aware of the
negative stereotype of working for ‘‘Japan, Inc.’
cultivated in the media around the time of the
acquisition, the acquiring company engaged in two
practices that were designed to manage the social
side of the transition and limit cross-cultural
alienation. One was to send 20 employees to Japan
for on-site training in the way things were done in
the home organization (Japanese parent organiza-
tional culture). The intent was to promote deeper
contextual understanding and, in Blauner’s frame-
work, to manage disconnectedness by showing how
the acquired facility was connected to Japan. The
hope was that not only would the experience be a
positive one for these particular employees but also
that they would express positive attitudes and
explain distinctions of the Japanese organizational
culture to their colleagues after their return. The
people sent to Japan were chosen on the basis of
functional position and criticality to implementing
technology introduced by the expansion, rather
than on their personal attitudes or background.
The second practice was to bring a number of
supervisors from Japan in order to guide and put in
place best practices during the expansion. Whereas
many practices of Japanese acquirers have been
described as having the sole purpose of transferring
shopfloor procedures (Peterson et al., 1999), the
intent in this case was also to improve cross-
cultural understanding and thereby limit what
Blauner’s model would describe as US employees’
social isolation and self-estrangement from work-
ing for a culturally and physically distant owner.
Hypothesis 3: Employees who are sent to Japan
for cultural training (3a) and those who have
experience of working with Japanese supervisors
(3b) will show less alienation than will others.
METHOD
The Ethnography
The ethnography used the primary data collection
methods of participant observation and in-depth
interviews as well as secondary data collection of
in-house documents and articles in the popular
press (Figure 1).
The ethnography was conducted at an average of
10 h per week on-site for 5 years. Formal meetings,
quality control group discussions, and two collective
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
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Journal of International Business Studies
bargaining sessions were observed, and
in-depth interviews were conducted. Follow-up
interviews were also conducted at the US plant,
and at corporate headquarters and three sister
plants in Japan. The participant observer process
in the United States and in Japan generated 1635
pages of field notes, which were accompanied by
ongoing informal journal entries in an ethnogra-
pher’s log kept throughout the study. The in-depth
interviewing process was conducted in three steps:
preliminary focus group interviews; follow-up
structured interviews; and ongoing informal,
unstructured dialogue. The data from these inter-
views took the form of 2896 pages of interview
transcripts. The field notes and interview tran-
scripts were entered into semantic analysis software
called Hypercard to facilitate the content analysis
to identify key constructs and themes.
As Figure 1 outlines, the ethnographic portion of
the study included several within-method triangu-
lations for validation:
(1) the use of multiple data collection methods for
primary and secondary data;
(2) the documentation of different perspectives
by conducting formal and informal inter-
views with key informants from differing func-
tional, hierarchical, departmental, and national
groups; and
(3) the repetition of data collection over time using
each method.
This third strategy was operationalized by con-
ducting prolonged participant observation at the
site and by interviewing the same informants at
different time periods throughout the course of
study.
The Quantitative Triangulation: The Survey
Questionnaires were administered on-site in the
final year of the 5-year ethnographic study. The
questionnaire was administered as a sit-down
census to the entire workforce, including manage-
ment and blue-collar workers. The total size of the
workforce during survey data collection was 229
employees, 138 of whom were blue-collar workers.
The attrition rate since the change in management
had been less than 0.8 per year.
Research design and time periods. The questionnaire
was designed to be retrospective. It asked respon-
dents to answer parallel questions about their
attitudes and perceptions during three distinct
time periods. These were identified in the survey
as follows:
(a) ‘‘the period of time up to the acquisition
(September 1981–December 1986)’’;
(b) ‘‘the period of time between the acquisition and
the expansion (December 1986–September
1989)’’; and
(c) ‘‘the period of time since the expansion (Sep-
tember 1989–Present).’
Identifying these three time periods fitted well
with highly salient, clearly demarcated events in
the organization’s collective memory. The transi-
tion from the prior owners to the Japanese
acquirers was emotionally meaningful to all con-
cerned. The period after the acquisition was marked
by the $40 million dollar expansion described
above, and was commonly viewed as the zenith of
the company’s success. The present time for these
respondents meant a recent situation in which the
company had endured its first layoffs in the wake of
a severe downturn in the industry.
The retrospective survey design was not intended
to provide the kind of quantitative basis for
assessing the effects of change that is sometimes
done in quasi-experimental organizational change
research. Instead, it was intended to provide a way
for all organization members to structure their
accounts of what had happened, and to triangulate
with the ethnography. The ability of a respondent
to recall his or her true feelings after a period of 5
years is, of course, somewhat limited. However, we
Figure 1 Qualitative/quantitative data collection method.
Source: adapted from Brannen (1996).
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476
Journal of International Business Studies
expected that the relatively clear demarcation of
periods and the emotional significance of the
changes within them to respondents’ lives would
promote greater than usual accuracy. Retrospective
research has been occasionally used with success in
the past (Butterfield & Farris, 1972). As the results
will show, the respondents did in fact differentiate
the three periods and their questionnaire responses
converge in reasonable ways with the ethnographic
analysis.
Respondents. The workforce at the time of the
surveys consisted of 229 employees, of whom 138
were blue-collar workers. Of these 229 eligible
respondents, 203 provided usable surveys. Of
these, 85 had been at the site since before the
Japanese acquisition (Time A as described above),
47 had been hired during the subsequent
expansion period (Time B above), and 71 were
more recent hires (Time C above). In order to focus
on the experiences of the same people as they went
through the full cross-cultural experience,
hypothesis tests were based on the 85 respondents
who had been at the site during all three phases of
the change. In instances where significant changes
were found over time, these respondents were then
compared with the others who were hired through
Time B and Time C.
Measures. As previously articulated, the measures
selected reflect Blauner’s alienation concepts as well
as the ethnographic analysis of the present organi-
zation. Blauner’s idea of self-estrangement was
represented by established organizational behavior
measures of commitment and satisfaction. Organi-
zational commitment was measured using five
items that Lincoln and Kalleberg (1990) had
adapted from the Organization Commitment Ques-
tionnaire (Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979) for use
in Japan. Pay satisfaction, work satisfaction, and life
satisfaction were each measured using four-point
Likert scales headed by ‘‘How satisfied are you with
y’ The pay satisfaction measure used three items,
including: ‘‘your pay compared to what others in
this company earn.’ The work satisfaction measure
included four items, such as: ‘‘your job in general.’
The life satisfaction measure was a single item:
‘your life in general.’ A number of items in each of
these measures had been used by Lincoln and
Kalleberg (1990) in a comparative study of US and
Japanese manufacturing organizations.
We created several new measures for this project,
based on cross-cultural alienation issues that arose
in the ethnography. Blauner’s (1964) idea of social
isolation was represented by measures of supervisor
acceptance and Japanese values. Supervisor accep-
tance consisted of three items beginning with ‘‘Your
supervisor’’ and including the following: ‘‘Makes
you feel like a valued group member.’’ Japanese
values was a single-item measure: ‘‘Do you feel that
your work values are not so different than the work
values of the Japanese employees?’’ Blauner’s ideas
of impotence and disconnectedness were represented
by measures of participation valued and meetings
pre-settled. Participation valued was also a single-
item measure (coded 1¼no, 3¼yes): ‘‘When you
attend a meeting at the request of your supervisor,
do you feel that your participation is seriously
valued?’’ Meetings pre-settled was represented by a
single item (coded 1¼no, 3¼yes): ‘‘Do you feel that
the outcome of a meeting is already set before it
begins?’
Unless noted otherwise, responses for each
question were provided on five-point Likert scales,
with the adjectives in the response alternatives
phrased to correspond with the content of the
particular question (see Brannen, 1994: 245–275
for details). High values on an item denoted
high levels of the construct measured. The tense
of each question was adjusted as appropriate to
past or present, depending on the time period
about which the question asked. For example,
one question asked ‘‘The chances for promotion
are/were good on my job’’ and asked respondents
to answer the question separately for each of
the three time periods noted above. (The item
examples noted above all use present-tense
phrasing.)
Several predictors are categorical variables. Hier-
archy is represented as an item that contrasts
managers with other employees. Time is coded as
a three-category variable corresponding to the three
phases noted above. The interventions are coded as
whether a respondent had been ‘‘sent to Japan’’ (1)
or not (0), and whether a respondent had a
‘Japanese supervisor’’ at Time B (1) or not (0), and
also at Time C (1) or not (0).
Means, standard deviations, and alpha coeffi-
cients for each of the measures are provided in
Table 1. For the scales taken from prior research, the
measures were generally reliable. Measure construc-
tion for the new measures went through a refine-
ment step prior to the descriptive statistics shown
in Table 1. The new items designed particularly
for this project were analyzed using exploratory
factor analysis to determine whether scales could
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477
Journal of International Business Studies
be created (results available from the authors).
Preliminary scaling choices were made based on
the factor analysis and the concepts intended by
each question. These scales were then assessed for
reliability using alpha reliability estimates and
item-to-total correlations.
Data analysis. One set of analyses testing Hypo-
thesis 1 was a set of repeated-measures MANOVAs
to assess overall change in attitudes over the
three time periods. For attitudes in which
significant changes are found, ANOVA was then
used to determine whether the reports of Time A
pre-acquisition attitudes of the most experienced
employees also differed from the attitudes of the
more recently hired respondents at Time C, as
detailed in the results below. Other analyses
used hierarchy as a two-category between-subjects
factor that contrasted managers with other
employees, and time as a within-subjects factor
that contrasted reported perceptions over the
three time periods. The interaction of time
with hierarchy was used to test Hypothesis 2.
Repeated-measures MANOVAs were similarly
used to test Hypothesis 3 about change over time
for respondents who participated in one of the
interventions. Since the respondents who had a
Japanese supervisor at Time B overlapped with
those who had a Japanese supervisor at Time C, and
the number of respondents was relatively low (85),
one set of analyses is reported for each criterion
using the ‘‘Sent to Japan’’ predictor and the
‘Japanese supervisor at Time C’’ predictor, and a
second is reported for each criterion using the ‘‘Sent
to Japan’’ and ‘‘Japanese supervisor at Time B’
predictor.
RESULTS OF QUANTITATIVE TRIANGULATION
Overall Changes
Hypothesis 1a suggests that the intervention will be
successful, as indicated by increasingly positive
attitude means over time, while Hypothesis 1b
recognizes that the ethnographic analysis suggested
that alienation might be prevalent. The means
shown in Table 1 indicate that respondents gen-
erally reported that their attitudes became more
positive in later years than they were before the
acquisition. Table 2 shows the results of signifi-
cance tests applied to these means using repeated-
measures MANOVA predicting each criterion from
time. Hypothesis 1a is supported for two measures.
Respondent’s reports became significantly more
positive over time for their sense that participation
was valued by their superiors (participation valued)
and for their commitment to the organization
(organization commitment). In contrast, no
changes were found in pay attitudes.
In order to assess whether these two changes were
unique to the 85 people who had been in the plant
since before the Japanese takeover, or whether they
Table 1 Measures indicating alienation: veterans
Measure Mean SD Alpha
CBACBACBA
Supervisor acceptance 3.38 3.32 3.21 0.84 0.86 0.92 0.64 0.71 0.80
Participation valued 2.45 2.23 2.12 0.80 0.86 0.80
Meetings pre-settled 2.09 2.01 2.07 0.91 0.88 0.83
Organization commitment 3.54 3.46 3.27 0.75 0.69 0.69 0.78 0.74 0.68
Pay satisfaction 2.78 2.73 2.65 0.88 0.81 0.83 0.92 0.92 0.92
Work satisfaction 3.23 3.16 3.10 0.56 0.54 0.61 0.76 0.72 0.75
Life satisfaction 3.38 3.34 3.23 0.64 0.78 0.77
Notes: Time C: since the company’s recent expansion; Time B: during acquisition by Japanese company; Time A: just before the Japanese acquisition.
N¼82–85 depending on missing data for a particular measure.
Table 2 Repeated-measures MANOVA predicting attitudes from
time
Wilks’ lambda F d.f.
Supervisor acceptance 0.97 2.00 2, 162
Participation valued 0.87 6.83** 2, 166
Meetings pre-settled 0.99 0.37 2, 162
Organization commitment 0.94 3.93* 2, 162
Pay satisfaction 0.98 1.38 2, 162
Life satisfaction 0.96 2.32 2, 162
Work satisfaction 0.96 1.95 2, 162
*po0.05; **po0.01.
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Journal of International Business Studies
were also reflected in the attitudes of respondents
hired at the two later points noted above, addi-
tional analyses of the participation valued and
organizational commitment measures were con-
ducted (details available from the authors). For
these two measures, the Time C attitudes of the 117
employees hired during Time B and Time C were
compared with the Time A attitudes reported by the
85 employees hired before the Japanese acquisition.
ANOVAs showed more positive Time C attitudes for
the more recent hires than for the Time A attitudes
reported by the employees who had been at the
plant prior to the acquisition for both participation
valued (F¼6.21, d.f.¼1, 198, po0.05, two-tailed)
and organizational commitment (F¼4.07, d.f.¼1,
198, po0.05, two-tailed). Since the more recent
hires had no memory of the previous management
regime, they serve as a control in that their
responses were not colored by improvement or
deterioration in alienation due to better or worse
management. All these newly hired employees
knew was that they were joining a firm with
Japanese management, so their responses reflect
their perceptions of working in the post-acquisition
organizational culture alone. These results of the
control group comparison support the conclusion
that the changes over time in these two attitudes
for the employees who remained with the plant
during all three time periods generalize for these
individual-level outcomes throughout the plant.
Differences in change over time by hierarchical level.
Hypothesis 2 follows the results of the ethnography
by suggesting that managers will be more prone
to experience alienation than will lower-level
employees. Table 3 reports the repeated-measures
MANOVA predicting each criterion from time,
hierarchy, and the interaction of time and hierar-
chy. The results show the typical effects of hierarchy,
reflecting the generally higher sense by managers
that superiors show acceptance of opinions and value
participation more when it comes from managers
than from lower-level employees (group means
available from the authors). The significant pay
satisfaction differences between the hierarchical
level groups reflect highest pay satisfaction by
managers and union workers and lowest by office
workers (group means available from the authors).
However, the results show none of the significant
interactions of hierarchy with time that would reflect
higher alienation among managers that are predicted
in Hypothesis 2 based on the ethnography.
Differences in change over time based on interven-
tions. Hypothesis 3 suggests that individuals who
have gone to Japan for training (Hypothesis 3a) and
those who have experience working with Japanese
supervisors (Hyothesis 3b) will show more positive
attitude change than will others. The hypotheses
are tested in the ‘‘Intervention effects by time’
columns of Table 4. These results indicate that
supervisor acceptance, organizational commitment,
and work satisfaction show different changes for
those who went to Japan than for others. Means for
the two subgroups indicate that the changes are
more positive for those who went than for others.
Consistent with the ethnography, Hypothesis 3a is
generally supported.
The results testing the hypothesis about the
effects of having a Japanese boss are provided
separately for respondents who reported having a
Japanese boss at the time data were collected (at
Time C) and for those who had a Japanese boss
during the period of expansion (at Time B). Two
attitudes, life satisfaction and work satisfaction,
show differences indicating more positive attitude
change between respondents with Japanese super-
visors as at Time B compared with others. Table 4
shows other effects not associated with Hypothesis
3. The significant coefficients in the ‘‘intervention
effects’’ columns do not correspond with any of the
significant intervention by time effects, and so do
not confound these effects. The main effects noted
in the ‘‘Time’’ column largely reflect the results
noted for Hypothesis 1.
Adjustment and alienation in specific departments.
The overall results indicated that alienation did not
permeate the plant. Nevertheless, the ethnographic
results indicated pockets of alienation scattered
Table 3 Repeated-measures MANOVA predicting from hierarchy
and time
Hierarchy Time Hierarchy Time
F d.f. F F d.f.
Supervisor acceptance 7.50** 1, 78 0.03 0.59 2, 2, 156
Participation valued 8.94** 1, 80 1.15 1.16 2, 2, 160
Meetings pre-settled 0.30 1, 78 0.18 0.16 2, 2, 156
Organizational
commitment
2.52 1, 78 0.28 0.61 2, 2, 156
Pay satisfaction 5.99** 1, 78 0.94 0.13 2, 2, 156
Life satisfaction 0.08 1, 78 0.69 2.43 2, 2, 156
Work satisfaction 0.74 1, 78 0.40 1.94 2, 2, 156
*po0.05; **po0.01.
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479
Journal of International Business Studies
throughout the organization that still might appear
in attitudes expressed within particular depart-
ments. The number of respondents in specific
departments, however, is too small to test for differ-
ences statistically. Means for each department at
the three time points are provided in Table 5.
DISCUSSION
The response of the popular press to globalization
as MNEs strive to use the world as their playing
field through FDI and international M&As suggests
the emergence of a new variation on work
alienation. The present project thus drew from a
5-year ethnography of one such instance of a
cross-border M&A and existing alienation theory
to compile a set of measures to empirically test
and systematically build theory in this regard. In
the discussion section, we will first consider how
the quantitative results guided us to reconsider
some of the initial ethnographic evidence for
alienation. We then consider implications for
alienation theory in general, for theories of culture
and biculturalism, for research about M&As,
and for international research in general. We
conclude the section by considering the project’s
limitations.
Between-Methods Contradictions, Tensions, and
Synergistic Discovery
The quantitative results complement the ethno-
graphic results by suggesting that the approach
the company took in the acquisition overcame
much of the risk of alienation for the employees
in general. The alienation that appeared in the
qualitative analysis turns out to have been loca-
lized, rather than widespread. The quantitative
analysis also indicated that the positive effects
of the interventions were somewhat stronger
for the employees who directly participated in
them. Further, the quantitative analysis helped
to pinpoint potential pockets of cross-culturally
alienated employees among the managers
Table 4 Repeated-measures MANOVA predicting from having a Japanese supervisor at Time B, Time C, and being sent to Japan: all three
times
Interventions Interventions by time
Sent to
Japan
Japanese
supervisor
d.f. Time Sent to
Japan
Japanese
supervisor
d.f.
Supervisor acceptance
Supervisor Time C 2.70 1.82 1, 1, 79 3.19 6.88** 1.64 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 1.20 7.83** 1, 1, 79 8.58** 6.11** 0.47 2, 2, 2, 158
Participation valued
Supervisor Time C 5.22* 2.34 1, 1, 81 5.66** 1.07 0.17 2, 2, 2, 162
Supervisor Time B 3.78 4.11* 1, 1, 81 6.97** 0.56 1.35 2, 2, 2, 162
Meetings pre-settled
Supervisor Time C 0.77 3.57 1, 1, 79 0.71 0.23 0.87 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 0.77 1.21 1, 1, 79 1.04 0.08 1.81 2, 2, 2, 158
Organizational commitment
Supervisor Time C 2.82 0.59 1, 1, 79 10.45** 7.25** 0.10 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 1.77 2.55 1, 1, 79 13.45** 5.27** 2.88 2, 2, 2, 158
Pay satisfaction
Supervisor Time C 0.07 2.17 1, 1, 79 2.03 0.74 0.19 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 0.17 0.18 1, 1, 79 3.56* 0.23 2.31 2, 2, 2, 158
Life satisfaction
Supervisor Time C 1.24 1.33 1, 1, 79 2.67 0.03 1.35 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 0.85 0.16 1, 1, 79 4.80** 0.12 4.20* 2, 2, 2, 158
Work satisfaction
Supervisor Time C 0.07 1.47 1, 1, 79 8.11** 6.29** 0.96 2, 2, 2, 158
Supervisor Time B 0.15 1.57 1, 1, 79 16.19** 3.37* 9.84** 2, 2, 2, 158
*po0.05;** po0.01.
Notes: Time C: since the company’s recent expansion; Time B: during acquisition by the Japanese company.
For each criterion, the first row is for the repeated-measure MANOVA for having a Japanese supervisor at Time C, and the second row is for having a
Japanese supervisor at Time B.
Frequencies for veterans: Japanese supervisor at Time C – No: 65, Yes: 20; Japanese Supervisor at Time B – No: 73, Yes: 12; Sent to Japan – No: 68, Yes: 17.
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
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Journal of International Business Studies
distinguishable by hierarchy, by functional area,
and by whether or not their direct supervisor
was Japanese. The ethnographic results reported
previously showed frequent complaints that a
number of employees were not included in the
actual decision-making process, suffered through
meetings conducted mostly in Japanese, and per-
ceived a foreign ‘‘shadow management’’ rendering
home-country managers powerless. They also had
limited advancement potential, received few or
no performance reviews, and were given the
opportunity to participate only in matters of trivial
significance. The quantitative results, however,
suggested that these individuals might have been
an outspoken alienated minority in the larger
context of an organization that was functioning
effectively.
The between-methods triangulation, though ulti-
mately helpful in putting the emergent issue of
cross-cultural alienation in the context of the larger
organizational climate, generated many challenges
and qualifications to the ethnographic findings.
This overall discursive research logic of tensions,
contradictions, and synergistic learning that
resulted from the between-methods triangulation
is outlined in Figure 2.
Even while the general theme of cross-cultural
alienation was not found in the results of the
questionnaire analysis, the condition continued to
Table 5 Departmental means at three time points: Searching for packets of alienation
Time Department
Coating Converting Engineering Finance HR Maintenance Mixing Other
production
Purchase RRD/
QC
Salary
Supervisor
acceptance
C 3.55 2.64 3.67 3.00 5.00 3.11 4.50 3.29 4.33 4.00 3.67
B 3.44 2.69 3.67 3.33 5.00 2.67 4.00 3.38 4.67 3.89 3.33
A 3.14 2.90 3.33 4.42 2.67 2.56 4.33 3.33 4.67 2.56 3.13
Participation valued C 2.33 2.15 3.00 2.50 3.00 2.67 3.00 2.25 3.00 3.00 3.00
B 2.14 2.08 3.00 2.25 3.00 1.83 2.00 2.13 3.00 2.67 2.40
A 1.95 2.15 3.00 2.75 1.00 2.00 1.00 2.00 1.00 1.33 2.40
Meetings pre-
settled
C 2.10 1.75 1.00 2.00 3.00 2.00 3.00 2.13 1.00 2.33 2.20
B 2.10 1.58 1.00 1.25 3.00 1.83 3.00 2.00 3.00 2.33 2.00
A 1.90 1.92 3.00 2.50 1.00 2.00 3.00 2.25 1.00 1.00 2.20
Organization
commitment
C 3.71 3.22 3.20 2.75 5.00 3.37 4.10 3.30 3.80 4.07 4.00
B 3.57 3.22 3.20 2.90 5.00 3.23 3.60 3.23 3.80 4.00 3.80
A 3.20 3.10 3.00 4.00 1.40 3.17 3.80 3.06 3.80 3.00 3.52
Pay satisfaction C 3.29 2.44 3.00 1.75 3.33 2.83 3.50 2.54 1.00 2.44 2.47
B 3.19 2.41 3.00 1.67 3.33 2.72 3.50 2.48 1.00 2.33 2.47
A 3.20 2.36 3.00 2.50 1.67 2.78 3.50 2.19 3.00 1.78 2.60
Work satisfaction C 3.27 2.85 2.75 2.69 4.00 3.17 3.75 3.13 3.00 3.67 3.45
B 3.23 2.79 3.25 2.88 4.00 3.08 3.38 3.00 3.00 3.50 3.30
A 3.08 3.00 3.00 3.81 2.00 3.33 3.50 2.82 3.50 2.42 3.20
Life satisfaction C 3.36 3.38 2.00 3.00 4.00 3.33 3.50 3.25 4.00 4.00 3.80
B 3.52 3.38 3.00 3.25 4.00 3.17 2.50 3.14 3.00 4.00 3.60
A 3.19 3.54 3.00 3.75 3.00 3.33 3.50 3.29 2.00 3.33 3.40
Figure 2 Between-methods triangulation: tensions, contra-
dictions and synergies.
Source: adapted from Brannen (1996).
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
481
Journal of International Business Studies
surface in localized situations over the 5-year time
period over which the ethnography was conducted.
Two additional middle managers quit their job,
citing ‘‘unfair Japanese management practices’’ and
‘bamboo ceiling’’ as reasons. Several others were
shuffled into what they called ‘‘just some more by-
the-window slots.’’ A group of hourly workers and
foremen reporting directly to Katsan – a Japanese
expatriate promoted to plant manager 2 years after
the acquisition – formed the GROK club (Get Rid of
Katsan club). An old-timer who was asked to take
an early retirement filed an age discrimination suit
against the Japanese management. Thus, while the
ethnography found cross-cultural alienation to be a
prominent narrative theme, analysis of the ques-
tionnaire results indicated rather that this might
have been appearing more as localized alienation,
even in the context of a generally positive response
to the acquisition.
The synergistic discovery of pockets of alienation.
This partial contradiction in the findings of
the ethnography and questionnaire led to the
re-examination of both data sets. The means in
Table 5 suggest that we should look carefully at
interview data for explanations of the apparent
decline in attitudes in the conversion/product
finishing, finance and engineering departments,
and the relative lack of improvement over time in a
few others. The ethnographic data suggested that
the type of employees susceptible to cross-cultural
work alienation tended to be middle managers in
the production areas most directly connected to
the $40 million expansion. These areas were the
mixing, coating, and finishing departments.
Because these departments were at the core of the
strategic operations focus of the new management,
they had a higher concentration of Japanese
expatriates as well as Japanese outside contractors.
In addition, control was centered more firmly in
Japanese hands in these areas during the first few
years of the acquisition, because the success of the
venture rested on the successful implementation of
these technologies.
Two middle managers from these departments
declined to take the questionnaire. When asked
about this they explained that they felt awkward
taking it because their boss and long-time friend, a
senior executive, had just been asked to take an
early retirement by the Japanese president. This
senior executive was upset about the forced early
retirement, and was threatening to sue the Japanese
management for age discrimination. The two
subordinate managers felt a conflict of interest in
taking the questionnaire, because although they
wanted to help the ethnographer out, their boss
had made it clear that he was not going to take the
questionnaire, and they did not want to do some-
thing that would make their boss feel they were
unsympathetic. Thus the follow-up interviews dis-
covered more data to support the presence of cross-
cultural alienation, even while the loss of these
three respondents might have contributed to the
lack of evidence for alienation in the analysis of the
questionnaire.
These ethnographic observations informed
further analysis of the quantitative data to look
for differences on cross-cultural alienation scores
across various departments, levels of hierarchy, and
union membership. This subsequent quantitative
analysis then uncovered specific pockets of aliena-
tion among managers in the mixing, coating, and
finance departments. The evidence in Table 5 of
pockets of alienation among middle managers in
mixing and coating confirmed the ethnographic
findings. Again, these findings make sense concep-
tually, because these functional areas had the key
technologies to ensure the profitability of the plant
and thus received the most intervention efforts by
new management. Indeed, it was from these
departments that managers were taken and put
into ‘‘by-the-window’’ positions devoid of formal
authority. However, alienation of middle managers
in finance was unexpected.
Again, the ethnographic data were re-examined
to make sense of this new quantitative finding. The
ethnographic secondary data, in the form of
organizational charts, showed that finance was
the only department in which there was a Japanese
departmental head but where no systematic accul-
turation occurred in the form of Japan on-site
training or ongoing cross-cultural consulting sup-
port. In addition, the department head, being a
senior Japanese manager, exhibited the most
‘hyper’’-normal (meaning stereotypically ‘‘Japa-
nese’’; cf. Brannen & Salk, 2000) Japanese organiza-
tional cultural behavior. For example, being senior,
he was expected to come to work earlier and to
work later than the other Japanese at the plant
(Lebra, 1976). This behavior, as already noted above
in the ethnographic results, was particularly worri-
some to the American managers who were his
direct reports, as they would try without success to
impress him by coming earlier or working later.
What they did not know was that his behavior was
dictated by Japanese organizational norms, and
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
482
Journal of International Business Studies
that their Japanese supervisor was expected cultu-
rally to be the first in and last out of the
organization daily. Had the managers undergone
Japanese cultural training, this negative spiral of
perceptual imputation might have been circum-
vented. Thus, in this case, the contradictions
between the findings generated by the two meth-
ods were catalysts for the re-examination and re-
analysis of both data sets, out of which came new
insights into both analyses and a more accurate
understanding of the post-merger dynamics.
The multi-method research approach thus indi-
cates several advantages of combining ethnographic
with quantitative methods, especially when re-
searching complex cultural phenomena. It also iden-
tifies several possible new directions for the survey
components of research about FDI, cross-border
M&As, and cross-cultural work alienation.
Implications for Alienation Research
One contribution of our project has been to
introduce a set of measures that can be used to
represent individual-level alienation outcomes,
particularly outcomes that are relevant to cross-
border M&A. This endeavor complements projects
that have sought to design measures of initial
cultural incompatibility between M&A partners
(e.g., Veiga, Lubatkin, Calori, & Very, 2000). The
measures chosen are linked to Blauner’s (1964)
ideas of impotence, disconnectedness, social isola-
tion, and self-estrangement. These measures
included established measures of commitment
and satisfaction, and new cross-culturally related
aspects of alienation suggested by the ethnographic
analysis. A new measure of supervisor acceptance
was created. Individual items reflecting the poten-
tial dissonance between the national cultural work-
related norms of the acquiring firm and the local
employees were developed, such as whether parti-
cipation was valued and whether outcomes of
meetings were predetermined. These culture-speci-
fic measures showed divergence from the other
measures, suggesting that cross-cultural work alie-
nation is indeed a distinct variation on work
alienation. Their single-item nature is a limitation
for the present study, but the results support the
value of designing multiple-item measures for
future alienation research in international business.
Future research that builds on the alienation theme
could also develop implications of Blauner’s aliena-
tion concepts for each of the moderately correlated
aspects of commitment that have been identified in
other research (Meyer & Allen, 1991). The study
also showed change over time in these variables
and the effects of various interventions that can be
viewed as targeted at ameliorating Blauner’s four
aspects of alienation and preventing cross-cultural
work alienation itself.
Cross-Cultural Work Alienation and the Concept
of Culture in International M&As
While there is not a large base of established
research on cross-cultural work alienation, the
construct has been identified in the social psychol-
ogy literature as a condition that can arise when an
organization’s power base is split between two
distinct cultural groups that have different modal
values (Zurcher et al., 1965). Studies of equity or
justice issues in M&A (e.g., Lipponen, Olkkonen, &
Moilanen, 2004) also touch on topics related to
alienation, although equity and justice issues focus
more narrowly on ethical aspects of how a more
powerful party deals with a less powerful party than
does alienation.
Several social psychology studies of work aliena-
tion in different country contexts (cf. Kanungo,
1984, 1990; Misra, Kanungo, Von Ronsenstiel, &
Stuhler, 1985) highlight distinct antecedents of
work alienation based on the particular national
cultural attributes of the originating contexts.
Although this work has helped to point out cultural
differences in the causes and manifestations
of work alienation, because the studies have
focused on single country, single organizational
contexts, they only indirectly help our under-
standing of the dynamics of intraorganizational
cross-cultural work alienation that we find in
international M&As.
As is often the case in the international business
literature, culture in the studies cited above was
taken as national culture. Despite this pervasive
and often imprecise usage, in the current study the
word ‘‘culture’’ without a descriptive adjective
designating a specific kind of culture (as in
‘Japanese national culture’’) refers to ‘‘culture’’ as
the system of shared behaviors, values, and mean-
ings of a designated group of individuals (Fine,
1984; Geertz, 1973). In this view, the negotiated
culture of the organization is a dynamic amalgam
of various cultural spheres of influence, including
but not limited to national cultures of origin
of the acquirers and the local employees in the
acquired facility (Brannen & Salk, 2000; Strauss,
1982). As such, cross-cultural alienation can
stem from cultural differences at the national,
organizational and even occupational cultural
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
483
Journal of International Business Studies
level in the acquired entity. In this vein, another
body of research in organization studies based in
sociology and urban anthropology has focused on
the related issue of marginalization in domestic
organizations that have more than one dominant
culture.
Biculturalism Research: African-American,
Bicultural Integration, and the Negotiated
Culture Literature in Organization
Studies and Anthropology
Cross-border M&As are complex organizational
phenomena in which organizational culture,
national culture, and cultural change are in a
constant dynamic interplay (Ong, 1987). Consis-
tent with the negotiated culture view, the bicultur-
alism literature in organizational studies is the only
stream of work that takes up intraorganizational
individual-level outcomes similar to cross-cultural
work alienation. The concept of biculturalism first
emerged in the organizational studies literature for
describing the experience of African-American
organizational participants in the white-dominated
work culture of the United States (Bell, 1990; Dill,
1979; Valentine, 1971). This work documents
how African-Americans must daily negotiate a path
between two distinct cultural realities: the African-
American community in which they live, and the
white organizational community in which
they work. Scholars of biculturalism describe this
sort of social marginality as a condition in which a
person lives on the boundaries of two distinct
cultures and thus feels disconnected from both
(Mann, 1958; Stonequist, 1937). Although signifi-
cantly different in many respects, the bicultural
experiences of African-American organizational
participants and US employees of Japanese-owned
companies are similar, in that both must negotiate
their organizational lives in a cultural milieu
distinct from their own, a milieu with the potential
to make them feel neither fully integrated nor
completely valued.
More recent work on bicultural identity integra-
tion in organizations strives to understand indivi-
duals who negotiate between their disparate
cultural identities in response to varying cultural
cues (Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005; Benet-
Martinez, Leu, Lee, & Morris, 2002; Cheng, Lee, &
Benet-Martinez, 2006). While this work does not
deal directly with cross-cultural work alienation, it
does focus on understanding the marginalized
nature of non-integrated biculturals (similar to
Blauner’s concept of self-isolation).
The kind of biculturalism that might emerge in
cross-border post-acquisition situations would of
course be distinct from either of these types of
biculturalism. However, the theory generated on
biculturalism and biculturals offers important
insights into understanding the individual-level
outcomes in the Japanese-American organizational
case as studied here, and cross-cultural work
alienation more generally.
To summarize, our conceptualization of cross-
cultural work alienation draws from these two
distinct bodies of research – work alienation and
marginalization in bicultural contexts – and seeks
to link them to individual-level organizational
behavior concepts. We follow Blauner’s (1964)
adaptation of Marx’s view of societal alienation by
treating it as a manageable characteristic of rela-
tionships within particular organizations. We add
to this literature both by integrating it with the
literature on biculturalism and marginalization and
by viewing cross-cultural work alienation as a
distinct and increasingly relevant form of societal
alienation and marginalization.
Theories of alienation largely precede the theories
and measures that have come into common use in
organizational behavior, and are rarely explicitly
invoked in organizational theory development.
Nevertheless, the ongoing ethnographic portion
of the present project suggested that a number of
the organizational behavior measures that we had
selected for the assessment process could be better
understood theoretically, better linked to the inter-
ventions used by management, and more readily
linked to the ethnographic field notes by viewing
them as reflecting aspects of work alienation that
Blauner (1964) had identified. It is our hope that
the research presented here will guide the develop-
ment of a set of measures that will cover the full
range of issues that constitute cross-cultural work
alienation. For example, we included measures of
whether or not participation was valued and of
whether or not meetings were only a formality at
which predetermined decisions were ceremonially
announced that are linked to Blauner’s idea of
impotence. Our measure of respondents’ sense of
whether or not their supervisor accepted them as
an important member of the work group is related
to the idea of social isolation, and a measure of
organizational commitment is related to successful
avoidance of self-estrangement. In addition to links
of our survey measures to Blauner’s concepts,
several of the interventions that the company used
to enhance cross-cultural integration are related to
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
484
Journal of International Business Studies
aspects of alienation. In particular, arranging for
employees to visit the parent company in Japan
had the potential to reduce disconnectedness by
showing how activities in the US facility were
intimately linked to work in the Japanese facilities.
It also had the potential to reduce social isolation by
humanizing the Japanese owners and workers to
the US workers through direct contact. Transferring
some supervisors from Japan to the United States
also had the potential for similar effects.
Implications for the Alienating Potential of Cross-
Border M&As and for Limiting Cross-Cultural
Work Alienation in M&As
Another contribution has been to explain why
alienation can arise in cross-border M&As, and how
it can be managed. The organization studied faced a
potential alienation problem in an acquisition
situation that is at once quite stressful and quite
commonplace. Any unique FDI is likely to have
distinctive features, but the experience studied here
shows some possible ways of successfully avoiding
the all too frequent experience that an acquisition
that makes financial sense on paper fails owing to
social issues in implementation. Although general-
ization from a single case is difficult, our sense is
that the success that this company had from
exposing employees of the acquired organization
to the culture of the acquiring company is likely to
have value in many settings.
Alienation theory suggests that cultural and
geographic separation should create problematic
disconnectedness and social isolation, so interven-
tions that connect employees to the acquirer’s
culture directly address these sorts of separation.
The basic logic of having a supervisor for a period of
time from the acquirer’s home country and visiting
the acquirer’s home company makes sense on these
grounds. Much learning is described in philosophy
as tacit learning (Polanyi, 1966), in psychology
as automatic or schema-based learning (Markus &
Zajonc, 1985), and is generally recognized as intui-
tive and difficult to learn even from the most
careful explanation. Communication scholars
refer to a social presence that comes from direct
exposure and which can promote the development
of social bonds (Fairclough, 1995). This sort of
learning and bonding is likely to be more difficult
if the acquirers remain distant. Developing this
sense of social presence should reduce the sense of
social isolation. Interventions such as sending
people from the acquired company to the acquirer’s
home, and sending supervisors as part of a transi-
tion, should promote this sort of tacit learning
and bonding (cf. Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995) and
reduce the sense of disconnectedness. The particu-
lar national cultural work-related differences
that might cause cross-cultural work alienation
and the interventions used to circumvent its
occurrence would need to be fitted to the idiosyn-
cratic cultural dynamics between the particular
cultures of the acquiring and acquired firms in
question.
Implications for International Research Methods
Another contribution has been to show what can
be learned by multiple-method triangulation. Our
triangulation served various research objectives: to
disconfirm cross-cultural work alienation as the
general state of the post-acquisition organization;
to confirm the substantial success of particular
interventions that management implemented to
promote cross-cultural integration; to refine our
understanding of cross-cultural work alienation at
particular hierarchical and functional area pockets
of alienation that emerged over time; and to
provide a framework for developing a set of
measures that cover a broad range of cross-cultural
alienation indicators for future studies of post-M&A
integration. Neither method alone would have
given the full picture of this post-acquisition
experience. The ethnography by itself would have
given an account skewed toward negative indivi-
dual-level outcomes with alienation at center stage.
The quantitative survey would have been signifi-
cantly less rich without the information provided
by the qualitative data. Further, without the
iterative theory development provided by utilizing
both methods, we would not have been able to
fully understand the nature and pervasiveness of
the cross-cultural work alienation construct, nor
clearly identify the type of employee (job-role,
position, etc.) who is particularly susceptible to this
type of alienation.
Limitations
The research has a number of limitations in the
nature of both the ethnographic and the question-
naire aspects of the research. As an internal
facilitator of the change, the ethnographer was
exposed to a considerable amount of information.
This information was not neutral and unbiased, but
was affected by the priorities of informants. The
informants who were in greatest contact with the
ethnographer gave a greater sense of alienation
than the survey indicated was prevalent. The
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
485
Journal of International Business Studies
within-methods triangulation used by the ethno-
grapher to systematically interview the entire
population of managers served to correct this bias,
as did the survey results themselves. In addition,
the facilitator stance of the ethnographer also made
it possible to overcome a bias in the survey results
that would ordinarily be missed. Specifically, non-
response was not random, but was systematically
due to the non-participation of many of the
managers who had individually expressed aliena-
tion outside the survey setting. While the survey
change assessment, guided by direct knowledge of
where to look for alienation, was able to identify it,
the survey research underestimates the extent
of alienation among a particular set of middle
managers.
A source of measurement error for analysis of
temporal changes across the three time periods is
that we assessed responses retrospectively across
the three time periods. It would be more appro-
priate to take responses at each point of time than
retrospectively. The findings indicating that
changes in the attitudes of the employees who
had been with the company during the complete
transition process are reflected in the attitudes of
the more recent hires strengthen the conclusion
that a genuine change occurred throughout the
plant. The number of respondents was also smaller
than one would like, although sufficient to identify
the main effects of some of the interventions the
company used to overcome alienation. Neverthe-
less, the combination of ethnographic and survey
methods helped identify the location and extent of
alienation.
The research also has the limitations of any single
case study. While our study surfaces an important
new variation on work alienation, and provides
preliminary scale-building aids in the form of cross-
cultural work alienation and post-cross-border
M&A integration measures to include in future
research, only a large, cross-sectional study includ-
ing multiple cross-cultural situations that vary in
the degree of cultural difference between parties
could determine the prevalence of this new form of
alienation in FDI. A specific limitation is that this
method does not make it possible to determine
whether or not all the efforts of managing aliena-
tion that were used in the present site would be
necessary if cultural differences were smaller, or
whether or not they would be adequate if cultural
differences were greater. Further, given the theore-
tical basis of much of alienation theory in identity
and control rather than cultural difference, on
conceptual grounds we expect that alienation is
likely to need considerable attention even in cross-
cultural situations involving culturally similar
nations.
Further, a limitation of our analysis is shared with
any quasi-experimental project. The interventions
are complex. Through the ethnographic analysis,
we are able to describe aspects of the change process
that would have been useful regardless of the
nationality of the acquirer, such as the investment
in new equipment. We also describe aspects of
the change process that were distinctly related to
the Japanese culture of the acquirer, such as the
example of arrival time and the use of the ‘‘by-the-
window tribe.’’ The ethnography goes beyond what
could be inferred from the quantitative results by
suggesting that the positive response to the changes
was due to successful management in general
and to successful management of cross-cultural
integration.
CONCLUSION
The present case suggests that, even in the climate
of general success in developing cross-cultural
interorganizational relations, pockets of alienation
can remain and deserve attention. The idea of
pockets of alienation is different from alienated
individuals. It was not just isolated people in the
present case who showed alienation, but groups of
people. Was the alienation spawned by interaction
between discontented people, or by characteristics
of the work situations these people faced that made
them unlike others in their workplace? Our study
suggests that a certain positional profile of employ-
ee is most vulnerable to such alienation, but
answers to these questions remain speculative,
even after a combination of personal contact with
the ethnographer and careful survey data analysis.
While the discrepancy in findings on cross-
cultural alienation generated by the two distinct
methods upsets the nomothetic theory-building
agenda of between-methods triangulation, the
disparate results are not altogether surprising.
Ethnographic inquiry under the best of conditions
produces richly textured descriptions of organiza-
tional realities. Informants tell tales of their realities
to the researcher, who then captures the essence of
these tales in the actual writing-up of the account.
Sometimes informants tell third-person tales of
organizational scenarios: that is, they give accounts
of what they see or feel happening to others in the
setting. These third-person accounts not only help
to further deepen the texture of the accounts, they
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
486
Journal of International Business Studies
also serve as a within-methods validity check in
ethnographic research. In the case of the cross-
cultural work alienation construct, although there
were first-person testimonials to the construct,
many informants engaged in such third-person
accounts. Often, whereas they would have many
examples of cross-cultural alienation at the plant,
they claimed that they themselves were not suffer-
ing from an analogous condition. It could be that
because the construct captures the dark side of what
was, overall, a successful acquisition, people were
curious about it and vigilant in noticing its many
manifestations. It could also be that they were
themselves alienated but did not want to align
themselves directly with a subgroup at odds with
current management. Whatever the case may be,
ethnographic inquiry attempts to capture the
intricate nature of such recurrent themes that
emerge as central issues in the cultural schema of
an organization. Individuals who gave vivid, third-
person accounts of cross-cultural work alienation as
related by the ethnography might not have them-
selves responded affirmatively to questions about
alienation as it pertained to their own experience at
the plant.
The increasing number of cross-border M&As and
their importance in the globalization strategies of
multinational firms create tremendous challenges,
particularly at the post-merger stage, and dictate a
better understanding of the difficulties and oppor-
tunities for positive integration interventions. This
study provides a strong foundation for future
research in this domain, including a set of measures
of individual-level outcomes particularly germane
to cross-border M&A, examples of positive integra-
tion practices that can help prevent such negative
outcomes, and a powerful methodology for
researching complex cultural phenomena in inter-
national business.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to thank Kanzaki Specialty
Papers for their support for this research, especially in
terms of ongoing access to the Massachusetts site for
the principal researcher for 5 years. Thanks also go to
Abhijit Sanyal, who helped in the initial quantitative
analysis, Julie Bae for research assistance, Harry Lane
for encouraging us to submit to JIBS, and the
thoughtful guidance of our editor Charles Galunic
and two anonymous reviewers.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Mary Yoko Brannen (MBA, PhD, University of
Massachusetts, Amherst) is Spansion Chair of
Multicultural Integration Professor of International
Business at the Lucas Graduate School of Business
at San Jose
´State University and Visiting Professor of
Strategy and Management at INSEAD, Fontaine-
bleau. Her research focuses on organizational theory
development in complex cultural organizational
settings. Born in Japan, she holds US citizenship.
She can be reached at brannen_m@cob.sjsu.edu.
Mark F Peterson (PhD, University of Michigan) is a
Professor of Management and International Busi-
ness at Florida Atlantic University and holds a part-
time Professor position supported by the Hofstede
Chair in Cultural Diversity at Maastricht University
in the Netherlands. His principal interests are in
questions of how culture and international rela-
tions affect the way organizations should be
managed. He is a US citizen and can be reached at
mpeterso@fau.edu.
Accepted by Charles Galunic, Departmental Editor, 25 March 2008. This paper has been with the authors for three revisions.
Merging without alienating Mary Yoko Brannen and Mark F Peterson
489
Journal of International Business Studies
... Based on our review, there is no conceptualization of CCP to date that explicitly incorporates (1) systemic and structural issues inherent to the context (i.e., equity), (2) the extent to which employees feel safe to be their authentic selves (i.e., inclusion), or (3) how dissimilar they are from others beyond cultural orientation or distance (i.e., diversity). While improving CCP will undoubtedly improve an organization's productivity and efficiency (e.g., Brannen and Peterson, 2009;Sultana et al., 2013), there must be a strong emphasis on the values exemplified in the DEI framework for CCP to reach its optimal potential in the workplace. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three characteristics that are featured in CCP. ...
... Sense of belonging. When individual-level outcomes are subpar, organizational outcomes, such as global growth, can be greatly jeopardized (Brannen and Peterson, 2009). An individual-level outcome that is extremely important is that employees feel valued and connected, as this can diminish expensive human resource functions such as turnover and overall morale (e.g., Hussain and Asif, 2012). ...
... This positive work environment can easily spill over to someone's life satisfaction, and likewise their adjustment to a new environment. Other macro-level influencers, such as cross-border mergers and acquisitions, influence individual-level cross-cultural adjustment (Brannen & Peterson, 2009). Although cultural differences are inconsistent across situations (Chao and Moon, 2005). ...
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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are being built into the fabric of today’s organizations, and utilizing such a lens is vital to understanding cross-cultural performance. Yet, most of the culture and diversity literature has grown in silos and is therefore not leveraging the many benefits that their integration could provide. To counter this gap, we advance a theoretical framework featuring a new definition of cross-cultural performance (CCP) from a DEI perspective, as a new angle for doing work across cultures. Specifically, CCP is defined as the integration of multiple cultural perspectives of individuals who work together with the goal of enabling a diverse, inclusive, and equitable work environment. By applying the DEI lens to CCP, we elevate the meaning of performance due to added consideration of compositional differences, the possible barriers to employees’ success, and the extent to which others’ perspectives are indeed valued. Accordingly, our framework identifies three main components of CCP: catalyzing cultural differences, taking part in engaging communication, and promoting allyship activities. Furthermore, we specify emotional management as the glue of these three components, and key outcomes at different levels of analysis. Last, we discuss the implications of our framework to both theory and practice as well as directions for future research.
... As such, failure rates for M&As have been measured at between 50% and 80% (e.g., Lee, 2003;Stahl et al., 2005;Weber et al., 2014). Typically, cultural integration (i.e., again, the problematic social dimension of the socio-economic system or equation) has been determined as the critical link in realizing M&A success (Bijlsma-Frankema and Costa, 2005;Brannen and Peterson, 2009;Schweiger and Lippert, 2005). ...
... One interesting occurrence of what the UDT model would describe as Disconnect which for UDT is a very basic (1b) issue, noted in organizational studies is related to Alienation among staff in M&As as reported by, e.g., Brannen and Peterson (2009): A theme that integrates the four facets of alienation that Blauner (1964) identifes -impotence, disconnectedness, social isolation, and selfestrangement -is the issue of separation. The ethnographic data suggested that some plant employees experienced what Blauner called impotence and disconnectedness in that the outcome of meetings was seemingly mysteriously settled among the Japanese managers in advance, and the employees' participation was not really valued. ...
... Such training allows for the alleviation of fears towards cultural otherness and will have a positive effect on members' uncertainty assessment. In conjunction with this, cross-cultural training enables members to identify complementary values of both cultures and will alleviate their continuity evaluation (Brannen & Peterson, 2009;Landis et al., 2004). ...
Thesis
This cumulative dissertation sheds light on the construction of cultural identities during CCT (Chapter 2 and 3) and in the context of cross-border acquisitions (Chapter 4 and 5). The four main chapters (2-5) represent individual articles that each cover particular facets of the dissertation project. Chapter 2 describes the development of an encompassing conceptual model of CCT effectiveness based on social cognitive theory. Relevant moderators and mediators of CCT success are identified through an extensive literature review, which yields 20 journal articles and three doctoral dissertations published between 1966 and 2015. The examined empirical studies allow for the specification of the relations between CCT, environmental and personal moderators, as well as behavioral and cognitive outcomes. The study extends prior literature by showing that CCT success does not solely depend on training design but is highly context-dependent. The comprehensive, systematic categorization of CCT moderators and mediators goes beyond previous research that only focuses on a few specific determinants of CCT success. Chapter 3 specifies the effects of an intercultural simulation with artificial cultures. Based on ELT and social identity theory, hypotheses on participants’ learning are derived. The assumptions are tested through two separate quasi-experimental studies involving 152 master students in business economics from a Danish university and 190 bachelor students in international business from a German university. Paired sample t-tests prove that the simulation enhances the ability to modify behavior depending on cultural context. The characteristics of the assigned artificial culture, as well as general and culture-specific international experience of the participants are confirmed as moderators. The study extends prior research focused on affective outcomes by examining the improvement of behavioral skills. Chapter 4 sheds light on organizational members’ sensemaking processes in the wake of a cross-border acquisition and specifies the salient motives and logics underlying their organizational identification. Based on the analysis of 28 semi-structured interviews with members of a German company that was recently acquired by a Chinese competitor, three successive phases in members’ sensemaking are distinguished. The study constitutes a dynamic extension of prior articles on social identification. The applied interpretive perspective allows examining interaction effects between members’ identification with diverse targets in the workplace as they are confronting an identity-threatening event. Chapter 5 extends the preceding chapter as it analyzes the sensemaking processes of the same employees yet focuses on their consideration of discursive influences. In addition to the first round of 28 interviews, another ten interviews help specify employees’ integration of information from diverse sources on the cross-border acquisition. The study clarifies the role of diverse sources for employees’ meaning-construction. It determines the functions discursive cues fulfil in employees’ sensemaking and shows how they use particular sources to satisfy these functions. The holistic perspective reveals cross-source effects in employees’ sensemaking, which have been missed by prior one-sided research. Chapter 6 summarizes the findings of this dissertation and highlights major contributions. Moreover, promising avenues for future research are presented with regard to a fruitful topical area, an alternative theoretical approach, and a discussion of the researcher’s role in studies on cultural identity construction.
... However, in the literature, we observe a confusing treatment of the scale; some authors, such as Middleton, consider it an alienation scale (Brannen & Peterson, 2009;Seeman, 1975), while others view it as a scale measuring anomie (Austin & Stack, 1988, p. 358;Huschka & Mau, 2006, p. 470). The authors provide little theoretical or empirical Ekaterina Lytkina, BIGSSS, Jacobs University Bremen, Campus Ring 1, 28759 Bremen, Germany (E-mail: ekaterina.lytkina@gmail.com) ...
Article
Full-text available
The article contributes to the issue how to deal with measurement non-variance. I address a well-established scale by Middleton (1963) which was created to measure alienation. However, unlike commonly treated in literature, there is evidence that the scale is two-dimensional, and consists of the measures of anomie and alienation. I use the data from two datasets, where the scale was most recently applied, World Values Survey (2011), and Euromodule (1999-2002), for a set of diverse countries representing Western, post-communist, and Eastern societies. The datasets are analyzed separately. Results of confirmatory factor analysis followed by multigroup comparisons give evidence that for a set of countries the two-dimensional scale is applicable or preferable. Full measurement invariance is reached for Russia and Kazakhstan in the World Values Survey, and Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Turkey, and South Korea in the Euromodule. Approximate measurement invariance using Bayesian statistics enabled to reach approximate scalar invariance in Russia and Kazakhstan in the World Values Survey and in Slovenia, and Switzerland in the Euromodule dataset. Additionally, to be sure that the two dimensions are indeed distinct, I used a set of indicators to predict each of the factors.
... Hence integration has been found to be contingent on the specific cultural and power-related characteristics of the merger process in hand. Brannen and Peterson (2009) talk about "pockets of alienation" in pinpointing reasons why certain localities in the organization following a cross-border merger report more alienation than others. These reasons include poor local cross-cultural management by representatives of the "stronger" merger counterpart. ...
Chapter
This chapter conceptualizes identity construction in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) as sensemaking where discursive resources are mobilized to construct, transform, and at times destruct senses of organizational identity. M&As are offered as specific contexts where resources such as stereotypes, tropes, narratives, and antenarratives are drawn on to make sense of self (and others) in the transition from legacy organizations to new combined organizational entities. The chapter proposes a theoretical framing based on discursive sensemaking and offers examples from extant research to specify and illustrate it. Finally, it outlines avenues for future research.
... Many studies have attempted to address the environmental attribute of cultural difference and firms' attempts at boundary spanning through use of bicultural staff (individuals perfectly fluent and cognizant in at least two cultures and languages) . For example, the use of biculturals is extolled by scholars because of their capability of, for example, constructive conflict resolution, connecting important stakeholders and soliciting input (Kane and Levina 2017), and also their resilience regarding cultural alienation issues (Brannen and Peterson 2009). A special category of biculturals that potentially intersects with the AE is the home country SIE. ...
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The purpose of the study was to enhance understanding of how self‐initiated expatriates (SIE) adjust to new cultural contexts in the under‐explored Indo‐Japanese inter‐Asian context. A literature review identified that Asian focal case studies are under‐developed, especially regarding the important interactions between major advanced Asian economy and emerging Asian economy settings. Therefore, the study developed an illustrative case of advanced economy Japanese SIE managers’ lived experience in Indian emerging economy cross‐cultural management situations. Deploying a social constructivist epistemology using interpretive analysis, the current study found clear evidence of an interplay of hitherto under‐recognized common Indo‐Japanese spiritual values with roots in Buddhism surfacing in the Japanese SIE's adjustment. The paper offers important insights to complement extant theory on the individual‐level factors influencing SIE adjustment in an inter‐Asian context. The study contributes to international human resource management literature by surfacing contextualized understanding of the role of traditional spiritual values in SIE adjustment.
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Full-text available
Considering the studies carried out in the literature, as a result of the research, the existence of the ethical climate in the organization will make significant contributions to the employee's job satisfaction and will keep the organizational silence at low levels. Employees will not feel alienated in an organization where there is an ethical climate. In addition, in the presence of an ethical climate, the burnout of the employee will remain at low levels. In organizations where the ethical climate is not taken into account, the employee will not be satisfied with their job. In addition, in this case, the employee will be more likely to remain silent in the face of problems. Again, in the absence of an ethical climate, the employee will feel alienated from his organization. As a result, employee burnout is at high levels in organizations where there is no ethical climate. In the research, it can be stated that the level of alienation from the organization will be low for the employee whose job satisfaction level is high in the organization. In addition, it is seen that the employee with a high level of satisfaction will not exhibit silent behavior towards the problems in his organization. In the employees with high job dissatisfaction in the organization, both organizational alienation and organizational silence behaviors can be seen. The alienation of the employee from the organization and organizational silence behaviors cause an increase in the level of burnout. As a result, both alienation and silence in the employee's organization remain at low levels, which will contribute to the employee's burnout behavior.
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Drawing upon the trait activation theory, this paper explains team performance from a mediating perspective of knowledge application, which represents a teamwork process of knowledge management. The empirical results of this study reveal that knowledge application mediates the negative relationship between power distance and team performance and the positive relationship between flexibility orientation and team performance. Teamwork engagement moderates the relationship between learning goal orientation and knowledge application and the relationship between flexibility orientation and knowledge application. Finally, team familiarity moderates the relationship between flexibility orientation and knowledge application. Research implications and limitations are also discussed herein.
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Health care in contemporary Japan - a modern industrial state with high technology, but a distinctly non-Western cultural tradition - operates on several different levels. In this book Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney provides a detailed and historically informed account of the cultural practices and cultural meaning of health care in urban Japan. In contrast to most ethnomedical studies, this book pays careful attention to everyday hygienic practices and beliefs, as well as presenting a comprehensive picture of formalized medicine, health care aspects of Japanese religions, and biomedicine. These different systems compete with one another at some levels, but are complementary in providing health care to urban Japanese, who often use more than one system simultaneously. As an unequalled portrayal of health care in a modern industrial, but non-Western, setting, it will be of widespread interest to scholars and students of anthropology, medicine, and East Asian studies.