Paradoxical Relationships between Cultural Norms of Particularism and Attitudes Toward Relational Favoritism: A Cultural Reflectivity Perspective

Posted: 3 Oct 2015 Last revised: 11 Mar 2016

See all articles by Chao C. Chen

Chao C. Chen

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Management & Global Business

Joseph Gaspar

Quinnipiac University - School of Business

Ray Friedman

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior

William Newburry

Florida International University (FIU) - Department of Management & International Business

Michael Nippa

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - School of Economics and Management

Katherine R. Xin

China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

Ronaldo Parente

Florida International University, College of Business Administration

Date Written: September 1, 2015

Abstract

We examined how the cultural dimension of universalism–particularism influences managers' attitudes toward relational favoritism (such as favoring friends or relatives in HR decisions). Paradoxically, we found in a survey study that Brazilian and Chinese managers perceived more negative consequences of relational favoritism than did American managers — even though the Brazilians and the Chinese perceived stronger particularistic cultural norms in their countries than Americans did in the United States. We attribute this pattern of results to "cultural reflexivity" — the ability of people from transforming economies to be culturally self-critical during a period of dramatic societal change. This pattern of results also emerged in a scenario study in which we asked these same Brazilian, Chinese, and American participants to assess managerial succession decisions made by a General Manager. We varied the scenarios so that the promoted manager was either a colleague with no pre-existing relation with the GM or a colleague who was a relative, a close friend, from the same town, or from the same school. Consistent with the results of the survey study, we found that perceived cultural norms of particularism were negatively related to perceptions of fairness. In other words, Brazilians and Chinese, even while living in more particularistic cultures, were more harsh in judging relational favoritism. We conclude with a discussion on the implications of these paradoxical relationships.

Keywords: Culture, Cultural reflectivity, Ethical judgment, Guanxi, Jeitinho, Universalism–particularism, Procedural justice, Relational favoritism

Suggested Citation

Chen, Chao C. and Gaspar, Joseph and Friedman, Raymond A. and Newburry, William and Nippa, Michael and Xin, Katherine R. and Parente, Ronaldo, Paradoxical Relationships between Cultural Norms of Particularism and Attitudes Toward Relational Favoritism: A Cultural Reflectivity Perspective (September 1, 2015). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 130, No. 3, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2668200

Chao C. Chen

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Management & Global Business ( email )

Newark, NJ
United States
973-353-5425 (Phone)
973-353-1664 (Fax)

Joseph Gaspar (Contact Author)

Quinnipiac University - School of Business ( email )

United States

Raymond A. Friedman

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior ( email )

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
615-322-3992 (Phone)
615-343-7177 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://mba.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/rfriedman.cfm

William Newburry

Florida International University (FIU) - Department of Management & International Business ( email )

University Park
Miami, FL 33199
United States

Michael Nippa

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - School of Economics and Management ( email )

Via Sernesi 1
39100 Bozen-Bolzano (BZ), Bozen 39100
Italy
+39.0471.013.181 (Phone)

Katherine R. Xin

China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) ( email )

Shanghai-Hongfeng Road
Shanghai 201206
Shanghai 201206
China

Ronaldo Parente

Florida International University, College of Business Administration ( email )

Miami, FL 33199
United States

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