Impact of cultural differences, internal and environmental factors at Airbus
Employees are affected by a number of internal and external forces that when combined produce given behaviours and attitudes. In this paper, I will consider the key factors affecting individual and groups’ behaviour and their corresponding relationship to the personal and organisational performance. The scenario, Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Toulouse, is dominated by tensions amongst groups of workers with different cultural background. The impact of those cultural challenges, the pressures of delivering the A380s in time and the demands from the external environment will be some of the factors that will be considered in the analysis below. In order to understand the multiple forces and the organisational change processes undertaken by Airbus, two influential frameworks for change have been examined in this paper. The model introduced by Burke and Litwin (2002), and the approach presented by Kotter (1995), based upon the authors’ research into corporate change.
1. Individual factors
Attitudes and personal behavioural codes consist of an organisation of feelings, thoughts and cognitions in a defined situation. Airbus’ employees appear not to be motivated to fulfil the group’s objectives as “there are too many tensions and too much suspicion” (Hollinger & Wiesmann, 2008), as reported by an official of the French union. As work motivation and job satisfaction are closely linked with the overall performance of workers, it is important to identify factors leading to job dissatisfaction at Airbus. The arrival of two thousand electricians to resolve wiring problem has impacted negatively on the Toulouse plant resulting in overcrowding, sudden change in industrial processes and dispositions against other individuals with a number of differences. The temperament and individual emotions are difficult to understand for people with diverse cultural upbringing. There are also differences in pay which are perceived as unequal and negative, particularly for those employees not on secondment. In summary, individuals are often resistant to change which involve loss and uncertainty. One of the most common reasons for human resistance is the focus on their own best interests instead of the organisation’s (Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979).
2. Work group factors
Although team diversity can potentially create a positive organisational synergy, the same can also create unique challenges resulting from social integration, tension, and conflict (Jehn, Northcraft & Neale, 1999). In the case of Airbus, it appears there are two leaders from different groups and cultures bringing different attitudes and dispositions to the groups, giving birth to nationalistic tensions between French and German employees. Management rivalries become a detrimental model for working groups (Drucker, 1986). Team engagement and social integration are then increasingly difficult as the majority of Germans are temporary employees coming from outside the company. Furthermore, the organisational culture of Airbus is affected by the lack of trust and transparency from management. In this situation, fear and suspicion emerge and French groups start to perceive the growing influence of German managers as unfair and unequal. All these factors create frustrations amongst the teams and individuals thus producing uncertainty which affects the plant performance and the company’s ability to meet delivery schedules.
3. Organisational factors
The organisational structure and culture as well as its policies and systems, together with the set goals influence employee and team behaviours. With this in mind, it is important to consider that Airbus and its parent company EADS were merged in the name of European unity and intended to be more competitive in the aerospace industry. With the internal pressures of company restructuring consisting of the A380 delivery...
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