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The Diorama

The Impact of Gender and Ethnic ‘Native Categories’ on Cross-Cultural Management in a Post-Acquisition Automobile Manufacturer

Abstract

  • This paper uses an incident in which a diorama was set up at the entrance to the Final Assembly section of the BMW MINI plant near Oxford to anlayse the impact of gender and ethnic identities on cross-cultural management, through the anthropological concept of the ‘native category’. Its aims are to explore the ways in which the diorama symbolically exposed tensions in the workplace relating to ethnicity and gender; to consider the role of a German dominance effect on the workforce; and to examine the implications of these for cross-cultural management.

  • The data was gathered through participant-observation on the assembly line and managers’ offices, and through both unstructured and semi-structured interviews with managers and workers, during two fieldwork periods, the first in 2003 and the second involving intermittent visits from 2003–2006.

  • The paper explores the ways in which the diorama reflected and contributed to unspoken tensions within the workplace relating to ethnicity and gender, and assesses the role of the German dominance effect on the workforce. It investigates the impact of tacit discourses on organisations, and considers ways in which cross-cultural management activities can be successfully carried out in MNCs.

  • The management of gender and ethnicity within BMW were affected by the ‘native categories’ of British and German managers and workers; furthermore, taking a native categories approach to cross-cultural management reveals areas of friction, and sheds light on normally-overlooked problems in merged organisations.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    The description in my fieldnotes differs slightly from both my final description in the report above, and a contemporary photograph shown in the staff newsletter, in which none of the mannequins are wearing a PAM uniform (which consisted of a distinctive green-orange-and-black jacket worn over the shift uniform). The discrepancy may be explained by changes being made to the display between the one event and the other, or due to myself, significantly, misremembering the mannequin ’showing’ the car as carrying more authority than it actually did. In reconstructing the diorama for Fig. 1, I have relied primarily on the photograph and report.

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Correspondence to Fiona Moore.

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Moore, F. The Diorama. Manag Int Rev 52, 619–642 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11575-011-0119-7

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Keywords

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Dominance effect
  • Native categories
  • Micropolitics
  • Manager-worker relations