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Unlocking the mindsets of government affairs managers - the cultural dimensions of corporate political activity

Barron, A. (2010) Unlocking the mindsets of government affairs managers - the cultural dimensions of corporate political activity. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 17 (2). 101 - 117. ISSN 1352-7606

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore the cultural dimensions of corporate political activity (CPA). The study uses a qualitative research design. Data collected from interviews conducted with the Brussels-based Government Affairs Managers of French and British firms are analysed to examine the impact of national culture on their objectives and preferred political strategies. The findings suggest possible relationships between the cultural dimensions elaborated by Hofstede and the different components of corporate political action: uncertainty avoidance can help explain managers' objectives when becoming politically active; the long-term vs short-term dimension can account for their general approaches to political activity; their level of participation in the political process can be explained by the individualism vs collectivism dimension; and their choices of specific lobbying tactics and techniques can be explained in terms of power distance. As firms increasingly interact with foreign rivals when seeking to influence policy outcomes, knowing that corporate political strategies are in part culturally grounded can help Government Affairs Managers to anticipate, respond to and act on the strategies pursued by firms socialised in other national cultures. While previous mainstream research into CPA is based largely on universal theories, the primary contribution of the paper is to introduce national culture as a variable to explain cross-country differences in the types and processes of firms' political activities.