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Parochialism in Business: Definition & Examples

Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Having a narrow, self-centered view of the world is known as parochialism. In business, parochialism is a particularly harmful trait for managers. In this lesson, we'll examine how parochialism impacts a business and provide examples.

Defining Parochialism

Have you ever known someone who refused to recognize any point of view other than their own? Like a horse with blinders on?

Taking a narrow-minded view of things is at the heart of parochialism. The root word of parochialism is parish, which in religion is a small administrative district. So to be parochial is to view things as if the rest of the world operates the same as within your own small piece of ground.

How is this relevant to business? Parochialism can affect any size business, small or large. Parochialism can exist inside a business or it can influence how the business operates in the world at large.

How Parochialism Takes Root

In a small business, people perform many duties and wear many hats by necessity. As the business begins to expand, departments form for specific functions like legal, marketing, and accounting. With each department comes new rules, and sometimes the departments become their own little kingdoms (also called silos in business terminology) and lose sight of the overall mission of the company. When department heads become more concerned with what's good for their department versus what's good for the company, they are taking a parochial view.

In addition to departments taking an inward view, managers can also be tone-deaf to diversity throughout the company. If a manager makes decisions that ignore the cultural impact on employees (i.e. failing to take into account religious holidays), resentment and cynicism can grow within the ranks. Managers have to be aware that different people have different ways of working and living.

Taking a World View

Technological advances resulting from the expansion of the internet have allowed even small businesses to go global. But when a U.S.-based business tries to apply their own cultural, managerial, and business practices to a foreign country or business partner, things can go wrong. The refusal or reluctance to recognize different ways of doing things is a limiting factor in a business's international success, especially if the competition puts effort into understanding market differences and customs.

There are different versions of parochialism as it applies to international business:

  • Ethnocentric Attitude - The belief that the best ways of doing things are those of the home country. This is the highest level of parochialism.
  • Polycentric Attitude - The view that the employees in the foreign country know best, so managers take a hands-off approach and let the foreign employees do their own thing. This is a looser version of parochialism.
  • Geocentric Attitude - This is a world view where managers take the best approach and trust people from all origins to get the job done. No parochialism here; managers with a geocentric attitude try to understand cross-cultural differences, not ignore them.

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