Get Ready for the Culture Clash – Part 2
By Terry J. Soto, President & CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.
Consider that you can train employees of various cultural backgrounds on policies, procedures and corporate culture, but how that message is ultimately communicated and received can and does vary dramatically. Anthropologists Kevin Avruch and Peter Black explain the importance of culture this way: …One’s own culture provides the “lens” through which we view the world; the “logic”… by which we order it; the “grammar” … by which it makes sense.
In other words, culture is central to what we see in our employees’ behavior, how we make sense of what we see, and how we express ourselves in our communications with them.
We continue with the six fundamental patterns of Cultural Differences that can affect development and motivation of a multicultural workforce. (See
part 1 in this series.)
4. Different Decision-Making Styles
The roles individuals play in decision-making vary widely from culture to culture. For example, in the U.S., decisions are frequently delegated — that is, an official assigns responsibility for a particular matter to a subordinate. In many Southern European and Latin American countries, there is a strong value placed on holding decision-making responsibilities oneself. When decisions are made by groups of people, majority rule is a common approach in the U.S.; in Japan consensus is the preferred mode. Be aware that individuals’ expectations about their own roles in shaping a decision may be influenced by their cultural frame of reference.
5. Different Attitudes Toward Disclosure
In some cultures, it is not appropriate to be frank about emotions, about the reasons behind a conflict or a misunderstanding, or about personal information. Keep this in mind when you are in a dialogue or when you are working with others. When you are dealing with a conflict, be mindful that people may differ in what they feel comfortable revealing. Questions that may seem natural to you — What was the conflict about? What was your role in the conflict? What was the sequence of events? — may seem intrusive to others.
6. Different Approaches to Knowing
Notable differences occur among cultural groups when it comes to the ways people come to know things. European cultures tend to consider information acquired through cognitive means, such as counting and measuring, more valid than other ways of coming to know things. Compare that to African cultures’ preference for affective ways of knowing, including symbolic imagery and rhythm. Asian cultures tend to emphasize the validity of knowledge gained through striving toward transcendence. (Nichols, 1976) Recent popular works demonstrate that our own society is paying more attention to previously overlooked ways of knowing.
Anthropologists Avruch and Black have noted that, when faced by an interaction that we do not understand, people tend to interpret the others involved as “abnormal,” “weird,” or “wrong.” (Avruch and Black, 1993) DuPraw and Axner propose that this tendency, if indulged, gives rise on the individual level to prejudice. If this propensity is either consciously or unconsciously integrated into organizational structures, then prejudice takes root in our institutions — in the structures, laws, policies, and procedures that shape our lives. Consequently, it is vital that we learn to control the human tendency to translate “different from me” into “less than me.”
Moderator’s Comment: Which diversity issue covered in this two-part series is most challenging to business today and why? What rewards are their or companies
that meet the challenge as you see it? –
Terry J. Soto – Moderator