Bosses and employees should know about the culture of their colleagues’ past work environments to improve teamwork because people from different cultures think about work in distinctive ways, a new study concludes.
“In the United States, people used a lot of sports metaphors. Elsewhere, that just wasn't a common metaphor,” said researcher Cristina Gibson, a professor at the University of Western Australia. "In Latin America, for example, many people referred to co-workers as family."
“If you just use those two contrasts and think about what you might expect from your family versus what you might expect from your sports team, you start to see the differences,” she said. “Your involvement in your sports team is more limited. Less caretaking, more competitive.”
It’s important to assess these differences, Gibson told BusinessNewsDaily, because cultural issues, challenges and techniques referenced in the study apply across companies of all sizes, including small businesses and startups.
The research focuses on cross-cultural behaviors and approaches in three business areas: teams, leadership and conflict.
Gibson suggests small-business owners follow these steps to change workplace approaches, if necessary:
- Become aware of potential cultural differences.
- Spend time listening to and observing your employees to understand their cultural orientations, preferences and values.
- If necessary, adjust your own behavior as a boss to help incorporate your employees’ cultural orientations, preferences and values.
“The very same behaviors that are deemed desirable from a leader in one culture might be viewed as interference or micromanagement in other settings,” said Gibson, who findings appeared in Perspectives on Psychological Science.