The United States of America has traditionally been known as ‘The Melting Pot’. Since this country was formed, there has been continual immigration. ‘For centuries, the United States was ‘utopianized’ by people fleeing persecution, subjection, tyranny, and oppression. America the concept was actually an attempt to create utopia. America the value encompassed all that is perfect: strength, wealth, philanthropy, family, children and glory (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).’ ‘Americans are group-oriented and being part of a group or network and identifying with it is essential for success in almost all instances. Within the group structure, specialization is exalted, and everyone is expected to add value to the final product or service because of it (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).’ Because most individuals have such specialized knowledge, teamwork is necessary. ‘As a general rule, Americans intensely commit themselves to a group effort, but only for a specified and frequently short periods of time, setting aside differences and cooperating to achieve a certain goal (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).‘ ‘That is the essence of the melting pot, a diversified group of people who forget their differences temporarily to achieve a common goal (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).’ ‘Americans are very direct communicators. They tend to convey their entire message verbally, paying less attention to body language. People are expected to ‘get to the point’. Americans are generally quite enthusiastic, assertive and persuasive in their speech (IES, 2019).’ Cultural diversity in the workplace does have its challenges, though. Americans are very sensitive to time and we have a feeling of being on a deadline, even when we are not. That can sometimes give the impression of aggression or of rushing communication. Commonly, workplace interactions are motivated by the bottom-line. Most discussion is business related and personal feelings and emotions are kept out of the office. This can lead to a sense of a sense of division by others who don’t understand the American way of separating business life and personal life. We must all be conscious of cultural differences in the workplace so these differences don’t become obstacles that can’t be overcome.
The Turkish Coffeehouse (Turkey)
Often referred to as the cradle of civilization, Turkey is filled with archeological remnants of the ancient Greeks and Romans, along with treasures of the sultans and caliphs of the Ottoman dynasty. Perhaps most interesting of all are the people of Turkey, rich in emotions, traditions and hospitality. Turkish origins can be traced to the Mongols, Slavs, Greeks, Kurds, Armenians, and Arabs. Groups are highly valued and individual identity is determined on the basis of group membership. Conformity to group norms and traditions is expected, trust and reliance within the group is important. At work, collectivistic values are expressed in unusual ways. At McDonald’s, the ‘employee of the month’ is not selected for outstanding work. Rather, the selection is made on a rotational basis. Furthermore, there is little, if any, two-way discussion or participation with subordinates in many firms. Turkish managers have a distinctive concept of employee participation, by telling employee that, as long as loyalty is shown, they will not be fired, even if performance is substandard. Communication is indirect, even among very close family members. One commonly has to make assumptions on what a person is saying as opposed to what they are actually meaning. Turkish people seem to be curious by nature. Consequently, very little in people’s lives is a real secret. Communication is the essence of Turkish existence. There is no question that Turkey has a male-dominated culture, and the nature of such dominion is ever present. Society generally believes that biological sex should determine the roles of members in homes, business organizations and communities. Humor is an effective communication technique and can even serve as a way to avoid confrontation and conflict. Turks prefer to avoid confrontation and to handle disputes indirectly. Being direct is considered rude and insulting, directness goes against the respect that Turks have for other people. The lifestyle is group-oriented, and the Turkish people feel very comfortable when surrounded by friends and family and prefer the stability of belonging to an organization to individualism. (All text: Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).
The Polish Village Church (Poland)
A first-time visitor to Warsaw, Poland, is frequently surprised by its modernity, as exemplified by the buildings in the central business district, many of which could easily be mistaken for buildings in U.S. cities. Business people are constantly on their cell phones or in intense discussions making deals. The Polish people are guarded in their manner of dealing with each other or outsiders and in their trust of institutions and people. Despite this guardedness, they possess a richness and depth of spirit that has helped them persevere through many shared adversities. Whenever Poles want to explain some aspect of their work, they start by talking about Polish history. They are sensitive about their history and can be ‘prickly to a fault’ about it, especially those who are older. The aftermath of World War II brought a division of the spoils among the victors, namely the Western allies and Russia. Inadequate and unsupported reforms have produced a worsening economy and growing social discontent. The Pole’s basic distrust of government systems produced an unwillingness to make sacrifices to turn the economy around. In 1989, the overthrow of the communist state in Poland brought the beginning of significant economic, political and social reforms that continue today. The face that Pole’s present in public is guarded and private, with smiles reserved for more informal and private moments between friends and family. Poles live a dual life, public and private. Behaviors that are considered appropriate to get things done in the public sphere, such as bribery or deception, are not acceptable within the small private spheres of Polish life. Poles have learned to expect different rules for different situations and are able to compartmentalize their lives into these different spheres. Poles tend to mind their own business. The collective efforts that so define the Polish people are usually followed by periods marked by extreme difficulties in managing and operating as a unified people. Factions split off and individual interests take precedent. Poles refocus quickly on the issues of their own families, leaving a disunity that often appears as anarchy. But it is also in these periods that the ingenuity of individual Poles is unleashed. (All text: Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010)
It’s difficult to understand how different people really are. Cultural dimensions are complex combinations of not only your own personal history, but that of your family, friends, community and country. Many times, our behavior and actions come from a place we are not even aware of ourselves. Ideas and beliefs are passed down from generation to generation and sometimes the reason behind these ideas are no longer part of the current way of life. When you look at the history of The United States, Turkey and Poland, it is no wonder there are so many differences. It is more surprising there are as many similarities as there are.
- ‘Turkey is a collectivistic society. This means that the ‘we’ is important. People belong to groups who look after each other. Communication is indirect and the harmony of the group has to be maintained, open conflicts are avoided. Relationships have a moral base and this always has priority over task fulfillment. Feedback is always indirect.’ (National Culture, n.d.)
- ‘Poland is an individualist society. This means there is a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. Offence causes guilt and a loss of self-esteem. They exhibit great respect for tradition, and a focus on achieving quick results. There is a high preference for avoiding uncertainty, and so they have an emotional need for rules.’ (National Culture, n.d.)
- ‘The United States is one of the most individualistic countries in the world. The American premise is “liberty and justice for all.” This is evidenced by an explicit emphasis on equal rights in all aspects of American society and government. Americans are the best joiners in the world; however, it is often difficult, especially among men, to develop deep friendships. Americans are accustomed to doing business or interacting with people they don’t know well. Consequently, Americans are not shy about approaching people they do not know in order to obtain or seek information. Americans tend to be tolerant of ideas or opinions from anyone and allow the freedom of expression. At the same time, Americans do not require a lot of rules and are less emotionally expressive than other cultures.’ (National Culture, n.d.)
- Similarities: People have the same basic desire wherever you may go. More than being right or being popular, people everywhere want to be heard. We all have different ways in which we try to accomplish this. Whether the person you are dealing with is being pushy, brash or persuasive, most likely that person only wants you to understand what they are saying and acknowledge the value of it. Other similarities amongst cultures is a sense of humor, family values and sorrow, even when they are expressed in a manner other than what you are familiar with.
- Turkey: ‘Collectivistic values are expressed in unusual ways in the workplace. Often, acknowledgements are not based on merit, rather on a rotational basis. There is little, if any, two-way discussion or participation with subordinates in many firms. There is a distinctive concept of employee participation whereby Turkish managers will accept substandard work in exchange for loyalty to the company.’ (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010).
- Poland: ‘Poland is a hierarchical society. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralization is popular, and subordinates expect to be told what to do. Managers are expected to be decisive and assertive; the emphasis is on equity, competition and performance and conflicts are resolved by fighting them out.’ (National Culture, n.d.)
- The United States: ‘In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative. Also, within the exchange-based world of work we see that hiring, promotion and decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do. Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative to a degree. There is a fair degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices or food. Behavior in school, work, and play are based on the shared values that people should “strive to be the best they can be” and that “the winner takes all”.’ (National Culture, n.d.)
- Similarities: In the workplace, as in other areas, people want to be valued and respected. People want to work with and for an organization whose beliefs and values are the same as theirs. People everywhere want to do well at their job and take pride in their work. ‘They want to understand how their job contributes to the accomplishment of company business goals (Heathfield, S. M., 2019).’
- Turkey: ‘An overwhelming number of Turkish citizens are Muslims (about 99%). Other religions, such as Greek Orthodoxy and Judaism, are tolerated in Turkish society. Religion, as well as culture, is integrated with government. The Turkish government oversees a system in which children are exposed to a measure of religion in schools and the clergy receive salaries from the government.’ (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010)
- Poland: ‘It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Catholic church in the public and private lives of the Polish people. Hann (1985) goes as far as to say, ‘Polish has come to mean Catholic’. The village church resides in the center of most Polish villages, exemplifying the central place that Catholicism plays in Polish life. The Catholic church openly sanctioned much of the opposition to government policies in Poland.’ (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010)
- The United States: ‘The U.S. utopia would not be complete without the practice of religion. More than half of the U.S. population attends church regularly. Only a few other nations, such as Ireland and Poland surpass the United States on this measure. There are over 400,000 churches in the United States appealing to all different types of religious beliefs. Although the country is primarily Christian, there are numerous other denominations.’ (Gannon, M., & Pillai, R., 2010) Separation of church and state is strictly adhered to.
- Similarities: ‘Something that the five major world religions have in common is a sense of community. A sense of community provides a sense of cohesion and identity, as well as a way for rituals and traditions to be passed down from generation to generation. The practice of religion is one way of directing one’s life with its structure and theological or other principles which govern behavior.’ (What do most world religions have in common?, 2011)
Gannon, M., & Pillai, R. (n.d.). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 29 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity (Fourth Edition). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.4135/9781452224886.n16 Chapter Title: American Football, pages 249-2
IES (2019). The Cultural Atlas. Retrieved from: https://culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/.
Gannon, M., & Pillai, R. (n.d.). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 29 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity (Fourth Edition). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.4135/9781452224886.n16 Chapter Title: The Turkish Coffeehouse, pages 73-92
Gannon, M., & Pillai, R. (n.d.). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 29 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity (Fourth Edition). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.4135/9781452224886.n16 Chapter Title: The Polish Village Church, pages 111-124
National Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/models/national-culture/
Heathfield, S. M. (2019, January 31). Diversity in the Workplace: You Want to Seek Similarities First. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/diversity-in-the-workplace-search-for-similarities-1917925
What do most world religions have in common? | eNotes. (2011, February 26). Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-do-most-world-religions-have-common-398028