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Cross-Cultural Perspectives

August 16 2010 - A study by Cristina B. Gibson of the University of Western Australia and Dana M. McDaniel of the University of California, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science highlights variable attitudes to work among different cultures. Cautioning against a 'one size fits all' approach to business and management styles, the authors suggest a cross-cultural perspective can facilitate co-working in an era of globalization.

The way in which employees conceptualize teams is one indication of cultural difference. Use of sports-related metaphors in the United States was found to be less common elsewhere. In Latin America, the work team tended to be compared to the family.

Cristina B. Gibson, Winthrop professor in the school of business commented:

"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. Families are involved in all parts of your life, and are expected to celebrate with you socially. Your involvement in your sports team is more limited. Less caretaking, more competitive."

The authors also cite varying attitudes to desirable characteristics in a leader. Not every culture admires charisma, when a strong personality is used to inspire loyalty.

Cristina B. Gibson said:

"The very same behaviors that are deemed desirable from a leader in one culture might be viewed as interference or micromanagement in other settings."

The authors argue that there are implications both for employers and those conducting research. Organizations, teams, and individuals may have different values and preferences; cultural variability is likely to become more apparent with the expansion of globalization.

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