Expectations of superiors and employees in an intercultural interplay

Lorem ipsum, to see what happens!

A case-study with the Dutch reactions as a comparison reference

Participants of our workshops have answered a questionnaire. Half of them were asked to identify themselves with a young expert in his field and the other half –usually having relevant experience–with the Head of the Department.

Care is taken that the two groups consist both of Dutch individuals as well as individuals who grew up in another collectivistic culture, but came to the Netherlands or went abroad for work. For the results presented most of the participants were either University graduates or students.

Incompatibility in the expectations

The situation one had to place him/herself was described with details on a slide. The answers of an employee and a superior among the Dutch participants (or those grown up in another individualistic country, e.g. the U.S.A.) were expected to be compatible. The expectations between employee and superior for individuals who grew up in a collectivistic country should be compatible too. Compatible in the sense that the employee would behave exactly the way the superior expected. However, it is highly likely that the self-evident behavior among superiors and employees in a collectivist country would be incompatible from that behavior expected among the Dutch or Americans. This hypothesis is based on established cultural differences.

The results, in our small survey, confirmed our hypothesised incompatibility, as shown in the the next two figures.

Dutch superiors do not doubt their belief that an expert employee will prefer to answer the questions him/herself. Dutch employees have grown up to be independent individuals and are all well aware of that. Our predictions were right: choice 1 as superior match the answers of choice 1 as employee for the full 100%. See the choices of the answers as superior and employee in the figure. None of the Dutch or the Biculturals who grew up in the Netherlands opted for choice 2. Any interference of their superior, to take over the discussion, would be seen as a sign of their own weakness or as lack of self-confidence. Choice 2, however, is the pattern expected for individuals grown up in collectivistic cultures. But not for those who have work experience in a North European country or U.S.A.

Indeed, 75% of the participants who grew up in a collectivistic country (represented were Greece, India, Romania, Poland, Surinam, Costa Rica), but had worked more than 5 yeas in the Netherlands, and Germany have realized the difference and the patterns of their reactions are consistent with those among the Dutch. See their choices in both the charts.

(People who grew up in culturally mixed families, or have actively lived at least 5 years in another, different from own, culture are consider to have acquired bicultural or intercultural competence and are coined ‘biculturals’)

results survey superior
Cultural distance: Left Figure in the exactions of superiors /Right Figure: In the expectations of employees

From the case-study becomes obvious that people from different cultural backgrounds may consider as self-evident much different from each other reactions. Such differences are not easily realised, but are, often, a source of frustration, mis-function and mis-communication. Understanding key differences between yourself and the ‘other’ helps you apply the ‘right’ persuasion strategy in succeeding to achieve your goals at work.

In2cultures approach

In2cultures has the knowledge, the methods and the tools to help trainers and trainees developing intercultural competence, a necessary skill in our 21st century!! The presentation was aimed at just getting an idea about the importance of having grown up in a different culture. In my workshops I always offer tailored-made case-studies and take care that the content matches with the specific needs of the participants.

Many Thanks!!

Many thanks to all participants

Please send us a message!! or send me an e-mail. We would love to hear any feedback from you!

 Katerina Pouliasi