Empowering Hispanic interns through personalismo

March 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

by Miguel Corona

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit and present to a Latino student organization down the road from Cincinnati at Northern Kentucky University. Before my presentation, I spent quite a long time talking with many of the students asking them about their backgrounds and experiences, respective majors and classroom work, and expected plans after graduation. I also shared everything about my background, and how it mirrored many of their experiences. By the time I was introduced to speak, I had already established an initial relationship with most of the students in attendance. And even though I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone before the presentation, I could sense that the rapport I had developed with some in the group had already helped me generate credibility before speaking one word. This illustrative process highlights the special emphasis Hispanics put on relationship-building prior to engaging in business or developing professional relationships. It’s based on the cultural idea that individuals are valued more than material belongings and is known as personalismo.

Personalismo can be described as the partiality for close personal relationships. The concept of personalismo is not so much an observed behavior but rather a perception Hispanics have about other individuals. For example, personalismo can be seen in others if they’re perceived to be well-meaning, objective, caring, and respectful. To Hispanics, even a stranger can be seen as having personalismo if he or she exhibits these qualities. In a work environment, supervisors demonstrating high character and moral standards, for example, are able to build stronger levels of trust among Hispanics. A supervisor that is seen as unbiased, fair, and objective with all employees is perceived to possess high levels of personalismo. While Hispanic interns might behave very formal during initial meetings, recognize they’re probably already monitoring for these genuine cultural elements in their supervisors or managers. Once this trust or personalismo is established, it will help Hispanic interns build a strong personal bond with their team or department.   

Personalismo essentially serves as a foundation for other cultural values that are important to Hispanics. Without establishing that genuine relationship, a supervisor might find it more challenging to manage or direct a Hispanic intern. So supervisors should take some time to get to know their new interns. Ask about their background, experiences, and future plans. Invite interns to share what they are hoping to accomplish during their internships and what support they’ll need in order to do so. Of course, don’t fail to appreciate the role of culture to the intern’s overall aspirations. A genuine effort to recognize their cultural perspective will go a long way toward showing you have their best interest at heart.

Entry filed under: diversity, Intern Training. Tags: , , , , , .

Simpatia: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes Lessons learned

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