Posts tagged ‘Hispanic culture’
The other day I came across this article on the Coaching Commons website, which asked the question: would knowing a person’s cultural history help you coach them? According to a new study featured in the article, understanding another’s culture can make a difference in effective coaching strategies. As shared by the study’s authors and by my previous posts, culture is an important element that forms a person’s identity. Hence, by understanding one’s culture, a manager or supervisor can gain a better understanding of their behaviors especially in a work setting. Given today’s multi-cultural workforce, the ability to develop employees by fully tapping and recognizing their talents is essential.
In working with managers over the last year, I’ve noted that their biggest challenge in understanding cultural differences is not the different backgrounds, experiences, values, or languages, of their employees, but it’s in understand their own culture. Put differently, some of the managers that I’ve work with filter expectations and meanings based on their own experiences. This has the potential for creating a number of perceived dilemmas. How? By supervising employees or interns based solely on their own cultural perspective, a manager might assume it’s the employee that might be having an issue. Since managing an intern depends in part to one’s cultural perspective, a potential barrier to an intern’s progress might be related cultural differences rather than behavior.
This is why my advice to managers supervising or coaching recent Hispanic college graduates has always been the same. Cultural awareness is not only about understanding your own culture, but also understanding that your culture will probably be different than the person you’re supervising. Furthermore, cultural awareness, especially in a supervision context, is more than realizing another culture might be unlike your own; it’s about learning to appreciate that other culture. Often times it’s culture that dictates your behavior – often times without you knowing. For example, it impacts the way you communicate, your body language, and how you manage conflict. By understanding that your culture influences your viewpoints and perspectives, you’ll decrease the likelihood of misinterpreting an employee’s behavior.
If you’re working with Hispanic interns in your organization, I’d encourage you to place a greater focus on understanding your culture as well as that of your intern’s. This is especially important if you’re in a supervisory role. I’ve hopefully explained why developing cross cultural awareness has much in common with building rapport in a coaching situation. For supervisors, it’s not only about understanding another’s culture but also about understanding their own.
Nothing harms a company more than employees not “showing up” to work. Absenteeism or long-term in the way of employee turnover has obvious negative consequences on an organization’s effectiveness and success. The impact of turnover, for example, has financial costs when you consider the time and expense of recruiting and training a prospective employee. Another way that an employee might miss work, or not “show up,” occurs when he or she is at work but is mentally “absent” due to lack of motivation, frustration with a supervisor, or lack of support. This combination of physical and mental absence might be viewed as a lack of commitment to the company. Organizational commitment can be described as the degree of an employees’ connection with a company, which is typified by their belief in organizational values, motivation to perform organizational activities, and desire to stay engaged with the company.
As an employer it’s important to understand why Hispanic interns might have unique perspectives regarding organizational commitment. Numerous management studies have shown that Hispanics have a higher sensitivity toward bias in workplace. Despite having comparable qualifications and experiences, research has shown that Hispanics in the workplace still face discrepancies in income and fewer promotional or career opportunities. Given this research data and perhaps based on their personal experiences, Hispanic interns might also be more conscious of organizational inconsistencies. Taken together, Hispanic interns perceiving any supervisor partiality or unfairness might question the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. This could eventually lead to decreased motivation or engagement with the company.
Of course, this is a broad illustration; however, by beginning to understand that Hispanics have unique perspectives about organizational commitment, employers can enhance the way they communicate and manage Hispanic interns. To thoroughly benefit from the potential returns of diversity efforts, employers should be fully aware of these characteristics. One of the many positive aspects of diversity initiatives is the opportunity to increase personal effectiveness and communication with employees as well as create an environment of fairness and equality. By engaging and understanding their perspectives as it relates to organizational commitment, employers have a greater opportunity to make Hispanic interns feel they’re part of an organization where their skills and diversity are valued. Building this positive awareness will allow Hispanic interns to feel they’re part of an organization where they can potentially begin a career and develop long-term professional opportunities after graduation.
One of the most gratifying jobs I’ve had over the course of my career was my time working at the career center at the University of Texas at El Paso. Being responsible for the University’s cooperative education and internship programs and helping college students gain their first professional experiences provided me with a lot of personal satisfaction. During the almost five years of working in that setting, I had the pleasure of seeing many of these same students return to campus as company representatives to recruit the next generation of UTEP graduates. Along the way, I was able to make lifelong friendships with many of these students, first as interns and later as professionals. One friend in particular is Mario, who is now a successful leader at an aviation company.
Sixteen years ago, Mario’s first major in college was marketing. In fact, his first internship experience as a sophomore was working in the marketing department for a large insurance company. When Mario returned, I realized his internship experience had not met his expectations. The root of Mario’s unhappiness wasn’t due to the work he did, but more so due to the work he didn’t do. Mario realized his passion wasn’t in marketing but in information systems. Luckily for Mario, his supervisor during the internship was also technically inclined so he introduced Mario to areas in the organization where he could begin to learn about his newly discovered passion. Needless to say, Mario switched his major to information systems, went on to complete another two internships in his new major, and today is still very passionate about his work.
One appealing aspect of an internship program is its ability to serve as a bridge between the world of theory and practicality. However, the bridge that connects both worlds also needs to have a support structure. Within an internship program, “the glue” that holds together this support is an intern’s supervisor. And while a supervisor’s role is to offer an intern guidance and direction in a work environment, another role should be one of an advisor. Mario often points to that one supervisor, from 16 years ago, as having made a significant impact on his career. From a Hispanic perspective, being an advisor or consejero is an important element of the supervisor/intern relationship. Hispanics are a determined people and are culturally wired to complete one task before starting another. Hence, changing his major after two years of college was not something that came naturally to Mario. Whether Mario’s supervisor at the time knew it or not, his timely advice made the difference between a successful professional and someone that might still be searching for his passion.
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.
How managers interact and communicate with employees has always been a vital ingredient in the work environment. One aspect of this relationship that has received increased attention in management studies over the last few years is empathy. Empathy can be described as the ability of someone to understand what another person is experiencing. In other words, putting yourself in another person’s shoes. A key characteristic of empathy is the support of others using skills such as active listening, encouragement, and motivation. There’s no denying that increasing one’s empathetic skills in the workplace can improve social skills and workplace relationships.
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, Hispanic culture is very much people-oriented; Hispanics value relationships and often demonstrate behaviors that promote strong and agreeable interactions. Hispanics value a person’s ability to maintain these cordial and positive relationships even in the face of adversity or stress. This cultural concept is known as simpatia.
Simpatia is an intrinsic quality in Hispanics; one that does not have a clear translation. The concept produces a strong sense of connection. Similar to empathy, simpatia highlights a person’s ability to identify with others’ feelings, and therefore, considers others with formality and respect. Minimizing confrontational situations and maintaining agreement is an important element of simpatia. This might translate into an individual encouraging harmonious social relationships and preferring cooperation over competition.
So what might this mean to a manager supervising a Hispanic intern? Some Hispanic interns might not feel comfortable openly criticizing or expressing disagreement, particularly when it relates to their supervisor, department, or team. Therefore, when it comes to asking for or sharing feedback, managers should assure to first develop strong relationships with Hispanic interns. If certain conversations are sensitive in nature or involve constructive criticism, discuss these matters privately to determine what your intern really thinks. Public interactions might not accurately reflect a Hispanic intern’s personal perspective.
Another recommendation would be to be more aware of your intern’s intrinsic motivations – become sensitive to his or her true perceptions. Keep in mind that Hispanics come from a collectivist background. The interests of the group are considered more important than individual. Be aware that in order to maintain group harmony and cohesion, Hispanics might be more diplomatic, supportive, and trusting in work settings. Because of simpatia, keep in mind that an intern’s personal attitude and behavior might deviate slightly from that shown in a public setting.