Blog entry February – Topic: Cultural differences, personalities and emotions at work

In our current globalized world, organizations could be seen as the most proliferated model with, for each of them, various different purposes and goals. Coming from the Greek word “organon” meaning organ, its etymology explains clearly what an organization is made of: a multitude of different cells namely, in this case, human beings. However, each single worker has his respective background, values, personality, etc. This leads to a problematic issue: how to organize, to predict behaviours in order to work smoothly things through while dealing with individuals and biological characteristics as well as with different members of a culture and social group?

I deeply think that an organization should take the individual differences into account. It will enable it to know how people will react and, most of all, how to avoid any kind of tension. For instance, it has to be aware of the cultural difference. When one works with people from different origins, one has to be aware of the different behaviour, namely the cultural variations, and to adapt effectively across culture. Kissing a German on the cheek would be more than inappropriate while it is common sense in Belgium. As a result, decision making and smooth work would be possible within the organization.

However, even if the last point is a step forward, another facet has to be raised: the huge range of possible personalities. If one considers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it is possible to rank people in 4 categories: Extraversion/ Introversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judgment/Perception. People with diverse kinds of personalities could behave totally differently. I actually experienced it in my Negotiations and Bargaining module. I was negotiating with a student which was the complete opposite of me. Both of us had to be very careful about our communications method in order not to vex the other one. I fully believe that this matter is one of the important aspect that has to be considered in organizations, especially the international ones.

Another point that deserves to be highlighted is the implication of emotions at work. It is now common to acknowledge that emotions have an impact on performance. Nevertheless, one has to make the difference between the actual emotions that a worker feels and the displayed ones. For instance, after sale people practice the surface acting, namely they seems happy while actually they could feel really stressed out by the incriminations of some customers. It could lead to emotional dissonance and eventual burn out (being totally enable to act as you done before) which will not benefit either the worker or the organization. I am more than certain that organizations should take this problem into account. When they distribute performance related bonuses, for example, they should consider the impact of negative emotions on performance.

Moreover, it is also possible to read the different emotions through involuntary movements, to discover what the worker is actually thinking. One could consider to link the salary to the actual feelings rather than the displayed ones since it is now possible to differentiate them. However, besides the related ethical problems, I think that it will do more harm than good and, most of all, that it is possible to use this additional information in a proper way. Indeed, if it possible to spot the emotions, it does not directly imply that one knows the cause of them. I think that when a manager is actually able to read negative emotions on a worker’ face, programs should be put into place in order to find the related cause of it, enabling the organization to tackle the issue and avoiding unnecessary burnouts.

Consequently, I intimacy believe that an organization should take care of its employees. Having different culture and personalities within a group is beneficial in terms of synergy. However, both of them could lead to different emotions which can themselves help the organization to understand behaviours and performance. This is the main reason why those concepts, among others important ones, should not be considered lightly.

You can find here an interesting link which clearly defines a lot of concepts:

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