Ready, Set, Analyze!
Each of us expresses our cultural orientation in countless ways—through the way we dress, greet each other, convey information, convince others, solve problems, organize tasks, and so on.
You might think creating a profile of your contacts will be difficult, but there are many indicators for each tendency that you can look for. Here’s an example. Suppose you’re vising a potential partner for the first time. What might you look for with respect to the Status Dimension and its Achievement and Endowment Tendencies?
What distinguishes these two approaches are:
Achievement-oriented businesspeople and companies are relatively informal. They don’t place much importance on expressing respect and have a fairly egalitarian approach with little “social distance” between top management and people further down. Seniority is based mainly on performance and accomplishments. Endowment-oriented businesspeople and companies are more formal. They may have elaborate hierarchies with many managerial levels and titles and respect for superiors may be an important part of etiquette. Seniority will be based on attributes such as age, gender, and affiliations (such as social class, political connections, and ethnicity).
So where would you look for indicators for this dimension?
Regarding formality, consider dress and demeanor—whether your hosts take off their jackets and sit back in their chairs or keep them on and sit up straight with their hands folded. Note whether they use first names, last names or titles. Consider whether business cards are presented and treated formally or casually.
Hierarchy will be indicated by titles and by how juniors and seniors interact with each other and with you. Junior people may be “seen and not heard” or speak up frequently. Is someone carrying someone else’s briefcase or opening a car door for them? Your hosts may enter a room at random and sit in no particular location or order—or there may be a pre-determined order for entering or seating. And org charts and company materials will indicate whether senior management consists of older males from a single ethnic or religious group, etc. or include younger people, women, and social variation.
Chapter 3 of The Culture Solution lists indicators for each cultural tendency in the framework. Next time you’re in a business meeting, see how many you can identify.
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