Within my team of Americans are several African-Americans and three Latinos. In the book Intercultural Communication: A Reader (Samovar, et al., 2008) the authors point out what scholars, sociologists and alert journalists have known for a long time: "…Although Latinos are generally aware of the Black experience, there is little understanding of Black culture. Equally problematic is the lack of awareness among Blacks about Latino culture" (Samovar, p. 183). Albeit I have Asians in my team, considered a separate culture from Americans, the unspoken tensions between Blacks and Latinos among my American team members must also be dealt with. In my suggestion box an idea was put forward to have a bulletin board with articles in all the languages represented among the employees in my team.
Among the first articles I will pushpin to the bulletin board is the Los Angeles Times' article on May 1, 2020, "South Los Angeles Latinos and Blacks Find Unity in Worship" (Watanabe, 2010). An African-American church with 22,000 members (West Angeles Church of God in Christ) held the first-ever joint service with the Iglesias de Restauracion, a Latino church with 4,000 members. "This is the beginning of something great!" said West Angeles Bishop Charles E. Blake as "the crowd whooped and clapped"; "Our languages are different, but our hearts are the same?" (Watanabe). So, if languages are different in the intercultural workplace that I supervise, if our hearts are in the same place, we too can put aside cultural differences, I explain to my crew.
Tightness in culture, according to Harry Charalambos Triandis, is seen more often in homogeneous cultures "that are relatively isolated from other cultures" (Triandis, 1995, p. 53). Members of collectivist cultures tend to be "very tight," Triandis writes. An example would be Turkish immigrants to Western Europe, in particular citizens from lower socioeconomic conditions. "They are especially tight because they are trying to preserve their culture," the author continued (p. 53). Japan, too, is looked on as a tight "though complex" culture, he added. Loose cultures have "multiple, sometimes conflicting, norms, about what to do" (Triandis). In many cases looseness is seen in "heterogeneous societies" where individuals are looked on with respect for "independent action"; an example would be Thailand because it is located at the intersections of major other cultures (China and India).
So on my team it would appear that I have more individuals associated with loose cultures than with tight cultures, and on the Asian side of the team, I believe that individuals tend to be from tight cultures. Do I have monochromatic cultural influences in my group? Most certainly I do since I have Japanese employees. According to the book Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts (Shibata, et al., 1999, p. 195), Japan became a monochromatic culture because Japan's history shows the continuing "strengthening of centralized authority. Without the spirit of regional autonomy, it was impossible for regional culture to flourish" (Shibata, p. 195). Japan could easily have become a "multi-colored culture" but the central powers through the centuries of Japanese history insisted on a "unification of the language" in order, Shibata goes on, to "bring about cultural impoverishment" (p. 195).
In a polychromatic culture, people are encouraged to engage in many ideas and cultural activities and that certainly can be used to describe Americans, and the Americans (Latinos, African-Americans, people of European ancestry) do indeed for the most part participate in a melting pot of cultural exchange. On Cinco de Mayo, Anglos celebrate with Latinos; at Christmas, Americans of all faiths -- even agnostics, since Christmas is more cultural than religiously themed -- celebrate by giving gifts. The monochromatic culture of Japan has been stereotyped with brutally, exaggeratedly racist themes in the past, especially following WWII.
John Foster's article in the Journal of Popular Culture (Foster, 1999, p. 139) points to comics published in Australia, notably Moira Bertram's "Tigers Over Burma," in which a Japanese soldier is pictured bayoneting a "helpless Australian" in the stomach. The soldier is saying, "He! He! Honorable self finds that very funny indeed!!" (Foster, p. 149) of course the Japanese were notorious for cruelty in their prisoner camps, and this monochromatic look at their culture was a reaction to that fact. The Japanese soldier in the comic book was caricatured, with "buck teeth and tiny eyes, bald head and lisp" (Foster, p. 139).
A useful contemporary investigation of Japanese culture and American culture, helpful for a manager who has both cultures in his workplace, is found in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Yuki, et al., 2006, p. 303). Yuki's research shows that one can interpret emotions more accurately by looking at the eyes of the person. In Japan, where "emotional subduction is the norm," a manager wisely looks at the eyes rather than the mouth" (Yuki, p. 303). However, in a culture were "overt emotional expression is the norm" (like the U.S.), a manager can more readily interpret emotions by "the position of the mouth, because it is the most expressive part of the face" (Yuki, p. 303).
Adebowale W. Akande's research (interviewing 310 males and females age 20 and 21 from three universities in South Africa) reflects the fact that self-esteem is influenced by cultural dimensions (gender differences, physical appearance, etc.). In fact, high self-esteem, which is what a manager wants and needs in his workplace environment, acts as a "buffer against anxiety, problem behaviour," whereas low self-esteem is linked to "…aggression, rape, crime, violence, teenage pregnancy, bullying and discrimination at work" (Akande, 2009, p 81).
Clearly, any person who has management responsibilities within the context of a multicultural workplace should be well informed and have an open heart and spirit in order to be sensitive to the variety of cultural differences evident every day. Beyond just being informed, a manager in my position should seek to be trained and updated on a regular basis, as new information on intercultural communication become available, and as the globalization trends present new challenges in the workplace.
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