Leveraging Cultural Diversity with Fons Trompenaars

Because GCC is home to a vast diversity of cultures and nationalities, managing cultural differences is vital for the success of businesses across the region. Thanks to the contribution of Fons Trompenaars and his research team, we can now understand and manage cultural differences better.

guru-lp-fonsTrompenaars who is specialised in cross-cultural communication wrote extensively about what he called cultural dimensions. In this, he explains some of the elements of cultural differences that are very specific and even predictable.

According to him, cultural dimensions include some the following features:

  1. Universalism versus particularism

Individuals who fall under the category universalism place high importance on laws, rules, values, and obligations. For them, rules come before relationships. Therefore, Trompenaars concluded that the right way to manage them is to put their priorities into consideration. For instance, it would help to provide clear instructions and procedures as well as to emphasise the link between the business and their values and beliefs.

Meanwhile, those who lean more towards particularism deal with every situation differently based on the context and those involved, giving higher importance to relationships than to rules. Managing this group successfully, Trompenaars advises, would require giving each individual autonomy, considering others’ needs when making decisions and investing time into building relationships. It would also be useful to stress the importance of the rules and policies that need to be followed.

  1. Individualism versus communitarianism

Similarly, people from different cultures value individual and communal goals to varying degrees. Trompenaars observed that those who prioritise the individual freedom and needs tend to place more importance on praising and rewarding performance and on allowing employees to be creative and learn from their mistakes.

On the other hand, those who can be classified as communitarian believe that the needs of the group always come before those of the individuals. Therefore, it would be more effective to praise and reward the performance of the team rather than focusing on some individuals.

  1. Neutral versus emotional

Another big difference that could potentially create problems in the workplace is how emotional employees are. While it is advocated for individuals to control their feelings in many countries, the majority of Middle Eastern cultures find value in expressing emotions as a genuine, transparent way of handling situations.

According to Trompenaars, it is best to build trust and rapport, learn to manage conflict effectively and use positive attitude and body language to successfully manage emotional individuals. In the meantime, it is preferred to effectively managing emotions and being precautious about your body language with those who are reluctant to display emotions and tend to be neutral.

As a result of globalisation, these cultural dimensions are becoming more important when dealing with younger generations who tend to combine a random mix of these features. This mixture could be irrelevant to the culture that youth belong to as they are probably exposed to international media and other sources of information.

Putting this into consideration is critical not just when managing individuals from different cultures across the GCC but also when trying to integrate national youth into the workforce.

Find out more about cultural diversity in the workplace at the HR Summit & Expo, Dubai where Fons Trompenaars will be talking about Managing Culture, Engagement & Innovation on November 17 2015.

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