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What's Happening
The newsletter for switched on people
Issue 42 March 2002

Make every moment count
The series

I talk with managers and executives regularly and when I ask what is the most challenging aspect of their position most tell me it’s managing their people.

Employees have increasing expectations of their managers and it is no longer good enough for managers to be subject matter experts.  Add to this, the make-up of team members and we find that many have different cultural needs too.  So what elements need to be considered in team cultures and how do you manage difference and diversity?

Well Australians are now made up people from every continent on earth.  Most management literature we read is Western.  With a global economy and multi-national workforce we must broaden our scope and question our current practices.

A culture is made of ‘recipes’, guidelines and behaviours that have meaning to those involved.  This creates problems for people when interacting in groups, as we put different meanings to different things, which means misunderstandings can occur. (did you get that?)

Dr Geert H Hofstede in 1980 suggested that cultural attributes can be analysed by four dimensions.

  1. Power distance: the role power or status power plays within culture.
  2. Individualism V’s collectivism: the relationship and importance placed on the individual and team.
  3. Uncertainty avoidance: how much uncertainty can the team tolerate?
  4. Masculinity V’s Femininity: behaviours toward work; decision making, gender and individual relationships.


Acknowledging difference and investigating difference paves the the way to building a cohesive team.  Members of diverse groups (not just different countries) have different personalities, behaviours and learning styles.  It is not something to be changed. 

Diversity among team members (or within our society for that matter) is an important resource to be utilised to improve productivity.  Barriers such as prejudice, tendency to blame the victim and cultural clashes may affect interactions between team members.  This diversity offers teams the ability to build a more powerful solution.


Personally Speaking

Wherever you are in Australia over the coming weeks it’s Cultural party time.  Adelaide with one of the best and biggest arts festivals in the world, Melbourne with The Grand Prix and Sydney with The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. 
Well there is a cultural diversity at its best and if you are experiencing any of them, enjoy. 

Nine to Five magazine, with one of the highest circulations in Australia, has once again asked me to contribute feature articles this year. 
So, watch out for some very funky stories on workplace issues.
Til next month

Kind regards, Sam


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