Cultural Issues of Human Resource Management

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International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 5. No. 2 August, 2007 Page 45

Carrying Cultural Baggage: the contribution of socio-cultural anthropology to cross-cultural coaching Barbara St Claire-Ostwald, CINCRA International Coaching & Training Consultancy, UK Email Contact: Abstract This study examines the cultural awareness of professionals working in organisations. Given the multicultural nature of today’s workforce, it is becoming increasingly important for companies and coaches alike to take into account how cross-cultural differences may affect daily working practices. The study draws on a review of current research into cultural dimensions and looks at the complex relationship between personality and culture – our ‘cultural baggage’. In order to explore the opinions and cultural awareness of participants, a questionnaire was developed. The purpose of the questionnaire was to identify themes and orientations to cross-cultural issues in terms not only of communality but also of paradoxes. The results highlighted a high level of recognition of cultural dilemmas and a perceived need and willingness to address and reconcile them. However, the diversity of opinions about the potential benefits of specific methods of addressing cultural dilemmas suggested considerable uncertainly about dealing with cross cultural issues. Key Words: Cross-cultural, cultural baggage, cultural dimensions, coaching, mentoring, socio-cultural anthropology

Introduction The aim of this paper is to report on the results of a study designed to explore the emerging discipline of cross-cultural coaching (Rosinski 2003) and to establish the levels of awareness about, and attitudes to cross-cultural issues; the patterns and/or relationships between awareness, attitudes and cultural dimensions among businesses and business consultants, coaches, mentors and coaching/mentoring organisations. I began this study from the perspective that while there has been some research into mentoring and coaching, there appeared to be little that focussed specifically on cross-cultural influences. In my review of the available literature, it became increasingly clear that the integration of a cultural perspective into coaching was very much at the ‘pioneering’ stage. The main aims of this study were to try and establish levels of awareness about, and attitudes to cross-cultural issues; and to study the patterns and/or relationships between awareness, attitudes and the cultural dimensions developed by Hofstede and Trompenaars and HampdenTurner among businesses and business consultants, and coaching organisations. Cross-cultural coaching addresses the way in which cultural differences affect the daily lives of people, and raises awareness of cultural differences and the effect they can have on the process of managing others and doing business in general. In today’s global economy organisations understand that to sustain successful and resilient businesses and to keep their competitive edge, they must develop employees who understand their global business, and employ people with global skills. Rosinski (2003) and Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) have developed pioneering work in cross-cultural competencies and coaching methods. At a fundamental level, their

International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 5. No. 2 August, 2007 Page 46 work has been based on the works of socio-cultural anthropologists Hofstede (1980) and Schwartz (1994). Their contribution in overcoming cultural miscommunication, tension and conflict, including the perils of stereotyping and ‘mono-culturalism’, has helped to formulate and explore the hypothesis of this study. Cultural baggage: a by-product of cultural systems Socio-anthropological thinking is based on the premise that all humans are born with the same basic physical characteristics, but depending on where they grow up, each individual is exposed to different climates,...
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