Stereotyping: An Easy Way to Stall Progress

3/27/2014

With knowledge comes confidence, and once we acquire knowledge of a culture by reading the Cultural Navigator’s Country Guides and looking at countries’ COI profiles, it is easy to over-generalize and believe that everyone from that country has the same preference.

For example, I know that India is a hierarchical culture, and based on this, if I assume I can predict my Indian colleagues’ preferences and/or reactions based on this knowledge, then I am grossly stereotyping. 

Another roadblock is a combination of functional, organizational and national cultures.

Imagine the challenges faced by a manager who supervises a team covering six countries, with each member bringing his or her individual cultural perspectives along with a myriad of country-specific norms and values.

Having an intimate knowledge of each country’s cultural norms, while significant, is impractical in this scenario.

In this instance, besides cultural competence, the manager must be equipped with a global mindset, meta-cognitive skills and flexibility.

This will prepare him or her to cope with the differences and similarities in the interaction, communication and thinking styles of the team to develop a unique strategy to deal with the specific cultural issues relevant to the team.

Ila Gandhi