The Six Levels of Culture and the Workplace

3/31/2015

The best way to enhance collaboration and improve outcomes among employees is to help them learn about their own cultural preferences and how those preferences play out in the workplace.

Equipped with their personal cultural profiles as indicated by their Cultural Orientations Indicator reports, employees can explore how their preferences manifest themselves across the six levels of culture: Organizational, Individual, Team, National/Societal, Functional and Identity Group.

The six levels of culture display how a person can express multiple cultures depending on the context they’re in. The following is a brief example from a project manager in an international technology firm, showing how employees can manage cultural gaps across the six levels:

I worked with a global team to implement a software product in the US market. The team consisted of members from Sweden, India, Bulgaria and the US [the National level] and included internal employees and external partners [the Organizational level]. Even though the team was very technically capable and functionally aligned [the Functional level], communication was not always clear given the style of presenting and the culture of the presenters. We were able to bring our own norms and best practices into play and to agree to a format of presenting, which helped us to better understand each person. We set the tone in this way [the Team level]: We started with introductions each time [the Individual level], even though everybody already knew each other. Then we went with the bottom line of what the person was going to talk about, and finally went to the description of what was being presented. I estimate it was these deliberate team understandings that made this product implementation successful; it was both under budget and on time.

There are endless examples of the six levels of culture impacting work situations and employee collaboration. Employees can learn how to identify the six levels and then come up with strategies to work within them by leveraging the self-awareness they gained from taking their COIs.

Lynne Putz