Hola a todos, ¡muchas gracias por sus visitas y comentarios por el nuevo aniversario!
Este mes es nos acompaña desde México, Ariana Gonzale, Human Resources Coordinator - Latam , Bureau On Target - Atracción de Talento, quien escribe sobre el trato que reciben los postulantes de parte de las organizaciones.
El otro invitado es un distinguido colega, Eduardo Cortés, Consultor en Management y Gestión de Recursos Humanos y Profesor de Recursos Humanos en la Universidad de Ciencias Sociales y Empresariales (UCES), que se refiere a las nuevas funciones que debe ejercer la función del director de RRHH.
Por mi parte he escrito sobre el trabajo moderno y reflexiones para la creación de nuevos empleos en la era digital y el habitual Flash Laboral. He incluído tambien un video sobre el rol de RRHH en la transformación digital.
Como siempre los invitamos a dejar sus comentarios y seguirnos también en nuestro Facebook Profesional www.facebook.com/ceballosserra
miércoles, 3 de marzo de 2010
(RE) DISCOVERING CULTURE (ROOTS)
Professor Human Resource Management. HEC University of Geneva
Professor Organizational behavior. Insead, Paris.
APC in Organization Analysis, New York University Graduate Business School.
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology. Adelphi University. New York.
BA Psychology. University of Michigan. Phi Beta Kappa.
Since university days, I have been studying how people make sense of the world, the process as well as the content. I was strongly interested in theories of perception and cognition: How was it that people noticed and interpreted events? I was also attracted to psychodynamic theories which described how people saw themselves, others and the world. I was fascinated by what happened when sensemaking breaks down. This interest led to doctoral studies in clinical psychology, to a dissertation on delusions in schizophrenics. After having worked for several years with chronic psychiatric patients in the South Bronx and having been director of a psychiatric outpatient clinic and day hospital, I realized that the system was crazier than the patients. I decided to pursue postdoctoral studies in organizational analysis. Now the question jumped levels of analysis: How was it that organizations made sense and nonsense?
Leaving the hospital and arriving in management studies, early 1980’s, I discovered that what I was interested in was called “culture” (All these years I had been speaking prose without knowing it, to paraphrase Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme). Ed Schein’s definition of organization culture, adopted from anthropologists Kluckholn and Strodtbeck, shared systems of perceiving, thinking, feeling and evaluating, derived from basic assumptions regarding the relationship with the environment and with people, made inherent sense to me. I realized that, after all, I was not very far from “home”. Indeed the question of how organizations make sense of their environment -- process (perceiving and thinking) and content (basic assumptions) – has remained central to my work at multiple levels of analysis: organizational and inter-organizational; national and international.
Now having finished a book, with J.L. Barsoux, Managing Across Cultures, I have several questions. Why is it so difficult to manage cultural differences, at whatever level of analysis?
Cultural differences per se (and their impact on management practice) become less important than cultural interaction, which is more dynamic. I find myself returning to my “roots”. What can we learn from a cognitive/psychodynamic perspective that would help us to better understand the underlying dynamics of cross-cultural interactions: as managers, as multicultural teams, and as “global” organizations?
I believe that there are several issues that are key to developing this understanding: identity and boundaries; and dependency, autonomy and control. The resolution of these issues determines the possibility of mutuality, of truly being able to benefit from cultural differences.
Why is it so difficult to live with “others”?
In the play, Huis Clos, by J.P. Sartre, the personae condemned to spend eternity together discover that hell is the other. Perhaps it is just that relationships with others are not self-evident. Perhaps it is even more so with people who are not “just like us”. Very often when raising the issue of cultural differences with a group of managers, the response is that “we’re all people, bankers, engineers.” The first impulse is to deny differences. Or deny that it is an issue. Diversity programs exported from the U.S. irritate European managers. Diversity is not an issue in Europe (because there are so many women and minorities in management positions?) Somehow different means bad. It is better not to differentiate (e.g. the chameleon model of expatriate adjustment). But by denying differences we miss the opportunity to experience the potential richesse of differences.
After all, French engineers are just like German engineers; German cooking is just like French cuisine. Being able to differentiate is a necessary prerequisite for being able to integrate. This process is clearly evident in how identity is formed.
According to Mahler et al (1977), identity is formed through various stages: autism (only me); symbiosis (you and me are one); and separation/individuation (you are not me and you can’t make me – cf. the “terrible twos” and adolescence). (This reminds me of Canadians who when asked to describe themselves as a product of their culture immediately respond by saying, “We’re not American!”).
As in most theories of psychological development, to be able to achieve healthy relationships (mutuality) these stages must be lived and resolved. We need to differentiate (separate) before we can integrate (come together). Without a sense of who I am, I cannot effectively interact with “others”.
Otherwise, interacting with others is experienced as a potential threat: of becoming the other, of losing oneself, of being engulfed or swallowed up by the other. In families, this state of affairs is referred to as “undifferentiated ego mass” (Minuchin); the primary task of therapy is to help members take an “I” position, to differentiate themselves.
To help separate family members that are overly enmeshed sometimes requires paradoxical intervention (Haley) of pushing them together. Perhaps this explains why despite denials of managers that we are all the same, under the pressure of having to work together to achieve task performance in multicultural teams differences are accentuated or reemerge. Pushing for integration, encourages differentiation.
Another take on identity is provided by Melanie Klein (object relations school). She argues that children develop their identity through experiences of gratification or frustration (good/bad breast). Experiences of the other as nurturing or frustrating (good/bad breast) become associated with experience of self as “good/bad me”. To manage anxieties related to these experiences, primitive defenses of “splitting” (me and others are either all good or all bad).
“Bad me” is projected into others (projection -- theories of stereotyping, e.g. Black men as sexual, and scapegoating). Mature identity involves being able to integrate both the good and the bad parts of me and to accept others as both good and bad. This dynamic can be observed in intergroup conflict wherein ingroup/outgroup is defined such that we are good /they are bad in order to preserve or enhance self esteem, assure resources (nurturance), and to achieve group goals (Social identity theory).
As was the case of Narcissus and the pond, narcissism implies being attracted to one’s own image (just like us). Rosabeth Kantor (1977) argues that most organizations are guilty of homosocial reproduction in hiring and promoting those who are “just like us”. Those with narcissistic character disorders are unable to regulate self esteem, swinging from grandiose (omnipotence) to deflated sense of self (impotence), and accompanied by respective manic and depressive emotional states (Wizard of Oz syndrome) (Kernberg). Narcissistic identification involves mirroring or reflecting: I surround myself with those who will mirror my glory (colonial model of expatriation) or I bask in the reflected glory of the other. Narcissistic people treat others as need satisfying objects, wonderful as long as they are nurturing (good breast) until they fall from grace and become devalued. They lack empathy or the ability to understand or sense the other persons’ needs (experienced by the host country nationals as being used, issues of dominant culture).
Thus the capability to manage cultural differences may be related to the developmental processes of identity formation. If identity has not been comfortably established then we may observe primitive defenses such as splitting and narcissistic character disorders at the individual level and scapegoating and ingroup/outgroup conflict at the group, intergroup and organizational level.
Issues of Dependency and Control
According to Freudian version of stages of pyschosexual development, later developed by Erikson, the ability to achieve mutuality in relationships is determined by the resolution of earlier developmental challenges. The first developmental challenge is to assure that dependency needs are taken care of -- nurturance. This is often referred to as the oral stage, (taking in and spitting out), and corresponds to ideas of good breast/bad breast in terms of gratification/frustration. The next challenge is that of control, over self and others, (holding on and letting go) followed by that of mastery or power over the environment/tasks (taking initiative). The need to assure resources (nurturance), to insure autonomy and control, and to demonstrate mastery is fundamental in cultural interactions. I would go as far to argue that what is often referred to as “cultural problems” (particularly between headoffice and local operations) is one of being able to get resources while preserving autonomy and control. The differential failure rate of expatriates in different countries (e.g. U.S. and Japan) may also be examined in terms of how issues of dependency and control are managed and the subsequent nature of the relationship of the expat and headoffice (Schneider & Asakawa, 1996).
These dynamics are also evident in group stages of development as described by Bion (1961) wherein underlying fantasies regarding the group purpose can undermine task performance: dependency (to be taken care of); fight/flight (to find an enemy); and pairing (to live happily ever after…). Different group members are invested with special powers to enact these fantasies. These dynamics may be even more important or powerful in multicultural teams.
Globalization: Myths and delusions
Psychodynamic theory may also help us to understand some of the strange and frightening behavior that has emerged in the context of globalization. Globalization is in part based on the fantasy or myth of becoming the same (the famous global village of Marshall McLuhan wherein we would all look alike, act alike, think alike by the year 2000). But globalization efforts have generated anxiety, fear and loathing -- fear of loss of jobs, anxiety surrounding loss of identity, and loathing of foreigners. These has provided a fertile ground for rise of nationalism and the strengthening of power of right wing groups in many countries.
It reminds me of a story told in the press about a 22 year old American born of Chinese parents who was beaten to death by a group of autoworkers in the 1970’s in Detroit. The beating was punctuated with the following: “Because of you fucking Japanese we are out of work.” The jury acquitted the men saying that they were not the kind of men that went around killing people. In October 1997, ABB made headlines in the IHT announcing layoffs of 10,000 workers in Europe and US and plans to move operations to Asia. Then the Asian markets collapse. What more do we need for mass hysteria and collective psychosis?
These are some of the reflections on the dynamics of cultural interaction that I hope to develop.