Cultural navigation@work! Enable your Cultural Quotient

Understand, respect and be courteous towards each other

The new normal is a global atmosphere of work culture. Working with people (and, genders) from varied places, backgrounds, cultures, mind-sets and time zones create multifarious challenges along with the immense opportunities.

It is not just about nationality, ethnicity and beliefs. Many a time, differences in opinion based out of cultural beliefs arise between individuals working in the same team or same department/organization. Age gap is a simple example.

Attitudes towards, what may appear simple, like time-punctuality and deadline-targets differ largely between countries and their respective cultures. How to address one another in a professional context and social context, the etiquette of touch and other parameters of body language contains the panorama of CQ Acquisition.

How professionalism is defined and varies from academic intelligence is very important.

Being merely academically strong has become old school of thought several decades ago. While you may have all the knowledge on a subject, how to present it without getting into unwanted controversies or discomfort to the listeners has always been believed to be the art of presentation skills. How about the aspect of cultural fit?

This primarily calls for a better approach to understanding and having an open mind. While emotional quotient is one aspect, it is important to remember that culture quotient is an inherent part of it. One can easily identify behaviors with the respective geographical regions a person has come from and the race he is of. What is popularly called racial background? This additional fit sums up the professional behavior.

How to master your CQ?

It is appropriate to mention the names of Prof Earley and Ang who introduced this concept as early as in 2003 in their book, Cultural Intelligence. (Now if you are finding a simile in the usage of name Earley and early in the same sentence, you are thinking like..?! When, Who can and How to tell him, if at all you can, is culture appropriate too!!)

The ability to adapt to new cultural settings is Cultural Intelligence and people with high CQ (Culture Quotient) can. This does not mean that their knowledge in various cultures is very good. On the contrary, people with high CQ have the skills to adapt, learn and blend into new cultures with less difficulty as they observe and act accordingly.

Individuals with high CQ are excellent in adapting to unfamiliar or new situations and environments. They recognize patterns and mannerisms in people, yet are able to distinguish and identify behavior that is unique to a culture and that which is unique to that individual personality.

A person who, otherwise belonged to a reasonable income status may have to shift to a low-income neighborhood due to his budgetary constraints in a new place and may generalize that the whole city is unsafe, congested and generally radical. Just as a locality cannot be the image of the entire city, a person cannot represent the entire community or race. Yet impact of each on the other cannot be ignored.

These influences are complex and CQ helps one distinguish between individual personality and the cultural influence on him. There is no denying that culture does play a significant part on work roles, individual personality and hence the behavior.

If one has to understand why a colleague said something with a set of words or tone or implication, try not to put various backdrops to it. With high CQ you will not assume that he said so because he is White or African-American or Indian, because he is a banker, because he is haughty or arrogant, nerd or sociable, young or old, male or female. You will make a rational analysis that stems not from just one of the factors but perhaps a combination of all the factors.

How to go about acquiring CQ?

Rational decision-making is a process of thinking, reasoning and applying knowledge.

In the mind: It is all in the mind. Develop the habit of observation and understanding. Consciously refrain from blindly comparing with what you know and where you come from. Thus the Start has to be ‘to Unlearn’.

In the body: Make efforts to fit in. One does not have to be ‘whitewashed’ as is often said of people moving to the West where everyone other than them selves have to be a colour! Maintaining one’s own identity, yet following the norms and practices of the adopted country or culture requires a lot of balancing. This can happen if you place your personal views apart from the professional demands of the scenario.

In the soul: Be ready to correct mistakes and confident to accept them. Never become judgmental and classify behaviors you know or don’t know into good or bad. Don’t criticize, or place yourself above or beneath a behavior that you see around you. This has to genuinely come from within. One cannot go on acting, as any day the mask may slip off! It is an acquired skill, provided one has the right attitude.

Accept, respect and be courteous towards all kinds of personalities and cultures. It need not necessarily be only when you go to a different country; practicing and acquiring CQ can begin in one’s home country.

The CQ People

People with high CQ can very easily become EQ high and vice versa. They do not believe in stereotyping people, do not jump to quick assumptions and judgments. They make rational, sensible and reasonable decisions in any cultural setting, can adapt and fit in very well. They are liked by all. They also assess a situation very well and behave accordingly. They are useful in neutralizing a tense situation.

Why CQ?

·     Effective working relationships with people different from you

·     Abroad or in home country, you will not make errors or be caught in embarrassing scenarios that may derail a project or a deal in the pipeline.

·     When you shift jobs, you can blend in and adapt to new working cultures and people easily.

·     Respecting other people’s cultural values are very important to meet expectations at work, and to achieve goals in diverse work environment.

When you go abroad, the weather and time zone you will realize are just the simplest things to adapt. The challenges of diverse work ethics, beliefs, practices and behaviors are immense comparatively.

Mutually CQ High

If all individuals are CQ rich, then the difference between the visitor and the home employee is lessened as empathy from the home employee helps the newcomer to adjust.

Mutual respect and appreciation of diverse behavior evolves when everyone around is CQ high. CQ naturally calls for transferable skills, empathy, self-awareness, introspection, open-mindedness closely bordering on high EQ.

CQ High Teams

It is obvious that teams that adhere to CQ appropriate behaviors are more successful, proactive and efficient than those that don’t. Clashes, ego-tripping and arguments are considerably lesser as people are open-minded, understand and listen to each other more.

Here is a simple checklist to find out your CQ:

1. Do you have the interest to learn and understand other cultures?

Do you really care?

2. Do you make friends with people of other cultures?

3. How many languages do you know?

4. How many cuisines have you tried eating and/or making?

5. Have you made efforts to do work with people unknown to you? It can be in a hobby, a sport or a social work setting.

6. How confident are you to make new friends, acquaintances and/or voluntarily put yourself into unknown/challenging situations?

7. What do you know about other cultures by:

·     Reading, Learning and Understanding

·     Observing actual behavior

·     Blending and experimenting

·     Failing and restarting

8. Can you name some strategies you follow consciously to not judge, not criticize and not change but respect and accept?

9. Are you always with a mask on when among people?

10. Do you genuinely mean what you say?

Your answers will tell you how good your Cultural Quotient is, what more is required to increase your Cultural Intelligence, and perhaps solve your problems, if any in getting along with diverse people.

That I would say is the correct definition to be Mr/Ms Popular

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