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Cultural Conflict in the Workplace

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Cultural Conflict is something we read about and see daily in the news.  We don’t have to look internationally to find examples.  Events in our own country offer a relevant picture of Cultural Conflict.  Looking simply at the word ‘culture’ echoes a concept that is so broadly defined and applied in our lives.  Culture can be looked at globally or even within a family.

An area where culture can sometimes be overlooked is within the work place.  As managers, we typically look at the department or company as the culture when really there are cultures within cultures in a workplace.   While the department or company can be looked at as a culture, looking at groups of your employees is also a beneficial way to apply the term culture.  A helpful tool to discover your workplace culture is a Culture Map.  Erin Meyer discusses this in her book The Culture Map.

A Culture Map looks at 8 specific areas each with a continuum for responses:

  • Communications: Low-context–>High-context
  • Evaluating: Direct Negative Feedback–>Indirect Negative Feedback
  • Persuading: Principles-first–>Applications First
  • Leading: Egalitarian–>Hierarchical
  • Deciding: Consensual–>Top-down
  • Trusting: Task-based–>Relationship Based
  • Disagreeing: Confrontational–>Avoids Confrontation
  • Scheduling: Linear-time–>Flexible-time

Using these areas to ‘map’ the interoffice culture can be helpful in understanding the dynamics of the team as well as conflict that arises.  This tool when used by managers or department leads can help create a better environment of understanding, trust and productivity by knowing the true cultural make-up of their team.  By using this information to guide your intervention and communication strategies there is probable results such as lower turnover and improved employee engagement.  Having a more engaged workforce translates to money saved and improved efficiency.  Imagine the possibilities…

Kathleen Folkerts
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Kathleen Folkerts

Conflict Specialist at Affirmative Dispute Resolution
Kathleen Folkerts is a Nebraska Conflict Specialist with formal training in resolving disputes.She received her Master’s degree in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute at Creighton University in Omaha. Learn more about Kathleen here.
Kathleen Folkerts
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