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Tackle the Culture Conundrum in Business
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 01/25/2016

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Culture isn’t about comparing the mission and lifestyles of two or more religions. Culture is deeper than that – one has to see culture at its core levels before one can compare one with the other. Instead of looking at the physical traits of a group, one has to see who they are and what they believe in.

Everyone can dress in jeans and look alike but not everyone can be the same on the inside with their practices, rules, their daily lives and mindset. However, if you pay close attention and notice what they say or how they meditate or pray, who they associate with or whether they sit alone, their values and their core principles, you might spot the major differences.

Basically, the essence of culture is a reflection of their inner spirits and beliefs. This is the core challenge in assimilation and integration efforts. Besides looking at what they eat, wear and other trivial practices of the day, one must address those things that may lead to frustration, disobedience, defiance or violence towards those principles in our society incompatible with their own customs.

We are already seeing frustrations, isolation and demonstrations on why some cultures cannot work, play or coexist among the majority of Americans who are not accustomed to the need to assimilate or integrate multicultural habits. But, the forced immigration status of our government has changed all that today.

There are many key barriers in place that hamper the success of the integration unless the majority is willing to understand with deeper empathy, the needs of the minority when it comes to coexisting in the same community or social circles. It is true, some cultures are visibly different from others. Because they are visible, there can be reasonable accommodations made to allow successful and combined harmony of multicultural matters.

However, most extreme cultures go further than what we can see. In many cultures, some practices are secret, some are personally hidden to avoid being stereotyped and other political stigmas but never the less, underneath this charade, they are deeply committed to hold onto their customs and beliefs. Integrating cultures that vary on a severe degree is never easy, if at all possible. One group might tend to try or attempt to dominate the other. It is human nature to do so historically speaking.

Thus the probability that we focus on the wrong things is high and detrimental to successful adjustment or adaptability to new environments and customs. Applying this to employment and the needs of employees gets even more complicated. In the past, management, like our government, have focused on the wrong things.

The usual practice does not work when the cultures are miles apart in philosophies or ideologies whether theoretical or in practice. The amount of effort or resources is often insufficient to address the variances involved and if time and resources are limited, the odds of successful integration are painfully set up for failure.

This is more than just handing over a task to human resources – it’s a matter of knowing what adjustments and what kind of accommodations you need to make to allow a successful integration process to create seamless productivity energy. This takes leadership, tuned to the precision of what is at hand to challenge and difficult to address without the proper knowledge or preparation to do so.

Culture is also difficult to address because it permeates or saturates quickly and can jam up an organization—good or bad – negatively or positively when done without pre-planning and research on how to make the difference come together.

Employees have to prepare adjustments in various management levels, rules and regulations, communication, geographies / locations and adjust all levels of the organization in a culturally sensitive manner without alienation of those who are long established employees and not treating one group differently from the others.

One can expect demands from both sides to impact daily decision making and if not treated seriously, can cause serious damage in a very short period of time. Real cultural integration needs to be addressed in an equally distributed fashion across all locations and at all levels in the company.

It should also be treated seriously at all stages of the acquisition process: due diligence, pre-close integration planning, post-close integration, and ongoing operations.

Maintaining the momentum of cultural integration well into the integration process is equally important. This cannot be a short-sighted plan or a quick infusion of ideas and principles. One cannot lose vision of the sources of values and core demands of the job and create joint opportunities to maintain a balance of effort and energy among the workers as well as managers.

Managers have to weigh potential goals against the sources of core values in the deal, deciding to focus on those that were most closely linked to these values and that strike a balance. Although time is of the essence, doing such assimilation under extreme differences can create conflict and resistance to any changes.

To ensure that cultural integration would be linked to, not just by human resources, but to the company leadership and management, it takes due diligence to tackle each goal diligently. The same principles must be applied in local government and communities in order to promote harmony and better understandings of the various cultures that exist in our communities today.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

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