The multicultural societies and groups essay

DECEMBER 02, 2019
What Makes You
by Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma
Raheem, Andre Pekerti and C. Lakshman
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What Makes You
by Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti and C.
DECEMBER 02, 2019
Youve heard about multicultural societies and groups, but have you thought about
multicultural individuals and what they bring to organizations? Multicultural individuals such as
Chinese-Canadians, Turkish-Germans, or Arab-Americans commonly think, perceive, behave, and
respond to global workplace issues in more complex ways than monocultural individuals.
Some multicultural individuals translate these differences into career success. For example, a study
of 100 Israeli managers working in Silicon Valley found that Israeli-American managers thought in
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more complex ways than managers who saw themselves as belonging to only Israeli or only American
cultures. As a result, peers rated them as more competent managers and they were promoted faster.
Many people are confused about whether they are multicultural. Does having immigrant parents or
grandparents, working internationally, or living in a multicultural city mean that you are
Its a question that even experts find hard to answer, because multiculturalism is defined in so many
different ways. For example, some researchers argue that residents of Hong Kong are multicultural
because of its colonial history. In contrast, others define multicultural individuals by their ability to
function effectively in more than one culture, such as knowing multiple languages or having
multicultural minds, meaning they can think in ways that reect multiple cultures.
As a six-person international team representing 16 cultures, we decided to resolve this confusion by
consolidating the best parts of all previous definitions. In doing so, we recognized that people can be
multicultural to varying degrees. After reading 183 articles in fields ranging from sociology,
anthropology, and psychology as well as management and marketing we define
multiculturalism within individuals as the degree to which they know, identify with, and internalize
more than one culture.
Answer the following questions on each dimension to assess your level of multiculturalism. Think
about culture in a broad sense: It includes national cultures, societal cultures that span nations (e.g.,
Arab culture), regional cultures within nations (e.g., Bengali and Punjabi cultures in India), hybrid,
and intersecting cultures (e.g., Mtis indigenous culture).
How much knowledge do you have about each of your cultures?
Does your knowledge of your cultures go beyond book learning? How much do you know about
their values, underlying cultural assumptions, beliefs, and typical behaviors? How familiar are you
with their histories, heroes, traditions, customs, and social institutions? How uent are you in their
languages? If asked about these cultures, how many unique, culture-specific points can you come up
with in a few minutes? Use your answers to place yourself on this dimension, using the spectrum of
possibilities listed below.
Monocultural: High level of knowledge of one culture
Slightly multicultural: High level of knowledge about one culture and moderate knowledge about
another culture
Moderately multicultural: High level of knowledge of more than one culture
Highly multicultural: high level of knowledge of more than two cultures
Your level of multicultural knowledge is particularly useful for .
For example, consider Hid, a Japanese-American employee in a U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese firm.
Hid knew that head oce messages might confuse their American customers, because they used a
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structure common in Japan, starting with peripheral information and only eventually getting to the
main issue. Instead of passing the translated messages on verbatim, Hid used his multicultural
knowledge to rewrite them more directly, resulting in a better reception among customers.
So if you have in-depth knowledge of more than one culture, you can use it to enable cross-cultural
understanding in your firm.
How much do you identify with more than one culture?
People who identify with more than one culture often find it dicult to answer the question: Where
are you from? How many cultures come to mind when you respond? Do you say we (as opposed to
they) when talking about these groups? When someone criticizes these groups, do you feel
personally offended? Use your answers to place yourself on this identification dimension.
Monocultural: Identify with one cultural group
Slightly multicultural: Identify primarily with one culture, and to a lesser extent with another
Moderately multicultural: Identify strongly with more than one culture
Highly multicultural: Identify with more than two cultures
Identification with more than one culture can help facilitate connections with others, including
relationships across firms. For example, compared to British employees of a U.K.-based
pharmaceutical firm, the firms Chinese-British employees used their dual cultural identities to
develop better trust with employees at new Chinese partner firms. The trusting relationships
Chinese-British employees created with employees from both their British employer and the Chinese
partner firm ultimately helped them build successful alliances between their firms.
If you identify with more than one cultural group, you can draw on your network to connect people
across your cultures.
How much have you internalized more than one culture?
To answer this question, examine your values, beliefs, and assumptions. This is hard; we are often
not aware of how culture shapes these deepest parts of ourselves. To what extent do different
cultures inuence your value systems? Do you think about issues from the perspective of more than
one culture? Do they inuence how you feel? How much do you use values, beliefs, and assumptions
from more than one culture when making decisions? Do you find yourself unconsciously engaging in
different cultural behaviors depending on the situation? Use your answers to place yourself on this
internalization dimension.
Monocultural: Internalized one culture
Slightly multicultural: Internalized one primary culture and a second culture to a lesser extent
Moderately multicultural: Fully internalized more than one culture
Highly multicultural: Fully internalized more than two cultures
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When youve internalized more than one culture, it can help you develop more complex thinking
skills and innovative solutions to problems. When people intimately understand more than one
cultural system, they see new ways to combine them, leading to innovations. For example, a FrenchIrish-Cambodian LOral employee was tasked with for the French
market. He understood better than his French colleagues that the French product development
process was hampered by its sharp category definitions. While his French colleagues saw makeup
and skincare as separate categories, this employee saw the opportunity to combine these categories,
as is done in Asia. He therefore introduced a tinted and lifting cream to the French market, where it
quickly became popular. Even such a seemingly simple change is often dicult because our cultural
beliefs frame the categories we see in the world.
If you have internalized more than one culture, you can try to use it to help you create innovative
solutions to your international workplace dilemmas.
Combine all three of your answers to the above questions to determine your level of
multiculturalism. If your answers placed you beyond monocultural on all three dimensions, then
you have some level of multiculturalism that you could use to help you accomplish cross-cultural
tasks, connect people, and develop creative solutions.
Stacey Fitzsimmons, a monocultural Canadian, is an Associate Professor of International Business at the Peter B.
Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada.
Davina Vora, an American of German-Indian heritage who has lived and worked in four continents, is an Associate
Professor of International Business at the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz), USA.
Lee Martin is a Senior Lecturer in Management at Deakin University, Australia. She has Chinese-Australian heritage and
has lived, studied and worked in three continents.
Salma Raheem is a Lecturer in HR/Organizational Behaviour at the University of Liverpool Management School. Born to
South Indian parents in Dubai and brought up in international communities in the Middle East, Salma now lives in the UK,
her adopted home.
Andre A Pekerti is a Senior Lecturer in International Management at The University of Queensland Business School,
Australia. He is a Christian of Indonesian-Chinese heritage who grew up in Jakarta, Southern California and New Zealand;
as an Indonesian, naturalized New Zealander and Australian, Andre currently works in Brisbane.
C. Lakshman, an Indian-American who has lived and worked in three continents, is currently an Associate Professor of
International Business at Florida Atlantic University.
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