Culture and People behavior effect on working environment
People different behaviors are based on their cultures, and the values they learned during their lives. Although, it seems at the first look that it is personal issue, but people behaviors directly impact the projects, and accordingly the organizations performance. In this week discussion, I will discuss the different behaviors and its impact on the project performance.
People behaviors results from their own believes and values, values are generated from culture, experiences, and personality type. Wong, (2007, p150) figure 9.1 concluded the personal space as values drive people behaviors. From a project management point of view, project manager is always looking after performance. People performance would defiantly shape the project performance. Therefore, in order to increase the project performance, project team performance should be increased, and since the project team behaviors reflects their performance, project team behavior is involved. Accordingly, factors affecting project team behavior also affect the project performance. That is why, culture, experience, and personality type (factors affecting values, which influence the project behavior) directly impact the project overall performance, which is called Personal Space.
An obvious example of project performance impact due to personal space, in the Middle East, Muslims are doing fasting in the month of Ramadan (regional, and culture tradition), accordingly and since this month Muslims are more dedicated to prayers, the working hours are reduced by 25% by law, there is no option to convince individuals to work overtime at this month, accordingly, the project performance will be decreased by 25% due to the personal space.
Culture is the main factor which affect the human values, and accordingly the behaviors. In construction projects, we cannot ignore or underestimate the culture effect on the individuals, and accordingly, the project. Knight, (2009) defined five culture dimensions that “distinguish one culture from another”
- “Power Distance
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Long-Term Orientation”
For example, in Saudi Arabia it is not allowed for women to work directly with men. Some occupations such as site engineers are not allowed for women as well, and women cannot drive cars, these culture believes are examples of how cultures could affect your plans. Therefore, it is essential to study the working environment and how culture could impact it.
Another example of “Uncertainty Avoidance”, workers from certain countries do not prefer to be managers. They always need to be instructed rather than giving instructions. In my opinion, they like to completely avoid risks and uncertainty.
Individual versus community orientation:
According to Pettinga, and Flatto, (2010) “Recognizing that people do not operate in a vacuum that they work and interact with those around them many organizations have utilized personality typing to evaluate the work and decision-making styles of their members.”
Wong, (2007, p154) said that organizations are hiring people based in their individual skills to work in teams. However, it is still challenging to manage a team consist of individuals with different skills and with different cultures. The people culture could affect their interdependence performance, some cultures prefer individuals works, while others more interdependence. At the end of the day, the project performance is measured by the team overall performance, therefore, project manager role is to motivate the project team and encourage team work.
Respect for authority:
Respect of authority is an obvious and important matter in the Middle East generally, and my company specifically. I used to write to project managers and senior management using name prefix such as Mr., or Engineer. Even in meetings and general talking, I cannot call the elders or seniors by their names directly, prefix is a must to show respect. However, when I worked with western project manager, and it was my first time to work directly and closely with a western, I was calling him Engineer John, until he informed me that I do not have to say Engineer, his comment was (I know that I am engineer, no need to repeat it every time you mention my name J). At the beginning, I was surprised until I get used to call him directly with his name.
Respect of authority vary from one culture to another. Although, I was dealing with individuals from the same level of authority in my company, but it is normal to call a western directly by his name, however, it is extremely up normal to call another nationalities with their names without a proper prefix.
According to Yamaguchi, (2005), people “interpersonal communications that express social sensitivity can generate trust relationships among them.” Project team should maintain perfect communication between them internally, and externally as well. The non-verbal communication is much important as verbal communication, especially because it could vary 180 degree from one culture to another. What could be accepted and welcomed in a culture, could be not accepted and show unrespect in another culture. Investigating the working environment, and the team member’s cultures is not a choice to the project manager in order to effectively manage the project team, and communicate with stakeholders.
I remember when a western project manager was very keen to know what makes people get angry from him although he do not do anything makes them angry. He called me to explain to him since I am from Middle East culture, and during one conversation I found the mistake, he used to say (shut up) as an objection sentence. However, this is a heavy word to Arab, means that you are not allowed to talk anymore. That was simple example of how non-verbal communications is very important to be considered.
The value of time:
This is a very interesting topic (the value of time). Since 11 years I am working in construction projects in the Middle East. I never witnessed, or heard of a project which started and finished on time. Both clients, and contractors are fighting when there is a delays, either the client want to apply delays penalties, or the contractor is asking for Extension of Time (EOT), but at the end of the day, they just reach a mutual agreement. Furthermore, courts are not performing fast to solve issues between contractors and the clients, one case could take 4 or 5 years to be resolved by the court. This conclude how the value of time in the business in the Middle East. In the other hand, from a regional point of view, Muslims have five prayers per day, which are restricted by time frame for each one, and most of them pray on time.
Different cultures deal with time in different perspectives. However, when it comes to project management, project manager should highlight the importance of deadlines to everyone to avoid any delays in the project.
Valuing cultural diversity on teams:
Wong, (2007, pp 158-159) mentioned various ways “teams can show they value cultural diversity.” Creating team environment increase the mutual respect. Recognition is the best way in my opinion which makes the team member feels that his/her inputs added value to the team. The recognition not necessarily to be tangible, a project manager dedicated a special parking areas for the employee of the month, and the competition was very high even. Other ways such as “Transparent intentions, Visuals aids, Avoid the Rush, and Do Not Assume that Silence Means Agreement” suggested by Wong, (2007, pp 158-159) would increase the valuing level in different cultures as well.
Impact of different generations in the workforce:
Different generations have different way of thinking, different methods of doing things, and different expectations in team work. The variance between generations could be observed by applying the following points:
- Knowing the characteristics of generations.
- Identify the value of each generation.
- Understand how to communicate with different generation.
- Win the respect of each generation.
Mann, (2011) stated that “The next time you find yourself muttering in disbelief over a colleague’s work habits, stop and consider the generational attributes at play. It may provide you with the insight you need to successfully manage the situation.”
Throughout different cultures, values, believes, and generation, the people form their behaviors. Although, it is their own behaviors, but being a part of a team, your behaviors will affect others. Therefore, individuals should pay attention to their behaviors to keep the team moral, and to avoid hitting culture behavior variance. Project manager is the leader of the team who should guide, and manage the individuals to maximize the benefits and minimize the impact of different cultures.
- Knight, A (2009) I or We? How Individual- or Group-Orientation Influences Cultures…and Education ,
[Online] Available from:
http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2009/03/31/i-or-we-how-individual-or-group-orientaion-influences-culturesand-education/ (Accessed: 30 August 2014)
- Mann, Z (2011) ‘Generations in the workplace’ ,
[Online] Available from:
http://www.acui.org/publications/bulletin/article.aspx?issue=398&id=888 (Accessed: 30 August 2014)
- Pettinga, D. M. and Flatto, J. (2010) ‘Using Personality Profiling to Create Project Teams’, Proceedings of the Marketing Management Association, pp.12-8.
- Wong, Z. (2007) Human factors in project management: concepts, tools and techniques for inspiring teamwork and motivation, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
- Yamaguchi, I. (2005) ‘Interpersonal Communication Tactics and Procedural Justice for Uncertainty Management of Japanese Workers’, Journal of Business Communication, 42 (2), pp.168-94.