One area that has been missing in the discussion of Work Literacy is the ability to adapt to different cultures.
I feel it is important to begin by defining what I mean by culture. In the US, we tend to use a narrow definition of culture as something that is: a) foreign (different than our own US culture), b) uniform (everyone within a culture thinks the same and a person belongs to "a" culture), and c) identified through rituals and artifacts (rather than differences in values and beliefs, communication styles, or ways of thinking).
I use a much broader definition. I believe: a) a person can belong to and move through multiple cultures depending on the circumstance, b) is defined fundamentally by shared values and beliefs, c) can be manifested in multiple ways within the same culture including different ways of communicating, thinking, dress, behavior, etc..., d) is difficult to identify members for those outside the culture, e) is a complex system difficult to categorize with members not even able to articulate.
Given this definition, an individual might have simultaneous cultural forces affecting him or her in any given situation.
How does this affect work literacy?
We often make assumptions about work, processes, information, other people, based on our cultures. As a result, when working with new people, in a new situation, on new tasks, our preferences and assumptions will affect how we work, what information we feel is relevant, and the way we interact.
I find that I am able to change with the culture in which I am immersed, while still able to maintain my core self. This ability to move in and out of cultures requires me to identify the values of the culture within which I am working (e.g. working within a conservative business culture such as banking and insurance will be different than working in a creative business environment such as marketing or a Non-profit arts organization). I then need to know how to adopt my own values and preferences to the new culture. This does not mean compromising my own values, but rather understanding the values in which I am working (or living) and dealing with them so I don't lose myself or insult those within the new culture. It also requires good observation, negotiation, listening, and questioning/interviewing skills.
I am hoping as I delve deeper into my dissertation, that I will be able to dissect what skills allow some to move in and out of cultures yet paralyze others from working within a different culture.
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.