How To Create An Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program Article Questions Sexual Harassment – Educate on Cultural Differences

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Sexual Harassment – Educate on Cultural Differences

When I teach my American business ethics course to multicultural audiences I get a lot of questions on appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the American workplace. Since the norms differ in cultures, the norms of behavior in cultures can be inappropriate, sometimes shocking or even legally unacceptable and subject to a legal case.

Despite the growing focus on cultural understanding over the past few decades, managing cultural differences among international professionals and their families is often at the bottom of the priorities. Human resources professionals must remember that although many cultures share similar values ​​and concepts (for example, punctuality, business ethics, romantic love, and revenge) the real difference is how they are interpreted. . For example, there is no doubt that romantic love in France is different from romantic love in Iceland or Egypt. Therefore, we must remember that socially acceptable behavior varies among cultures. What is considered correct in one society is not so in another.

Consider this passage by Laura Klos-Sokol, quoted in R. Nolan’s excellent book “Communicating and Adapting Across Cultures”: “Imagine a professional meeting that begins like this: a woman who entered an office and introduced himself, stretched out his hand to shake only to have someone kiss him. Next, he helped her take off her coat and took her by the arm to lead her to a chair three feet away. This is the Polish way: he can sue for it in the United States”.

Many times I encountered similar behavior in my native Armenia and Russia. This is part of good manners and is considered “classy” behavior. In some cultures, men are expected to be dominant and gallant. On the other hand, when I first experienced the American “bear hug”[1] in Armenia with a man from the US, it made me uncomfortable and I was relieved that my countrymen were not there to witness a “senseless” act.

Professionals moving to the United States should consider the unspoken rules of gender interaction accepted in this country. Not knowing the rules can be traumatic and even dangerous from a legal perspective – the employer can be sued for sexual harassment. On the other hand, a female student of mine from Northern Brazil told me once how she missed the whistle of praise (or mockery, I think) the men would show up when she passed.

It may be normal in some workplaces in Northern Brazil to whistle when an attractive woman walks by. Whistle – not something you expect someone to do on the streets or in the American workplace, even if you’re Sophia Loren or Miss America. Italian men are notorious for whistling at attractive women in a way that would make most American construction workers blush. … Italian, Brazilian and Armenian women may not be offended by such behavior and may even consider it as an expression of gratitude. As a rule, professional women in the US do not appreciate this. This can be disturbing and threatening for North American women and they may consider it humiliating and discriminatory. As a nation, Americans are committed to equal rights for women. Because of this women are expected to be treated equally with men.

Many countries around the world have sexual harassment laws. However, different countries have different interpretations of them. That’s why I define sexual harassment as “inappropriate (from an American standpoint) behavior when interacting with the opposite sex.” (Ameri$peak, Succeed in America Books, 2006, p. 66).

In the business world, lack of information about behavior and unspoken rules of gender interaction and norms can create misunderstandings that are essential for an individual’s success.

To help your foreign-born employees understand the ethical standards of the US workplace

Consider the possibility that you have a problem. Don’t assume your employees know the intricacies of gender interaction in the US or you’ll be in trouble or even… you’ll get sued!

Consider hiring a professional to oversee a training program and set expectations about American workplace culture.

[1] A bear hug is a tight, emotional embrace that implies a greeting (the individuals’ hands embrace each other and the upper body is close for a second or two) -NV, see the Ameri$peak update on SucceedinAmerica.com.

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