We debriefed an intercultural incident (previous post) live on Twitter last night, with help from some great participants, using our “DIN” model (Describe – Interpret – Navigate). We’ve listed a few of the responses that we received on Twitter last night, with a few of our own observations. Please feel free to share more in the comments section, or ask any questions that come to mind. We hope you join us next month for the second edition of the DIN Game!
Conceived “dream team” based on individual performance history & skills.
Told Phil David was her first choice.
Wondered if not assigning David constituted discrimination.
Gave Carol Carte Blanc to select team members.
Said he wants the best people on the team.
Told Carol he wasn’t sure the Muslim, SE Asian clients would want an out, leader of a GLBT affinity group “in their midst”.
Thanked David for leading a difficult meeting the week before.
Saved a project similar to this two years ago.
Recently facilitated a difficult meeting.
Has been involved in a yearlong cross cultural skill building initiative.
Demonstrated leadership around GLBT issues within the firm.
Excited by career growth.
Believes in equality.
Wants to play by the rules/respects the law.
Respects hierarchy – questions if she should question her boss further.
Prefers to be indirect, and non-confrontational about this GLBT issue.
Respects cultural contrast of Southeast Asian client.
Wants to make a client-centered decision.
Likely comfortable with difficult conversations and situations.
Values collaboration, cross-cultural competence, diversity, and learning about cultures.
Likely to be very open to the idea of talking frankly about the impact of being GLBT in certain client markets.
All parties need to share a common understanding of how GLBT issues might impact the firm’s relationship with the client. One set of strategies would be to deploy some GLBT-specific training materials.
All parties need to discuss how GLBT issues might impact the firm’s relationship with the clients.
Carol and Phil need to acknowledge that GLBT make choices about how “out” they are based on complex personal and professional cultural sense. Dialoging with David may be one way to explore this specific incident.
Understanding from this lesson needs to be refracted through the firm’s explicit commitment to equality and policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.
Carol could engage Phil indirectly; by having a 3rd party that has a relationship with him talk to him first. This could be an effective way to deal with Phil’s preference for indirectness in this matter.
Carol could ask for David’s advice about how one could navigate a culture whose religious beliefs don’t gel with some members of a global team, and use that as a springboard to start a conversation with Phil.
All the actors should be engaged on this issue in a way they’re all comfortable with, in order to arrive at a solution that works for everyone.
David needs to be clear what a successful client relationship with the Southeast Asian firm might look like. What does he want?
This is the Intercultural Incident that we will be debriefing live on Twitter on September 6th, using the hashtag #DINGame (see previous post for details). We hope to see you’ll join us!
Carol Friedrich is a project manager for a human resource consulting firm. The firm has been growing its business internationally and just last month signed a contract with a new client that has offices across Southeast Asia. The first project has a very short time line and will be an important demonstration of how committed the firm is to serving their clients. Carol is excited and a little nervous to be leading this effort. When she met with the firm’s partners they indicated that success with this first wave of work could accelerate her and the new team’s career trajectory.
Carol’s boss is Phil Trajor, one of the original partners of the firm. Last week, Carol had a conversation at the end of a meeting that has troubled her all weekend. Phil asked her whom she wanted on the team for the new project. Previously, Phil had indicated she had carte blanc to pick the best people. He emphasized how important the project was to the emerging relationship with the new client, and also to the Asian markets the firm is trying to penetrate. In fact, he said, “Choose the best. Let’s really wow them.”
In response to Phil’s question last week, Carol had enthusiastically listed the four leads she wanted and how their previous work had demonstrated the excellence the project required. When Carol mentioned David Finkelstein’s name Phil interrupted her. “I don’t think he’s quite right for this project—you know?” Puzzled, Carol asked, “What do you mean?” Phil smiled cryptically and thought, “I guess I’ll have to be really direct.” He leaned in and said in a softer voice, “Well, he is gay. I’m not sure our new, Muslim, Southeast Asian clients want an “out” leader of the firm’s GLBT affinity group in their midst.” Phil was interrupted and pulled away before they could continue.
On the way out of the office the same day, Phil ran into David. He said, “Hello” and thanked him for facilitating a tense meeting the week before. As he walked to the car he wondered why Carol did not get “it” and had forced him to be so direct. It felt uncomfortable. As Jim walked past David, David wondered if Carol had told Jim how excited he was about the possibility of working on the Southeast Asian project.
Following the conversation with Phil, Carol was stunned. David was the first person on her wish list. Carol is pretty sure the team really needs David, and two years ago he saved a very similar project that had fallen behind. Like many at the firm, David has been involved in a year long cross-cultural skill building initiative. Many credited the training with giving the firm a significant advantage in getting the new Southeast Asian client. She is very disappointed and a bit confused about Phil’s comment.
Although she hasn’t looked at the exact wording of the policy, the firm has a very clear policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation. Is this discrimination? Equal opportunity is not something Carol takes lightly—the firm’s commitment to equality had opened up a space for her to move forward professionally. She really wants to play by the rules, but what does that mean in this case? Should she have a conversation with Phil? What should she say? Should Phil and Carol talk to David about Phil’s concerns? What would David say?
Journalist David Byrne published a column in the Chicago Tribune on July 5th called “Gay marriage across the land: Not so darn fast” inspired by the recently passed same sex marriage law in New York. In it, he discusses the benefits of limiting marriage to be a contract only between a man and a woman. I would like to provide Mr. Byrne with some pointers on how he could reach the pro-same-sex marriage camp with more success and credibility:
Mr. Byrne alludes to the many societal benefits of marriage throughout history. Then he mentions that it is a “formulated response” when some people argue that marriage can continue reaping these benefits even if gays and lesbians are given the opportunity to marry – implying that this argument is invented, artificial, or insincere. This is an example of assuming questionable intent from others, which is a turn-off to a person that you are trying to reach or persuade. A foundation of cross-cultural competence is to assume positive intent from the person who is culturally different – to give the benefit of the doubt, to presume they are coming from an honest place. A more effective manner to address his point would have been to acknowledge the argument neutrally, and then objectively explain why in his view it is not valid or irrelevant.
Mr. Byne states that marriage is one of civil society’s “most enduring and beneficial” institutions, with proven “civilizing properties.” It would be helpful for him to explain what is the downside to making that institution available to same-sex couples, particularly in terms of how society might be harmed if more people were allowed to participate in the benefits and civilizing properties he refers to.
Mr. Byrne goes on to say that “[c]ultural institutions like marriage can be fragile structures…Tamper with them too much, and they become diluted and ineffective in their purpose.” However, he never explains how marriage can be fragile, or how giving same-sex couples the option to marry “tampers” with it, makes it ineffective for society, or “rob[s] society of [its] stabilizing and other beneficial effects.” Citing behaviors, actions, and words is typically very effective in helping others understand one’s perspective. This is one area where doing so would have helped Mr. Byrne’s argument significantly.
Mr. Byrne also does not explain how giving gays and lesbians the option to marry “dilutes” or “waters down” marriage for society as a whole. This is another instance where citing examples of behavior would have been effective. Is there is a finite number of marriages to be assigned in the universe? Is the proportional quality of individual marriages pre-defined by nature or a higher power?
Mr. Byrne mentions at the end of his column that the institution of marriage is now “relentlessly under attack.” He might be more persuasive is he explained how the institution of marriage is under attack. How might marriage be harmed by allowing same-sex couples to participate in it? Once again, describing behaviors, actions, and words (rather than only using interpretative, subjective language) is typically a more effective technique to convince others with different views to be open to yours, since it it minimizes misundertandings or defensiveness.
Mr. Byrne calls comparisons between the fight for equal rights for LGBT citizens and the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in the U.S. “loathesome.” This is another example of the language of interpretation without accompanying examples or facts. A more effective way to make his point might be to use more neutral, objective language to support his point of view. For example, he can state that this comparison is not on par because the conditions African Americans were forced to endure were far more despicable (and he could cite some obvious examples of this). Then, he could also acknowledge that there are some similarities (i.e., that such comparisons have some validity, assuming positive intent). For example, in both cases, there was/is institutional discrimination, with approval by many in society. It can also be said that Mr. Byrne himself has applied a version of “separate but equal” to his evaluation of marriage vis a vis same sex couples. He believes that gays and lesbians have rights “to legally designate in contract law who can visit them in hospitals [and] who can be named as insurance beneficiaries” (i.e., civil unions) but that this should not extend to full marriage. In other words, Mr. Byrne may be OK with equal (as far as legal rights), but his is not OK with including same-sex couples in marriage (keep it separate, please).
In our field of cross-cultural competence, the type of worldview demonstrated by Mr. Byrne’s column is called “defense”, or “polarization”. From this worldview, the tendency is to see difference as a threat (marriage is “under attack”) and to negatively judge the other without (and this is key) knowing the other with enough depth or first-hand experience to make that judgment constructively. We are all complex beings – straight or gay – but many folks who see the world from a polarized perspective on this issue tend to see that complexity only in their own selves. A polarized worldview also assumes that if others don’t share one’s perspective, it must be because others don’t understand it or don’t have sufficient information. Mr. Byrne gives us an example of this when he states towards the end of his column that “[p]erhaps this argument is too ethereal to be grasped or accepted in an age of radical individualism.” In other words, if only we could only understand the subtlety of his argument, we might agree with him.
I believe that Mr. Byrne is sincere in his convictions and his arguments. Hopefully he will also try to learn about LGBT people and culture with more insight and depth. Then, if he still holds the same position, he can at least be constructive, and more cross-culturally competent, in his opinions.
Personally, I believe a likely reason why public opinion polls are showing a softening of opposition to same-sex marriage is that people are getting to know their gay friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives. They might be learning that although straight and gay people may have different sexual orientations and thus different worldviews in some ways, the love LGBT folks feel for their partners and their children sounds and looks suspiciously like the love straight couples feel for their own families…
When we talk about the culture of any group of people, we need to explore the “institutions of influence” – those factors that help create and mold the group’s mindset. When we speak of Brazilian culture, we must logically examine the socio-economic, geographic, linguistic, political, legal, and social components of Brazilian society that contribute to what we think of as the Brazilian identity, mindset, or worldview.
When we speak about LGBT culture, we need to do the same thing. We explore all the factors, or institutions of influence, that contribute to defining a shared experience in the LGBT community and therefore shape the culture of the LGBT community. Examples of those institutions include:
Legal structures around the legality of homosexual relationships,
Legal recognition of same-sex relationships,
Portrayals of LGBT individuals in the media,
The existence of and prevalence of LGBT venues,
The language that is used to describe homosexuality –
The language that is used inside the LGBT community,
Common stages one goes through in identifying oneself as LGBT,
Typical experiences in childhood and adolescence, etc.
Attitudes of authority figures towards LGBT individuals, especially in childhood/adolescence
Attitudes of peers towards LGBT individuals,
Visibility and legitimacy of LGBT people and relationships,
What are some other institutions of influence for the LGBT community? What are some specific cultural institutions that define gay culture? What is your opinion of the relatively recent increased visibility of LGBT individuals in the national media? (Rachel Maddow, Perez Hilton, Glee, Will & Grace, etc.)
One of my friends posted this 3-minute video on her Facebook page the other day, and it grabbed my attention for two reasons: (1) I’m gay, and (2) we at LCW have been working hard on co-authoring the Cultural Detective® LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) package, and one of the LGBT core values is “Nature, not Nurture.”
Let me quickly back up a bit. For those of you not familiar, Cultural Detective(R) is a powerful, practical learning tool for understanding cultures on their own terms. Each Cultural Detective® package is centered around a particular culture’s core values (usually between 5-7 of them) that are the specific overarching values that tend to drive the culture’s behavior. The values appear on the lens of a magnifying glass, so that learners can “see” through the culture’s ” lens” as they seek clues to “detect” (and thus understand) that culture. The core values are (1) derived by intercultural experts native to the culture, and (2) selected as the ones that are the MOST helpful to know in order for others to really get the motivations and complexities of the culture.
And since your culture is more than just your country of origin or heritage, there are Cultural Detective® packages about other cultural dimensions too – like Men & Women, Deaf Culture, Islam, Generational Harmony, and very soon – LGBT.
OK, back to the video. So like I said, one of the core values in the LGBT Values Lens is “Nature, not Nurture” – which is the topic of the clip. The creator has an interesting and creative way of instigating “a ha” moments for the individuals he interviews.
Notice the way people answer that first question (“Are you born gay or do you choose to be gay?”). What type of words do they use? How much time does it take them to answer? What did you notice about their non-verbals – their body language, eye contact, tone of voice, confidence?
Then compare that with the way they answer the second question (“When did you choose to be straight?”). What words do they use? How quickly do they answer THAT question? What about their non-verbals?
And finally – what do you think is going on? How were these particular questions so effective in guiding these individuals to where the interviewer presumably wanted to steer them? Do you think the way he asked the questions had anything to do with it?
The Cultural Detective® LGBT package will be published very soon, and we plan on embedding into the LCW program, “Engaging LGBT Employees”. Stay tuned for more details!