Cultural Work Hacks

Culture invariably impacts our work. Deeply ingrained cultural practices translate into work habits. As Erin Meyer mentions in her book The Culture Map: “Cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions, cognitions, and actions.” Whether because Japanese are taught to value hard work and self-sufficiency or due to the high living standard of the country, or the deeply-rooted appreciation for arts, or the strong “waste not” culture, the Japanese community actively embraces the Do-It-Yourself lifestyle ethic. From growing their own food to making and repairing their own furniture, clothes, toys, and decorations.

In Japan, this common practice is reflected in the workplace. We see it in various private school where managers run their businesses through self-organizing teams and in-house development of materials and projects. Whether job enrichment is used as an excuse or the common ‘do-it-yourself’ cultural practice is used as a benchmark, involving staff into major job responsibilities outside of their job description saves you a lot of money and provides benefits to the employees, provided that they are justly rewarded for the effort they put it.

Surely it is great to offer employees the opportunity to learn and develop professionally outside of their job. Job enrichment, in the form of the execution of plans and evaluation of results, motivates workers and relieves boredom.

This business approach lends itself well to instilling a sense of ownership among employees who contribute towards the organization’s progress. On the flipside, ‘recruiting’ inexperienced staff to perform key responsibilities has the potential of hampering the success and causing frustration on the part of the employees for not getting it ‘right’. What managers need to do is to send members to workshops, trainings, and provide them with opportunities to learn from experts in the field and bring back the best practices.

If that’s a topic of interest to you, feel free to reflect on the cultural factors that have shaped the business models and practices in your country and share your thoughts in the comment section.

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