By Jose Ruiz
Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.
Conflict should not be feared; it should be managed. It is the presence of disagreements or differences. Thus, as long as human beings are different from one another, we will always have conflicts. However, having conflicts does not mean we should be violent and loud. We can have differences peacefully through mature conflict resolutions.
Peace itself is not the absence of conflicts. Rather, peace means solving differences through peaceful ways, such as dialogues, education, and knowledge. Communication, thus, is the best way to deliver resolution.
In a multicultural environment, such as an American manager in Mexico, conflicts must be understood with a theoretical framework. According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory, which is a framework for cross-cultural communications, cultural values influence behaviors. There are four dimensions of the cultural values: individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance (strength of social hierarchy), and masculinity-femininity (task orientation versus person-orientation).
Familiarize yourself with these four values by training yourself to analyze every incident. There are no two identical incidents. Thus it is advised to take note of them so that you can use them as points of reference in the future.
Applied in the five stages of conflict resolution, these four dimensions can be compared as follows.
First, the conflict scene.
In Mexican culture, which is more collective than American, emotions are more obvious. Therefore, competition and conflicts can occur more frequently and become aggressive. Whenever possible, avoid competition and conflicts. An American manager can choose to be more ritualistic than competitive among team members.
Second, the gathering information.
In Mexican culture, information is kept more secretly as it has emotional value. The relationship between an employee and the company is also more emotional. In American culture, an employee is emotionally independent of the company and information has a relative value.
Third, the agreement with the problem.
In Mexican culture, it is important for an employee to agree with the leader. Thus someone is responsible for a failure. In American culture, it is not important for an employee to agree with a manager and when there is a mistake, often the system is to blame, not the person.
Fourth, the solution finding activity.
Culturally, most Mexicans tend to resist change, are risk averse, and fear failure. Americans are more likely to invite change, take a risk, and hope for success. Thus, Mexicans may appear more reserved, while Americans may look more welcoming.
Fifth, the negotiation of solutions.
In Mexican culture, loyalty is a favorable virtue; thus company rules should not be broken. This also means people are less ready to compromise. In American culture, on the contrary, loyalty is seen as a relative virtue, rules can be changed for valid reasons, and people are more prepared to compromise.
An American manager who works in Mexico, thus, understands the extra effort that they must perform to resolve conflicts peacefully. Understanding the Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory and applying it in the five stages of conflict resolution is a good start.
Combine it with good communication and interpersonal skills; peace can be achieved with understanding. Whenever possible, foster dialogue with team-building and cultural activities.
About Alder Koten
Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. The firm was founded in 2011 and currently includes 6 partners and over 28 consultants in 4 cities. The firm’s headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. We know where to find the executives you need and how to attract top talent to your organization. Our approach to executive search is based on a thorough understanding of the strategic, cultural, financial and operational issues our clients face. Our executive search engagements are targeted and focused on the specific requirements of the position including industry and functional experience, skills, competencies, cultural fit, and leadership style. Our process is rigorous. We take a disciplined and structured approach to identifying potential candidates that meet the position requirements including subject-matter, functional and regional expertise. We use our high-level professional networks, industry knowledge, and internal research resources to achieve results in every executive search engagement.