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Posted on May 7th, 2014, by

There are many possible differences between the people, for example, personality, socioeconomic class, or education. But the most significant differences are cultural. HR manager should be competent enough to treat each employee or potential employee with appropriate manners and true respect.  The knowledge of cultural customs can help avoid misunderstandings and enable to establish understanding and cooperation in the organization.

The interaction between employees that represent different cultures contains the potential for enhanced communication and understanding but unfortunately it also suggests the possibility of miscommunication and misunderstanding. People usually learn their core values, beliefs and attitudes early in life and change them only with great difficulty. They may resist discussion of them, considering them personal, private, or even sacred. Frequently these elements of nonmaterial culture may be learned by outsiders only through lengthy and careful observation.

In accordance to the definition provided by Brewster & Harris (1999, p 32) culture’ encompasses learned patterns of thought and behavior, including language, values, actions, religion, and rules of conduct, which distinguish a particular social group from others. (Brewster & Harris, 1999, p 32)

Cultural competence acknowledges the importance of culture, the assessment of cross-cultural relations, and vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural differences, the expansion of cultural knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet culturally unique needs.

Various definitions of cultural competence include sensitivity to issues related to culture, race, gender, and sexual orientation, the process in which HR manager continuously strives to achieve the ability to effectively work within the cultural context of a the country he operates in or the country of origin of the employee, and an ongoing process with the goal of achieving ability to work effectively with people of different cultural  groups, with specific knowledge, refined skills, and personal and professional respect for cultural attributes, both similarities and differences. (Brewster & Harris, 1999, p 34)

Culturally competent HR professional may be defined by the following characteristics:

  • Has a capacity for cultural self-assessment;
  • Value of diversity, with an awareness, acceptance, and even celebration of differences in life view, and communication styles;
  • Is conscious of the dynamics of difference. With cultural interaction comes the possibility of misjudging the other’s intentions and actions. Each party to an interaction brings to the encounter a specific set of experiences and styles. One must be vigilant to minimize misperception, misinterpretation, and misjudgment;
  • Institutionalizes cultural knowledge. Cultural knowledge must be accessed and incorporated into the delivery of services.

Additionally, six levels of cultural competence could be named starting with the least competent:

  • Cultural destructiveness may involve the extreme of cultural genocide but is more commonly seen when people are actively denied services or treated in a dehumanizing manner.
  • Cultural incapacity occurs when systems lack the capacity to work effectively with individuals from another culture. The system maintains bias, supports stereotypes, and assumes a paternal stance.
  • Cultural blindness presumes that all people are the same.  The demand for culturally specific approaches to solve problems is not realized. (Brewster & Harris, 1999, p 64) Services are inherently ethnocentric, ignore cultural strengths, encourage assimilation, and blame victims for their problems. (Brewster & Harris, 1999, p 64)
  • Cultural pre-competence moves toward the more positive end of the continuum. The system recognizes its weaknesses and explores alternatives. There is a commitment to responding appropriately to differences.
  • Cultural competence is defined by acceptance of cultural differences, by continuing self-assessment towards the cultural issues, and adaptations to health services.
  • Cultural proficiency occurs when culture is held in high regard. Under the condition of cultural proficiency the research is conducted, the results are analyzed, and new approaches that might increase culturally competent practice is recognized are developed.’ (Brewster & Harris, 1999, p 64)

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