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How to limit culture shock in organisations at home

Culture shock is a phenomenon we experience when moving to live and work in another country with different traditions, beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions and habits to ours; where that country’s political and social history and ways of communicating are markedly different. However, we can also experience ‘culture shock’ when we change jobs and move to a new organisation based in the country in which we grew up.

This is because organisations each have their own unique identities that are broadly rooted in the political and social fabric of the nation in which they were founded. It is, in fact, the subtle cultural factors that will influence the core identity of that organisation, creating differences that will mean navigating and settling in to a new organisation, even in your own country, can be fraught with challenges and will determine not only whether you stay on but also how successful you will be within that company.

These cultural differences will include political, economic, social, linguistic and organisational factors based on who founded the company and what their cultural, educational, economic and social background is, in which business sector the company operates, at what period in history, which business practices were in fashion at that time, how language is used within the organisation, how many takeovers, mergers and organisational changes they’ve been put through, how successful they have been at pivoting during economic downturns, the types of leaders at the helm and the profiles of those being cultivated at lower management levels.

These psycho-social, eco-political and linguistic dynamics pose a cultural challenge to employees. Of course, it is initially the responsibility of the individual to research the new organisation throughout their recruitment process but organisations also have a responsibility to make a new employee’s transition into the firm as smooth as possible if they want to see a good return on their investment.

Research shows that new recruits benefit from on-boarding training that includes being inducted into the organisation. It would be useful for that to include a history of the organisation and its development, how the various departments, business units and foreign subsidiaries fit together, a focus on the evolution of business practices, a clear outline of what current practices are and how those are directly linked to company values, vision and results.

This can then be linked to the professional goals of the individual. This would be followed up with training in the behavioural and communication style of the organisation meaning that frustrations and conflicts over why people behave and speak in the way they do are limited. This way employees are able to manage their interactions with others in a more professional manner, meaning that for the organisation, professional goals and results take precedence over individual needs and gripes.