International students talk power in the workplace

Last Friday’s “Casual Friday” event featured an international professor and panel of students discussing cultural differences in working abroad

Several times a semester, international student tutor LeAnn Lowry hosts “Casual Friday” events to bring together international and U.S. students in a variety of ways. This month’s event, “Power and Influence,” featured a panel of international students and Patrick Guilbaud, Ph.D.

“I want to share my passion about international culture,” Guilbaud said. “It’s very important for students to understand the different ways of thinking about other cultures and countries. We live in a globalized world.”

Guilbaud spoke about Dutch researcher and professor Geert Hoftsede’s Power Distance and Individualism Index theories of how each culture has different values that come into play in the international workspace. Each country is ranked from one to 100, one being low and 100 being high, on characteristics such as individualism and masculinity.

Guilbaud discussed these concepts in relation to Oman and Senegal, where he did various business projects. He discussed how working in highly collectivistic societies such as Oman can prove challenging, as decisions are made by the entire group.

Later, the students discussed the idea of power distance in the international workplace, compared working abroad versus working in the U.S and shared their own experiences. Student panel members came from Norway, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia, and South Korea.

Vergard Eide and Lars Varlo are both Winthrop graduate students from Norway.

“It’s important to keep in mind cultural differences not only if you’re doing business but making friends from across the world,” said Eide. “Norway has lower power-distance than the United States. That means that employees are encouraged to challenge the opinions of their boss.” The two students gave other examples of power distance in their home country, such as employees and the boss being on a first name basis in the office and workplace dress is kept very casual.

Taewoo Kim, physical education major from South Korea, shared that South Koreans are very collectivistic and often put family before anything else. “A lot of times in South Korea, you get a job from your family and who your family knows,” he said.

118 students attended the cultural event. The next casual Friday event will focus on study abroad opportunities led by Winthrop study abroad coordinator Chelsi Colleton and a panel of students. The event will take place Oct. 6; a time is yet to be determined. For more information on casual Fridays, contact LeAnn Lowrey at lowreyl@winthrop.edu.

 

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