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  • Hispanic Cultural Traits at Work: What You Need to Know

    4 posts, 2 voices, 680 views, started Jan 23, 2009

    Posted on Friday, January 23, 2009

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    • inactive
      Carnelian
      Offline

      Degree of Intimacy – Hispanics innately want to establish a personal connection, including a close relationship with co-workers. It may take some time in a new work environment to learn what is expected, but Hispanic staff members will adapt to a different level of intimacy. Or you may even find your office becoming a closer-knit "family" as you are exposed to a new way of working.  

      Level of Interaction – Latinos want to get to know others as complete human beings. They are aware that their co-workers have a life after work and are interested in knowing more about it. Small talk is our way of learning about the wants, needs and feelings of others.  

      Social Harmony – Hispanic employees don't like to rock the boat; we have a need to maintain smooth and pleasant relationships. Blatant confrontation does not come naturally to us. I have to admit that I still feel uncomfortable when my fellow non-Hispanic staff members clearly and openly expresses their disagreement on a given issue. For them, there is no emotion involved in the interaction; it is just a difference in opinion. As a Latino, I prefer to use a more indirect approach.  

      Personal Contact – In social situations, Hispanics find physical contact with others quite normal. Handshakes, hugs, kisses on the cheek, pats on the back... it's all part of daily interaction.  

      Respect for Authority – Hispanic employees tend to treat those in positions of authority with a great deal of respect. Don't expect us to blurt out our disagreement in front of everyone. If you really want to know what we think on a given issue, get some one-on-one time with us, reassure us that you really need our feedback and are ready to hear it. That's when you'll get some frank and useful feedback from us.
      Now that you are more familiar with Hispanic cultural traits, what can you do to relate to your Latino staff and promote an inclusive workplace?  

      Make a conscious effort to recognize your Hispanic employees on a personal level. We will appreciate your effort to make small talk, show us your "unguarded" side, and be down to earth, even if it is only for a short while. If you just can't do it, acknowledge it. It is much better to admit your discomfort than to create unnecessary friction or misunderstandings.  

      Be ready and willing to shake some hands. Think of yourself as a politician running for office. You'll get the hang of it and start to enjoy it.  

      Be a leader not a "boss." Hispanic employees respond to managers who lead through vision and inspiration, not fear and intimidation. Rather than remain in a negative environment, Latino workers will search for a respectful, collaborative workplace.  

      I hope that these insights I have shared will help you better relate to your Hispanic employees. Just remember that these are generalizations—the term Latino or Hispanic refers to a very diverse group of individuals. Each person will be influenced by their country of ancestry, country of birth, language of preference, region where they live, years in the U.S., level of acculturation, level of assimilation, income level, and education. As a rule of thumb, the further away your Hispanic employee is from his/her ancestors that migrated to the United States, the less noticeable these characteristics will be.  

      It may sound complex, but it really isn't—there are just as many things that make us similar as there are things that set us apart.  

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