Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's, Resolutions, and Development Goals

Ah! It is the New Year! 2012, Year of the Dragon - the end of the World!?! (According to the Mayan calendar). Inevitably talk of the New Year has us discussing New Year's resolutions: losing weight, smoking less, drinking less, making more time for family and so on.

I found it somewhat interesting that during this time period I also happened to go through my mid-year review process at work. One of the key items examined are our yearly 'development goals,' and how our performance has or has not enabled us (or me, rather) to achieve those goals. Part of the mid-year discussion involves refining those goals, rewriting those goals, and/or deleting some altogether.

Amidst all this pressure to define myself in terms of 'goal accomplishment,' I found myself musing as to when did our American/Corporate culture get to this point? At what point did we move away from our only goal being survival, to all these nuanced items that reflect more what our culture expects of us, rather than what we expect of ourselves. I could not help but think of my time in other parts of the world: Tibet, Spain, Italy, England, and wondered are those cultures as obsessed with perfection and constant improvement? Ok, so granted I know that my company is global in nature - so therefore my colleagues in Europe and Asia are expected to uphold similar standards of performance. But what about other home-country companies? For example, what are the 'performance' expectations of a state-owned Chinese company? Do they reflect at all the expectations of Chinese culture writ large?

These distinctions are important because as companies expand beyond their natural borders, something as simple as performance, or performance expectations will change from culture to culture. For American companies, continual self-improvement is seen as a very good trait to have, whereas nations in other parts of the world value more the emphasis on team-work, and improving the lot of the company, organization, or community. What are some ways in which performance expecations take into consideration cultural implications on performance. Is the idea of "performance reviews" too Western an idea for other businesses?

Any other insights anyone has on this topic would be great to see.

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