Corporate culture

Leading across cultures

In the work environment, unexpected misunderstandings often arise as a result of cultural differences in leadership styles. Americans, for example, see themselves as egalitarian and think of the Japanese as hierarchical. But American leadership seems to be unclear. This is mainly because American bosses are outwardly egalitarian—relating with subordinates on a first name basis and encouraging them to participate in meetings—they can be extremely top-down in the way they make decisions.

It's very common for people of different cultures to struggle with mutual incomprehension. The main reason for this is managers' failure to differentiate between two important aspects of leadership culture.

Diversity and inclusion at work

How diverse is your workplace? And how inclusive is it? While many organizations may feel prepared to answer the first question, the second often causes a bit of confusion. Isn’t it just the same question rephrased?

Rita Mitjans, ADP’s chief diversity and social responsibility officer, explains.

Diversity is the “what”; inclusion is the “how”. Diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce—demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, etc.—and inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive. People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they are quite distinctly different.

So, why is it important to focus on both diversity and inclusion? Again, Rita Mitjans:

Tips on asking for a promotion

According to the Harvard Business Review, asking for a promotion can be nerve-wracking. How do you prepare for that conversation with your boss? What information should you have at the ready? And how exactly do you make your case?

The first step is to think through what you want. Do you want more power? More money? More managerial responsibility? Also, consider getting feedback from a personal "board of directors" on your strengths and weaknesses. Speak to peers to try to measure your reputation. Find out how others successfully pressed their cases for promotion. 

Once you’ve clarified exactly what you’re looking for, build a compelling case for why you deserve to move up. Consider preparing a one-or-two-page memo that clearly outlines your track record. The memo’s bullet points should provide metrics of the impact you’ve had, descriptions of solutions you’ve delivered, and financial outcomes for which you’ve been responsible.

The ego's effect on leadership

According to the Harvard Business Review, the higher leaders rise in the ranks, the more they are at risk of getting an inflated ego. The bigger their ego grows, the more they are at risk of ending up in an insulated bubble, losing touch with their colleagues, the culture and ultimately their clients.

An unchecked ego can warp our perspective, twist our values and corrupt our behavior. When we believe we’re the sole architects of our success, we tend to be ruder, more selfish and more likely to interrupt others. An inflated ego also narrows our vision. The ego always looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe. Basically, a big ego makes us have a strong confirmation bias.

American work culture for females

Once upon a time, the American dream was built on the ideal that hard work leads to success. But today, with the rise of technology, the message has become: work all the time or you will fail, Melinda Gates argued in her first column on LinkedIn. 

This workaholic culture is particularly harmful to women, Gates writes, because women are still being told by society that home care and child care is up to them as well. She explained:

"We’re sending our daughters into a workplace designed for our dads... The American workplace was set up based on the assumption that employees had partners who would stay home to do the unpaid work of caring for family and tending to the house. Of course, that wasn’t always true back then, and it definitely isn’t today."