Thanks to Tomlinson’s work on globalization and culture, today the world has embraced the transmission of ideas and values through many channels. Transmission in culture has allowed individuals and organizations across the globe to work together in multi-cultural settings to embrace common goals.
Having confidence in the ability of multi-cultural teams to complete tasks related to international projects is a major challenge for project managers who sometimes interact with their staff remotely. Indeed, many non-profit organizations are headquartered in Europe but have country offices around the world. Team leaders and HR officers thus have to be well aware of the socio-cultural differences when managing cross-country teams, even for neighboring countries.
In this article, we highlight socio-cultural work differences related to the African context with a focus on Ivory Coast. Indeed, the United States as well as EU institutions are part of the top 5 main institutional donors of gross official development assistance (ODA) in 2016-2017. The knowledge and recognition of cultural particularities will help managers and HR officers lead cross-country team towards achieving their common goals!
Emphasis on hierarchy, seniority and titles
Ivorian people value hierarchical structures in professional settings, as well as positions and titles. Indeed, though promoting warm and friendly relationships throughout the organization, high-level managers prefer to be addressed by their titles with a level of respect matching their age, gender and seniority. On the other hand, it is widely accepted to address team leaders and top executives by their first names in Western cultures. This in mind, it is essential for the managers of multi-cultural teams operating in Ivory Coast to address each team member according to her cultural background. Inclusion here doesn’t mean choosing one work culture over another but respecting all in order to create the right environment for each staff member.
Though promoting warm and friendly relationships throughout the organization, high-level managers prefer to be addressed by their titles with a level of respect matching their age, gender and seniority.
A “8 to 5 in the office” mentality
The Ivorian working framework is very similar to that of most Western countries. The work week in Ivory Coast is 40 hours, distributed over 5 days of 8 hours each. However, what differs – from the Dutch working culture for instance — is the staff obligation to report to work from 8am to 5pm. Working remotely within working hours is rarely seen in Ivory Coast. As such, managing the working preference of multi-cultural teams operating in this country might become a nightmare for managers or HR officers. The implementation of common office hours (one day per week for instance) is therefore crucial to create a collaborative environment where staff members with various backgrounds and expectations can interact and work together without any hard trade off on their own work culture.
Working for money or for purpose?
In 2019, 2.5% of people in Ivory Coast are expected to be looking for a job. Indeed, 7.5 million people are trying to enter a job market where positions are scarce. In such a tense context, many accept positions they don’t find purposeful or interesting in order to make ends meet. One is likely to work only to get a salary that covers daily expenses, with no interest for the job itself. As manager or HR officer, you are likely to encounter staff members who work for money only. It is therefore very important to introduce individual coaching sessions for such staff to trigger interest in their role.
Did you experience other differences? Share your insight and tips with our community!
With a background in sustainable development and entrepreneurship, Joseph has more than 7 years of experience working with social purpose organizations in Africa. He has been helping organizations grow by combining his skills in sustainability and entrepreneurship.
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