Cross-Cultural Observation Assignment

Cross-Cultural Observation Assignment Words: 1437

In order to observe the interactions between individuals from different cultural background, my partner: Gina Unguent and I went to the Macy’s department store, located downtown Boston. We selected this store because of the size and their reputation of having a diverse workforce. Gina and I started our observation at 3:pm on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 and finished it at 4:pm. We were observing the interactions between the coworkers, as well as the ones between the staff members and the customers.

Before we started our observation, we read the assignment soother, just to make sure we were on the same page. After that we selected some spots in the store where we were able to observe the interactions between coworkers. First we went in the shoes section, where we found couches to sit on while observing a group of employees at the cashier. There were around six employees. For the second part of the observation we moved close to a fitting room, where we observed the interaction between two ladies.

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We also walked around the store, in search for more interaction between employees. The main cultural differences I personally expected to identify and which I examined are: the employees approximate cultural background, the languages spoken, the attitudes towards coworkers, the emotional stage and the formality of the interactions. I tried to keep this in mind every time I noticed some type of interaction. Just to put in perspective the information am about to give you, I want to describe my first impression of the environment.

The store seemed to be well organized, relaxed and friendly for the customers. I observed that there were employees at their stations ready to offer help to customers, which suggest the fact that there is strong set of rules that they have to obey by. On my way to the first observation sight passed by a number of employees which from my cultural judgment, were part of different cultural groups. They appeared to have a high level of sales skills, given that all of them behaved very professional in contact with their clients.

I also noticed that all of them seemed to enjoy what they were doing, or at least that was the impression they were making. Over the course of the observation, I notice that there were three types of interactions between the workers: professional, strictly related to a work question; personal/friendly, showing a tighter connection between each other; and interactions based on avoidance, when workers interacted only for a couple of seconds, with almost no communication.

There were a couple of instances when I observed professional interactions between employees; the interesting fact is that most of them happened between persons with different cultures. For example there was a Latino white male that had a conversation with an African-American woman, the male was explaining and showing her something on a computer. Their attitude was distant, which loud be explained by employment rules like sexual harassment. There was a space between them that suggested the fact that they knew each other but did not engage in other conversations outside work.

Their voice tone suggested a that there was no power distance, however I felt a certain level of intimidation in the voice of the female, which I believe to be because of the fact that she asked for help in the computer situation. This type of interaction happened between the Latino white male and an African-American male as well, however this time felt an attitude of equality from both sides, as if they ad a set of rules that determined the way they were supposed to act with each other. I had the impression they were trying to give each other a level of respect that would make the other person comfortable.

The second type of interaction I observed was of more personal or friendly attitudes. There were two instances in which two African-American women interacted: the first one was when one of them approached the other at the register and started a friendly conversation. I was able to hear them complain to each other about the fact that they were tired and one of them wanted to take a break. It was interesting to notice they body language, because it was clear they knew each other well and felt comfortable talking about their personal life: weekend plans.

One of the woman I previously mentioned (the one at the register) and another one, also interacted at a more personal level. They appeared to have the same race and their contact proved they were close friends, as one of them presented her mother to the other. In this interaction I was able to evaluate their behavior: their conversation was very friendly, made jokes with one another: “I brought my mom, so you can sell her something, and make ere buy me something too. From this line I concluded the fact that they had a stronger relationship than just coworkers, it is highly probable they were friends. It was also interesting to observe that the African-American woman at the cashier register redirected her attention towards the customer she was serving and stopped talking to the other employee when an African-American male came closer to her; I explained that change in attitude with the fact that he might have been her supervisor or her manager.

These two also had a series of interactions; most of them were provoked by questions about the imputer system, prices, and discount percentages. It was my impression that the woman’s attitude changed when he approached the area and started working next to her, almost made her uncomfortable and tried to cover it up by having repeated interactions with him. Close to them there were other three employees that appeared to be from different cultures: an Asian woman, a white male (American), and a Latino male, nonetheless she only asked the African-American male questions.

From these three instances one might conclude that there was a preference for same cultural group or race interactions, however I also observed a conversation between a young Muslim woman and an older one that appeared to be of European decent, possibly Russian. At first the two women were having short conversations about their duties at work, but after a female customer with a child approached them and asked a question, the older woman seemed concerned that the customer might have been stealing so she made a call to report it.

I could not hear the conversations to well, but from fragments I heard and their behavior, I concluded that was the case. After she made the call, she darted a conversation with the Muslim woman about the incident. They seemed very open in their discussing, comfortably expressing their opinions about the incident. Subsequent to that conversation, the older woman started talking about her family, and I heard her saying that she needed to buy a baby stroller.

They seemed familiar with each other, because the Muslim woman offered some suggestions about the places where baby stroller might be found. Interactions based on avoidance. Two of the employees I observed exhibited this type of behavior: an Asian lady, and a white Caucasian male. They both interacted very little with other employees. Although they were occupied with their duties: collecting the boxes of shoes that were left around the store after customers left, I noticed they avoided getting in contact with others.

In one instance the Asian woman needed something, so she approached the cashier register and reached underneath, however she was not able to get what she needed, so instead of asking the African-American Woman there, she just turned and left. I also observed the fact that there is a competitive work environment, and came to this inclusion because of a situation I observed between two employees: a female African-American employee was busy with a customer, when another customer asked for assistance.

At that point the employee asked the new customer to wait for her a couple of minutes to finish instead of referring that customer to one of the other two employees that were not busy. This incident was not so much about pride, fairness or respect, but it is obvious that there is a lack of camaraderie. The culture of the business is designed for employees to develop a competitive attitude, which would result in better customer service, and better sale.

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