Cultural Norms: The Good and The Bad

Hi, my name is Candice Elliot, and I am a human resources strategist. I focus on holistic human resources and really assistance approach to creating your HR program and methods. In this video, we're going to be talking about cultural norms. Cultural norms are the practices and behaviors that we accept as we are living in a particular culture. Each company has its own different particular type of culture. There are kind of four main categories to what those cultures look like, and then there three or four different hierarchical, or non-hierarchical structures, that are also happening at the same time that those cultures are happening.

A cultural norm is an acceptable or unacceptable behavior within that culture. For example, I lived in Jordan for a while, while I was in college, and I was working as an archaeologist. Typically in Jordan, women will wear hijab. They wear a scarf over their head. Because I was a woman from the west, I wasn't necessarily expected to wear a scarf when I was out in public but because it was a cultural norm, it was much more comfortable for me to wear that scarf when I was outside.

That actually ended up having a lot of interesting effects on how I decided to cloth myself moving forward and different parts of my body that I then felt comfortable or uncomfortable showing in public and [00:02:00] different ways of acting as I was out in public, even when I came back to the States. That's an example of a cultural norm.

Here in the United States, it's very normal for women to walk around without a scarf. In fact, would not be a norm for that to happen. A person who wears a scarf may feel like they're separate from the norm because they're wearing one. I think that maybe makes sense. Within a business, we start to create cultural norms. We can create cultural norms around things like being on time or being late, norms around types of conversation. If it's more directive conversation or more inclusionary conversation, these can start to become norms. As we practice certain kinds of behaviors and we positively or negatively reinforce them, they start to become norms in the culture of our business.

If we aren't careful about the norms that we promote and the norms that we correct, then these can run away from us. That's how we as business owners can have ownership over the development of our culture as time goes on. If, for example, being on time is something that's going to be an important cultural norm for your business, then you can take actions early on if people are doing that or not doing that to reinforce that norm.

If you want to have a very hierarchical-directive type of conversation between managers and their staff, it's not always what a business wants, but if that's what you want and you have a manager who's not doing that, then [00:04:00] you can take them aside, and you can have a conversation with them about how your company deals with the manager-employee relationship.

The main takeaway here is that through careful attention to the behaviors that are being exhibited by your employees at work, you have the ability to shift cultural norms, and to develop them and to reinforce the kinds of norms that you want. If you are not in touch with what's going on, then norms will develop. You may not want those to be the things that are a part of your business and your business may not start to feel like what it is that you want it to be, if you allow those things to continue.

Really, really important to just pay attention to what's going on with your people, how they're behaving with each other. Are they understanding exactly how it is that you want to conduct business and the relationships that you want to have, or are they not? If they're not, then being able to have those conversations to direct them in a different direction. Thank you for joining me for this video on cultural norms. I hope it helps to illuminate maybe why things have gotten off track, or what you can do to realign these practices with what it is that you really want to see.