Clash of Organizational Cultures

Not to be confused with the often quoted ‘clash of civilizations’ between the East and West, lately I’ve observed an equally significant disconnect between assumed expectations and the ensuing chaos when those around us behave otherwise. The physic disruption this kind of gap has caused in my own life over the past ten months is related to the way other people’s nonsensical choices contradict the symbolic order of my life as I’d like to live it. And the result has been irritation, rage, frustration: the desire to not stand and fight but to flee.

And I’m noticing the effect it has on others….

Little things, for example, such as the position of a desk in an office, to big things, such as who has access to what information and when, color how we feel about ourselves and our place in the order of the institutions we belong to.

Young people in Qatar are being educated in a different professional value system from those of their managers. Instead of basing respect on title or age, they are taught in their educational settings to give credit to those who contribute to the overall mission. They are encouraged to be treated with the same consideration as the higher members of the company, in accordance with a system that is more egalitarian than hierarchical.

This sometimes in direct conflict with a system that rewards age and also gives people with titles lots of privileges.
As someone who entered the workforce at the age of 20 in a professional capacity, I fought hard to distinguish my work persona from my student persona (it didn’t help that I stayed to work at my undergraduate institution after graduation).  And perhaps this is why I see the potential in so many of the younger people around me – despite the fact that I am now a 32 year old manager. I know that people like to have tasks that are meaningful rather than clerical and to feel a part of the greater purpose of an organization rather than just ordering paper clips.

Of course I’m a perfectionist and expect that things that are requested get done – as soon as possible or with an explanation as to why otherwise. Nothing irritates me like staff meetings where planning ahead or warnings fall on deaf ears (or students who have to have things repeated to them). But I am a relational leader and I’ve noticed that while others may not choose this particular style, it’s worth too much to me to give up just to strike fear into the hearts of others.

If only more managers knew how to cultivate the young people around them so that they would bring to work a sense of pleasure rather than duty or obligation. I have been trying to let go of tension and worry in general in preparation for the last two months of pregnancy.

I swing between feeling that this is such an ordinary experience, because women around the world do it all the time and wanting to treasure it and nurture the child at the same time. Generally I just collapse into a nap on the days that I can to get away from it all: work, home, the baby growing inside me. And generally, I feel more energized when I wake up, like I can hold on for another ten hours or so.

A friend was visiting and gave me a copy of the Shambhala Sun, a magazine that includes thoughts on “Buddhism, culture, meditation, and life.” The theme for the March issue was Mindful Living. Given all that is happening in my personal and professional life to get ready for this baby and the longest break from work I’ve ever had, it couldn’t have been better timed.

The entire issue was related to how to just be still. Be still and focus on the now. On simple things like your breath or even the sense of what you are about at the present moment. Life isn’t the past or the future – it’s the now, one of the contributors said.

And that’s the profound truth I’m taking into this next phase of my life as a mother and also a professional. I am trying to chip away at that idealist core in me that is always reaching for excellence and what could be possible – the logical order of the world as it should be – and accepting what it is. Flaws and all. Hopefully this is an important lesson the young people around me will also be able to put into their repertoire.

Are there valuable lessons you were taught or are being taught in the workplace or life?

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