Dairy Today: Bridge the Cultural Divide

February 10, 2009 06:00 PM

By Rick Mooney

Recognizing the subtle differences between Anglo and Hispanic cultures can go a long way in helping dairy producers more effectively manage Hispanic employees, says Richard Stup, a branch manager for AgChoice Farm Credit who has extensive experience in human resource management. Some of the differences to keep in mind:

Group versus individual identity. American society places high value on individual achievement, often measuring success by how much a person does on his or her own with little or no outside help. Hispanic cultures, on the other hand, tend to focus on group harmony. "The success of the group takes priority over individual success,” Stup says. "Getting ahead is less important than building strong relationships.”

Personal space. Hispanics often greet each other with a handshake, a hug or a pat on the back, sometimes more than once a day. Anglos, however, often limit handshakes to special occasions and sometimes reserve hugs for close family members.

Eye contact. "In American society, if we're talking to somebody and they avoid eye contact, we might take it as a sign that they're hiding something,” Stup notes. In Hispanic culture, the reverse is true. "Children are taught to avoid eye contact as a sign of respect for adults,” he says. "Misunderstanding this behavior can have serious consequences.”

Conversational tone. Hispanics tend to read a great deal of meaning into how things are stated. "Sometimes when managers are in a hurry or under stress, they'll use gruff or loud tones to get a point across,” Stup says. "Anglo employees might simply shrug this off, telling themselves the manager is having an off moment or a bad day. But Hispanics might interpret it to mean the manager is upset or angry with them. This can harm the manager/employee relationship.”

Gender. While American society recognizes men and women as equals in the workplace, many Hispanic cultures are patriarchal in nature. Dairy managers should address the issue directly by pointing out to all employees that they're expected to treat women in middle management positions with respect. "You may need to make it clear that women in these roles represent you and that they are in charge,” Stup says.

This article appeared in the February issue of Dairy Today. In this issue, you will also find information on cross ventilation barns, on-farm mastitis testing, and best management practices for transition cows. Click here to read more from the current issue.



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