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What is: Collectivism?

by Brandi Moore on October 31, 2006

Indians live in a collectivist society where individuals set
aside personal goals for the good of the whole.  Identities are born and cultivated through family
lineage and caste membership resulting in an identified in-group rather than
striving for a personal identity. India’s
people to not strive for independence from their in-group seeking individual
rights” and desires over the group. Instead,
respecting elders and taking on tasks to insure the happiness of the in-group,
which includes workplace teams, are top duties. This is challenging to an American mind because our society is the most individualist in the world..or the opposite of collectivist.

Indian collectivist preferences coupled with in-country
hierarchical structures and a fatalistic belief system result in an employee
who appears to be the bi-polar opposite of the typical American worker. Employees tend to be satisfied with their
current position within their team. They
may avoid working at a faster pace or at a higher level than their perceived
in-group to avoid individual attention. Exerting effort to achieve the goals of the in-group, is seen as a top
priority. Enhancing these preferences is
the overwhelmingly valued seniority system. Workers in the tech community may ignore the seniority system entirely,
instead opting to seek out the same position at a different company for higher
pay.

American awareness of these cultural aspects decreases
surprise over the lifetime of a project. Accounting for these differences is requires creativity:

  • Assigning tasks to the team instead of individuals is a
    perfect strategy for a group so willing to work together. By tracking the status of each project
    milestone as a group, they will share successes and failures. This is highly prevalent inside the call
    centers in India,
    where teams work together to meet a goal and are rewarded as a team with a team
    activity. 
  • Avoid expecting teams to have a few overachievers, or those
    looking to take on additional responsibility. Instead, focusing on the group as a whole will be more effective.
  • Market training as required by the employees’ position
    instead as a career stepping stone.  Americans
    must remember that training often appears as a stepping-stone in the US to a larger
    position. This branding may cause a low
    attendance rate through erroneous perceptions by the team.
  • Realize teams that have strong underlying cohesion may
    produce a product with greater efficiency through their thorough understanding
    of the strengths and weaknesses existing inside.

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