Performance Management

Published March 2007

Crossing the Cultural Divide with Emotional Intelligence

Joshua Freedman

The Bridge of Emotional Intelligence

Culture is a body of shared knowledge — the knowledge of what is appropriate behavior. Geopolitical and organizational cultures tell people how to get by and how to get results. Culture shapes our values, language, customs and even the way we define success. So, it’s no wonder culture has such a powerful effect on performance management.

It was hard enough managing performance with a more homogeneous workforce of employees from the same country, similar backgrounds, shared experiences and common language. But with greater globalization and more mobility, many cultural differences are emerging and converging in the workplace. The divide can be wide.

Even within a single country, norms and language can vary widely. Within the same organization, there can be dramatically different cultures, each providing different rules of appropriate behavior and unspoken assumptions about “the right way” to perform.

The only thing people seem to share universally is the assumption that everyone else sees the world from the same perspective they do. As a result, what seems like a simple request or interaction can become messy and convoluted.

Is there a way to cut across cultural difference and understand one another at a human level? If we access the intelligence of emotions, are we just using another cultural filter, or does universality exist? Are some aspects of emotional intelligence (EQ) more or less influenced by culture? And how do we use this concept to improve performance?

Six Seconds

Six Seconds supports people to create positive change - everywhere... all the time. Founded in 1997, the organization now has offices in 11+ countries and certified practitioners in over 100, and is the world's preeminent resource for putting emotional intelligence into action.

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