Perhaps it’s attributable in part to shifting demographics, which has attracted people from across the globe, but there’s no denying the growth in cultures that have permeated Douglas and surrounding Georgia counties, their schools, businesses and neighborhoods. And that growth has been accompanied by an increase in the number of accents and the challenges that come with communicating through accent differences.
No matter how hard I work at it, I often struggle attempting to communicate with someone with a “heavy” accent. Am I alone? A situation a few years ago, one that left me feeling woefully incompetent, made this poignantly clear. Here’s what happened. Tell me if it resonates.
Diversity advocates cannot avoid dealing with the intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Tensions between those two imperatives are inevitable. These tensions complicate our efforts to address such speech-related issues as privilege, power, marginalization, hostile work environments, and the expression of intergroup hate.
This is the third in a series of columns based on my research as a current fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In the first two columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech. We don’t need to, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.
Sadie Hawkins Day! I didn’t know anything about it. The vibrations though with which the name permeates our culture and whatever the holiday celebrates have always seemed a wee bit strange and but also lighthearted. It is celebrated on November 13th and since today is November 13th I feel oddly compelled to inform myself of the wisdom or lack of wisdom passed on by this “Holiday.” It would appear to be a very American holiday, but the Scots and my Irish ancestors might argue with that since they celebrate something comparable on February 29th called of course “Leap Year.” But that is another story!
The Sadie Hawkins Story
The American story is that Al Capp, a famous and brilliant cartoon artist of the last century,3 depicted in his daily cartoon, Lil Abner, the trials and tribulations of a hillbilly town called Dogpatch. The most powerful and the richest man in Dogpatch was named Hezekiah Hawkins who had a daughter named Sadie and at the advanced age of 35 she had not married. Sadie was also “the homeliest gal in all them hills” and her father was scared that she would spend her life at home as a spinster, a terrible and humiliating fate for any woman in Dogpatch.
Would my fellow Americans like to take a nap? We Americans value hard work and when we stop working we feel guilty. We believe that we’re falling behind while others are getting ahead. And we don’t want to be viewed as lazy or lacking drive and ambition. However, there are many benefits to a nap.
Global Leadership today: The modern workplace brims with activity as people dart from meeting to meeting. Sometimes our communication is too brief. At times our messages are not well thought out. Even when the communication is crystal clear, the message can get lost in a wave of workload. But because our organizations tend to rely on best practices, people have a common frame-of-reference when there are misunderstandings. Best practices are a common denominator that allow us to understand and predict behavior, and serve as “true north” as we navigate the complexity of modern organizational life.
As organizations expand internationally and multi-cultural communications between employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers become more frequent, we are finding that the common denominator of best practices begins to unravel. And once we can no longer fall back on best practices, our inner compass can go haywire.
Since its debut in the 1964 World’s Fair, Disney’s “It’s a small world” theme park ride continues to be a crowd favorite celebrating international peace and unity. As Disney continues its expansion overseas with new theme parks, movies, educational programs and all-other-things Disney, the company remains a great on-going case study for how globalizing companies wrestle with the challenges of a world packed with different local preferences and tastes. In many cases, it turns out it’s not such a small world after all.
In their attempt to break into the Chinese market, Victoria’s Secret seems to have been caught with their cultural pants down. Their most recent fashion show in Paris last December was intended to win over Chinese shoppers as the company is in the process of opening their first stores on the mainland. But critics saw things differently. The Global Times called Victoria’s Secret “the latest international brand to rub Chinese consumers the wrong way with ill-conceived Chinese-inspired elements in its designs.”
“Hey, Terry, how about a mint?” my wife offered. I paused for a second before declining. But back to that further down. First here’s a challenge, old and new, that put her mint offer into context.
Years ago, I managed a group of 120 support staff personnel. One of them, Alice, stopped by one day to warn me about a person in the group who allegedly had an offensive body odor and everyone expected me to deal with it. “No problem,” I responded.
An American company quietly shuts down their APAC office in Singapore. They conclude that the business model “doesn’t work in Asia.” The local team wouldn’t innovate and respond to local market needs. The American Managing Director thought having a ‘flat hierarchy’ was the answer. He was wrong. His company writes off a few million dollars.
My daughter came home from Middle School where they were studying the Holocaust and asked me “Mommy, was grandpa a Nazi?” How do you answer such a question? Easy! I said “No”, because all of my life I had heard my parents rail against the Hitler regime. They sent my father to the Russian front and my mother to the basement for shelter from the Allied bombers attacking Berlin. But thirty years later, a fifth-grader in my French class, who was also learning about the Holocaust, asked me, “Why are the German people so awful?” Now the answer was not so easy, because the student unwittingly used a stereotype painting all present-day German people as Nazi criminals. Without going into the history of WWII, I briefly explained that not all Germans are awful, just like not all Americans are awful. Still, seeing an opportunity for a lesson, I taught the French words for “war and peace” (la guerre et la paix) and went on with class.