Culture and ethics impact how groups interact and, thus, how they make decisions. In this lesson, we will talk about culture and ethics in a group setting.
Culture and Ethics
When we are making a group decision, we have to take into account many different aspects of the individuals we are working with. While it may not be obvious, culture and ethics play a part in group decision making as each person has a different culture and has a different perspective on ethics. Thus, when we are working in groups, it is important we understand these aspects because they will be present and will impact how the group functions and how the group makes decisions.
It is important that we understand the culture of the individuals in the group because each culture looks at teaming and working in a group differently. For example, let us consider the aspects of high and low context cultures:
- Low Context: This is a culture where issues are fully detailed and spelled out. Issues are much more specific, and a great deal of focus and importance is put on what is said. Thus, in a group setting, individuals from low context cultures will want specifics and details as they relate to the problem the group is working on.
- High Context: This is a culture that makes a lot of assumptions about the commonality of the communications, views and knowledge. Individuals from these cultures do not need all the specifics, and there is a level of assumption and mutual understanding that is present.
These types of context are present in every culture and having them all in a group could lead to confusion and poor communication, which can affect group performance.
Similarly, different cultures will view power differently. Power, in this case, refers to the leader of the group or the level of power each person in the group holds. Power is viewed very differently based on culture and can be broken down into three different areas. You might have learned from other lessons that we have:
- Formal Power: Power bestowed upon an individual who has expert knowledge in an area.
- Informal Power: When an individual has a position of power over others, but it is not part of the hierarchical structure of the organization.
- Expert Power: Which is power bestowed upon an individual who has knowledge of an area that is expert in nature.
Every culture will look at these differently, and that is a consideration that must be taken into account when working in groups.
Ethics is an area more easily explained than defined. However, ethics is generally understood to mean the principles that govern a person's or group's behavior. Taking into account that every person has their own interpretation of ethics, we can see how this aspect impacts how a group works together. Decisions being made and factors that will be impacted will have an ethical component to them.
However, we can also take this one step further as we look at groups. There can be individuals in a group that are not being treated ethically, and that can be an issue as well. What if someone is not told all the information about a problem the group is working on? Alternatively, what if a person speaks from their perspective, but they are not being taken seriously? All these aspects are ethical aspects that influence group decision making.
Groups are a complex part of any business. Some work very well together, and some simply cannot get on the same page. While we can attribute superior or poor performance to areas such as communication, in the end, it really boils down to culture and ethics. Communication, interaction, power and openness are all driven by culture and ethics in a group setting. Therefore, it is important for a leader to understand the cultures he or she has in a group and work to help them interact in a homogenous manner while also promoting ethics that could be interpreted as fair by the entire group. If that can be obtained, the group can potentially make much more sound decisions.
You could review this video lesson if you'd like to:
- Note the importance of culture and ethics to group performance
- Differentiate between low context and high context cultural aspects
- Cite the three types of power exhibited in groups