Cultural Values and Translation by Trade
Another little gem by Dr Robert Long – If you liked this article then you should read the whole series: CLICK HERE. I highly recommend you check out Rob’s new book “RISK MAKES SENSE” – click on image to read precise
One of the most important things we discover in a study of culture is that other people are not like us. This is why it is so crazy to assume ‘common sense’, this is why it’s so misleading to even talk about ‘common sense’. The more we use this language the more we assume that everyone perceives risks just like we do, sees the world just like we do. They don’t. Yet we make assumptions in our communication about risk as if they do. We don’t do this when we travel overseas, we soon learn that we don’t understand others, don’t think like others and don’t sound like others.
In order to emphasise this point I have decided to make a comparative table (Figure 1) by building and construction trades. I have only done a few trade comparisons as the space for this article is quite limited. Perhaps you might like to put this table in landscape view and extend this thinking to other trades and professions you work with.
The table is developed based on observations, stereotypes and generalisations so please don’t get offended, as the purpose of the table is not about definition but illustration for further discussion. Whilst I would not advise making judgments by stereotypes, the table seeks to emphasis the point that cross-cultural translation is just as important on a job site when discussing risk as cross-cultural translation when working with someone of another nationality.
Some of the cultural risk indicators have been adapted from Hofstede (2002), further see http://www.culturegps.com/About.html
Figure 1. Comparison of Trades by Cultural Value
Education & Learning
Usually poorly educated, school failure
Kind of work
Attitude to Safety Training
Leadership & management
Managers out of touch with workers
Confident yet insufficient social skills capability
Gatekeepers to power
Just get the job done
Isolate, work and commission
Isolate, work and commission
Get the job done properly
We all work with other trades and professions which are different. It is hard to get into the shoes of another if their world is foreign to us. So, let’s drop the pretense and language of ‘common sense’. Such expressions are delusional and make us lazy in our cultural engagement of others.
Let’s remember that when we have conversions about risk that we are engaged in an ‘extraction’ process not an ‘injection’ process. The key to a ‘risk conversation’ is listening and observing, open questioning and understanding, not telling and assuming.
The table endeavours to highlight the many sub-cultural differences between trades. So here is the point. Just as we need to ‘translate’ between cultures by nationality (eg. Australia and China) so too when we transverse between cultures on a work site. This is more so when we have conversations about the management of risk, perceptions of risk and understandings of hazards.