Monday, October 23, 2006

Ethnocentrism in Business

“These people are so dirty.”

“No wonder this country is third-world, they’re so lazy.”

“If stupid is as stupid does, then this nation is full of stupid people.”

You can call such talk as racial slurs, national prejudice or just plain bigotry. In anthropological circles it’s called ETHNOCENTRISM.

To be ethnocentric is to hold a belief that your culture, your ethnicity is superior to others. Early explorers, anthropologists and missionaries, seeing new people in newly discovered lands often talked about the natives being primitive. By what standards were others labeled primal? By the lifestyle and behavior of 17th century Europe. People who wore little or no clothing, lived in the forest, couldn’t read or write were considered savages as they just didn’t measure up to the behavior standard of England, France, Spain and Portugal.

No doubt ethnocentrism was in place long before days of Columbus, Simon Bolivar, the East Indian Trading Company or African slave traders, but ethnocentrism is as prevalent today as it was three hundred years ago.

Ethnocentrism is not confined to any one nation or people. I have seen the feeling of superiority displayed among Koreans, Germans, Americans, Russians, Kenyans and Guatemalans. We no longer use the term “primitive” or “third-world” but now use the term emerging nations or cultures. But no matter how we label people for political correctness, the attitude of ethnocentrism remains.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, ethnicity or country. I am very comfortable with being a white, middle-class, American male, in spite of all those who tell me I should be ashamed. Everyone should be proud of who they are, but not at the expense or degradation of others. There is a fine line between ethnic pride and ethnocentrism.

What does this have to do with culture and business? Plenty. I once observed a European businessman yell at a group of Asians calling them stupid and referring to one as “pie-face.” I’ve heard businessmen having a drink after work, refer to their clients as idiots, and much worse that I don’t care to post on this blog.

Here’s the deal. Ethnocentrism will eventually hurt your business. You can’t degrade people and expect to build a relationship with them. It doesn’t work in marriage; it won’t work in business either.

Most importantly, ethnocentrism will hurt you. I have never seen anyone who had a superior attitude toward another human being that was truly happy. Ethnocentrism is just a façade of someone who is unsure of him/herself. If you don’t understand people of other cultures, think they do weird things and have strange habits, remember, they aren’t less than you, they are just different. That’s the way God made us. Since He is too wise to do wrong and too good to make a mistake, then learn to appreciate others as you do yourself.


Blogger Carine said...

I appreciated this post. Not only well explained, but great examples! I'm an MBA student in Ohio and was doing some reasearch on Ethnocentrism- That's how i came accross your blog! Thanks for your post :-)

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is very well written, as well as being correct in every way. thank you for posting it and hopefully someone's eyes will be opened because of it.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece was so eloquently written and yet so respectful that I went to see the website:

Now I understand why there is a gentle tone to this piece...
I am an undergrad student looking for examples of ethnocentrism in business. Your post summed it nicely.
Thank you.

9:07 AM  

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