Culture impacts on organizational life in a myriad of ways. Take for example the seemingly simple idea of teamwork. Cristina Gibson a Winthrop professor at the University of Western Australia published a fascinating article with Mary E. Zellmer-Bruhn “Metaphors and Meaning: An intercultural analysis of the concept of teamwork ”. This paper explores the different definitions that people around the world have of teamwork as indicated by the metaphors they use. In the US team metaphors often contain sports references with Americans tending to see teamwork in the workplace as analogous to teamwork on the sports field. Metaphors often include statements like “Jill is our star player” or “My team leader acts more like a coach than a referee.” Interestingly these metaphors often set expectations for how the teams will be managed including their scope roles membership and objectives. Sports teams usually have a fairly narrow scope clear roles (quarterback pitcher etc.) membership is voluntary and objectives are clear i.e. win or lose. In the US people who describe their work teams with sports metaphors will tend to expect others to easily understand this language as well the attendant expectations.
We asked Dr. Gibson some questions about coaching and culture. Her comments in the article.
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