Last week, we explored the “Power Distance Index” aspect of workplace culture (based on Steelcase’s “Defining the Code” paper). This week, we’ll consider the next factor:
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Individualism is easily recognizable as the underlying psychology of US culture. Although Americans often do exactly the same things en masse (wearing the same fashions, watching the same TV shows, etc.), we all like to feel we are mavericks. In the individualist workplace, employees are happiest when they have some autonomy and responsibility. They want the tools, resources and support to do their job and then to be left alone to get it done.
In a collectivist workplace, employees tend to be happiest when there is harmony among the team members. No one really wants to stand out from the crowd and be recognized for individual achievement. But there is a strong sense of pride in group accomplishment. Employees are happiest when things are going smoothly and each person has a clearly defined role. They may see the support of their coworkers as one of the most critical resources they need to do their job well.
What About Panel Extenders in These Workplace Cultures?
In the collectivist workplace, adding higher panels might be viewed as a way to increase productivity through focus rather than as a way to increase personal privacy. All workstations would likely be outfitted in the same fashion rather than by worker preference. Care would need to be exercised to avoid disrupting the existing atmosphere of cooperation.
In the individualist workplace, panel extenders might be used to show employees that their right to personal space and privacy are valued. Having the choice to interact or remain separate would be important. Workstations might be outfitted with panel extenders in different heights, configurations or even colors based on job duties, department, or other factors.