Work Culture: The Dark Side
Despite the constant reminder of prioritizing mental health over productivity and efficiency at work, there seems to be a barrier between understanding the concept and applying it to real life. Regardless of what the job is, workplace culture has an enormous effect on the worker’s wellbeing within and outside the organization. While personal values and beliefs definitely play a role in determining the atmosphere of the environment, there are societal and cultural influence that are strong and major when it comes to affecting the work culture beyond personal preferences and beliefs. Societal and cultural expectations and values, whether they are good for one’s mental health or not, can have a big impact as that may be where the worker’s values and beliefs stem from, in addition to being one of the foundations of these organizations. As cultural values are ingrained in society, it can add to the difficulty of shifting one’s mentality around working, despite some of the negative consequences.
Interesting thing about culture is that while there is no rule book or a manual that is religiously followed, there are evident similarities and differences between cultures that manifest into certain values and beliefs grouped together and transcend through different aspects of society, such as the work force, education system, and many more. We can also look at our identity, including establishment of our own values and beliefs, through the lens of culture and come to the realization that these cultural norms help build the basis of our narrative. Since we are the ones working in the community, these values and beliefs shape the organization and network. Workaholism, which is also known as work addiction, can definitely be affected by the nature of the community.
Priorities surrounding work ethic differs between societies. Today, we will look at America, Russia, and Japan. In the United States, for example, Work Confidence Survey reported that nearly 40% of workers report a lack of time for their personal lives.1 Additionally, Bryan Robinson, an American psychotherapist, questions why mental health and efficacy in work is considered mutually exclusive when it is completely possible to coexist.1 With the continuous rise of dissatisfaction towards working environments, it may become more evident that lack of health, whether it be physical or mental, support is one of the leading reasons for it. On the other hand, the Russian work ethic takes a different turn. Experiences during the Soviet continue to have an influence on the workers today.2 A saying that is at the bottom of all this Russian work ethic is as follows: “initiative is punishable”. Under the communist regime, individual dynamics and incentive was chastised, and this mentality is still deeply rooted in the form of collectivism where workers try to finish the task with least effort.2 This is quite different from the Japanese work ethic where Japanese workers thrive on working together as teams. Many of them seek approval from their superiors prior to important and significant commitments made.3 The group mentality is much more prominent than focusing on individual workers, which is what the American work ethic adopts.
Throughout this comparison, we see that various culture embrace a variety of work ethics that tends to be consistent among communities. As someone who has lived in two different countries with another cultural background, it is evident that the work ethics and the mentality of the workers differ drastically. It can also be taxing to adapt from one environment to another as these work cultures are shaped by and will shape one’s beliefs and values that one carries for a long time.
While our values and belief shape our behaviour, our emotions are at the foundation of that. It is a means by which to understand our inner state. Acknowledging the data that we have curated ourselves can help mitigate the negative mindset we may have towards work. Feeling trapped at work can physically, emotionally, and financially drain you without even realizing. Understanding one’s cultural heritage can aid in:
- Introspection regarding work – life balance
- Taking advantage of an already existing framework to make financial decisions that are aligned with your true values and beliefs
- Realizing any positive/toxic work cultures that may be beneficial / detrimental for you and act upon it
Culture is a part of us and should not be ashamed of it. It can open your eyes to more views, perspectives, and values that you may not have considered and widen your horizon to make better and smarter decisions emotionally, and financially.
- Robinson, B. (2019, October 21). The turbulent and TOXIC state of the Nation’s Work Culture: What you absolutely must know and do. Forbes. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2019/10/21/the-turbulent-and-toxic-state-of-the-nations-work-culture-what-you-absolutely-must-know-and-do/?sh=1c14934b4564.
- Новые известия(en). (2021, August 19). Work is not A WOLF… how the Russian work Ethic differs from western and Japanese. en.newizv.ru. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://en.newizv.ru/article/general/19-08-2021/work-is-not-a-wolf-how-the-russian-work-ethic-differs-from-western-and-japanese.
- Merchant, Y. S. (2018, April 5). 5 major differences between Japanese and American workplaces. Business Insider. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/differences-between-japanese-and-american-work-culture-2018-3#japanese-workplaces-are-more-formal-1.