Reserved and Repressed or Resourceful and Released?
It is a fascinating challenge to introduce newly-arrived employees from abroad to what they might expect to encounter in the workplace during their stay in Britain. Many have a stereotyped view of the British at work, perhaps based on films or John Cleese training videos. Whilst operating in a wide range of work cultures and environments, they will be in a better position to anticipate and understand the behaviour of their fellow workers if they can appreciate some of the major changes that have taken place here in the last five to ten years.
Change is continuous
The only constant likely to be common to all their employers is continuous change, and a drive towards reduced costs and increased profits to satisfy the stock market. Mergers, takeovers, management buy-outs and flotations will have meant new strategies, restructuring, re-engineering, decentralisation and a variety of performance-enhancing methodologies. These will often have led to downsizing, outsourcing, lean and mean management structures and many new books to describe it all! For some this will have meant genuine empowerment and a release of their skills and inhibitions. For others it will have produced fear, stress and new behavioural patterns, creating new words such as 'presenteeism'.
Winners & losers
Winners in this tough change environment will probably welcome the new arrival from overseas, be keen to learn from them and prepared to develop a real relationship. Losers though could feel threatened and jealous, resulting in obstructive behaviour and thinly disguised anger. New arrivals may be surprised to discover how these fundamental changes in the workplace have affected the famous British reserve, with open expressions of enthusiasm, passion and real anger as employees react to new incentives, environments and continuing pressures. It might be less of a shock to them if they can understand some of these major workplace changes, and also reflect on why so many people apparently dropped their emotional masks after the death of Princess Diana.