Anyone who has taken Anthropology 101 will know that an ethnography is a piece of writing focusing on a society’s culture. In class this week, we talked about looking at our workplace and evaluating its culture via Trompenaar’s Dimension Model: universalist–particularism, individualism–communitarianism, neutral–affective, specific–diffusive, and achievement–ascription. Long story short, the question we had to think about is how does this correlate to our internships.
Originally, I did not really get the point. At the end of the day, who really cares if the Fulbright Commission is an achievement based company or an ascription based one? However, as the discussions advanced I started noticing some very different aspects from the general perception of U.S. companies and that of the UK. The Fulbright Commission is in itself extra interesting due to its American affiliations. It originated in the United States and there are many Americans working in this company alongside me as opposed to the primarily British start-up companies many students are interning with at IES Abroad.
So, here is my verdict in attempt to analyze the culture of my workplace, the Fulbright Commission. The Fulbright Commission takes a universalist approach to work. Given that they are a company with high level of prestige and a world-wide name, I think they have to live by the rule-follower approach where there is an obvious set of standards and it is assumed that people will follow them. On my first day of work, I was given a handbook and a list of standards to abide by in the workplace – a very universalist approach to work. The Fulbright Commission in London also uses an individualist approach to work. Although I work with another intern, individual projects are stressed – aka “intern work”. There are different teams: advising, awards, and alumni, while they all get along there is an obvious separation between which team is which. Now, it has only been two weeks with the Fulbright but I would say generally they act like a more neutral and specific company, rather than affective and diffusive. All the full-timers are very busy all the time, so there is a “stick to the point” mentality that may be a bit uncommon in many UK businesses. Many of my jobs have specific guidelines that my supervisor will leave it to me to interpret them. It is assumed that the instructions are clear and if not, I have the liberty to change them as I see fit. While there is socializing, it is extremely limited and mainly done on breaks.
I want to make it absolutely clear that none of these traits should be positively or negatively associated, and there are always exceptions to the norms. After my first week of work, the whole office came together and threw a surprise party for the new interns; complete with desserts, wine, fruits, etc. I am loving my time at the Fulbright, and this analysis just makes for some interesting realizations about my work culture in London, England.