Topic 1 Cultural dimensions of Romanian workplace

Romania is traditionally considered a country of diverse labour market; according to the EUROSTAT, in December 2018, employment rate of non-Eu nationals, age group 20-64, reached a high record of 78.50%.

The official language is the Romanian language, and most job positions imply a certain level of Romanian language knowledge, while others have a strict proficient Romanian requirement (such as health-related professions). Considering that Romanian is a Latin language, it is very close to Spanish and Italian. Furthermore, the Romanian educational system includes French and English courses mandatory during primary – high school education, so Romania is one of the countries where English is very well understood and spoken, the process of labour market integration being thus more flexible. Numerous employers based in Romania offer job positions with mandatory English language knowledge, such as NGOs, migration-related institutions, tourist agencies, multinationals etc.

Cultural barriers at the workplace

  1. Language barriers.
  2. Cultural differences.
  3. Stereotypes.
  4. Psychological/Attiudinal barriers.
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Language is considered the main medium of communication used and one of the most considerable obstacle to effective communication. At the same workplace, employee have different language skills and the communication channels, and they might be affected by the dominant language. For instance, special words or expressions used by a group can be difficult to understand by employees with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Mobility trends and globalization (among others) influence the structure and composition of our workplaces: colleagues from different part of the globe, with different cultural and social backgrounds might have different understandings of the workplace’s rules and norms. From one culture to the other, general behaviours, attitudes, religions, clothing, food preferences can create strong barriers to effective communication. Moreover, the body language (as the largest part of non-verbal communication) has different interpretations and can convey different messages to different cultures, including facial expressions, hand gestures, touch, social space and physical contact. For instance, there are physical contact variation by culture and religion – while in Southern Europe people standing close when speaking and making physical contact more often is very common, in Middle East cultures low direct contact and keeping a generous distance to avoid physical contact is much more preferred.

Workplace stereotyping is an overgeneralized and constant persuasion about a person or a group of persons, which maybe based on ethnicity, education, cultural background, and prejudices. Stereotyping might have a negative impact resulting in low morale and lose of motivation/interest in job performance for the targeted employee(s). Constant comments and criticisms can create a toxic work environment.

New employees hired in a workplace with culture and language different than theirs’s, may suffer from social anxiety, low self-esteem and other mental and psychosocial issues that can block ’effective communication. The lack of proper integration of new employees with different backgrounds can have a negative impact on both personal and professional relationships at the workplace.

Workplace: dynamics and internal regulations

  • Every workplace in Romania has an Internal Regulations Code – while the employer is responsible to inform the employees about these specific regulations and the employee is obliged to adhere to them, the practice is (sometimes) rather different.
  • For instance, even if the Internal Regulations Code exemplifies a specific dress code or includes a special paragraph recommending employees not to develop friendship relations, you might notice that your colleagues behave differently.
  • Observe the organizational culture, analyze how your colleagues interact (more formal or more informal), pay attention to the workplace traditions and way of celebrating special events, and ask questions when something seems out of place.
  • Romanian is very rich language, same word can have very different understandings/meanings depending on the used tone, seriousness of the conversation or context – however, if you consider that some expressions used by your colleagues are offending you or they make you feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to let them know.