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COM 2301 02: Professional Communication

Multicultural Interview Mr. Caleb Erondu, Project Manager at the Leadership Development Institute Intern from Nigeria

Dr. Abderrahim Agnaou Al Akhawayn University

Spring 2019

Realized by: Hiba Benkhraba


Communication is very important in the workplace or any other professional place like universities and schools. And to get a good grasp of communication, it needs to have certain characteristics like understanding and flexibility. In the workplace , and universities especially, globalization is really present. We get to meet people from different backgrounds, personalities, and cultures. That’s why in this paper I am going to reflect about how personal and professional lives differ because of culture and diversity. In order to achieve the purpose of communicating professionally, understanding cultures would make it more helpful and easier to get to what we want to express without getting misunderstood or saying something improper. A lot of concepts and things can switch meaning or differ from a culture to another such as the notion of time. The interview questions in the appendix were asked to a 26 years old intern and leader, Caleb Erondu, who is originally from Nigeria. The interview was about his opinion as a Nigerian on some concepts like the relation between professional life and the personal one in the workplace, holidays in relation to Nigerians in both personal and professional life as well as some misconceptions about his culture as a Nigerian. First, I started by asking some usual questions like “What is culture to you?” and “What is success according to Nigerians?”. My interviewee’s answers when it came to his opinion, were different from the ones he stated Nigerians were more likely to answer. For example, success for him, as a young person, is being in a flexible workplace, achieving objectives and targets that he sets to himself no matter how small they could be. Nevertheless, Nigeria has a stereotype of success which is having a good business, having your own home, a family and kids (​Lemieux, 2012). After that, I focused on the importance of punctuality for him as a person, on the personal level, and then on the professional level for Nigerians. He responded by saying that Nigerians are not good with time, most of them show up late for meetings with friends or business meetings. However, he is punctual and think being punctual makes him more productive, seize a lot of opportunities and that it shows he is more goal oriented. Punctuality and time management help in the optimization of our days which makes us balance between our professional and personal lives (​Tipirneni, 2018​). Caleb also says that being late in Nigeria is both a stereotype and a reality. It is also believed that Africans are often late that is why they usually meet at 2pm “African time” , for example. It simply means that the people setting the meeting will meet around 2pm till 2:30pm, not at 2pm sharp like British people do.and like Moroccans, Nigerians are also late for meetings in both personal and professional levels. In Nigeria, almost half of the population is christian and the other half is muslim (​Shuaib, 2014).​ Caleb is christian and he attests that the most important and celebrated holiday is christmas. Institutions and even banks are closed, so people are on vacation. Both students and employees enjoy the festivities since the school system is based on semesters and the students are on winter break during christmas. It is a celebrated holiday when it comes to regions with a large number of christians.


However, Nigeria’s diversity is not a problem when it comes to holidays celebrated. People there coexist in a peaceful manner (​Shuaib, 2014). They do that thanks to the respect they owe to one another and to some regions having mostly christians and other regions having mostly muslims. This fact makes it easier in these regions to organise religious holidays and practises within muslim or christian communities ​(​Shuaib, 2014). Caleb also testify that some celebrations are not holidays: “​ They are just festival, they are not work free”. For example, Argungu fishing festival and New Yam festival of the Igbo in the east that is about agriculture, gratitude and sharing food and products​. (Lemieux, 2012). And for example muslims’ celebrations are not celebrated in regions where most of the people are christian and the same goes for christians’ celebration in regions populated by mostly muslims. That’s why when being in Nigeria or interacting with Nigerians we should make sure if they are christians, muslims or from another religion so we would not offend them unintentionally. The best way for Caleb to look at his personal and professional lives is to balance between the two of them. He believes that at a point in time there will be a synergy between the two. According to Praveen Tipirneni, CEO of Morphic Therapeutic Inc., in order to find the balance between our personal and professional lives we need to know ourselves and habits. It clearly helps when we know if we are a morning person or a night owl. Finding this balance may take more time that we think, that is why we should start working on it when we are still young and most energetic, our twenties ​(​Tipirneni, 2018​). There are two views on the workplace the traditional one and the new one. Young people started working as they want and making business and shaping the workplace they think their employees will be best productive. “​Traditionally most organization don’t like professional & personal in the workplace but recently it changed with values with work life balance, to have fun in the workplace” said Caleb. And these changes are thanks to young people, their spirit and energy. When it comes to religion, most of the time it is avoided to be talked about or practised publicly in the workplace yet, it can be if the employees are a perfect mix of muslims or christians. Traditionally, when working with Nigerians we should avoid talking about religion and try not to meet at muslim prayer time just so they can go pray if they are muslims. In every country, there are misconceptions that people have in mind when meeting a person from that country or before going there. In Nigeria, most of these misconceptions are not true at all such as Nigerians being into fraud. A lot of people get skeptical or cautious when doing business with Nigerians because they believe they are professional con artists. (Udeze, n.d.). According to Caleb and Chuka Udeze, this is just a stereotype, just because one Nigerian is a criminal and conned someone to send them money for an unreal investment, it doesn’t mean that every Nigerian is a criminal. There are also other stereotypes such as all Nigerians are wealthy because the country has oil. And that the country is really corrupted. As any country Nigeria is should not be considered as tribalistic, sometimes policeman take bribes and the political system is


corrupted just like Morocco. And like Morocco, Nigeria is try to reform the political system so the corruption will decrease (Udeze, n.d.). In conclusion, when meeting someone from another country we should be informed about their culture and try to discover it more about them not to be misunderstood or mistreat them. Stereotypes are a bad way to start discovering a country because they are most of the time false. Just because you are Arab does not mean you are wealthy and just because you are Nigerian it doesn’t mean you are corrupted.


References Lemieux, D. (2012). ​Culture Smart: Nigeria.​ Great Britain: Random House Inc. Tipirneni, P. (2018). Professional Life vs. Personal Life — and What You Need To Do to Find

Balance. Retrieved from​ ​https://hackernoon.com/professional-life-vs-personal-life-an d-what-you-need-to-do-to-find-balance-a4da924ec439

Chuka, U. (n.d.). 10 Stereotypes of Nigerians That Aren’t Always True. Retrieved from ​https ://buzznigeria.com/nigerians/ Shuaib, A. (2014). Towards Achieving Ethno-Religious Peaceful Co-Existence in Nigeria. Retrieved from ​https://www.icermediation.org/news-media/meeting-coverage/towards -achieving-ethno-religious-peaceful-co-existence-in-nigeria/


Appendix 1. What is culture to you? -

Is something that is recognized and generally accepted as norm from a group of people. It could be for example food, music , dressing, customs, values and behaviors that are considered a norm. ​How do you define success?

2. -

For me it’s relative. My success is achieving targets that I set to myself as small as they can be. For example running 10km in a week.

3.

​What is success according to Nigerians? -​If you have a good business, kids, family and a home of your own, you

are successful. 4. Is punctuality important to you and why? -It’s important since it gives opportunities, makes me seem goal oriented and is a sign of leadership on both levels as professional & personal level. It also shows other that are looking up to me that I am a good example. 5. Is punctuality important in both professional and personal life in the nigerian culture? -We have something in our culture called “African time”. Nigerians are most of the time late. 6. Define and describe the most important (or most celebrated) holiday in your culture. -

Christmas, because even banks don’t work from the 23rd to the 26th of December. Most of institutions are closed. And it feels like it is a holiday more than other religious holidays or Nigeria's festivals.


7.

​Does everyone get Christmas off, students and workers? -

8.

yes

​Is there any holiday or celebration that people in the workplace don’t get off?

-New Yam festival in the east: agriculture, show thanks to the gods, people bring their products, food sharing, and dance. -Argungu fishing festival: a lake is opened after letting the fish breed, prices are given for the biggest fish. - They are just festival, they are not work free. 9.

​How do you usually balance your personal and professional life?

-synergy between the two, to some extent now they are but, professional environment is flexible to be creative and productive. 10. ​How does balancing your personal and professional life works in your culture? -Traditionally most organization don’t like professional & personal in the workplace but recently it changed with values with work life balance, to have fun in the workplace. 11. ​In a professional place like the workplace, are you supposed not to talk about personal matters and family? -Some traditional firms can get a hold of your phone when coming inside the institution because they believe is a distraction and can be very strict. 12. ​Is religion for example a subject that can’t be talked about in the workplace? -traditionally, it can be but in an envt with a perfect mix but it’s avoided 13. ​What is considered most respectful and most disrespectful in your culture?


-respectful: elders, prostrate to greeting, helping older people -disrespectful: talking back to elders or mom, quarreled with parents are seen as bad 14. ​What would you say is the most commonly held misconception about people of your culture? -Nigerians are wealthy, Nigerians are corrupted, dubious because of con artists, and policeman taking bribes. 15. ​ Is there anything else you would like to share about your culture and it relation with the workplace or just in general? -Nigerians are considered as hardworking, especially those that are abroad, committed when it comes to business and education and tend to be leaders.

Profile for Hiba Benkhraba

Multicultural Interview  

An interview with a Nigerian Intern working at the Leadership Development Institute at Al Akhawayn University about cultural differences in...

Multicultural Interview  

An interview with a Nigerian Intern working at the Leadership Development Institute at Al Akhawayn University about cultural differences in...

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