Job title: Medical Assistant
Organization: Sunny Ville Hospital
Case study overview: during a conflict with the social worker, there was a misunderstanding and wrongful judgment. I spoke to the social worker about a patient, but he broke my private space, came very close to me, and started shouting.
Relationship: Social worker-student
Summary of case: The situation took place in a hospital setting, during patient admittance. A female patient was being admitted to the hospital, and because she was taken to the hospital by an ambulance fast and unplanned, she had no chance to call her family members to warn them about the situation. The patient asked to call her grandmother, and tell her what happened, otherwise she would be worried. The social worker was present during admittance because the patient was suspected to have had long-term depression. And so, the social worker refused the patient to make a call, leaving the patient displeased and in tears. The patient was then left in a room, strapped to the bed, as there was a risk of the patient hurting herself or running away.
I came up to the social worker and told him that the patient would behave and feel much better if she made a phone call. The patient was in adequate and present condition, so there was no specific reason why she could not call her family. The social worker ignored my reasons and requests, and simply answered that he would not allow every wanting person to make phone calls, because it would take all day, and if everyone started calling there would be no time for work. This comment was unreasonable in this situation, so I went to the doctor and asked him, and he said he did not mind. So, I went to the social worker and informed him about my talk with the doctor, and this was when social worker broke my personal space, got angry and started shouting (10 centimeters away from my face), saying that I was out of place and could not make such decisions, and that I was wrong when I spoke to the doctor, I am not allowed to do that, etc. I realized that this conversation would not end well because the social worker was being unreasonable, so I just left the room, saying I had to work. In about 20 minutes, the social worker found me and started saying that I was disrespectful because I left the room, while I said that he was disrespectful when he “got into my face”. He denied being close to me, even though again, he did it during this conversation.
Cultural conflict: in relation to the conflict, the conflict was two sided—the social worker broke my personal space.
Biases: first bias relates to the value of a person and how much they are protected by the law and socially. In the western world, people’s freedom and rights are above everything else, so no one can do anything to a person, such as hitting them, being aggressive, shouting, getting into their face, etc. Personally, I thought this was the case everywhere in the world. The second bias is the talking space. For Argentina and some other countries, it is usually very close, while for westerners, it is considered to be wide enough for people to feel comfortable. To improve personal cultural competency, I can visit the library and learn about different nations, their cultural specifics and traditions. In-depth research and personal interest will be a great stimulus to learn new and unusual things about new people.
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Conclusion (Main lessons learned)
- Since the two people involved in the conflict will have time and opportunity to work together, a team must be formed and specifics of conversing identified and learned. As such, it is clear that there will be cultural differences in how people treat and act during stress or a conflict situation.
- From one perspective, the cultural permission to react in a certain way during stress is natural because the person has grown up in a society where there are certain expectations during the conflict.
- Even when a person does not feel at fault in conflict, they must analyze the issue and its consequences, especially when it is cultural, and find out as much information about their own actions, as well as proper behavior of the culture of the other person.
- The common concerns are related to personal space and that each culture has different rules. In some cultures, talking distance is much closer than is others. I knew that the social worker was from Argentina. I am a western person. For Argentina, the space for talking to others is very close and for North Americans, it is much greater. This was what created the problem.
- Cultural differences contributed to the conflict in a direct way; as for the westerners, the talking distance is larger, since in the western world individuality is valued above everything else, so people stay further apart, as to not interfere with the personal space and give people the freedom of space and movement (Hughes & Terrell, 2012). In Argentina, society is closer together and people are used to being very close during conversations or arguments (Front matter, 2018). One side of the case pertains to a calm and honest reaction where the person is being told about their mistake and is calmly given reasons why their side of the conflict is incorrect. The other side relates to the broken personal space, which continued the conflict.
- First relevant bias is that people in all cultures value individuality above everything else and a person as an untouchable entity. Society, on the other hand, is further away. The second bias is that talking distance and manner of speaking are the same everywhere, just as in the western world. The bias that is common for many people relates to the expectation that if one culture solves conflict in a direct and calm way, all other cultures would have the same way of treating a conflict.
- Working with cultural identities of different people, the best practice would be to learn about the cultures and people one has to come in contact with. For example, one can ask each person where they are from and then find out information about the country and even city, and especially, learn about the cultural differences when dealing with other people, co-workers, friends or relatives (Miller, 2018). This practice is a reasonable thing to do, so its source is in common knowledge and understanding that the country is becoming multicultural and it is necessary to learn about other places in the world.
- This best practice would help me learn interesting and new things about a person’s homeland, as it is proposed by the article, to set up proper and effective communication (Jasinski, 2008). For example, in this case, I could learn something about the geography of Argentina, its cultural practices and traditions, leading to a thoughtful dialogue. Then, when speaking to the social worker again, I could explain why I got uncomfortable with the conflict and mention some interesting facts about social worker’s country or city.
- To use this best practice, one must be very comfortable with the knowledge about the country of the other person, as it will be a psychological adventure, in gaining trust and establishing friendship (Malhotra, 2011). It would be noticeable if the person just learned a few names of the cities and some special facts about the country. I assume that if one spends some time reading about the country and culture, it would be easier to have a full conversation with the person about their native country, what problems and what great things it has.