Referent groups shape individuals’ behavior, character, and opinions. Religion and family play a major role in shaping individuals’ views about the world and other people. Religion teaches individuals ‘what’ and ‘whom’ to believe. It creates rules and values which one needs to embrace for them to belong to that given religion. Christians, for example, believe in the death of Christ due to their sin, and hence, they are taught to lead a life that is void of sin. Christians are expected to be peacekeepers and pure of heart, and this can affect the way Christians handle conflict at the workplace and in their personal lives. Family dictates behavior and character for a larger part of a person’s life. An individual brought up in a family that has strong ties will strive to uphold the values of their family. Obedience and respect for those in leadership positions come naturally to individuals who have strong family ties. Growing up, I observed that my father was the head of the house, while my mother took the role of raising us and keeping the family together. Even though both my parents worked, my mother showed immense respect to my father. My parents taught me to respect everyone and the position they hold in society. To date, I still uphold the values they imparted in me because I believe everyone is important and deserves my respect.
The values acquired from family and religion impact one’s decisions, beliefs, and relations with other people. I once worked part-time as a waiter in a middle-level restaurant, where I learned that people have different perceptions about work and other people. I also learned that time management is important, especially when working with other people. At a particular instance, I got into an argument with one of my co-workers, Jane, because I felt she had wronged me. Jane was supposed to report for a shift and take over from me, but she came in an hour late. I was angry, and I confronted her because I felt she did not respect my time. Jane insisted that she was only an hour late and she did not believe that she had wronged me. Despite knowing that I had no prior commitments I still felt that she had wronged me because she had not respected my time. The experience taught me that exposure to other people who hold different opinions helps individuals grow in their thinking and perception about the world (Goldsmith). I later realized that my reaction was due to the values and beliefs imparted in me by my family.
Multi-national and international organizations employ people from different cultural backgrounds, which can affect how people within the organization relate with each other. Religion forms a major part of many people’s lives, and they rely on their religious views and values to make decisions on various issues. When working in a global workgroup, differing religious views and values can lead to conflicts and group disintegration. Moreover, differences in values and behavior resulting from different referent groups can affect employees’ performance (Goldsmith). On the other hand, employing people from different referent groups exposes employees to different values and attitudes towards work thus giving them an opportunity to grow in both their personal and career lives. Instead of focusing on people’s differences, an organization can help its employees embrace each other’s differences and learn from each other. Successful global organizations employ employees from different referent groups because each group carries positive attributes which help the organizations thrive.
Goldsmith, Marshall. “Where you stand depends on who you’re standing with.” Leader to Leader 2005.35 (2005): 12.