Graduate Management News

April 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

The Latino Perspective: How Understanding Corporate Politics Can Be Useful in Business School

Last fall the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) held its Annual Conference and Career Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Latino Perspective Icon

During the event, Gus Viano, director of Global Inclusion and Community Engagement at McDonald’s, delivered a presentation during the professional development day titled “Corporate Politics for Latinos,” which focused on navigating and understanding corporate politics from the perspective of Latino values. The issues he discussed, broken out into individual scenarios and described below, clearly reflect how members of the Latino community encounter, and can resolve, conflict in their daily interactions in business school.

Work Life vs. Social Life 

The scenario: For Latinos, the line between colleagues and friends is often so blurred that it seems to have disappeared. Unfortunately, this leads to situations that may be unwelcome by others, such as sharing information that is not necessary for coworkers. Similarly, talking too much at the workplace, which is the Latino way to strengthen work relationships, can result in negative perceptions of wasting time or having no boundaries. Ironically, this erodes the possibility of gaining trust for work-related opportunities. 

The recommendation: In this case, it’s best to remember that you are always on the record. 

Self-promotion vs. Modesty NSH MBA

The scenario: Being humble is at the very foundation of Latino culture, resulting in a strong reluctance to talk about one’s achievements. Earning bragging rights doesn’t mean that they will ever be shared, especially at the workplace. In fact, self-promotion may even be considered rude or distasteful among Latinos. Consequently, there are unrealistic expectations regarding promotions. For instance, Latinos often quietly wait for being discovered as a valuable asset and then rewarded for their effort. 

The recommendation: The suggested adjustment is to abandon this naïve view in the corporate world, where it is second nature to bring visibility towards success. 

Being Assertive vs. Conforming 

The scenario: Respect for authority is another basic component of Latino values, and it affects every interaction based on who the involved parties are. Since respect also entails conforming to the views of authority figures, this poses a complex challenge at the workplace, especially when opinions may differ from those of supervisors. Telling bosses that they are wrong is particularly mortifying for Latino employees, even if they have the data to back up why their opinion is different. 

The recommendation: Practice getting comfortable with being assertive, as the rewards will be worth this paradigm shift. 

Negotiation vs. Conflict 

The scenario: Because of the previously covered conflicts, Latinos may have an extremely difficult time when it comes to negotiation. Along with assuming that colleagues are friends comes the concern that contradicting them or not giving in may be perceived as a personal offense. And it works both ways, as others are also expected to agree on everything or otherwise be regarded as unfriendly. Also, being too watchful of the organizational chart may lead to poor results. 

The recommendation: For Latinos involved in negotiations, the change in perspective will entail learning to compromise and remembering that at work it really isn’t personal, it is business. 

Team vs. Leadership 

The scenario: One additional issue for Latinos may be the strong sense of community, which supersedes any individual feat. However, moving up professionally often entails being able to anticipate when it is time to lead and creating opportunities for doing so. 

The recommendation: While being a reliable team player is undeniably a valuable trait, Latinos would be wise to embrace leadership roles and understand that this is a different way to still serve a team. 

For the attendees, these actionable takeaways provide valuable opportunities as they explore corporate politics as well as their professional network at business school. 

About the Author

Diana SloanDiana Sloan is the director of Graduate Marketing and Alumni Relations at the Iowa State University School of Business.