When in Rome… Embrace the Culture & Share Some of Yours

04 Jun 2013

by Tru Pettigrew

Okay, so I switched up the saying a little. For those who are familiar, the original phrase is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Over the years, the phrase has been shortened to simply “When in Rome”. The intended communication of this commonly used phrase is to conform to the ways of wherever it is that you are.

This phrase was originally shared in the context of St. Augustine’s choice to adopt the traditions of the Roman church whenever he was in Rome. Over the years, the “When in Rome” expression has been adopted to apply across all situations, categories and cultures. It has been shared as advice to young people across generations to encourage them to conform to corporate cultures and organizational traditions.

Things are different in society today. We have a better understanding of the importance and the benefit of diversity and being inclusive. If we all simply conformed to the ways of the majority everywhere we went, that would limit our own personal growth and the value that we can contribute to that organization, culture or group.  This isn’t about being a non-conformist; this is a bout maximizing your value and contribution to the greater good of the organization.

When in Rome, China, IBM or Pepsi, it’s important to understand, respect and embrace the culture that is in place. It is also important that as a newly adopted member of that culture, that you leverage your own unique value and perspective to help it to grow and improve. If you suppress your true identity, beliefs and values, then you do a disservice to yourself and the organization. It will also likely lead to a very frustrating and resentful relationship. This has extended repercussions in such a way that the organization may not feel inclined to give you a good recommendation and/or you may not have anything good to say about that organization. This doesn’t benefit anyone.

Taking the time to understand another group or organization’s culture should not just be done to figure out how you can fit in, but also to understand how you can contribute. You are there to both add and receive value. When in Rome, it’s important to speak Italian, but they may also find value in someone who speaks English. Embrace diversity and the power of inclusion. It’s the best way we can help each other grow and make progress.

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