Jul 29, 2015


Can Cultural Values Limit You At Work?

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source: baronsquirel

Strong work ethics is one of the best employee qualities you will find among Latinos. We take pride in our work.  We get there on time, and stay there until the job is well done.  We thrive on quality work and push ourselves beyond our needs to meet our supervisor’s expectations.

We are not only present, but actively involved in the mission of our company.  Our job, in many ways, becomes an important extension of our lives, and it provides us with a great sense of joy, pride and identity.

But what happens when your job does not reciprocate?  What if you’re stuck in a job that grossly underpays you?

Many Latina women are not only excellent at work, but they are also the cornerstone of their organization, or their department, or their company.   Yet, for some really odd reason, they are the last one to capitalize on their central role in the workplace.

We’ve known for years that White women, on average, are paid between 15 to 20% less than their male counterpart.  Latina women are paid even less than that!

La Cultura Can Limit You at Work

I love my Latino culture and my heritage.  We are warm and kind people.  We are very giving, loyal and willing to help anyone in need.  Because of our strong sense of familism, it is easy for us to feel at home at work, and see our colleagues or co-workers as family.

Being aware of how our cultural values can limit our success at work is very important.  Let’ see how:

Being Nice. How are you perceived by your colleagues at work?  Are you the nice person everyone comes to and asks for a favor?  You can be nice, but you don’t need to be a rescuer.  Learn how to bargain requests.  “I’ll do this, if you do that…”

Being Super-Responsible. Are you the first person your boss thinks about when something important needs to get done?  That’s awesome, but beware.  If you’re not getting paid extra for being the fall-back person, or the one your boss can depend on, then you’re allowing others to disrespect you and your time.

Creating a Family at Work. We do spend a significant amount of time at work.  We might even spend more time with our colleagues than with our own family.  But don’t get confused.  Engaging in close, loyal and trusting relationships with colleagues, and especially your employer (boss, supervisor), is a perfect way to set yourself up for the same family dynamics we encounter within our own family.

If you get close to your colleagues, how will you approach them to discuss how they’re chronic lateness affects your work?

If you see your boss in a parentified role, how will you ask for a pay raise?  How can you exercise your employee rights with someone you feel emotionally connected to?

Establishing a strong sense of familism at work will also make it difficult for you to move on and leave.  Feelings of abandonment, loss or fear can get in the way of looking for that next job.

Professional Boundaries. One thing for sure, the less you share about your personal life, the better.  Choose your close friends at work wisely.  And be careful what you say.  Sharing about your medical, emotional or personal problems can only come back to bite you when you’re being considered for a promotion or a more demanding position.

Your best strategy is to reserve your personal problems to your real friends and family back home, and share good news with your colleagues and supervisor.

Self-Promotion. Being humble is a beautiful quality.  Unfortunately, it serves you no good in the professional world.  If you do not self-promote, I guarantee you will lose out.  Now, remember, self-promotion is not the same as showing off.  You can self-promote in a professional manner.  Timing and style is key.

Asking for What You Need and Deserve. Oh, this is a big one for Latina women.  We are the eternal givers, the caretakers.  Whether you are a first or second generation Latina, you are a giver or doer is some real way.  And asking for what you need and you deserve might feel uncomfortable or unknown.

The first step here is to convince yourself that you deserve that something you need.  If you need a pay raise, you’ll need to believe that yourself before you go into that meeting with your supervisor.  You body, your face and your attitude have to be ready for that conversation, otherwise you’ll come across insecure — and your boss will use that against you.

The idea is to prepare yourself mentally and verbally to ask for what you need.  Don’t wait until you go through the hassle of finding another job to ask for a pay raise (unless you do want to leave your current job).

Find Out What Your Work Is Worth

If you feel you’re underpaid, start doing some research.  Ask people who are doing your type of work about their salary, compensation and benefits.  Meet with your human resources personnel and discuss the average salary for your position.  And when in doubt, go online and do some research.  Salary Wizard provides a range of salary for thousands of occupations. With multiple sources of information, you’ll be prepared to either ask for a raise or your next career move.

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. I struggled with some of theses issues (too nice, family dynamics). One thing I have learned the hard way is you don’t get ahead without being able to speak up and be real clear on what value you are bringing & can bring. I have found that bosses respond to new ideas and appreciate you proactively coming up with projects to do. An extra benefit of that is that when somebody comes by asking you to do their work you can nicely say you would love to but you are too busy getting this important job done for x. So volunteering versus turning down has helped me balance the Latina thing. great post!

    • That’s a great point Julie — being proactive and creative at work can really position you well. Saying no to someone’s request for help or support in a project is never easy. But, if you are willing not to worry about how others will perceive you for not being a “team player,” you’ll rise above other people’s demand of your time. One thing that always helps me say no is to consider the possible motivation for being asked in the first place. Are they asking me because I am the “nice one”? Or “Latina?” Or is it because they think I have nothing better to do? Sometimes, your colleagues are plain narcissists, lazy, or opportunists, and they’ll use others to do their work. So, being aware of the possible motivators behind their request of your time is quite helpful to me.

  2. This article really spoke to me on many levels. I am guilty of each and every bullet. I promise to work harder and stop limiting my own success at work. I used to be a cheerleader in school, now I need to be my own cheerleader at work!

    Gracias mil,



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