The Power of Respect: How My Latino Upbringing Has Shaped My Career Progression
Posted by: Maryanne Piña
El respeto es como el dinero, puedes pedirlo, pero es mejor ganartelo.
Every culture has its own set of norms, values, and beliefs that shape the way its members act and make decisions. As Latinos, we are no exception to this. Our cultural background, including family values and traditions, strongly influences our behaviors and decisions, impacting our career choices. According to research, the cultural script of Respeto, or respect, is a critical concept in Latino culture, emphasizing the importance of showing deference to authority and demonstrating humility. Growing up, respecting our elders and those in positions of authority was an essential part of our upbringing, helping us to value the insights and experiences of others.
In fact, growing up, I knew I had been disrespectful when I heard my mom call me out by “Mariana,” got the eye stare, or the pinch under the table. By the time I was 6, I vividly remember walking out of rooms when the elders were having conversations, and I also knew that I couldn’t probe on my parents’ decisions that made no sense to me because they had the authority.
Being respectful is a great value. However, this cultural script can have an unintended impact on our careers when we don’t understand how it unconsciously influences our behaviors and decisions professionally.
The following is an example of how to leverage our cultural value of respect with the LCA™ Career Predictor of Speaking up with assertiveness – an expectation in American organizations.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to express your thoughts or opinions but couldn’t find the right words? Or had a thought during a team meeting and someone else said it first?
It’s a shared experience and often stems from a lack of assertiveness – the ability to clearly communicate your ideas, beliefs and boundaries in a respectful manner. But here’s the thing: assertiveness is not synonymous with aggression or rudeness. Rather, it’s about speaking up with confidence and clarity while still treating others with respect. So, whether you’re advocating for yourself or working to resolve a conflict, remember that assertiveness can be an incredibly powerful tool – one that allows you to express yourself in a way that is both authentic and effective. It is not what we say, it is how we say it.
Speaking up and sharing an unpopular opinion (or differing with a leader) can be difficult. This is especially true if you have been taught that “respecting your elders” or respecting your boss means you must be compliant, grateful, and do what they say. We often call this the “Yes-Man Syndrome.” You’ve probably met a few “Yes-Men” in your career—you may even be one yourself! A “Yes-Man” is someone who believes that if they do everything their boss says to do and agree with everything they say, they will gain more rewards and “get ahead.”
It’s not just about treating elders with reverence but also being mindful of how we speak to our superiors. As Latinos, we may unconsciously use language that suggests we are a bother, even when we are simply doing our job. For instance, we might knock on our boss’s door and say, “I just wanted to know if you made a decision on…” This subtle choice of words can hinder our growth in the workplace. Instead, we can reframe our message clearly and confidently, like saying, “Mr. Jones, I need to know if you made a decision on xyz.” Approaching the situation with an approachable, informative, and warm tone of voice can go a long way in showing that we respect our superiors while also advocating for ourselves and our career progression.
In the corporate world, not speaking up, showing less initiative, or only sharing our opinions when asked can hold us back, hampering our chances of progressing as leaders within our organizations.
As Latinos, we already have the leadership skills that organizations need. Understanding the impact of these cultural scripts is essential to develop strategies that can help us to break through stereotypes and gain the respect and recognition we deserve. By embracing our cultural heritage while being open to new ideas and approaches, we can position ourselves to succeed in any professional environment.