I enjoy doing class activities with my students and experimenting with new ones to try. I also tend to hoard activities, saving any interesting ones I come across for future use. When I was planning a new course prep for this semester, I went through my NITOP binders to pull out any activities I felt were relevant. I love that there is so much sharing of ideas at that conference. Now I want to pull from my endless folder of activities and share with others a favorite of mine. Picking one activity to discuss was difficult, but I settled on a role-playing activity good for industrial/organizational courses because it’s the only activity I have that is from a published paper. This also happens to be the activity that earned me my first high-five from a student, so I guess it is student-approved as well.
Blanton and Barbuton (2005) published a role-playing activity to help students understand Hofstede’s cultural dimensions in a work place setting. The roles include a manager and four different sales representatives. Each of the sales representative roles are assigned different aspects of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and the students should act in accordance to their given cultural values. In the scenario, the manager is trying to devise an incentive plan to increase sales and employee motivation. The manager is speaking to employees to get their input on what the incentive plan should include. In my classes, I have done this activity before any discussion of employee performance or motivation.
When I do cover performance and motivation later in the semester, I can call back to this activity to bring our course material together.
To be effective, this activity requires students to have an understanding of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Students will struggle with the acting otherwise. The role-play helps solidify the knowledge of the dimensions and brings in the application of how we see these cultural values impact our work lives. Due to varying class sizes, I have done it where I have four sales representative groups and multiple students acting together in those groups or just one individual representing a sales representative role. If possible, I do recommend doing groups as not all students are comfortable with role playing. Managers rotate between the groups and ask them questions they believe are helpful for determining an incentive plan. I speak to the manager group before the role-playing to help them with starter questions and encourage them to build off the replies they receive.
I have used this activity in my industrial/organizational psychology courses and my leadership courses. I can also see it being useful in a cross-cultural psychology course or any course that discusses culture or organizations. While the logistics of organizing several role-playing groups might become difficult, I do think this could work in larger classes. In my class of 40 students, I picked 8 managers and created two groups of 4 students for each of the sales representative groups. Four managers would rotate between one set of sales representative groups and the other four managers rotated between the other set. I set it up this way so that my sales representative groups weren’t too large. I usually dedicate about 40 minutes to this activity. Blanton and Barbuton (2005) provide good processing questions and I build off those questions to connect back to my own learning goals.
Check it out! Blanton, K. K., & Barbuto Jr, J. E. (2005). Cultural constraints in the workplace: an experiential exercise utilizing Hofstede’s dimensions. Journal of Management Education, 29(4), 654-666.
Written by Kathryn Narciso
Kathryn (@jake_steele) is a Lecturer of Psychological Science at the University of North Georgia. While teaching at UNG, she is also finishing her doctorate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she has a focus on Industrial/Organizational psychology. According to her Twitter bio, she is also an avid cat lover!