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Parents’ Values and Behavior at Work (© Douglas Stuart, PhD)

The Parents’ Values and Behavior at Work exercise was developed by Dr Douglas Stuart, an intercultural professional based in the USA. With this exercise you can initiate a constructive and stimulating dialogue between participants about cultural value differences, and how they influence behavior at work. Its key advantage is that participants engage in this conversation without starting to feel defensive about their own cultural values, and resistant to other people’s cultural values.


Dr Stuart developed the exercise to make participants aware of their cultural background, and how it has influenced their expectations about the behaviors, skills, and attitudes that they need to succeed at work. This insight, together with the interaction dynamic built into the exercise, they discover how their cultural background has influenced themselves and their work organization; and realize that people from other cultural backgrounds have learnt to consider other behaviors, skills, and attitudes critical for success at work.

Intercultural Readiness competency: Intercultural Sensitivity

The Parents’ Values Exercise allows participants to reflect on their own cultural background, and to express their appreciation for it. As a result, they become more curious about their fellow participants’ cultural background, expectations, and perspectives, and how this has influenced them.

Group size: 4 – 40
The exercise works best if the group composition allows you to have participants from the same country work together during the first part of the exercise. It is therefore important that you check the group composition prior to the training.

Delivery mode: Offline and Online


Offline use: Parents’ Values Exercise handout, flipchart paper and pens for each group

Online use: Parents’ Values Exercise handout. Breakout groups, ideally with possibility for each group to share their screens with the plenary (you may check the settings of your meeting platform).

Time: Approximately 30 minutes


Offline: Ask participants to work in mono-cultural groups

Online: Create mono-cultural breakout rooms for participants

Part One

Ask each group to write down the values their parents tried to pass on to them. Address that participants may discover also regional and/or generational differences and should describe these in the plenary session. Allow 10 minutes to complete the task.

Part Two

Ask each group to write down the behaviors, skills, and attitudes that they should display at work to be successful in their job. Decide ahead of time whether you want to have them focus on expectations that hold across organizations in their country, or rather to expectations applying to their own organization. Again, allow 10 minutes to complete the task.


The exercise allows you to debrief the results in several ways.

  1. Invite each group to present the results of their work (parents’ values and expectations at work), then ask them how their parents already prepared them for the workplace. Then guide the group to explore the differences between the subgroups.
  2. Invite all groups to explore the similarities and differences between their parents’ values first, giving participants time to talk about themselves: their own responses to their parents’ value messages; changes within their country across generations; potential dilemmas between generations.
  3. Invite all groups to explore the similarities and differences between the work-related expectations: How does this influence their co-operation and effectiveness? Do some of them find it more difficult than others to adjust to the current organizational expectations because of their cultural backgrounds? How could the organization and/or teams benefit from the different perspectives that participants bring to their job?

The exercise and its associated handout can be used and reproduced free of charge for limited-use educational and training purposes with the below permission statement included and the format of the handout maintained.

The permission statement should read:
Reproduced with permission by Douglas Stuart, PhD. (Copyright © Douglas Stuart, PhD).

The permission for reproduction is limited to small scale reproduction for educational and training events. Systematic and large-scale reproduction and distribution (more than 100 copies per event), inclusion in publications for sale, and reproduction by electronic means may be done only with prior written permission by Intercultural Business Improvement B.V.