Underestimated and even considered an unknown phenomena
Course:- Management Theories
Reference No.:- EM131107754

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In business life, personal space is a very underestimated and even considered an unknown phenomena. As a manager, work consists mainly of dealing with people. Recognizing personal space and the differences among people can improve every business setting. Personal space is the space or territory valued around oneself in which others are not welcome. This space can be subdivided into several components. Edward Hall (1966) divided personal space into five zones: 1. The intimate zone, which ranges from 0 to 18 inches, is only accessible for family and loved ones. 2. The close personal zone is the "bubble" that extends 1.5 to 2 feet from a person. Friends are allowed in this zone. 3. The far personal zone extends 4 to 12 feet and encompasses some direct communication and some proximity. 4. The social zone extends 4 to 12 feet beyond the person. This personal space exists between individuals in normal business life or between new contacts. 5. The public zone is everything beyond the social zone. This area is a consideration during public speaking. As can be determined from Hall's work, personal space differs based on the person and the type of communication. When dealing with more familiar people- family or friends-the bubble of personal space is smaller than when talking to new contacts or engaging in formal conversations. Personal space is determined by several factors. Personality traits, such as extraversion, are one key determinant. Gender also plays a role, and it has been found that men maintain a larger overall personal space. Culture also plays a dominant role. In daily life, most people by nature adapt to the personal space of other individuals. When adaptation is not done appropriately, body language can indicate the unease of the other individual. When crossing national borders (or sometimes even regions), the concept becomes more difficult to grasp. Even within countries that might look similar in terms of Hofstede's model, significant differences appear. As the business world becomes increasingly international, the concept of personal space becomes more relevant. International managers who overlook subtle differences in personal space can encounter major hurdles. Consider, for example, a formal meeting between a Dutch and a Swedish subsidiary. The Dutch manager welcomes the foreign managers and embraces them. The body language of the Swedes says something is not right. The meeting continues, and all relevant business is discussed. However, both parties leave the meeting feeling misunderstood.


1. Considering Hofstede's model, Sweden and The Netherlands appear similar. What went wrong in the preceding situation? And from what do these differences stem?

2. What can the Dutch manager do to resolve the disturbance in his relation with the Swedes?

3. How can "invasion" of personal space be identified?

4. Describe some experiences of personal space in your life. Consider study abroad, internships, and so on.

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