According to anthropologist E.T. Hall, proxemics is "the spatial dimension of non verbal behavior",the study of man's perception and use of space : social research suggests that people fromdifferent cultural backgrounds do not share the same preferences in relation to spacemanagement, and that what may appear as "normal" behaviour to some of us may represent aviolation of a social norm for another individual. Hall theorized that our sense of space relates to four different zones, defined by both physicaldistance and level of discomfort: Intimate Space, Personal Space, Social Space, Public Space .
Around the same time Hall developed his theories on proxemics, researchers Lyman and Scott defined territoriality as "the need of individuals and groups to claim some geographical area astheir own" and sustained that we can distinguish four different types of territories (the differencebetween territory and personal space - at times referred to as "portable territory" - is that the latteris something individuals "carry around" with them):
How do the concepts of "space" and "territoriality" fit into today's global workplace then, considering both the traditional territorial modification (with conversations nowadays often happening between peoplebased in different countries, or between members of different cultures interacting for thefirst time in business related scenarios without any prior cross-cultural briefing) and the timeneeded for the parties involved to assimilate and adapt to change?
Space management affects the relationships among co-workers, between suppliers and clients,it's strictly correlated with power dynamics ("power holders" are usually afforded a larger personal space and a more desirable territory in comparison with subordinates) : what cancompanies do toensure that space in the workplace is managed correctly, to ensure the best possible outcomes inrelation to employee satisfaction and increased productivity and quality levels?
Cultural awareness can help organisations planning shared spaces according to their employees background. For instance:
According to Hall's theory, cultures fall into two basic groups: contact (physical touching is a way to establish interpersonal relationships) and no-contact (physical touching between acquaintances is frowned upon).
On average - and to varying extents - physical contact during conversations is considered "normal behaviour for cultures based in the Middle East, in Latin America, in Africa, in Southern Europe. In these areas the physical distance between individuals is relatively small in comparison to the distance maintained between members no-contact cultures
On average - and to varying extents - in Northern and Eastern Europe, in Northern America and in most Asian countries physical contact in social situations is usually considered inappropriate. In these areas physical distance between individuals tends to be greater in comparison to the distance maintained between members of contact cultures
It's worth noting that while belonging to either a group of the other gives no indication about territoriality tendencies (for instance, the Japanese are both no-contact and low-territoriality, cultures characterized by high territoriality are usually low-context and vice-versa. People with low territoriality tendencies have less ownership of both space material belongings and are usually more ready and willing to share with others, while boundaries are more important to people with high territoriality tendencies, who display a greater concern for "ownership" and do not respond particularly well to personal closeness.
 Hall, Edward T. 1963. "A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behavior." American Anthropologist(Blackwell Publishing Ltd) 65 (1548-1433): 1003--1026
 Hall, E.T. (1959). "The Silent Language", New York: Doubleday
 Lyman, S. M., & Scott, M. B. (1967). "Territoriality: A neglected sociological dimension". SocialProblems, 15(2), 236-249 - https://doi.org/10.2307/799516
 Burgoon, J. K., Stacks, D. W., & Burch, S. A. (1982). "The role of rewards and violations of distancingexpectations in achieving influence in small groups". Communication, 11, 114-128
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