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Rock Street, San Francisco

Mary Nguyen
Student ID: 1641926
Anthropology Essay:
My Workplace, H&M
Work presented to
Matthieu SossoyanThe Human Experience: An Introduction to Anthropology
381-100-VA Section 00002
Vanier College
Thursday, April 19th, 2018
Out of all the groups we belong to, all of them are eligible to be chosen for an anthropological study. In fact, I decided to do my anthropological study on my workplace group: H&M at Carrefour Laval. I decided to study my workgroup because it is almost my second home. I spend so much time there when I am not a school or at home. I have started many friendships and have learned many life lessons there. I feel like this group is perfect for me to analyze through an anthropologic perspective which entails in analyzing my life and the culture this group demonstrates.

Firstly, values are fundamental to culture. Different cultures promote different values. They are what creates our base of beliefs, our goals in life, our desires or standards. As I work in sales, one of the mains values of H&M is cost consciousness. In other words, our motto is”Fashion and quality at the best price”. We try to promote the newest trends, at the best quality possible for the most affordable prices. To make it simple, H&M tries to be the store to go, for any new trends with decent budgets in mind. Another H&M value is the concept of “one team”. The concept entails the idea that we should all work together, ask or offer to help each other, that we all leave together…in all, we do everything together in order to reach better outcomes and take into consideration every single member of our team. We try to grow together and encourage each other with friendly constructive feedbacks instead of severe criticism.
Secondly, in each culture, you can find elements that are both maladaptive and adaptive. Maladaptive factors are negative, dysfunctional, problematic, destructive or bad habits that we pick up with our culture. At H&M, two maladaptive elements would sometimes miscommunication between managers and the insensitiveness of our marketing team. When there is miscommunication between managers, it results in miscommunication between all of us employees and what our tasks are. Secondly, as this year’s marketing team did, they released an ad that was not racially sensitive. In fact, this ad did not at all respect the values that we try to promote, which was diversity and open-minded. This was not only a blow to our brand, but in our store, we experienced a few hate acts, when we did not actively participate in the release of that ad, but because we represent the brand that did authorize the release of those images. On the other hand, adaptive elements are positive aspects our culture. It is also considered the culture’s “tool-box”. At my workplace, our adaptive features are the flexibility of our schedule and ___________. Most employees are students either in high school, college or university. They are very understanding of the fact that we might have school and therefore hire more employees for us to have a minimum of three shifts per week. Furthermore, we could also sometimes long-period of times off merely because we were on finals.

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Thirdly, culture is most of the time discerned whenever we look at rituals. Rituals are actions or celebrations that are repeatedly taking place at the same time or location. These rituals can be singly or in groups. When we talk about “same time”, we are referring to a specific time frame in which that action or celebration is repeated. Rituals can also require some objects, words, actions or even clothes; these enable us to define these moments as rituals as it is these requirements that make them unique. These special conditions take us out of the ordinary world and enhance the expression of one’s culture. At my workplace, two of our most know rituals are Black Friday and Boxing week. These are two events that are mostly known as shopping rituals. When thinking of Black Friday or Boxing week, we prepare ourselves in very similar ways. Both events are sales events where most of our prices drop ridiculously. H;M is one of the stores I can say bargains happen for real. For example, some items would initially be $150 and would fall to $40. Before every sales event especially black Friday or boxing week, we receive around a week in advance products labeled sales, as well as all the paperwork, saying precisely what is on sale and exactly which colors are on sale. Every morning that we receive a truck, we also prep the sales box which entails on putting all items on hangers and labeling them with the correct price in a red sticker. Then the night before, we have people scheduled after hours to take out the products and place them on the floor in every single department. This takes time and more than merely a few employees because my store has two stories and six different departments. Another little ritual is that on big sales day, we always dress in black from head-to-toes. Also, to make it fair, all employees are assigned shifts during these two events, and no call-outs are tolerated.
Fourthly, symbols are part of a culture; they are something that represents something else. And these hidden meanings can only be understood if someone has told you about this meaning; if you are part of the group or not; if you are part of the culture or not. Symbols are often representing actions, gestures, rules, groups, brands, places, abstract ideas, values, emotions, sounds, words, etc. At H;M, the most important symbol is our brand’s. “H&M” is the brand of the store, of our company, of our culture. Most do not know the meaning of this symbol, even though H&M has appeared around the globe. We have been expanding throughout the world and in almost every country, we can ask for H&M and people would understand what we are talking about; a clothing brand. However, H&M is more than just two letters, it has a meaning, and it is one of the first things we teach to our newest recruits: H&M history, its meaning, and its importance. “H&M” is in short for Hennes and Mauritz.

Fifthly, one of the major things that define culture is language. Language is the way of communicating thoughts and actions within the use of sounds and written symbols if writing exists within that culture. Words are symbols, and within them, are smaller ones such as sounds, are expressed. Like in symbols, if you do not know the language, you could listen to it all day, and it would not have any meaning to you. At H&M, we have a specific vocabulary we communicate in when we are on the floor. This vocabulary helps us interact more efficiently, to be direct, and to be understood by all. We exchange in this “language” with our walkie talkies throughout the store, and it is rather helpful because our store is two floors big. There are terms such as “pick up”, “copy”, “mini-rail” or even “pony”. Usually, the first two terms, an outsider could guess its meaning. However, the last two ones might be slightly confusing for customers. Mini-rails and ponies are the metal bars on wheels that we use to transport clothing around in the store. Mini-rails are the only ones aloud throughout the day, as they are smaller and take less space. You usually find a few of these in each fitting rooms and one to two of them on each floor, department. The ponies are the larger size one which we used when we are doing truck and during early mornings or after hours when there are no clients around. It is mostly to transport greater quantities of clothing when there is a significant switch of clothing or because we are doing truck and that we have a big amount of clothing to place on the floor.

Sixthly, many behaviors or situations that relates to the concept of gender, which can also influence one’s culture. To make it simple, gender is any learned attitudes and behaviors grounded in biological differences between sexes. We modify our behavior to conform to society’s expectations of the corresponding sex. However, I find that at H&M, gender is fluid. Gender at H&M can be deconstructed, and nothing is exclusive to one sex only. For example, when advising clients, if we know that the items that the clients are looking for might be in the opposite sex section, we have no problem and proposing it to them. Most of the time, they are thrilled to find the exact product they were looking for, even though it was in the opposite’s sex department. It is not because you are a woman that you can’t shop in the men section. The opposite is also accurate. The second example would be the fitting rooms. We have two of them, one downstairs in the men’s section and one upstairs in the women’s one. Even though they are situated in gender labeled sections, each time someone asks us for the changing rooms, no matter their sexes, we would simply point them to the closest one.

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