Interview Organizational Behavior teacher: dr. Sue Park

Interview Organizational Behavior teacher: dr. Sue Park

Dr. Sue Park teaches Organizational Behavior (OB) to first-year IBA students. She lived and worked in multiple countries and has a lot of experience with different (organizational) behaviours in different cultures. In this interview you will get to know more about her very international career. 

Why did you choose to specialize in OB?

As in many other cases in life, I did not actually plan to study OB or to be an OB teacher. It is more like the job chose me, because I had the right combination of skills and interests. When I was younger, I was genuinely interested in people. I would ask a lot of questions about topics related to social psychology, without knowing what it meant in theory. I was interested in attitudes, stereotypes, conception, etc. I spent a lot of hours talking about those topics with my friends and I found it very fascinating. 

What do you like most about being an OB teacher?

In general, I really like to be a teacher for the first-year students, because this is a group of students who bring very fresh, new and crazy ideas and perspectives with them. As a teacher this is very fun and inspiring. Especially in OB; some students do not have a proper job, but still they can talk about their culture and their background. The best part for me as a teacher is the discussion that we have in class. I see that students learn and grow gradually within a very short semester and it is very rewarding for me to see the difference. 

Why do you think basic knowledge of OB is necessary for IBA students?

First, I think OB is applicable to everyone, no matter what you do, because OB is basically about humans. It is just something we can all relate to and once you have the basic knowledge about OB, you have the proper tools to thrive as a human being in an organization. Individually you know what works for you and especially when you become a manager, these are critical topics: how do you engage your workers, how do you motivate them, etc. In today’s world it is almost unavoidable to be in a setting where you have to deal with people from different backgrounds. 

In what way did online teaching affect your teaching style? 

I think in terms of the content and the knowledge that I deliver it is still pretty much the same, but I think the difference is more about how I interact with students. This was the most difficult thing for me to adjust to very quickly, because I like to find ways to engage my students. Additionally, it is really important for me to create a safe place where students can share their opinions without fear. The second part I wanted to focus on was actually for myself, because I wanted to read the students reaction: their facial expression, their body language, etc. These are all the clues that I need to know to see if the students are having fun or if they are bored. This is difficult to notice online, so I think this part is what I am still struggling with. 

What is something that you would like to achieve with regard to your studies?

I have been trying to stay active with my research and I would like to be more productive with my publications, so that when you type my name you would see my article popping up in Google Scholar. I am very much interested in the more practical side of research, such as policy-advice. Therefore, if I switch to another job, that will be my field of research. 

Did you experience any differences with regard to OB while you lived/worked in different countries?

All the time! I am originally from Korea, but I also worked in Japan, I lived in the United States and I also worked with Australians, and now I am in the Netherlands. I have a lot of countries and cultures to compare and it is very interesting to see the differences. For example, in Korea staying late in the office is part of your work. You do some extra work and after work you have dinner with your colleagues or you share a drink with them. These are social occasions where a lot of important discussions happen (about work). If you stay in the office until 8 or 9 pm, in the Netherlands or in Australia, something is wrong. Your boss would ask if you have any problems in the family or if you have too much work, etc. How you act towards teachers is also very different. Here, I see that students treat teachers more like friends, but when I was a student in a different country, things were quite the opposite. 

Sometimes you have difficulties to find the right behavior in different cultures, but eventually I think it is a great advantage to learn the differences.

What is the weirdest or funniest thing that happened to you during your career of teaching OB?

There are actually a lot of stories, but there is one I would like to share. I think it happened last year. In one of the tutorial groups I had a student who did not seem to enjoy the class. He was always sitting in the back, talking with his friends and when I asked him a question, he would not respond with a lot of effort. One day he came to me and he asked me if he could leave five minutes earlier, because he needed to catch his train. I said: ‘No sorry that is not going to be possible, because everyone needs to follow the schedule and I cannot make an exception for you.’ Even though I understand the pain of waiting thirty minutes to catch your train just because of a five-minute difference, I could not make an exception for him. After the tutorial it still bothered me, because he already did not enjoy the class and now it might become worse. I thought about how I could make this situation fair and how to motivate him to participate. The next time he asked the same question and I said: ‘Yes you can, but I have a condition: if you participate in the discussion and do not talk with your friends, I can send you home early. And everyone else too.’ This worked! He was very active and because I did not have to address him to stop talking, I was able to finish early.

Do you have some tips & tricks that can help students with studying the content of OB?

I like to recommend more unusual ways of learning that you can do very easily. First, I would like to invite you to look at yourself as a person. You can think of what type of person you are: what makes you angry, how would you react to certain situations, etc. These are very personal questions. Once you have a better understanding of yourself, this is going to be a good foundation when you think about other people’s behaviours as well. Secondly, you can interact with your colleagues in the IBA program. The IBA program is a great natural setting where you can have tons of indirect experience about different cultures and diversity. All the OB topics that we discuss in the classroom can be observed in the IBA program. It is a luxury for students to be in a very international setting, without going to a particular country. Therefore, I encourage you to make friends and engage in conversations with your colleagues and learn from them. 

Written by Daphne Gommans, IBA student Tilburg University

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