By Robin Moriarty | Aug 28, 2019
Many people from the U.S. struggle with the office environment in other cultures. Depending on the culture, you may see things that you consider to be discrimination and even sexual harassment but that are completely accepted happily by both men and women in the local culture.
Two areas that many find difficult are:
1. Understanding local styles of management. I have been in board meetings where chairs have been thrown across the room in anger. I have been in meetings where everyone says “yes yes yes” and then nothing gets done. I have been in one meeting where a man literally jumped on top of the conference table and yelled to make his point known. I have heard awful jokes and copious amounts of profanity. I have been in company parties where people huddle together and dance and jump up and down to celebrate success (think mosh pit) and others where touching is completely prohibited.
2. The lack of processes and procedures. Depending on your organization and the culture in which you are working, you may see a lack of systematic policies and procedures and much more “winging it.” Some of this may be due to a start-up business environment or it may be due to a fundamental cultural belief that planning is pointless because you never really know, now do you?
The best approach to understanding these (and other) areas of confusion is to understand the organization’s history in that country, the key personalities that shaped that organization, and the local culture.
Also, in all countries where I have lived, I have found professors who taught at local business schools and invited them to lunch now and then in order to get informed and get perspectives. They were delighted to have the opportunity to explain their local business cultures and I benefited tremendously from their knowledge.
Take the time to understand, seek out knowledge, and evaluate and assess the approaches of others in order to define your own approach that will be effective in the local environment.