Proper work place behavior in different countries


Recognizing and responding to different cultures, ensures not just better business, but also gives an insight into how problems can be tackled differently, say experts.

When working for international companies abroad the employee whatever senior position he may be in must be well conversant with the culture and manners. Accordingly he should conduct himself even in his day today working. In this article we are giving a few small cases about the happenings in the work environment on ‘manners’ related problems at work.

A trainer who coordinates between several Indian and American firms and a specialist in cross cultural training says that when doing business, many Indians by and large, go on trust and goodwill. This creates an area of vagueness which can be problematic for Westerners who want everything on paper.

The trainer recalls a joint construction project between an Indian and an American firm. The American was checking and cross-checking the modalities required in finishing the project. This irritated the Indian engineers who felt the Americans were questioning their competency, while the Americans felt they were being clear, thorough and transparent.

On the first day Asava joined a firm in Japan as senior manager, he was asked if he would like to pick up his recruitment letter and other forms. He said he would collect them later. He thought it was a mere intimation without understanding the work culture at that place. This casual remark lost him goodwill in office. Intimations and suggestions are meant to be interpreted as commands in Japan which he has learned later.

Pramila was preparing to receive her husband’s Chinese boss for dinner. She ordered special Chinese lanterns to welcome him. But when he arrived, he took one look at the lanterns, bowed and took leave. Pramila later learnt she had decorated her home with lanterns used by Chinese during funerals and that is why her husband’s boss left. The Chinese use different lanterns for different social occasions.

The above cases show how cultural misunderstandings can cause problems at the workplace. With more and more Indians working abroad and liaising with foreigners, these misunderstanding can cost companies not just goodwill but business.

Cultural misunderstandings nearly derailed an Indo-Japanese project on a bridge. An Indian firm sent a detailed list of technical questions to their Japanese counterparts. They panicked when no reply was forthcoming. A week later, the Japanese responded. The Japanese take feedback from everyone in the organization. So the queries probably went to heads of different departments. Japanese finally responded after receiving feedback from all concerned to present a full picture as much as possible to Indian firm’s technical questions. This may not be in the culture of west or India. This concept is alien in India or the West where email etiquette means to respond the next day.

One of the reputed Sports Marketing executive from U.S visited a Chinese firm in the afternoon and found everyone asleep. The nap which lasted half-an-hour is said to be a routine practice in China (the laws even allow it). It is believed this keeps employees more alert and productive.

  • Akksarma

    Good information on workpalce cultures.