“I don’t know how to handle this situation. I think it is a cultural issue. I thought he said he will get me the report this morning. It is almost 11.30am and I still haven’t received it” — How many times have we heard such a statement made by our clients, our partners from other parts of the world and even our colleagues from different states within a country? For the individual expecting the report, morning may be comprehended as 9am; for the individual that promised to send out the report morning may be considered till 11.55am. Who has erred? Why are tempers flying all across the office floor? It’s because of the lack of articulation of the expectation. Is it a cultural issue? Definitely not. Many a time a confusion, misinterpretations, mistakes or mediocrity are veiled with the “Culture Curtain”. Most of the time one would get away with it.
Culture and work ethics are as different as culture and religion. But because they are divided by almost an invisible line, many of us do not see the difference and somewhere they all get mixed up together. In a culturally diverse workplace, it is important to articulate commitments and expectations very clearly to avoid any confusion. It is no excuse to brush it under the carpet under the name of “cultural differences”.
The cultural differences can be addressed with proper process and expectation setting on the behaviors. There are scores of research that has been done on differences in country cultures, organization cultures and family cultures. Very little work has been done on cultural similarities.
Truly blessed! Yes I am. The introductions of cultures, cuisines and social customs can be seen at its hilt in the United States of America! As I look at my friends circle and the official/ unofficial networks, there are folks from various walks of life. From traditional Italian background, Chinese and other Asian cultures, Indians — of course, Mexicans, divided religious affiliations, varied financial independence and colors ranging from white, brown, yellow, black and all colors in between.
I am so humbled when I see incredible amount of similarities in the areas such as family values, communication channels, formality vs. informality, last but not the least, human values. For us to be successful, if we start targeting the similarities and carefully understand the differences, we could have a better networked peers and friends.