How culture influences international business
Globalisation has completely transformed the way the world does business, especially now that people from different professional cultures now regularly meet each other.
Though diversity is one of the most valuable things to have in a business, it can also present challenges when there are people from multiple cultural backgrounds in the same office.
Here are some of the ways that business is affected by having colleagues from all over the world.
People from different places can have varying approaches to negotiations and discussions to resolve problems. For example, some cultures find it more appropriate to be direct and get straight to the point about what they need, whereas others prefer to treat the subject more delicately. The first person could come across as rude and confrontational, whereas the second person could seem overly cautious and evasive.
This is one of the reasons why agendas are very important for any meeting: agreeing on what you'll talk about beforehand means that no topics will be missed and everyone will know what to expect from the conversation.
Business is done differently in different parts of the world, with varying levels of emphasis put on things like dress codes, time-keeping, and hierarchy.
In some offices, colleagues will refer to each other informally, wear jeans, and take lots of breaks; in others, everyone will use titles, wear suits, and take care to be punctual or even early.
Neither of these approaches are inherently better than the other; they are simply different. It's important to research typical company cultures and the values that inform them before meeting or visiting people from other countries so that you won't be surprised by attitudes that don't fully make sense to you.
Being aware of different time zones is crucial if you are dealing with international customers and colleagues. What seems like a reasonable time to you could be very early or very late for them, so you will have to compromise on meetings and telephone calls.
As mentioned above, there are a range of approaches to timekeeping as well – some places don’t expect their employees to take calls out of hours, whereas others will.
Consider installing an application on your computer or smartphone where you can see what time it is in different parts of the world. This will help you to communicate at more appropriate times.
The main way to solve all of these difficulties is to focus on having an open mind, avoid taking another person's behaviour personally, and keep in mind that physical location can have a big impact on business.
For example, if someone doesn't reply promptly to your email, consider that it might be 2AM where they are rather than thinking that they are ignoring you.
Always try to see things from the other person's point of view rather than jumping to negative assumptions. This can do a lot to avoid unnecessary conflict and tension.
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