Conflict is different for everyone… especially when coming
from a different culture. What constitutes a conflict in one culture may be a lively and healthy debate in another. What is an assertive and healthy expression of desire in one culture may deeply offensive and cause pain and escalation somewhere else. So, what is conflict?

A recent piece of research with one of the UK’s best
known companies provided us with a fascinating statistic: that only one third of staff prefer to receive communication in a read-only form. Of the rest, over 40% prefer to receive it in an audio-visual form, whilst the remaining 25% want to interact with the content theyreceive by either discussing it locally with colleagues or more widely with other communities across the organisation. But despite this spread of preference, read-only remains the dominant form of internal communication. One of the most striking aspects of the research …

21st century managers are now required to expand and adapt
their leadership and communication skills to leading virtual cross-cultural teams. However, building and nurturing efficient intercultural and transnational teams are enough of a challenge without throwing in remote or virtual managing!  The 21st century manager has to adapt in order to offer modern solutions to modern problems; in fact,s/he needs to become a global manager. So, what guide lines can I offer you to help you become a global manger with the ability to promote high performing virtual teams? What skills and attributes do you need in order to be effective?

The 4th of July

Whilst speaking to someone in the States on the telephone last summer I was asked if I was going to celebrate the 4th of July holiday, which was due in a day or so. I was taken aback for a moment by the question? I thought to myself, “But why would I? I mean after all, we (the British) were the ones that lost the War of Independence weren’t we?”

I don’t think that the full historical context was uppermost in the person’s mind when they asked me that question. They were simply spreading the ‘goodwill’ that the 4th of July event can evoke in the States.

The Bulgaria – US Gap.   Is it a Bridge Too Far?

A simple cultural training programme, for a call centre in Bulgaria, has rapidly grown into a complex and vivid example of how relatively sympathetic cultures and countries can throw up major gaps in values and understanding, highlighting the differences in values between the old communist societies and the US customer-centric society.

Conflict Across Cultures Series: Have you had enough time to think
about the Oranges puzzle from a couple of weeks ago?  Here is the background to remind you…

If one party wants to grow orange trees and the other party has a child to nourish, (and there are 2 oranges), what is the solution?  Take a minute and try to think of a reasonable solution…

Intercultural trainers and academics are nervous of each other.
Academia either produces more and more complicated models or more and more vocal criticisms of the theoretical approaches of the trainers. Trainers, on the other hand, are accused of mis-applying models and theories or ignoring latest developments, and are branded culturist and reductionist. The best trainers, and the most resourceful academics, are more open minded and can take lessons from each other…

Conflict Across Cultures: When you next think you are in conflict
with someone with a different background, how do you feel? Do you feel “first world” guilt? Do you ignore the differences and judge the other party by your own standards and codes?

It is not easy, but applying culture theory can help…

When working internationally, there are certain principles
that are good to remembe

  1. Acknowledge differences exist
  2. Understand and analyse why those differences exist
  3. Appreciate the unique values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours of different cultures
  4. Adapt your behaviour — including your cross-cultural communication style — to meet the needs of others.
  5. Be sensitive to feedback and adapt accordingly.

When things just don’t seem to be going right… Remember:

We will never fully transcend our cultural influences to have
an objective view. Everybody is trapped by their history, community, education, language, family upbringing and body. Our five (or 8 senses) take in everything around us. If this information were to be made readily available to us, we would be paralysed and blinded; swamped by data overload…