In today’s business economy, defined by the interconnectedness that has created a global village, it’s easy to forget or overlook the strong cultural differences that still exist among countries. These differences complicate international business relationships in all aspects of conducting business, including internal and external communication, teamwork, negotiations, planning, and performance expectations.
Understanding Other Cultures
While international business manager should learn about the foreign cultures where they currently work or anticipate working, sometimes the best strategy is to understand one’s own cultural conditioning and focus on how it compares to and differs from others. Because managers rarely analyze their own cultural tendencies, they sometimes unknowingly judge other cultures in the context of their own “superior” cultural values. This is commonly known as ethnocentrism.
Understanding Your Own Culture
Another problem emerges when managers don’t understand how their own cultural conditioning shapes their actions and perceptions. When faced with a new culture, their reaction can be culture shock, the anxiety and panic of being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people who think and act in unfamiliar, unpredictable—perhaps even threatening—ways. But managers who are sensitive to cultural differences can adapt to diverse cultural settings and excel in their roles. They need to determine the best fit for overseas assignments by identifying the behaviors necessary for success in the overseas countries and then gain understandings that must be acquired and practiced. In many instances, employers develop specific performance factors for behaviors that are sensitive to local cultural norms and thus critical to success. Examples can include the ways managers provide instruction to subordinates and communicate with non-American and new American hires.
Managing Foreign Workers
Cross-cultural business conditions also affect management of all employees working in distant countries. Whether they are foreign workers who are hired to work in their home country or another country, they need training translated in their own language about American corporate expectations or the corporate expectations where they are assigned.
Non-American workers, many holding H1B1 visas, often are skilled workers with specialized trainingi They also experience problems similar to ones Americans sent to work overseas face. Frequently, they have little or no adjustment period and suffer from language gaps and lack of cultural and social knowledge.
The best international business managers understand cultural differences and assimilation challenges. These experienced managers embrace mentoring responsibilities by helping their employees avoid common problem scenarios and adjust to working conditions.