The art of business: who wrote the rules? Who decided what interactions were best abstained from? Who first figured out that beer is the best facilitator? Most importantly, who first realized that without confrontation, there was no progress?
Do you tackle problems with colleagues, partners, and customers head-on? If so, chances are you’re from Western Europe or North America and, our research suggests, vulnerable to blind spots when working with people from other parts of the world. And if you’re from an East Asian culture, the subtle cues you rely on to signal your disagreement may be sailing right past Westerners.
In much of the West, it is considered maddeningly inefficient to talk around an issue, whereas East Asians tend to view direct confrontation as immature and unnecessary. That difference amounts to a frustrating cultural divide in how people solve problems at work.
In software, these findings are especially relevant as the ultimate success or death of a project is contingent upon communication; mutual understandings on what means what.
Approaching a project manager regarding an issue in North America, for example, may be seen as both constructive and necessary whereas in Asian countries might find it damning to both relationship and productivity.
Though confrontation is important when considering the art of business, it’s true that it’s but one example of the myriad ways our cultures affect our professional success. So, next time you’re doing business with a partner overseas, consider the norms and behave accordingly; your ventures will be better for it.
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