Working for an international corporation has been a crash course in various cultures. I have participated on teams with people from Brazil, India, Singapore, England, and Australia just to name a few. It has also been a lesson that Americans aren’t always sensitive to different cultures. One distinct example comes to mind, and I try my best to not make a similar mistake. About 2 years ago my boss decided to get his team together for a face-to-face meeting. We came from all over the United States, but more importantly we were not all native to this country. My manager and one co-worker originated in India, the former was a strict vegetarian and the latter would not eat beef. Our meeting was in Texas, and the “host” decided that the first lunch served would be local cuisine, barbecued beef. No consideration was given to the fact that some people couldn’t eat beef or meat, for religious or dietary purposes. The members with dietary restrictions had a piece of bread for lunch, and I am sure our host didn’t even notice. Although I am by no means perfect I decided then and there to be cognizant of other people’s customs, and do my best to respect them.
The culture I have chosen for this paper is Argentina. I have a person on my team that I have been training since July and she resides there. Instruction has not been going well, it’s been about 8 months, and she is still not able to work on simple projects independently. While I attributed part of this to a language barrier I didn’t focus enough on our cultural differences. I’ve worked with people from Central and South America previously with much success. I also have an Uncle who is Argentine, he’s well educated, very serious, and takes control of situations. He has assimilated to American life quite well. I never really considered our cultures would be very different.
Eliza, my co-worker speaks Spanish and English, like many of her fellow Argentines. I do not speak her language and although she can read and write English, I have difficulty understanding her. To get around this communication issue, a day before a meeting I send out an agenda, as well as any documents we will review. I make sure I clearly state the goals of the meeting, and ask for questions in advance. If the subject is a complicated one, I will request the assistance of a translator as well. Laying the groundwork prior to our meeting makes a successful outcome more likely.
I found on the TMA world Navigator, a subscription based web-tool available to members of my company that (Argentine) companies have a strong vertical hierarchy and management may appear inaccessible. Those in power are expected to wield it, and those beneath them will look for a strong leader. There will be many formal procedures, rules and routines culture (Transnational Management Associates, 2011). One of the issues I have been having with Eliza is that she really is not a self-starter, any assignment that I give her ends up with...