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As organizations move from local to trans-global enterprise models, they require leaders who can adjust to different environments quickly and work with partners and employees of other cultures. Managers from different cultures tend to have different views of the self, which affects individual’ cognition, goals in social interactions, and consequently influences their behavior and goals in decision making.

Let me start this training by sharing an examples collected from one of my trainees!

Eric, a Dutch HR & Recruitment lead of an IT multinational company used to be  very direct in communicating, contacting who ever he needed to, as part of his work. With this mindset, he tried to approach a member of a team that was based in Bulgaria. This ultimately lead to a huge escalation by that person’s manager, who expected that whoever wanted to contact one of his team members to follow the hierarchy and have the communication go through him as he didn’t accept any direct communication.

Here is where Eric realized that he could have crossed a boundary that may have also be present in Bulgaria, but it wouldn’t have triggered such a strong reaction. The culture where Eric belonged was open to direct communication and didn’t follow hierarchy unwaveringly especially once the managers were informed.

Was this a communication gap? Or was it a lack in some kind of global competency?

Eric realized that he needed to change his ways of working drastically especially when he is associating with global colleagues. Every culture has different ways of dealing personal preferences and expectations from others. Hence, the same rule will not work with all cultures. As Example: If some cultures  expect the problem description and actions in straight forward.  In other culture, they may not expect the same in straight forward and we could be unaware to describe the problem in diplomatic way to them.

People from individualist’s cultures tend to have independent self-construal and those from affiliative cultures tend to have interdependent self-construal. The former are more likely to make decisions to fulfill personal accomplishment, whereas the latter are more likely to make decisions that promote social connectedness. Cultures with high individualism usually value high on privacy, personal achievement, and autonomy, whereas those with high affiliation value high on togetherness and group harmony. A good example of a country with high individualism will be United States.

On the other hand, Eastern Europe and Asian countries like Japan, China, and Korea are a good example of countries with affiliative or interdependent dimension….

Individuals from cultures with interdependent social orientation believe that public good overrides individual benefit, whereas individuals from cultures with independent social orientation believe that every individual should strive to achieve their best. Therefore, when engaging in the decision-making process the former are more likely to take into consideration to guard stability within the society, while the latter are more likely to follow their personal goals.

There is also a difference in risk-taking where the members of cultural groups with high independency show more risk-aversive behavior in contrast to cultural group with interdependent social orientation. This is because affiliative cultures endorse social relatedness and interdependence and they know they will more likely receive help from their friends or extended family when they “fall”. There are many such scenario in which what is common and acceptable in one culture is totally unacceptable in other culture thus causing the risk in hurting or alienating a foreign colleague with our less or no understanding of other’s culture. The language, customs, norms, preferences and personal understanding differences vary from culture to culture. Few things may be very normal in one culture may not be so normal in other culture which may impact the relationship with colleague.

For example – Arguing and detailed discussions with manager may be normal in Eastern European culture but it is not normal in India or China.

Cultural differences in leadership styles can create confusion and frustration for both employees and management. The four cultures of leadership styles are distinguished between two dimensions of leadership: attitude towards authority and attitude towards decision making.

  • Authority relates to how much respect and attention do we give to one’s status or rank and can range from egalitarian (ideas are freely discussed without regard to rank or role) to hierarchical (where the boss could be challenged / questioned to).
  • Decision making is about who makes the decisions and how the decisions are made and ranges from consensual (decisions are made by groups as a result of a discussion and inclusiveness of opinions of all the team members) to top-down (decisions are made by individuals, usually the bosses, who are trusted to make the best opinions and have the knowledge to effectively lead the team).

Attitudes toward authority are fragmented down into hierarchical and egalitarian and attitudes toward decision making are segmented down into top-down and consensual.

  • Consensual and egalitarian eg – Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden
  • Consensual and hierarchical eg – Belgium, Germany and Japan
  • Top-down and hierarchical eg – France, China, Russia, India
  • Top-down and egalitarian eg – UK, the US and Canada

As with all the dimensions, sometimes it’s easiest to give an update of your own working style to your team. You must be aware of the possible cultural clashes that might occur

If you’re moving from a Top-down to Consensual driven culture, make sure to listen to your team, create a space for stating opinion and rightfully acknowledge them. When you make the space for exchange of opinions, your people will find it appropriate to contribute.

Moving from a consensual to Top-down spectrum seems to be slightly difficult, because it could be perceived harsh if we make decisions ourselves. The best strategy here is to openly speak to the team and agree on the best possible working situation to fit all together.

In a business context a decision-making process is a series of steps taken by an individual or group of people to determine the best option or course of action to meet the business requirement. In any business situation there are multiple directions in which to take a strategy or an initiative. The multiplicity of alternatives to weigh and the volume of decisions that must be made on an ongoing basis, especially in large organizations makes the application of an effective decision-making process a crucial element of managing successful business operations.

If you are willing to find more details on European Countries. Check my new course on Udemy: Decision Making in Europe | Udemy

By Iulian Ionita

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