If you’re working in France and a man tells you that you look pretty or he comments that you have on a lovely suit, most American women would assume that he is not taking her seriously. “Why aren’t they looking at my work? If you’re talking about the way I look, you’re not listening to me.”
But in France, Italy, and Spain, top women executives are expected to play on their appearance at work. So they’re likely to dress pretty and very feminine because in these countries a well-dressed woman suggests intelligence.
Culture shock, right?
In China, Japan, and Korea drinking alcohol and a lot of it is important to building trust. The sentiment is “Because we drink a lot of alcohol, you really show me deeply who you are, and that you have nothing to hide.”
The way to build relationships in Brazil, Russia, and India is to create an emotional connection. If you don’t invest significant time in developing close relationships, you won’t be able to develop the trust necessary to get your work done.
In America, we tend to share very little about ourselves in the workplace or with our clients. Women are especially guarded about drinking too much with colleagues and revealing certain aspects of their private lives. We are sensitive to our work environment and dress appropriately. In fact, we can be chastised if we appear to be too sexy.
It’s obvious that there are different rules in different cultures and in order to be successful working in a global environment, we need to be mindful of different cultures.
INSEAD professor Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map: Breaking through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, says that if your goal is to make it to a high level position in a global company then it behooves you to spend a lot of energy learning how to adapt your style to work in different ways. Meyer calls the “authentic flexibility”. This means understanding that you are deeply rooted in the culture in which you were raised, and if you are going to motivate employees in different parts of the world or negotiate the best deals with clients in different parts of the world, you need to understand their culture. The Culture Map provides a very detailed road map for how people from different cultures think, lead, and get things done.
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