Avoid Cultural Assumptions
When we go abroad for work or pleasure, most of us like to make an effort to adapt to that culture, at least to some degree. Perhaps we learn a few basic phrases, try a few local dishes or soak up some of the local cultural hot spots. But when it comes to virtual engagement in the workplace, many of us fail to put in this same level of effort.
With ‘Zoom Fatigue’ becoming a household phrase, lowered engagement and enthusiasm towards our virtual colleagues is rarely personal, but it is something we should try to squash. And when it comes to culture—it’s important to educate ourselves, rather than make assumptions. For example, while you should always aim to be punctual, it helps to understand your colleagues' attitudes to time. When working with team members in Japan or Central and Eastern European countries, punctuality is a priority while Indian, French and Spanish employees are more relaxed about it.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Erin Meyer writes: “In Nigeria, a child learns to kneel or even lie down as a sign of respect when an elder enters the room. In Sweden, a student calls her teachers by their first names and, without implying any disrespect, feels free to contradict them in front of her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the management approach that works in Lagos will not get the best results in Stockholm.”
To avoid any awkward clashes in cultural behaviours, it’s useful for teams to have a good idea of these kinds of variations through cultural sensitivity training sessions that are tailored to the locations you do business in.
You’re not expected to be an expert on every culture under the sun, but a little understanding can go a long way.