December 27; Vive la Différence
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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27 December

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments,

because you know they produce quarrels.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome

but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

II Timothy 2:23-24

Vive la Différence

Culture

“Paying for a ride to work—for the employees?” Your Business Professor was learning the cultural differences between India and USA. And I was pushing back. “Yes,” my partner assured me. “It was a normal and customary expense and an expected benefit.”

This was working way too hard. No wonder the USA managers in India were overwhelmed. They spent half their time as taxi dispatchers. I could not change this part of the culture. At least not in that country.

In the USA it is different.

***

The manager is not expected to solve personal employee challenges. You, Gentle Manager cannot solve all the problems of your employees. Don’t even try. If a staffer cannot find their way to work on time, it is not the job of the boss to figure it out for them. If they cannot solve personal problems like transportation, or child-care, or personal hygiene, it is not likely that they can solve any of the manager’s problems at work.

But we are not just in Kansas anymore. We are now in the whirlwind of international competition. Global Market Velocity.

And sometimes we have to adapt to local norms. In China one will routinely see a gentleman and his girlfriend walking together. He will be carrying the woman’s purse. In Saudi Arabia President George Bush is pictured holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

All leaders should learn the customs to get more customers by managing our international affairs better.

In the 1960’s Geert Hofstede cataloged the differences of national cultures to help us navigate the particular aspects of different peoples. Professor Hofstede is a social psychologist who served in the Dutch army and worked at IBM. 

“Culture” as Hofstede defines, “is the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.”

The categories are, Power Distant Index, Individualism/Collectivism, Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity/Femininity, Long Term Orientation and finally Indulgence/Restraint.

His first is the Power Distant Index, which is, “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.”  Power Distant is not merely the physical distance between individuals.

This was the dimension I was getting wrong (actually I got all of the categories wrong in one way or another) in working in India.

***

The USA society is “loosely-knit in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families only and should not rely (too much) on authorities for support.” This was Your Business Professor’s worldview. But cultures are different.

India has an unusual (for USA) respect for hierarchy and for knowing one’s place in society. The management style is “kiss up and kick down.” India has outlawed the caste system, a social stratification based on heredity. But it is still a cultural practice.

I soon adapted to the local customs and worked to ensure that our employees in India had transportation to and from work.

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. II Timothy 2:23-24

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