Thursday, January 10, 2013

Managing Cultural Differences

One of the most difficult issues facing any global company is managing cultural differences.  Aside from different languages to deal with, which is obvious, countries and the people living in them are shaped by their history, dominant religions, values and governments.   Though the industrialized world is much smaller today than ever before because of technology, 24/7 news and universal media,  employees react very differently to internal and external events that impact day to day company operations. 

As such, one size fits all is not very workable.  Global Mind Set Training is very important.   And, some countries practice situational ethics, which is not an American concept.  It just means that American management must be a lot more careful in business dealings when this approach is standard. 

Even though companies in the United States face many more regulations today than ever before governing operations,  depending on the state, it is still far less onerous to do business in the United States, than what we face in many other countries related to employment and other business practices.  Europe, China, Japan and Brazil are particularly difficult business environments.   

In addition, employees in some of these countries have different expectations concerning work and productivity.   The notion of working 50 - 60 hours a week, with two or perhaps three weeks vacation after five years of employment, is an American concept and not that common around the world in other industrialized countries.   Things also seem to move much slower outside the United States.  And, though all people are resistant to change, bureaucratic procedures outside the United States make change even more problematic. 

Yet, for better or worse, global companies must adapt to succeed.  However, it is true, whether in the United States, or other countries, companies vote with their feet when they encounter high taxes, impossible regulations, difficult employment practice laws and or an extremely high cost of doing business.  At a minimum, companies can choose to do business from almost anywhere today.   States, or countries with attractive business environments attract investment and jobs.  States, or countries that make doing business difficult suffer job loss and high unemployment.  It is what it is. 

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