We’ve all been there: You’re talking to someone from another culture — perhaps while on a business trip or working with a colleague on a project — when you get a sinking feeling that you’ve made a mistake. Maybe it was a joke that misfired, an unintentional violation of personal space, or a misreading of the context and cues that resulted in someone losing face.
If the mistake happened in your own culture, you could quickly recover, because you’d have a grasp of the etiquette for apologizing. However, when gaffes happen across cultures, they can leave you at a loss for what to do and how to respond.
Here is our five-step process for not only recovering from cultural faux pas but turning them into learning opportunities.
1. Ditch your obsession with performance. To start, reframe how you approach making mistakes, and accept them as inevitable side effects of working across
It’s no longer unusual for teams within organizations to span different countries and cultures. While there are many benefits to this, one of the challenges for leaders of these global teams is navigating everyone’s vacation schedules.
Employees within a single team may have completely different holiday calendars, laws, and customs. Most people are familiar with their own country’s vacation patterns, but few are fluent in the intricacies of everyone else’s. Managers who are used to vacation occurring in August or over Christmas may find themselves caught off-guard when their team members are suddenly absent in September. When this happens, they may not have the power to permit or deny time off — but they will be left scrambling to keep everything on track. What is a global leader to do?
A key step is to understand how different cultures perceive vacation time. Many in the U.S. view time off as a luxury —