Challenges related to managing religion in the workplace are on the rise, as are religious discrimination claims and monetary settlements in the U.S. and around the world. Harvard Business School professor Derek van Bever discusses two examples in his case, “Managing Religion in the Workplace: Abercrombie & Fitch and Masterpiece Cakeshop.”
Imagine you are a member of a purchasing team. Your manager sets a goal: she wants everyone on your team to make at least one deal with a supply company of their choice. You end up signing a deal with a supplier who offers a great price, but — unbeknownst to you — is infamously slow to deliver. One of your colleagues has worked with them before, but the two of you haven’t been communicating much with each other, so he fails to advise you against it. Because you never receive this vital information, your performance suffers.
Information-sharing is a problem in almost every company. But my latest research shows it is more of a problem on multi-cultural teams. The more cultural distance employees perceive, the more the problem is exacerbated.
My latest research — in collaboration with Dr. Wendy van Ginkel and Prof. Daan van Knippenberg
In almost any business these days, you are guaranteed to interact with people whose cultural background is quite different from your own. In a global organization, you may have colleagues that come from a different country. You may partner with organizations whose employees come from another part of the country. There may also be cultural differences between you and some of the customers and clients you serve.
You may be tempted to follow the golden rule — and treat everyone exactly the way you would want to be treated. But that’s not the most effective way to navigate cultural differences. You want to accord people the same respect you expect from them, but how you interact with them will depend a lot on their expectations about what particular interactions should look like. This is why it’s helpful to know what specific cultural differences are.
Global teams have the potential to help organizations reach new markets and provide a seamless brand experience for customers across the world. But for global teams to work, team leaders need to make sure all members feel connected and engaged, regardless of their location or culture. From what I’ve seen when advising global teams, the psychological and emotional reaction people experience when participating on these teams can sink its effectiveness.
Life on a global team isn’t necessarily equitable. Employees far away from headquarters often have less access to the team leader. As a result, they may have a harder time getting their concerns noticed and attended to. Additionally, more peripheral members of global teams are often forced to speak in a language that’s not their own and communicate in a style that’s not necessarily second nature. For example, they may come from a culture where polite turn-taking is the norm when talking, while
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
When you exchange pleasantries with a co-worker in the elevator, the two of you are building trust. When you stop by a colleague’s office and see their family photographs on a desk, you learn about that person’s life outside the office and, as a result, usually feel closer. Face-to-face meetings, office parties, and opportunities to socialize together after working hours can all contribute to the feeling that your fellow employees will be reliable in what they say and do and that they will act for the good of the team and the organization. You believe they are trustworthy because you’ve developed this feeling over time.
So how do you trust a co-worker you barely see in person? This is a particular challenge for global teams, where employees may only be in contact with one another over email at different times of the day and night.
Dr. Terri Cooper, Principal & Chief Inclusion Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP
What will it take to be a great leader in the future? Listen to Angelia Herrin, Special Projects editor for Harvard Business Review, interview Dr. Terri Cooper, Principal and Chief Inclusion Officer of Deloitte Consulting, as she discusses six attributes of leaders who display the ability to not only embrace individual differences, but to potentially leverage them for competitive advantage.
Welcome to the Quick Take, a sponsored conversation with Harvard Business Review and Deloitte Consulting. I’m Angelia Herrin, Editor for Special Projects and Research at HBR. Today, we’re talking with Dr. Terri Cooper, the Global Sector Leader for healthcare and the US national chief inclusion leader for Deloitte. We’re discussing a new Deloitte report around leadership in a diverse new world. Dr. Cooper, thank you so much for joining us today.
On paper, the project seemed like it would be a hit: The investment by the mining company would bring jobs and 21st-century technology to an economically poor area and tax revenues to the government. So why were citizens blocking the roads and protesting in the streets, drawing considerable attention from NGOs and the media and delaying the project?
You’d think that the biggest cultural challenge when going abroad for an assignment would be acclimating to the foreign culture you’re moving to. After all, it’s well known that expat life compels people to stretch beyond their cultural comfort zones; whether moving from Barcelona to Beijing, or from San Francisco to Stuttgart, you will encounter cultural challenges. These are challenges that you can generally anticipate and prepare for, and they are also ones that tend to come with some degree of support and resources, whether through your company or a local expat community. What you likely haven’t prepared for — and what can sometimes be even more challenging — is the cultural adjustment of moving home.
Instead of slipping seamlessly back into the life you left behind, you may discover that you are now a proverbial square peg in a round hole. This can give rise to
With the recent spate of firms in the news over sexual harassment allegations and charges of gender bias, it is obvious that an issue many in business had thought was “done” is instead far from finished. Fostering corporate cultures which make half your employees feel somewhere between unengaged and unsafe is becoming risky and unsustainable. A lot of companies are doubling down on efforts to finally “crack” the gender issue.
Most companies now have more gender-balanced talent pools, especially at the early-to-mid-career levels, and are looking for ways to make sure progress continues at the mid-to-upper levels. But the ones who really understand the issue see gender balance as not just a numbers game but part of a broader, more strategic cultural shift that includes developing leadership teams representing geographically diffuse markets. These leaders are recognizing that this balance drives the innovation and market understanding they
Erin Meyer, professor at INSEAD, discusses management hierarchy and decision-making across cultures. Turns out, these two things don’t always track together. Sometimes top-down cultures still have strong consensus-driven decision-making styles — and the other way around. Meyer helps break down and map these factors so that managers working across cultures can adapt. She’s the author of the article, “Being the Boss in Brussels, Boston, and Beijing” in the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Consider a case where two employees have worked on the same task, but one has performed better than the other. Would it be unfair to give only the high performer a bonus?
In a large-scale experiment with a representative sample of Americans, we found that most people accepted inequality when it reflected differences in merit. In the experiment, participants faced a real-life situation in which two individuals had worked for our research group and we had given the entire bonus to the better performer. The participants had the opportunity to redistribute the bonus between the high performer and the low performer. The large majority decided not to do so. Not surprising, they considered merit to be a fair source of inequality.
The result was different when it was clear that the bonus had been awarded simply by random chance. In another condition of the experiment, we presented a situation in which two
Wei Song noticed the fashion models first. Preening in chiffon-and-lace gowns, they flanked the entrance to Shanguang Jewelers’ flagship store on Nanjing Road. A vintage Eagle roadster was parked nearby, with a dozen well-heeled men and women clustered around it. Song could see many more people inside the store, sipping champagne. Many were trying on watches.
“It’s quite an event,” he said to his colleague, Pearl Zhang, who was standing next to him, across the street.
“Yes,” she replied. “If only it were ours.”
Song was a director at Rochat & Schmid, a 100-year-old Swiss maker of luxury timepieces, overseeing Greater China from his base in Shanghai. Pearl, his VP of marketing, had learned that their rival Berlinger was launching a line of gem-accented watches, which would be sold exclusively through Shanguang, China’s biggest jewelry retailer. She’d persuaded him to do a bit of intelligence gathering with
A few years ago, I was teaching a two-day program about ethics in India for entrepreneurs and business faculty who taught entrepreneurship. It was a program that I had spent years honing, building upon research that suggests rehearsing — pre-scripting, practicing voice, and peer coaching — is an effective way to build the moral muscle memory, competence, confidence, and habit to act ethically. Rather than simply preaching and pretending, we wanted to address the day-to-day realities that create pressure to act unethically even when employees know and want to do better.
The program in Delhi started as many of these programs do: A group of cordial but skeptical participants sat with arms crossed and gentle smirks, leaning back in their chairs. When I finally was able to coax one of them to express what they were thinking, he said: “Madam, we are very happy to have you here and we
Since early 2015, when he began working with Sodexo’s executive committee as the global services firm’s chief transformation officer, Sunil Nayak has undergone his own leadership transformation. The new role required the former CEO of Sodexo India On-Site Services to work with a team of 15 executives from different nationalities and cultures, demanding a shift to a more inclusive leadership style. “In today’s world, success for any leader is about being a good influencer,” says Nayak, who has since been promoted to CEO of Sodexo’s Corporate Services Asia-Pacific. “If you impose your method, if you’re not sensitive or aware of the other person’s method, either you won’t come to a decision or you won’t get buy-in.”
We all know that in a foreign culture, one of the most important skills to develop is the ability to translate, to learn to speak the new language — or at least master a few key phrases. You also need to learn to translate your behavior so you don’t end up making cultural faux pas. But one of the most critical (and also most underappreciated) aspect of translation, and the one that we both believe gets companies into the most trouble when operating globally, is the translation of corporate systems, processes, and procedures — in other words, the nuts and bolts of how corporations actually do business in today’s globalized world.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of individual people making mistakes with language or cultural rules and rituals when operating abroad, but you may not be as familiar with cultural gaffes at the organizational level, where companies fail, often mightily, to transfer
Most large organizations today are looking for leaders who can easily and effectively move between countries and cultures, taking on expat assignments, understanding disparate markets, and managing diverse teams. Where can they find such talent?
My advice is to look to a group of people I call “global cosmopolitans”— highly educated, multilingual professionals who have already lived, worked, and studied for extensive periods outside their home regions. Whether their international exposure started in their childhood or later, as a result of relocation for education or work, my experience and research confirms that these people often possess five key characteristics that leave them better equipped to tackle complex challenges than their less-global peers:
They consider change as normal, positive, and a source of opportunity.
They rely on creative, outsider thinking and adaptation to confront new situations.
They are able to reinvent themselves and experiment with new identities as they move into