How cultural differences affect outsourcing – US & Eastern Europeans (II)
We’ll now be approaching the US from the following areas of business: Trusting, Disagreeing, Scheduling and last, but not least, Persuading.
Trust is a critical element of business in every country of the world. Time, energy and effort are consumed in the process of gaining and losing trust. How is this handled from a business point of view? We’ll have to work with the notions of cognitive trust and affective trust. Cognitive trust is based on the confidence you have in a person’s accomplishments, skills and reliability, whereas affective trust arises from feelings of closeness and empathy.
Americans draw a sharp dividing line between these two types of trust. They have a long history of separating the practical and the emotional. Mixing the two is perceived as unprofessional and risks conflict of interest. As such, we can refer to the US as having a task-based culture (in opposition to the other extreme of the scale, relationship-based cultures). Trust is built only via business-related activities, based on the practicality of the situation. Are you constantly doing good work as an Eastern European? Then their trust is yours.
Eastern Europeans will also value a true partnership. As outsourcers, they will do their best to cultivate a good business relationship. But, to stay motivated and productive, they will also need the flexibility and freedom of decision making, regardless of how Americans invest them with trust. Eastern Europeans are task-based, but with a touch of emotional investment, which can be earned slower and in more casual manners, like business dinners or team-buildings.
Closing the gap:
As stated in the previous article, make sure you don’t confuse Eastern European flexibility with a lack of seriousness. If the basic criteria are met, invest your business partner with your trust, until you have proof of the opposite. Allow your outsourcer to be innovative even if they don’t necessarily follow the traditional process.
The concept of face exists in all societies, but the level of importance varies. Face refers to a sociological concept linked to the dignity and prestige that a person has in terms of their social relationships. Regarding businesses, on a scale between confrontational and non-confrontational, the Americans fall right in the middle, which, as with the type of feedback, actually means that you’ll never know what kind of disagreeing techniques are involved right away. Confrontational cultures hold disagreement and debate as being positive for the team or organization. Open confrontation will not directly affect relationships. Overall, this is rather the American business way, in direct connection with their bluntness and frankness.
Eastern Europeans, on the other hand, prefer to avoid confrontation, as it can be seen as negatively impacting performance. It can break group harmony and affect relationships. Also being hierarchical, Eastern Europeans could need a conflict management procedure and clear guidelines to follow if a conflict arises. Designing a workflow that will allow any punctual disputes to be identified and managed before becoming critical for the entire project is also very recommended.
Closing the gap:
When you express your disagreement towards Eastern Europeans, make sure you aren’t hurting anyone’s feelings. Be constructive and only make objective comments, without diminishing anyone’s personal value. Make it clear that you are only interested in solving the problem, not in escalating a conflict.
From the American side, disagreement can be shown quite bluntly, but do not be offended by this. When ideas are negated, it does not necessarily reflect poorly on the person who proposed them. Use discernment to voice your concerns and ask about possibilities in conversation, but do not be careless in revealing your own weaknesses.
Ask yourself: is arriving 5-10 minutes late actually called being late or is rather acceptable, normal? When it comes to business scheduling, the Americans run in a linear-time fashion. This means that if you feel you will be running late, you should make a clear call about it and let upper management be informed. You won’t be taxed, but when it comes to working with US partners, this is clearly the right approach. This is also known as monochronic time culture, M-time (in opposition to polychronic time cultures, P-time). Remember that Time is money? This holds as true as ever to the American business way. P-time cultures work with approximates, they are fluid, they adapt. M-time cultures work with punctuality, project steps are approached in a sequential fashion. One thing at a time.
Americans and Eastern Europeans are pretty much on the same M-time page. Tardiness reflects badly in a professional setting, so make sure to arrive on time or slightly early. If you’re chairing the meeting, it is more important to begin punctually. As stated in the previous article, meetings are usually quite casual as Americans appreciate cultivating a friendly atmosphere to facilitate openness in business relations. Expect them to introduce humor to the conversation as they like to seem approachable.
Closing the gap:
If Eastern Europeans don’t comply to your M-time culture, show willingness to review certain items, even if you already agreed on them. If the timeline is apparently not followed, politely ask for an explanation and do not immediately assume that the cause is a lack of professionalism. Just because Eastern Europeans sometimes seem not to follow the plan, doesn’t mean they are disorganized. They may just have a different perspective.
Persuasion is crucial when it comes to any kind of business, either for developing or maintaining one. Even though we are unaware of it, the arguments we use to persuade are deeply rooted within our cultures. Certain delays could arise in an American-Eastern European collaboration due to the fact that Americans focus on practicalities rather than theory. They are more likely to begin with recommendations, or with the conclusion, so to say. This is called the „applications first” logic, in which you start with the conclusion, main idea or request and only afterward you present the arguments backing up your statement. There is a focus on the how to approach something, not on the why.
On the other hand, Eastern Europeans use something called „principles first approach”, which stems out of inductive reasoning. General conclusions are reached based on a pattern of factual observations. This means that in any negotiation or presentation, they will first present the arguments, documents or data based on which they will further express their opinion/conclusion, which is quite opposite of the American way.
Closing the gap:
Knowing this information can be very helpful to attain the desired outcome from your business partner. The written communications, video conferences and face to face meetings, all can be influenced by the „principles first approach” and most people should strive to get comfortable with both approaches. Eastern Europeans will all need to be adapted so that everyone is on the same page every step of the project. In principles first approaches, the WHY behind the boss’s request must be understood so that the workflow can proceed normally.
Next time we’ll be approaching the issues of Communication, Evaluation Process, Leadership and Decision Making in business conducted between the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. Make sure to revisit our blog next week!