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Article by Mohan Babu


Global workplace: The cultural aspects

Multiculturalism is an obvious fallout of globalisation. MOHAN BABU says that interestingly even westerners embarking on new careers are realising the significance of cross-cultural workforce dynamics and are making conscious efforts to keep themselves informed.

As a business and technology columnist, I receive e-mails from a wide cross-section of people. One such mail from Debbie (name changed) set me thinking about the significance of globalisation and sourcing, and how it is affecting our lives and careers. Though management gurus and business leaders emphasise the need for greater cultural awareness, it is the individuals who are now taking the lead by preparing to be a part of the global marketplace.

First, here is an extract of the mail:

Dear Mohan,

In an Internet search for materials and content for a human relations project at school, I came across a link to your page on the business trends for IT professionals. It is my hope that you may be able to assist me with some information or possibly point me to some links on the Web that might help with my project.

To give you some background, I am a CIS major at a small college in Texas. As part of our degree plan or track, we are required to take a course in Human Relations. The course covers communications skills, conflict management, team work and team building skills, etc. Our final for the semester is to do a presentation about “Managing across cultures” — meaning we are to study another culture that we would most likely work closely with in our field once we graduate. As either a colleague, manager, or a supervisor, what steps might we take to identify the important aspects of each culture in our department or within our team? Then determine which could be applied to the workplace and modify the work environment so that each team member of various cultures feels comfortable, fosters teamwork, and makes for a more productive workplace.

With the shift in the IT world, more and more IT Professionals from India and the US are working and collaborating on projects. As I will be graduating soon, I’d like to know what resources might be available to help someone learn more about the Indian culture and what might an IT professional from India expect from other IT professionals, especially western/North American IT professionals. I genuinely would like to know and understand for both myself and for completing my project.

Would you have some time to give me some feedback or point to some materials or information?


Debbie X

This mail is definitely intriguing from the context of globalisation, a consequence of which is the multiculturalism that organisations are increasingly having to deal with. The interesting aspect here is that even westerners embarking on new careers are realising the significance of cross-cultural workforce dynamics and are making conscious efforts to gain a heads up.

My response to this mail, covering many of the queries include the following:

Dear Debbie,

Your mail was thought provoking indeed. Firstly, I am really flattered to see that young people like you are taking the initiative to be ahead of the curve. In trying to respond to your query, I am going to draw on my experiences in being a part of the global IT workforce during the nineties. Having lived and worked in India, the UK and US for a good part of the decade, I realise the subtleties involved in cross-cultural work; having said this, I feel that some of the ‘cultural nuances’ highlighted and underlined in management and travel books are a bit over-stated. For instance, the typical English stiff-upper-lip and American boorishness which is a part of dozens of books on this topic is a bit overrated. I have dealt with a lot more boorish Indians and stuffy Americans than the textbooks would acknowledge exist. Of course, general cultural traits do surface at different times, and those are to be recognised and dealt with. For instance, the importance of making ‘small talk’ is underestimated since it is by the nature and manner of small-talk that individuals gauge others before and during meetings, and work and cultural settings. Again, in a western context, talking about one’s football or soccer team is a way of bonding with co-workers, indirectly asserting that there is life outside work.

Back to readers of this column; as I am running out of regular bandwidth, I will continue rest of this missive of mine in the next part of the article.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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