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
here is an extract of the mail:
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
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.
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.
you have some time to give me some feedback or point to some
materials or information?
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.
response to this mail, covering many of the queries include
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.
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.