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March 28, 2019

Compassionate & Smart Cross-Cultural Business Practices

It feels as though conducting business on a global scale is more common than not these days. Companies are outsourcing their manufacturing needs outside of the United States due to the savings in costs. Meanwhile, international sales are more convenient than ever before as a result of the internet. There are fewer communication issues thanks to the evolution of technology and translation apps, as well as putting an emphasis on learning a second language in schools.

The ease of gaining profits from global business is not person-centric, and perhaps it should be. Each individual whose hands are involved in helping a company reach its bottom line is entitled to be treated justly and with compassion. It is worth investigating if we are implementing compassionate business practices when conducting cross-cultural business.

Building Understanding

Making the effort to better understanding the individuals we employ whose cultural background varies from our own, as well as those we have business partnerships with, may help to successfully build our businesses. Showing an effort that goes beyond contractual agreements is critical. To see each individual as a human, rather than a number, can go a long way in our business’ success. It is valuable to build relationships on a foundation of trust and respect, rather than monetary value.

We need to understand that many daily occurrences in our own homeland are not considered the norm anywhere else in the word. For example, hand gestures are a common issue that we run into in cross-cultural business. While two fingers lifted in the air mean “peace” in America, if you flip it around in Commonwealth countries, you are doing the equivalent of giving an American the middle finger. When in doubt, resist the urge to talk with your hands and keep your hands to yourself as a matter of respect.

Furthermore, we should make an effort to learn more about those we are working with. For example, if you are conducting business in Tokyo, research common business practices and dining norms. This way you will be sure to not disrespect any one person or individuals when you pay them a visit. If you know when slurping your noodles is appropriate or learn how to use chopsticks, it will not go unnoticed by your Asian associates.

Cross-cultural Management at Home

Seeing as the U.S. has experienced a demographic shift, we will likely see diverse staffing with different cultural backgrounds. Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment is important to being a respectable business owner, no matter what type of business you’re in. Cross-cultural management takes time and effort and should be made a priority.

Ways that we can make strides in creating a cross-cultural business that focuses on compassion, empathy and respect are:

  • Hiring multilingual human resources department and customer service staff to help in addressing the needs of the entire staff as well as customers.
  • Offering emotional intelligence training to the staff on a regular basis
  • When requesting input, be sure every person is represented and encourage those who tend to be more reserved to share their opinions.
  • Offer a wide variety of resources when delegating projects to ensure there is a structure of success.
  • If there are staff members who would benefit from professional development training, offer the time and financial support to do so.

If you feel that you are not meeting the mark and are not serving your cross-cultural team as well as you should, perhaps look towards other countries and cultures and how they lead their teams. The most respectable leaders are always looking for new ways to better their leadership skills to benefit their team.

Protecting the Business

Conducting business in global markets can be difficult to manage. When we are unable to meet a person face-to-face, it is hard to gauge if someone is trustworthy or not. We are often forced to put a lot of trust in individuals whom we have never met. Whether it is a colleague who works abroad or a business partner entrusted with a task, building trust is essential to a successful relationship.

It is wise to protect ourselves and our assets when spreading across the globe. Establish trustworthy legal assistance and business insurance to prevent significant losses in the event of a disastrous event. If something does go amiss, there will be precautions in place that will help to rebound quickly and regain losses.

This is not to say that being cynical is a better way of preserving your assets, it is instead advocating for the protection of the businesses we have worked so diligently to make successful. Having faith in humanity allows more space for joy than cynicism. Creating a business that has fair trade and sustainable business practices at the forefront of their goals will attract like-minded people — people who value integrity and honesty.

Even with the best of intentions, cultural faux pas may still occur. Trying our best to learn from mistakes and move forward with grace and humility is the key. We need to be active participants in our businesses. It will enable us to know firsthand how we can implement more compassion into business practices.

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Indiana Lee  |  Contribution: 835