Bill Detwiler: Even if you don't work for a multinationalconglomerate, IT pros are likely to interact and with people from around theworld.
I'm Bill Detwiler, and during this TR Dojo episode, I'llgive you five tips to help you work well with people from other backgrounds andcultures.
Language barriers may be the most common stumbling blockbetween workers from different countries. Even if both parties have gone to thetrouble of learning each other's languages to some extent, not everythingtranslates.
So my first tip is to be mindful of literal translations.
For example, be very careful when literally translatingidiom from on language to another. You may end up with a phrase that, to theother person, sounds completely nonsensical. Or worse, offensive.
Also know that different languages use different sentencestructures.
For example, in English, if you want to tell someone fromChina that "I was born in New York," you end up saying to them, in Chinese, theequivalent of "I in New York born was." Just be aware that the intricacies oflanguage can cause confusion and try to keep it simple.
Since we're on the subject of language, it's a good time tobring up tip number two--avoid idioms.
Even people who have a very good grasp of another languagearen't going to understand certain native idioms and proverbial sayings, evenif you're not translating it into another language.
Sports metaphors can also be a problem. Be careful, forexample, about wanting to "punt" on a project or telling your staff that theyneed to "hit a homerun" if the project is to succeed. The more colorful yourlanguage is, the less likely you are to be clearly understood.
Also be careful about using humor – this can be a realpitfall across cultures. Even people from the same country or region have verydifferent ideas about what is and isn't funny, so just imagine how your senseof humor might be lost on people from other countries. At best they will justnot recognize it or take it too literally, and at worst, they could just end uppuzzled or offended.
For example, telling someone, "Well there’s bad news andthere’s good news. The bad news is that the car went over the cliff andcrashed. The good news is that it got 30 miles per gallon on the way down"might lead the person to wonder: "What's funny about a car accident?"
As with humor not being the same the world over, neither isthe meaning of the word "yes".
In the U.S., people who respond to a statement with "yes"usually mean that they agree with the statement. But in many cultures, aresponse of "yes" means merely that they understand the statement. That is, the"yes" doesn’t necessarily signify agreement. Be sure to clarify any such "yes"response before assuming someone has agreed to your request.
Last on our list is the concept of personal space.
Most people have a notion of their "personalspace" and can be made to feel very uncomfortable when others seem to invadeit by getting too close. Keep in mind that this sense of personal space variesby individual and by culture. Your sense of being crowded, or alternately, ofhaving someone flinch away from you, may just be a cultural difference, not anaffront.
While today's level of near-instant global communication isexciting, it also creates the opportunity for misunderstanding or potentialembarrassment. So along with the tips I've outlined here, I also recommend thatyou do your homework before working with someone from a different part of theworld. Talk to people who regularly work with these individuals or in theseareas and ask for any helpful insights they would be willing to share. At thevery least, do a little digging on the Internet.
And for five more tips, check out Calvin Sun's originalarticle, "10 things to consider when working with people from a non-U.S.background," on which this video is based. I'll link to it from the TRDojo blog.
And as always, for more teachings on YOUR path to becomingan IT Ninja, visit trdojo.techrepublic.com or you can follow me on Twitter attwitter.com/billdetwiler.
Thanks for visiting the TR Dojo.