In this era of increasing globalisation, transnational corporations and cross-cultural mergers and acquisitions, a growing number of people are sent on international assignments around the world.
As organisations continue to outsource their operations to countries like India or the Philippines, or work with clients in countries such as Russia or Brazil, employees relocating for business must face giving up their familiar lifestyle in exchange for a completely new and different culture.
It’s not difficult to imagine the stress an international assignee might experience when changing his/her comfortable London office to an unfamiliar one in Moscow or Riyadh. International assignees often react to stress by expressing some of the following:
• General fatigue
• Lack of efficiency
• Lack of initiative
• Difficulty prioritising
• Slower reaction to time
• Frustration and irritation
Many specialists in cross-cultural communication connect these symptoms of culture shock to a lack of knowledge about the target country and its cultural norms and values. This lack of knowledge and cross-cultural skills can result in massive cross-cultural misunderstanding and failed international assignments costing the organisation a lot of money and time.
Cross-cultural training programmes such as Living and Working in Russia or Partner and Family Cross-Cultural Training can reduce the stress levels associated with international assignments and therefore improve individual business performance. This in turn will ensure that the organisation saves not only a significant amount of money but time and resources spent on the international assignment.
Many cross-cultural trainers agree that poor performance is connected with the inability to adjust to a new communication style. One example where a lack of cross-cultural understanding resulted in a failed international assignment was when an English businessman recently relocated to Russia and felt his Russian colleagues’ communication style of using imperatives or commands was too direct. Because they were not using a more indirect approach and polite style which is expected in the UK, the English businessman incorrectly misinterpreted his Russian counterparts’ communication style as rude, aggressive and overly directive.
The misunderstanding and offence caused by their inability to effectively communicate with each other resulted in a failed contract negotiation and the departure of the English businessman for another assignment which had huge cost implications for the organisation.
Cross-cultural training programmes for doing business in Russia would have helped to prevent this kind of situation, minimising cross-cultural mistakes and improving cross-cultural communication skills to become more effective in a global context.